League of Shields

How strong are shields in ranked exactly? Currently, the only support champions that can shield allies with over a 50 percent win rate and significant play rate (above two percent) are Sona and Thresh. In the jungle, there is only Ivern, who sits at a solid 52 percent win rate in plat and above, but Ivern’s power is found in more than just his two-second long Triggerseed. For more on Ivern, check out my Playing Ivern Like the Pros.

While I understand players’ outrage over a six-second duration Lulu shield, Lulu has struggled recently with quest itemization, alongside some awkward Whimsey bugs leaving her at a 47 percent win rate. In short, it’s not the champion that is particularly strong that has the community in arms over shield power, but instead the ability to layer shields with specific team compositions and item paths.

 

2017 College Championship Finals show both supports rushing Locket of Iron Solari after their upgraded sightstone. Courtesy of Riot Games.

Possible Solutions Open Up Unique Gameplay Opportunities

That being said, shield stacking still seems to be very powerful, and a lot of this comes from a lack of support item diversity. Redemption and Locket of the Iron Solari seem to be the go-to items for supports, and a lot of this comes from the lack of viable build alternatives. Knight’s Vow is too expensive and doesn’t give cooldown reduction (the most vital stat for a support), while items like Mikael’s Crucible are too cost inefficient. It is frustrating that a champion like Blitzcrank, who is centered around making picks, has the most commonly built item as Redemption instead of something else that may highlight his pick-off play style. This does not go to say that Redemption should be gutted entirely, as the item is fun to play with and requires a certain amount of skill to use effectively. It does go to say that other items should become more available for supports who want to do something other than heal and shield.

As someone who plays support quite frequently in Diamond Elo, I will never play Soraka again. This is not because I have internalized the “Soraka is cancer” monologue coming out of the loads of players plagued by over-committing aggression, but instead because there is an 800 gold item that reduces the impact of three of her four abilities by 40 percent. Playing just once against an ADC that buys this item first back is an experience that ultimately becomes too frustrating to ever pick this champion back up again. As Soraka in this matchup, you can go from dominating a lane to barely surviving in just one buy. That is insane because once the enemy AD has this item, your champion is significantly less impactful.

That being said, I do understand how frustrating playing against the likes of Janna and Soraka can be, and I do want to see counterplay to the growing power of shields. I just want to see this counterplay come from something more dynamic than a cheap one item buy. This problem actually gives game developers an opportunity for Strategic Diversity, a Riot hot word that will make developers salivate instantly.

The perfect counter for the shield meta could arise in a new champion design. A new “support” champion could have an ability that does damage, but when it hits an enemy with a shield, it completely takes what damage it does to that shield and creates a shield for itself. This ability would have to still be decent enough to be used against team compositions without shields; however, having a hard counter to shielding champions in the bottom lane would add a greater diversity of support champions.

 

The Consequences of a Grievous Wounds for Shields

So what happens if Riot follows the congregation of shield animosity all the way to the Rift? The first thing we would expect to see is the removal of an entire summoner spell, Barrier, as well as the removal of some strategic items, such as Locket of the Iron Solari, Seraph’s Embrace, Sterak’s Gage, Face of the Mountain, and Bloodthirster. But an item that diminishes the effectiveness of shields won’t only cut out the diversity of defensive items, but also defensive masteries. Courage of the Colossus will take a huge hit, and every champion that benefits from the massive late game shields of this mastery will also drop in win rate substantially, or be forced to take a different mastery entirely. This would lead to a situation similar to the league of Thunderlord’s, or Grasp for each and every top laner.

Already, the effective amount of items and masteries would be diminished from the inclusion of a grievous wounds item for shields, but the viable champion pool for many roles would also take a huge hit. Orianna, Camille, Nautilus, Shen, Skarner, Urgot, and most supports would be devastated by such an item. This item would hinder the Rift more than anything.

 

Why Shields Are Here to Stay

So what about nerfing shield duration? This is a common go-to for many, but what these individuals do not realize is that shields have a pretty short duration as is, aside from some variables, such as Lulu and Janna. Locket of the Iron Solari has only a 2.5 second duration, Karma shield only lasts four seconds, Rakan’s Battle Dance only lasts three seconds, and Sona’s shield only lasts 1.5 seconds. Sure each of these numbers can be nerfed, but that would be the nerf of an entire subclass of Support champions; but more than that, it would be an indirect nerf to marksmen.

The classic Mega’Maw team comp makes a return in the MSI Group Stages. Courtesy of Riot Games.

When the ADC in 2k17 meme was at its peak, the most viable support champions were all Ability Power Carries. Brand, Malzahar, and Zyra dominated the Rift, and they did so by devastating other supports in lane and being able to one vs. one the enemy carry early on. ADC was weak at this time due to itemization, but also due to the nature of bot lane. Quite simply, ADCs did not have someone enhancing their abilities; they had no support. What they had instead was a Mage who was ready to kill the enemy carry at any time. What a spooky era. Alas, supports got Redemption, and a few other healing and shielding items were buffed. Then, ADCs got their item paths made more efficient, and with the combination of defensive supports and offensive build paths, the Yin and Yang of bottom lane was finally able to take a crack at the ADC in 2k17 meme.

