Postmortem: Flash Wolves vs Gambit Esports

Last week, the Play-In stage of the 2018 mid-season invitational (MSI) concluded not with a bang, but with a whimper, as CIS representatives Gambit Esports found themselves on the wrong end of a barely-contested 3-0 clean sweep at the hands of the LMS’ Flash Wolves. Gambit came close to victory only in the very first game. In this postmortem of Gambit’s defeat, I want to look at the teamfight that ultimately decided that game, and see what it tells us about Gambit, the Flash Wolves and why things turned out the way they did.

Image courtesy of Riot Games

Setting the scene

Before we can analyse the fight, we must understand the context in which it took place. Gambit’s soft-scaling composition, featuring champions most comfortable in mid to late game teamfights like Cassiopeia, Kai’sa and Trundle, had come online after 20 minutes of being forced to cede objective after objective to the Flash Wolves’ stronger, more early-game focused composition. The Flash Wolves attempted to engage multiple times after this point, trying to carry their momentum forward, but to no avail. After one particularly successful fight and an opportunistic baron, Gambit marched down the bot lane towards the Flash Wolves’ inhibitor turret to begin a siege. They had a gold lead, an active baron buff, and the tempo of the game in their hands. It seemed theirs to win or lose. It was here, exactly 29 and a half minutes into the game, that the pivotal teamfight occurred.

 

The Fight

One of the most important features of the Flash Wolves’ composition was Hu “SwordArt” Shuo-Chieh’s Rakan. Representing both their primary engage and counter-engage potential, SwordArt had a vital role to play. Thus, when he slightly overstepped on Gambit’s flank, toplaner Alexander “PvPStejos” Glazkov (Maokai), saw the chance to swing the odds in their favour and went for the pick, chaining his Twisted Advance and his ultimate to lock him down. Meanwhile Gambit AD Carry Stanislav “Lodik” Kornelyuk, representing much of Gambit’s damage on a Kai’sa at the peak of her power, immediately blew his own ultimate ability to rush to his toplaner’s side and help secure the kill.

Of course, the kill never actually happened, and SwordArt escaped by the skin of his teeth while the remaining elements of each team clashed at the entrance to the base. The Flash Wolves’ Cho’gath traded his life for that of Gambit jungler Danil “Diamondprox” Reshetnikov (Trundle) while their own carries (Karma and Xayah) dealt as much damage as they could from the back. A tense trade of summoner spells and cooldowns later, Gambit retreated, health bars low. The fight was over, and though it looked like little was ultimately lost, the moments before the fight were the last in which Gambit had any measure of control over the game. In the next several minutes, the Flash Wolves would push out from their base, re-establish control of the map and win the game after a single well-executed teamfight.

 

Image courtesy of Riot Games

 

Mistake #1: Over-committing

 We know what happened, but what did Gambit actually do wrong?

The first mistake that Gambit made was to commit so much to an uncertain play. Gambit spent the ultimates of Maokai and Kai’sa for the prospect of a kill on a Rakan. Though perhaps a fair trade, the cost of these ultimate abilities cannot be overstated. Maokai’s Nature’s Grasp was the central engage mechanic that Gambit relied on. As a lane-wide ultimate with long range, the ability could both force a fight or  zone the Flash Wolves away from important objectives. In the context of a siege, expending a Maokai ultimate for a single pick is more than a little risky.

Kai’sa’s ultimate, meanwhile, looks far less impactful on the surface. It provides a shield and the ability to quickly reposition, but by itself it provides none of Kai’sa’s substantial damage output and tank-shredding ability. However, the difference between having this ultimate available or not is the difference between being able to step forward and provide damage with a safety net versus having to play from the backline, and the difference between being able to forcefully clean up a fight or letting it get away. Though Kai’sa represented only half of Gambit’s primary damage output, with Lodik less than a percentage away from midlaner Mykhailo “Kira” Harmash’s (Cassiopeia) damage share in this game (29.6 to 29%), spending this ultimate came at a substantial cost.