While ADCs have been stronger, the current shield meta allows them to duke it out in the late game with the protect the carry strategies that have been ever present in League of Legends. These compositions enforce cooperation and teamwork. The claim to fame Mega’Maw and other similar compositions are healthy for competitive League of Legends and solo queue environments alike, just as long as they don’t become the only composition.


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Video Courtesy of OGN. Featured Image Courtesy of leagueoflegends.com

MSI Semifinals 2017: Team WE v. G2 Esports

MSI: Team WE vs. G2 Esports Preview

Saturday May 20, 2017, the second semifinals match of MSI will be underway. Team WE will face off against G2 Esports for a spot in the finals. Both teams have exhibited their fair share of stellar and underwhelming performances throughout the tournament. They will be doing their best to shore up the weak spots and study their opponents in order to reach peak performance. This best-of-five series will be all or nothing.

Team WE

The LPL representatives have made it through MSI with a 7-3 record, just below SKT. They dropped games to TSM, SKT, and GAM. Every player has had standout performances throughout the tournament. Team WE will be favored to win in this match-up, since they defeated G2 in both of their Group Stage bouts.

How They Win

WE outclasses G2 in almost every statistic. Gold difference at 15 minutes (+1,047/-342), first three turrets (80 percent/10 percent), dragon control (47 percent/30 percent) and baron control (54 percent/38 percent) all heavily favor the Chinese team.

In both of their victories against G2, WE drafted Ashe for Jin “Mystic” Sung-jun and Malzahar for Nam “Ben” Dong-hyun. WE’s jungler, Xiang “Condi” Ren-Jie, massacred Kim “Trick” Gang-Yun in the early game. Su “Xiye” Han-Wei played AP diver-assassins LeBlanc and Kassadin. And Ke “957” Changyu has been most impactful on tanky disruptors, particularly Kled.

All of these pieces come together to form a bursty pick composition. Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen was most often caught out by Enchanted Crystal Arrow, Nether Grasp, Explosive Cask, or Chaaaaaaaarge!!! and deleted before he was able to output enough damage. Team WE should maintain this draft strategy and playstyle, because G2 does not seem to have an answer at the moment.

Both wins were secured between 28 and 31 minutes. Team WE took first turret in both matches, which led to the first three turrets in just under 20 minutes. They then proceeded to take baron between 21 and 25 minutes, which allowed WE to break G2’s base and win. In their first game, G2 secured one tower and one dragon. In the follow-up match, WE did not allow them to take any towers or dragons.

How They Lose

Karma and Nami are champion picks that stick out in Team WE’s losses. Xiye lost both games when taking Karma to the mid lane, and Ben lost both games when playing Nami support. 957 looked weak on top lane Jayce, as well. The individuals cannot be fully to blame, but it seems like a good idea to keep these picks on the bench for now.

All of WE’s losses came off the back of sub-30-minute barons secured by their opponent. Against TSM, the gold difference never rose to more than 2,000 until they took a baron. From there, TSM closed out the game, taking a second baron and only ceding 4 kills. Team WE was leading SKT by 2,100 gold at 22 minutes, but Han “Peanut” Wang-ho landed a baron steal. SKT broke their base, took a second baron and won. Team WE’s loss to GAM was mostly due to Đỗ “Levi” Duy Khánh’s Kha’Zix getting fed a triple kill around 10 minutes.

If WE gives over baron, their chances of losing are high. When viewing statistics for the four semifinal teams, their win rates align with their first baron rates. This objective is pivotal to their playstyle. Properly pressuring around baron was a main catalyst for drawing in G2 and picking off key carries. However, if WE is sloppy in clearing vision or shot-calling around Smite, then it could spell disaster.

Player To Watch

Team WE’s top laner, 957

Team WE’s victory will rely heavily on 957 in the top lane. They have won every game that he has drafted Kled, and he has maintained a 27.0 KDA with the champion. On the other hand, his single Jayce game fed TSM their first 5 kills. G2’s Ki “Expect” Dae-Han is not necessarily the same carry threat that SKT or TSM have. WE will rely on 957 to repeat the masterful disruption he exhibited against G2 in their prior match-ups.

G2 Esports

Making it into semifinals by the skin of its teeth is G2 Esports. The EU LCS representatives finished the Group Stage with a 4-6 record, only picking up wins against Flash Wolves (2), GIGABYTE Marines (1), and TSM (1). Seeing as they lost both matches against Team WE, they are the underdog in this best-of-five series.

How They Win

G2’s victories varied drastically from each other. Three of the four wins were secured 42 minutes or later, and allowed the enemy team to secure at least one baron. Two of those three late-game wins involved G2 falling behind 8,000-9,000 gold at some point. The only champions drafted in multiple wins were Caitlyn, Nunu, and Orianna.