That’s not to say it wasn’t worth it. Any good team knows that sometimes, you have to spend valuable resources to try and get ahead. What makes the play so questionable is how uncertain it was, as SwordArt had both Cleanse and Flash summoner spells available to him, which allowed him to escape. Gambit either failed to properly track his summoner spells, or failed to consider how strong they’d be in avoiding the pick. Either way, Gambit messed up.

 

Mistake #2: Mechanical missteps

A team could have the perfect draft and an unbeatable plan, with every possible risk or outcome accounted for; but at the end of the day what decides games is how well a team executes their plan. Gambit, unfortunately, did not execute their plan well at all.

The first mechanical error came from PvPStejos. We’ve already covered how important the Maokai ultimate could be, however it would’ve been entirely possible to use it for the pick on SwordArt whilst also helping the main fight. If he’d angled his ultimate towards the botlane tower, Gambit may have fared better. PvPStejos instead angled it away from the tower, meaning that aside from (briefly) rooting SwordArt, the ultimate did nothing except zone the Flash Wolves’ least relevant teamfighter, a Kha’zix.

But this had little bearing on the pick itself, and things may well had gone differently if SwordArt had gone down. What more directly influenced that was Lodik’s positioning. Rakan’s ultimate, The Quickness, causes Rakan to gain movement speed and charm whomever he touches. Maokai would almost necessarily be hit by this. A well-positioned Kai’sa, however, would be capable of firing off the crucial extra auto-attacks necessary to secure the kill before succumbing to the CC. It’s therefore tragic that Lodik, in his rush to follow up PvPStejos’ engage, positioned himself in melee range of the Rakan, meaning he was CC’ed and locked out of auto-attacking almost instantly and was unable to secure the kill. Each of these crucial mechanical errors snowballed against Gambit in their own ways, each contributing to their losing the fight.

 

Image courtesy of Riot Games

 

Mistake #3: The follow-up

While SwordArt was making his great escape, toplaner Su ‘Hanabi’ Chia-Hsiang stepped slightly out of the base to support him, and the remaining Gambit squad rushed forward in an attempt to punish him. It’s here that another issue with Lodik’s dive becomes clear: Gambit had no good way of dealing with Hanabi’s Cho’gath.

Gambit had a Trundle, whose Subjugate ultimate shreds through tanks resistances. Effective as this is, Hanabi had both substantial health scaling from his own ultimate, as well as a Gargoyle’s Stoneplate which can temporarily make any tank virtually unkillable. In order to be able to properly utilise Subjugate to burn through Cho’gath and make it to the backline, Gambit needed their consistent damage sources at the ready to take him out. Unfortunately, the best tank-shredder on the team was Lodik, who was busy being CC’ed by a frustratingly not-dead Rakan at the point that Diamondprox and Kira decided to engage on Hanabi. Meanwhile both of Flash Wolves carries were present and dealing incredible amounts of damage to every Gambit member, safe in the knowledge that both the most salient enemy damage threat and the main source of engage were preoccupied.

Though PvPStejos and Lodick did soon rejoin the central fight, Diamondprox was already dead and PvPStejos was forced to use his most reliable remaining method of locking a target down, his Twisted Advance, to secure the kill on Hanabi, allowing the Flash Wolves’ carries a further measure of safety for a few seconds. Meanwhile Lu ‘Betty’ Yu-Hung’ (Xayah) had a full health bar, his flash, and his own safety-net ultimate at the ready.

In other words, at the point that Gambit engaged onto Hanabi they had neither the damage output nor lockdown to secure the kill, or any method of stopping the carries Hanabi was protecting from dealing damage. By the time they were able to secure the kill, Gambit had low health bars across the board, and neither Flash Wolves’ mid or ADC had a scratch on them. Diving SwordArt was problematic in itself, but committing to a fight which had little chance of success with a Cho’gath and two carries was arguably the bigger mistake.