In all of their wins, Zven had two or fewer deaths and had a gold lead on the enemy AD Carry. It is obvious that he is their primary carry threat. G2 lost both games that he drafted Ashe. Zven only has wins on Caitlyn, Twitch, and Kog’Maw thus, G2’s draft will need to revolve around these champions. Ivern, Lulu, Karma, and Orianna have at least 50 percent win rates for G2 thus far. Combining multiple enchanters into the draft may allow Zven to break even through the early game and fully carry in the mid-late game.

Luka “Perkz” Perković has also been a consistent source of damage throughout MSI. Mid lane is arguably the most stacked position at the tournament, and Perkz has been going toe-to-toe with some of the best in the world. He has been averaging 28.8 percent of G2’s damage, the highest among all mid laners (second highest overall behind Zven). Putting Perkz on a champion that can control side waves, particularly Fizz, could be a good back-up if Orianna is banned.

How They Lose

There are several situations that G2 should avoid. Keep Trick off of Lee Sin, he failed horribly twice on the champion. Also, they should not draft Ashe for Zven or Zyra for Alfonso “Mithy” Aguirre Rodriguez. Zven needs to be able to output immense damage, and Mithy plays much better on protective champions. Even Tahm Kench or Braum are preferable to Zyra if Lulu or Karma are unavailable.

If Trick continues to have poor early games, then this will most surely be G2’s defeat. Trick has the second lowest KDA and the second highest death share of all players at the tournament. He also has the lowest average damage of all junglers at the event.

While their best strategy generally results in early deficits, G2 will need to play intelligently between 15 and 30 minutes. Team WE’s average game time is over 5 minutes shorter than G2’s, which means if they cede 4,000-6,000 gold leads, then it will be highly unlikely for G2 to win.

Player To Watch

G2 Esport’s top laner, Expect

Expect has been putting up some big games this tournament. He has maintained a 3.7 KDA while only contributing 11.9 percent of G2’s deaths. The top laner has secured wins on Jayce, Gragas, Shen, and Nautilus. G2 also released a video of the final shot-calling from their win over TSM, showing the team’s faith in Expect.

The flip side is that Expect has some of the lowest damage of the top laners at the tournament, and his kill participation is low compared to 957. G2 will need him to be more involved as a proactive member of the team, matching 957’s map movements. Perkz and Zven can pump out the damage. Mithy can shield and provide vision. And Trick is under-performing. Expect may be the biggest factor that could turn this match-up on its head.

Prediction

Unless the stars align, and G2 are able to draft a true “protect the ADC” composition, then Team WE will skunk them 3-0. Trick got steamrolled by Condi in both of their Group Stage games. Mystic and Ben have been performing well enough to keep up with Zven and Mithy. Expect and 957 will most likely be trying to execute similar strategies, but 957 has proven to be more successful up to this point. Perkz matches up against Xiye pretty well, but the synergy among the entire team is heavily in WE’s favor.


Player/Champion Statistics: Oracle’s Elixir

All Images: LoL Esports Photos

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2017 MSI stage and crowd in Brazil

MSI Play-In Champion Power Picks

The first stage of the 2017 Mid-Season Invitational is complete. Two wildcard teams have moved on to enter the second stage where they will meet representatives from NA LCS and LMS. Last weekend was a joy to watch, as teams from around the globe came together to battle on the Rift. This weekend promises similar excitement.

Before heading into the match-ups, though, it is important to highlight key champions. These are champions who had high pick and ban rates. They have been contested throughout the tournament. As regions enter and exit the competition, some preferences are bound to change. However, the following choices have proven themselves to be fruitful, and will most likely remain power picks for the remainder of the contest.

Top

2017 MSI top lane power pick: Shen   Pick/Ban Rate (P/B): 58%   Win Rate (W%): 25%

Shen is valued for his ability to impact the map. Stand United allows the top laner to protect allies with a shield, or follow the channel with Shadow Dash to engage fights.

Split-pushing is a bit easier, since Stand United and Teleport allow Shen to enter a neighboring lane. Top laners generally build Tytanic Hydra, Spirit Visage and Guardian Angel on this champion.

Do not let the low tournament win rate fool you. Players such as Seung “Huni” Hoon Heo and Yau “MMD” Li-Hung have 100% win rates with the champion, and Ki “Expect” Dae-Han, Asım “fabFabulous” Cihat Karakaya, and Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell are 67% or higher (Spring 2017).

2017 MSI top lane power pick: Fizz   P/B: 79%  W%: 57%

AD tank Fizz has become a menace yet again. Trinity Force is essential to this playstyle. Top laners have built Sunfire Cape, Spirit Visage and Guardian Angel for tankiness. They may include Blade of the Ruined King or Wit’s End for attack speed and augmenting the bonus damage of Seastone Trident.