 

Image courtesy of Riot Games

Lessons learned

This teamfight serves perfectly to elucidate Gambit’s issues when faced with a team of the Flash Wolves’ calibre. Gambit demonstrated awkward and poorly considered calls, mechanical errors, and a failure to understand both where the power in their composition lay, and how much of it would be required to stand up to specific elements of the Flash Wolves’ composition. Though this fight only cost them one game, it was the game they were best positioned to win, and what we learned about how Gambit functioned under pressure helps explain how they were so outclassed by the Flash Wolves throughout the series. Yet as tragic as the loss was for Gambit fans, at the end of the day, the better team won.

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Featured photo from Riot Games

2017 MSI: TSM's AD Carry, WildTurtle

TSM WildTurtle’s Ups and Downs at MSI

TSM had a poor performance at the 2017 Mid Season Invitational. The North American team finished with a 4-7 record – good enough for 5th place. Every member of the team should accept some responsibility for the losses and wins. None of these players had an outstanding tournament presence.

Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg seemed to be most consistent. While playing against some of the highest caliber individuals, Bjergsen never seemed to fall behind or become obsolete. His presence is felt throughout every game. Vincent “Biofrost” Wang was a bit less consistent. He timed key ultimate abilities, healing and shielding his allies effectively.

Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell and Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen were the least consistent players on TSM at this tournament. Some games they meshed well and flashed the brilliance that allowed them to win the NA LCS Spring Split, but other times they looked outclassed by their opponents. Poor play in the top lane and jungle heavily contributed to the early game losses for TSM.

Jason “WildTurtle” Tran, however, had consistently mediocre gameplay. There were very few moments in TSM’s games where WildTurtle seemed to pop off like the other AD carries. His map movements, his positioning, and his damage output were lackluster. Just watching most of the games, he flies under the radar. Here are examples of WildTurtle’s early game:

As you can see, it is not all that bad. There are a few instances where Biofrost and WildTurtle properly execute against enemy bot laners and ganks. Other times they are not so lucky. But there are fewer early game errors than one might expect.

TSM averaged 894 gold behind their opponents at 15 minutes. WildTurtle actually averaged 20 gold ahead at 15 minutes, compared to Bjergsen’s +59, Hauntzer’s -10, Biofrost’s -17, and Svenskeren’s -73. He and Biofrost were also ahead in experience on average. On Caitlyn, Varus, and Ezreal, WildTurtle averaged over 200 gold ahead at 10 minutes.

The inconsistency starts to crop up in the mid game when TSM needs WildTurtle to dispense as much damage as possible. Here are examples of WildTurtle’s mid game positioning and decision-making:

Just watching some of these highlights, there are clear highs and lows with Turtle. He is able to properly time his abilities, auto-attacks and movement in most fights. But other times he gets caught alone in a side lane or he gets caught in crowd control and picked while baron is available. These are the positioning errors that everyone is going to remember far clearer than the other dozen successful teamfights.

While they were middle-of-the-pack with their early game rating, TSM’s mid-late game rating is the lowest among all six teams in the Group Stage of MSI. They also have the longest average game time. These two factors point to a problematic mid-game that turns over any early advantages TSM secures. These errors would bleed into the late game:

This is where WildTurtle’s mistakes really shine. In these tense teamfight situations, a single death can swing favor into either team’s hand. More often than not, WildTurtle gets assassinated, crowd controlled or zoned completely out of a fight. It is impossible for TSM to win with this issue, and it was a huge advantage for all opponents.

TSM only got first baron in 27% of games, and only secured 28% of all barons. WildTurtle contributed a 2.7 KDA,61.9% kill participation, and 450 damage per minute – all bottom two among AD carries. While SKT’s Bae “Bang” Jun-sik and G2’s Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen are two of the best AD carries in the world, WildTurtle should reasonably be at or above the level of the other three marksmen.

Luckily for TSM, Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng will be returning for the NA LCS Summer Split. The addition of Doublelift reunites the TSM roster that won the 2016 NA LCS Summer Split and represented North America at the World Championship last year. While the announcement reads “they will be expected to focus on different playstyles and will be fielded according to the strategy the team plans to use,” WildTurtle will need to exhibit higher level gameplay before starting for TSM this summer.