Fizz has also been used for split-pushing. Playful Trickster is a low-cooldown spell which allows for speedy roaming. Top laners have been choosing Ignite-Teleport as Summoner Spells for early laning and global pressure.

Gigabyte Marines flexed Fizz into the mid lane once already, and other teams will most likely be open to this idea. In the right hands, this champion is truly a nuisance, which is why he has been banned so often.

2017 MSI top lane power pick: Galio   P/B: 75%   W%: 86%

The newly reworked Colossus made his debut at MSI. So far, he has been oppressive. Galio’s combination of tankiness, utility, and damage are difficult to overcome.

Players are building Spirit Visage and Sunfire Cape to provide resistances and ambient damage. Knight’s Vow and Iceborn Gauntlet have been prominent items, too.

The semi-global pressure of Hero’s Entrance is perfect for top laners, especially playing around objectives. Shield of Durand and Justice Punch provide high-impact crowd control for Galio’s team. So far, Nautilus has been the only other top lane champion with a higher win rate than Galio (with more than one game played).

 Jungle

2017 MSI jungle power pick: Ivern  P/B: 79%   W%: 50%

Redemption, Locket of the Iron Solari and Athene’s Unholy Grail are only built by the jungler if they are playing Ivern. His shielding and healing are ridiculously powerful when combined with Triggerseed.

Teams excel when Ivern enables his laners to snowball and siege turrets with Daisy! His jungle clear is quicker than most. He is also able to donate his blue and red buffs more frequently to teammates.

Drafting Ivern allows teams to create protect-the-carry compositions. When paired with Lulu, Orianna, Karma or Shen, Ivern unlocks marksmen, assassins, and mages to play fast and loose.

2017 MSI jungle power pick: Lee Sin  P/B: 88%   W%: 53%

Lee Sin is League of Legends’ perennial jungle champion. Once truly overpowered junglers have been banned or picked, many players fall back to Lee Sin. His mobility and early pressure allows teams to push the pace and snowball quickly when played correctly.

This tournament has seen Lee Sin played 15 times: 6 games more than the next most played champion. He is a versatile pick that can mesh with almost anyone. None of the best junglers are afraid to pull him out to demonstrate their Flash-Dragon’s Rage mechanics.

All of the remaining junglers at MSI have at least 64% win rates on Lee Sin this Spring. Han “Peanut” Wang-ho has maintained a 100% win rate over 11 games.

2017 MSI jungle power pick: Graves   P/B: 88%   W%: 75%

Teams have been smart to frequently ban Graves. Junglers have won 6 out of 8 games with him at MSI. End of the Line provides insanely fast jungle clears. Quickdraw allows him to move through thin walls and gain bonus resistances. Collateral Damage nukes low health targets.

No participating jungler has less than a 73% win rate using Graves. Hung “Karsa” Hau-Hsuan has a 100% win rate and a 13.3 KDA over 5 games on the champion. Kang “Blank” Sun-gu sports 100% and 17.5 over 2 games.

Black Cleaver and Maw of Malmortius are featured items beyond Enchantment: Warrior. Players at MSI have even been building Blade of the Ruined King, which is arguably overpowered at the moment.

 

Mid

2017 MSI mid lane power pick: Syndra   P/B: 79%   W%: 50%

Koray “Naru” Bıçak and Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok have the lowest win rates on Syndra: 67%. All other mid laners at MSI sport 71% or higher.

Syndra has been a mainstay in the mid lane for a few splits at this point. Her combination of waveclear, crowd-control and reliable burst damage are hardly matched. She has the highest total number of bans for a reason.

The average damage per minute for Syndra players at MSI is 629. This is higher than any other mid lane champion with multiple games played. Expect her presence to remain on the high side moving forward.

2017 MSI mid lane power pick: LeBlanc   P/B: 71%   W%: 33%

LeBlanc’s strengths are similar to Syndra, except LeBlanc is more of an assassin. Distortion allows mid laners to quickly roam to other lanes or into the jungle. High level players can utilize Mimic to confuse and outplay opponents.

Hextech Gunblade and Void Staff are currently staples within LeBlanc’s build. When paired with Sorceror’s Shoes and Abyssal Scepter, LeBlanc’s burst is unsettling. One successful Ethereal Chains stun onto a squishy target is guaranteed death.

Văn “Optimus” Cường Trần lost his only LeBlanc game at MSI. Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg and Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok have yet to get the chance to play her this Spring. All 4 other mid laners have 60% or higher win rates.

2017 MSI mid lane power pick: Ahri   P/B: 50%   W%: 75%

Mobility is Ahri’s biggest strength in the current meta. Spirit Rush gives her three dashes to enter and leave fights as she pleases. Ahri’s item path is also one of the most flexible, as she can build into a teamfighting mage, an assassin, or some combination. MSI featured Morellonomicon, Zhonya’s Hourglass, Hextech Protobelt, Hextech Gunblade, Abyssal Scepter, and Luden’s Echo during the first stage.

Ahri has had the highest total plays during the tournament: 8. She also had the highest win rate of any mid lane champion with more than one game played. It would not be surprising to continue seeing her picked throughout the remainder of the tournament. However, Su “Xiye” Han-Wei lost his only Ahri game this Spring in the LPL.

Bot

2017 MSI bot lane power pick: Ashe   P/B: 88%   W%: 50%

Ever since Blade of the Ruined King rose to prominence, Ashe has remained pick or ban in most regions. Her global engage (Enchanted Crystal Arrow) and follow-up damage (Ranger’s Focus) potential is unrivaled in the AD Carry position.

Only Nguyen “Slay” Ngoc Hung has fewer than nine games on Ashe this Spring. All bot lanes in the tournament should be comfortable playing on this champion.

Items on Ashe are straightforward. Runaan’s Hurricane, Infinity Edge, Berserker’s Greaves, and Last Whisper generally round out the build. Landing ultimates is crucial for an Ashe to succeed. The entire team needs to be ready to pull the trigger after a well-placed Enchanted Crystal Arrow.

2017 MSI bot lane power pick: Caitlyn   P/B: 67%   W%: 40%

The non-utility marksman with the largest presence at MSI thus far is Caitlyn. While her Yordle Snap Traps provide small amounts of crowd control, Caitlyn’s primary goal is to rattle off as many auto-attacks as possible. Her passive, Headshot, can decimate entire teams once Runaan’s Hurricane is in play.

It’s unclear whether or not Caitlyn will remain such a high priority for the rest of the tournament. Her win rate so far has not justified her high pick rate. Many of the world’s top AD Carries seem partial to drafting marksmen with higher skill caps and higher risk-reward, such as Ezreal, Twitch or Lucian.

Only Jin “Mystic” Sung-jun has played Caitlyn more than 3 games this Spring. Lu “Betty” Yuhung, Bae “Bang” Jun-sik and Jason “WildTurtle” Tran have played her one game each.

2017 MSI bot lane power pick: Varus   P/B: 67%   W%: 43%

Varus has the lowest average damage per minute of the entire AD Carry class at MSI (392). He is played similarly to Ashe, except he trades lower engage pressure for higher poke damage. A well-placed Chain of Corruption can lock someone down long enough to eliminate them. Piercing Arrow gives bot lanes the ability to snipe low-health enemies.

Varus’ build path is virtually identical to Ashe’s, as well. Blade of the Ruined King, Runaan’s Hurricane, Infinity Edge, and Last Whisper are common. Some attack speed builds can include Guinsoo’s Rageblade.

Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen and Mystic have win rates 50% or lower with Varus. Betty has maintained a 100% win rate over sevengames played.

Support

2017 MSI support power pick: Lulu  P/B: 100%   W%: 53%

The only champion that is currently 100% pick or ban is Lulu. However, she only won just over half of the time. Lulu’s majorly impactful Wild Growth couple with the reliability of Help Pix!-Glitterlance-Thunderlord’s Decree poke makes her relevant at all stages of the game.

All support players at the tournament should be well-versed in Lulu’s gameplay. Her mechanics are rather straightforward, but proper timing of speed-ups, shields, slows and enlargments separates the best Lulu players from the majority.

2017 MSI support power pick: Zyra   P/B: 33%   W%: 50%

321 damage per minute is not bad for a support champion. That has been the average for Zyra at MSI so far. Brand is the only support to out-damage her.

Zyra seems to work for all support players at the tournament except Vincent “Biofrost” Wang, who only has a 20% win rate on the champion. Hu “SwordArt” Shuo-Jie has even maintained a 100% win rate with Zyra over 8 games.

Depending on the needs of a team, support players build full damage or more healing and shielding. MSI has seen Redemption, Locket of the Iron Solari, Liandry’s Torment and Rylai’s Crystal Scepter.

2017 MSI support power pick: Karma   P/B: 63%   W%: 50%

When Lulu is unavailable, Karma becomes the next best utility support. Her Mantra-Inspire shields and speeds up the entire team, which provides some the most potent engage and disengage a support champion can offer. Karma’s Mantra-Inner Flame offers strong poke in lane, which is why many players choose Thunderlord’s Decree as their keystone mastery.

All of the remaining support players have 60% or higher win rates with Karma. While it has not been as common this Spring, Karma can also flex into mid lane. Xiye, for example, has won 100% of LPL game using mid Karma (6 games).

 

While these may have been the most prominent picks in the first stage of MSI, plenty of champions were played. Unique picks such as Sona, Blitzcrank and Darius left their mark on the Rift. Tahm Kench was played in the top lane. Hopefully, there will be more variation as other teams enter the competition. Nonetheless, look to these last seven teams to show how high the ceilings are on these champions, and why they may currently be so popular internationally.

Champion Images: http://leagueoflegends.wikia.com/wiki/Category:Champion_squares

MSI Champion Statisticshttp://www.gamesoflegends.com/tournament/stats.php?id=MSI%20Play-In%202017

Featured Image: https://www.flickr.com/photos/lolesports/albums/72157683248434325/with/34384923145/

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Playing Ivern Like the Pros

Ivern’s Power

Despite receiving nothing but nerfs, Ivern always has a way of rising to the top of the win rates for the Jungle role. Ivern, who according to Champion.gg has a 51% win rate in bronze, a 56.5% in platinum plus, and a 66.7% in the NA LCS 2017 Spring Split, is a difficult yet powerful champion. With Ivern, the more experienced the player is with the champion, the more abundantly clear how overpowered the champion is.

Friend of the Forest

Due to Ivern’s passive, Friend of the Forest, his clear path is like no other jungler. Ivern channels for 2.5 seconds at each camp, donating health and mana in order to create a grove, maturing over the next 40 – 6 (based on level) seconds. Ivern can then free the critters from their groves, taking their gold and experience. If the camp’s large monster has already been slain, Ivern can freely channel a grove and consume it instantly at no cost; so if you are looking to counter jungle Ivern, take as many of the little ones as possible. Starting at level 5, Ivern can turn buffs into candy (saplings), allowing for himself and an ally to take part in the burn or the extra magic. Just remember that these candies only last for one minute before fleeing the Rift.

Ivern’s passive can allow for some very powerful counter jungling, as smiting a camp that you have used your passive on frees it instantly, allowing Ivern to claim the gold and experience regardless of the camp’s health. Interrupting Ivern’s channel or killing him is the only way to contest the camp when Ivern has smite up. The power of Ivern’s passive for securing camps was seen in game one of the NALCS Spring Split grand finals, TSM vs. Cloud9. Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnse secured his own red buff from Juan “Contractz” Garcia with an instant smite on his fully matured red buff.

Runes and Masteries

There is some variation in Ivern rune pages as far as reds and blues go, but the general trend is to take attack speed reds and scaling magic resist blues. Against AD heavy comps, taking armor reds and scaling ability power blues will be more worthwhile. As for masteries, some players choose to take Merciless over Meditation, or take a split between the two. I always opt for Meditation as I find it helps my early game clear.

Recommended runes.

Recommended masteries.

The Standard Clear vs. The Solo Queue Clear

Ivern’s standard clear path has him effectively clearing his entire jungle by around 3:20. This clear path starts by creating a grove on Wolves, smiting Blue, then creating groves on Gromp, Raptors, Red, then returning to collect your camps after they have fully matured in the same order. Krugs can be added to this full clear after red, but if you are playing into a jungler who likes to invade early, this camp should be given up so as not to be left at ridiculously low health and mana. Krugs are also not the most efficient camp for Ivern, as freeing this camp only grants two creeps (the first two Krugs), totaling 80 gold instead of the usual 120.

Ivern’s solo queue clear is a bit riskier. Start by creating a grove on either Wolves or Raptors, depending on whichever is your top side camp. Next move to take the enemy’s Red/Blue with smite, depending on whichever camp is their top side. Make sure to have your teammates use their wards early to find where the enemy jungler starts, otherwise this invade can get very messy. As Ivern you do not want to duel the enemy jungler, you just want to take their stuff and be as annoying as possible. From smiting their Red/Blue, continue your normal clear returning to your safe side of the jungle.

You can use Rootcaller (Q) to maneuver the jungle faster when at full mana. You can use Rootcaller to gap close on jungle camps without aggroing them. Also, remember to use Brushmaker (W) to scout out potential threats and check what camps are up for your opponents. The range of this ability is ridiculously long at 1650 and should be used to avoid face checking.

In professional matches, junglers focus on securing each Raptor camp due to the inflated rewards of these camps and accessible locations. As Ivern, Raptor camps and Red/Blue need to be your focus early game. Keep the enemy Raptor camp warded by warding the brush entrance just past it. Use your Brushmaker (W) on that brush before face checking it. The last thing you want is to fight the enemy jungler on their own turf.

Raptors spawn every 2 minutes and 30 seconds, so time your enemy Raptors based upon the enemy jungler’s starting location. Raptor contesting was seen most recently in the third place match of the NALCS between Phoenix1’s Rami “Inori” Charagh and FlyQuest’s Galen “Moon” Holgate, where Moon tracked Inori’s Raptors respawn by seeing him start the camp initially, allowing him to contest and steal the camp at 4 minutes and 40 seconds into the game.

The Green Father Ganks/Teamfights

1: Don’t get counter ganked

Use vision and camp knowledge to avoid counter ganks when ganking as Ivern. Your damage is laughable, especially pre 6. So, ward up the enemy jungle and only focus the lanes that are warding. A counter gank will more often than not lead to a dead Ivern and dead freshly baited teammates.

Nautilus uses Ivern’s Brushmaker to sneak Dredge Line onto Karma in the EULCS. Courtesy of EULCS.

2: Use Brushmaker to sneak in your Rootcaller

Using brushmaker, and then entering the brush to fire Rootcaller, hides your animation and the beginning of the projectile itself. This is a simple tip that was utilized by Inori in almost every gank during Phoenix1’s victory over FlyQuest. Not only does Inori hide his Rootcaller animation, but he will often cast Triggerseed (E) while under the cover of brush, only to exit the brush with a slowing time bomb already ticking away. Brushmaker cuts the time your opponents have to react in addition to empowering your autos, so use it wisely.

3: Wait out the escapes

Have Red Buff? If yes, then start your ganks out by getting some empowered autos on your opponents. This accompanied by an early Triggerseed can slow your opponents, forcing them to use their escapes early, thus granting an easier to hit Rootcaller.

4: If the gank is successful, convert it into an advantage

Nice job on the gank, now shove that lane in. Remember to use Triggerseed on your allies to push the lane, because they get any last hits that occur from its secondary explosion. Also, use Brushmaker when attacking structures as it gives your autos extra damage. Finally, use Daisy for keeping your minions alive when taking towers. Use Triggerseed on her because the tower prioritizes her over minions. FlyQuest used Daisy very effectively in a base race 12 minutes into game two of FlyQuest vs. Phoenix1. Moon’s use of Daisy to soak tower shots and create a massive minion advantage undeniably started the FlyQuest snowball in this game.

5: Use Daisy for more than just CC/Damage

Svenskeren uses Daisy in a successful gank top, then quickly moves to pressure Dragon with the remaining duration of the ability.

Daisy is the Jill of all trades. In Phoenix1 vs FlyQuest, Inori used Daisy to block Graves’ autoattacks, tank Nautilus hooks, and continually pressure objectives. Using Daisy as a meatshield can be very advantageous. Make sure to micro her in between you and your opponent for maximum impact. Once you have summoned Daisy, keep using her. Move Daisy around the map, pushing in waves and pressuring your opposing laners for her entire duration. Inori does this very well in going from a gank attempt bot to pressuring mid lane, denying the enemy laner CS while also getting substantial tower damage down.

6: Use Brushmaker for Sieges

Throwing brush up while sieging a tower allows for your teammates to weave in and out of vision. This gives them the advantage both when juking enemy skillshots, and when firing off their own. This brush can also be used to hide how many players are actually on the assault, oftentimes making the enemy team second guess their initiation.

7: Redemption Counter Ganks

Buy Redemption as soon as possible. This item is terribly overpowered and its semi-global active will allow you to counter gank from halfway across the map. Just take the time to get used to the delay on the active because the cooldown is punishing.

 

 

To see these tips in action, watch the following Ivern highlight compilation. Clips are courtesy of Riot games NALCS.

 

 

Unicorns of Love may lose some members for 2018

EU’s Final Showdowns: G2-UOL, FNC-MSF

The last matches of the 2017 EU LCS Spring Split are happening this weekend, April 22nd-23rd. The playoffs have been exciting thus far, and the final two series look to be just as juicy. Fnatic will battle Misfits for third place, while Unicorns of Love attempts to dethrone G2. All four of these teams have rounded out the past few weeks well, but here are some notes going into their last match-ups of Spring.

Misfits

Playoffs: Misfits mid laner, PowerOfEvil

courtesy of Riot esports

Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage has had an excellent playoff run. Among all of Misfits and Fnatic’s players, PowerOfEvil has been averaging the highest damage per minute: 620 (the next highest is Martin “Rekkles” Larsson with 497). He makes up 29.8% of Misfits’ damage. His average during the regular season was 495, or 28.8% of the team’s total. PowerOfEvil will need to maintain this high level of play and shut down Rasmus “Caps” Winthe if Misfits want to stand a chance of winning.

Their jungler, Lee “KaKAO” Byung-kwon, will need to adjust. Between all ten Misfits and Fnatic players, KaKAO sits bottom two in KDA, kill participation, first blood rate, and experience difference at 10 minutes. This is not going to cut it if Misfits are to win this weekend’s series and secure third place. Many analysts have criticized his play on Rengar. His win percentage is only 33% on this champion, so he should try to stay away from it in the draft. Unicorns of Love were smart to ban Lee Sin and Elise, for which he holds 78% and 67% win-rates. His next best options are Ivern and Rek’Sai, for which he also holds 67% win-rates.

Overall, Misfits have mainly lost the early game pressure they exhibited during the regular season. So far, they have averaged 384 gold behind their playoff opponents, which is awful compared to their 820 gold ahead during the regular season. The largest discrepancy between Misfits and Fnatic has been their respective abilities to take the first three turrets. Fnatic holds the top spot among playoff contenders, taking their opponents’ first three turrets in 71% of games. Misfits have only achieved this in 44% of their games.

Fnatic

Playoffs: Fnatic's support, Jesiz

courtesy of Riot esports

Fnatic’s most improved player for playoffs has been Jesse “Jesiz” Le. Almost every statistic of his has improved over the past two weeks. His KDA went from 3.4 to 5.2. His kill participation rose from 60.3% to 68.9%. Jesiz has been a primary engage tool for the team on champions such as Camille, Thresh, and Zyra. He is also a big reason why Rekkles has been able to get through laning phase on off-meta marksmen. Hopefully, Jesiz is able to maintain this high-pressure playstyle.

While having a wide champion pool can be good, it is not always necessary. Fnatic’s odd champion choices essentially ended their series against G2 last weekend. Vayne, Tristana, Kayle, Annie: these selections were not necessary. The flexing of Camille and Kennen have generally worked well for Fnatic, but branching out much beyond those picks is a bit much. The surprise factor does not outweigh the execution factor.

One area where Fnatic has excelled during playoffs is Baron control. Fnatic has taken the first Baron in 86% of their playoff games (compared to 38% during the regular season). They have also maintained a 71% Baron control rate (compared to 33% during the regular season). This focus is much better than Misfits, and will more than likely be the biggest factor in Fnatic’s favor. Mads “Broxah” Brock-Pedersen and crew will need to continue to prioritize this objective.

Unicorns of Love

Playoffs: Unicorns of Love's top laner, Vizicsacsi

courtesy of Riot esports

Unicorns of Love have strong players at every position except, arguably, their AD carry. During playoffs, Kiss “Vizicsacsi” Tamás and Fabian “Exileh” Schubert have averaged 605 and 600 damage per minute, respectively (third and fourth highest of all players). Andrei “Xerxe” Dragomir tops the competition in KDA (10.5) and has the second-lowest death share of all player in playoffs (8.9%). While Samuel “Samux” Fernández Fort generally averages behind in CS at ten minutes, he stays ahead in gold and experience, and he maintains the third lowest percentage of UOL’s deaths (13.3%).

One of the Unicorns’ biggest strengths is their champion pool. Xerxe has 75-100% win-rates on four champions with three or more games (Warwick, Ivern, Rengar, Rumble). Vizicsacsi has 75-100% win-rates on four champions with three or more games (Renekton, Rumble, Nautlius, Shen). And Exileh has won games on 11 different champions this spring. Pinching their pools will be virtually impossible for G2.

As a team, Unicorns of Love has secured first blood and first dragon in every game of playoffs so far. UOL has also secured the first Baron in in 75% of games with a 71% Baron control rate. If they are going to beat G2, it will most likely be off the back of a Baron trade. G2 have averaged a poor 25% first Baron rate during playoffs, and a 50% Baron control rate. During the regular season, G2 secured first Baron 72% of the time and maintained a 74% Baron control rate.

G2

Playoffs: G2's mid laner, Perkz

courtesy of Riot esports

G2 will be a formidable foe for Unicorns of Love. They offer similar strong players in virtually every role. Luka “Perkz” Perković has really shined throughout playoffs so far. He has the highest damage per minute (635) and percent of his team’s damage (33%). He has the lowest death share of all players in playoffs (8.5%), and he has the third highest KDA (7.0). UOL’s Exileh showed a bit of weakness against PowerOfEvil during laning phase last weekend. Perkz will be even more difficult for him to overcome.

G2’s other primary carry has been Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen. Although he was not quite as dominant in the Fnatic series last weekend, his match-up with Unicorns’ bottom lane should be much easier. Zven has averaged 6.5 CS and 164 gold ahead at ten minutes. If there is a player who needs to step up in this series, though, it is Kim “Trick” Gang-Yun. Trick’s regular season KDA was 4.7. So far in playoffs, it is 1.8. He averaged significantly ahead in gold, experience, and CS at ten minutes. In the playoffs, he has averaged 7 CS and 108 experience behind.

G2’s early game was phenomenal against Fnatic last weekend. The squad averaged 877 gold ahead at 15 minutes. That was the case during the regular season, as well. What looks like a weak spot is taking early towers. During the regular season, G2 took first turret in 64% of games and the first three turrets in 73% of games. In their series last weekend, they only did 50% and 25%, respectively. Unicorns of Love take the first turret less often, but the first three turrets more often. G2 will have to transition their early game leads into early objectives if they want to stand a chance against UOL. Teamfighting may not be the correct strategy. Smart rotations and perfect execution will be their only chance at victory.

predictions

Fnatic has looked much stronger in the past few weeks than Misfits have. I do not think it impossible for Misfits to take this, but it is highly unlikely. Just as Misfits took one game off of Unicorns of Love, they should get one from Fnatic, but Fnatic should win 3-1.

The finals series will be much more exciting. G2 have looked a bit weaker, while Unicorns seem hungry. Either way, it should be a five game series. If UOL wins it will be from snowballing the top side of the map, while G2 should look to snowball the bottom side. While both will likely happen, Vizicsacsi’s gameplay lately is seemingly unstoppable. This should be Unicorns’ spring split playoff victory.


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