MSI Team and Player Statistics: Oracle’s Elixir

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

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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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MSI: SK Telecom T1 vs. Flash Wolves Preview

In the first round of the knockout stage of MSI, SK Telecom T1 is poised to take revenge upon the only team that has taken a win from them during groups. What may be the most competitive game in this tournament, SKT vs. Flash Wolves will be the game to tune into on May 19th at 11 am PST.

SK Telecom T1

 

Peanut and Huni share a moment while leaving the stage. Courtesy of Riot flickr

Coming into MSI as the most highly favored team in the history of League of Legends is SKT, three-time League of Legends World Champions.

 

SKT’s six-man roster starts with their top laner, Seung-Hoon  “Huni” Heo, a player who currently holds the highest CS per minute in the MSI.

Jumping out of the jungle, Wangho “Peanut” Han holds the most kills at 52 in groups. Known most for his Lee Sin, Peanut is known to be the most aggressive jungler in Korea, with the ability to get 15 kills in a single game.

No introduction is needed for Sanghyeok “Faker” Lee. Faker is simply the best.  

SKT’s bot lane, Junsik “Bang” Bae and Jaewan “Wolf” Lee, are looking better than ever. The two are typically found taking laners that complement each other with  Wolf picking champions that can bail out the immobile carries that Bang has frequently utilized to great success. Wolf has the second most assists throughout Groups, trailing Shou-Chieh “SwordArT” Hu, who also used one more game to have Wolf beat 93 to 90.

 

How SKT Wins

Peanut shares a lot in common with his opponent Karsa. Courtesy of Riot Flickr

SKT wins by having Peanut play Lee Sin and picking their bot lane comfort picks before the Flash Wolves take them out in the draft. With Bang’s adept performance on Twitch, aided greatly by the peeling supports Wolf is often seen on, expect the bot lane picks to come through in the first round of the draft phase. SKT is greatly favored in this matchup. Their chances of failure are minimal as long as they do not lose too much ground early game. SKT can win late game team fights with great ease given their opponents are not too far ahead.

Flash Wolves

The Flash Wolves have proven to be a mixed bag this tournament, showing that they have the skill to beat SKT while simultaneously dropping games to almost every team in the tournament. As the underdog team in the fourth versus first place match, their performance in this best of five will likely decide who takes first place at this year’s MSI. If they can beat SKT, they can beat anyone. Right? Maybe, but this is not guaranteed with the Flash Wolves. However, they are the strongest contender for taking down SKT alongside Team WE.

Playing top lane for the Wolves is Li-Hong “MMD” Yu, a player known for his aggression and carry style, but also able to play supportive tanks by the likes of Nautilus and Shen.

Tearing through the jungle for the Wolves, Hao-Xuan “Karsa” Hong, has the same champion pool and play style as Peanut. He also has 41 kills to his name during groups. He may have what it takes to deny Peanut through a well-executed draft.

Laning against God himself, Yi-Tang “Maple” Huang ties Peanut for the highest KDA throughout groups at 6.1.

Perhaps the Flash Wolves greatest strength lies in their bot lane, where Yu-Huang “Betty” Lu and SwordArT dominate the bottom half of the map. SwordArt is a veteran shot caller, playing supports that can influence more than just the bottom lane. Expect to see Lulu and Tahm Kench as high priority champions for both teams. Meanwhile, Betty has the most kills to his name out of all the ADCs at MSI, and he’s looking to continue this streak. Betty plays many ADC’s, but his Ashe is a staple for the Flash Wolves. Betty may have to branch into other ADC’s in order to take away Bang’s Twitch and secure a victory for the Wolves.

How Flash Wolves Win

They have done it once before, but can they do it again? To win, Flash Wolves need to stifle Huni in the draft much like they did in their only victory over SKT. Because banning out Faker is impossible, their bans must be directed to the top lane carries that Huni plays, and the Marksmen that Bang feels most comfortable on. The optimal top lane draft will have MMD on his signature Kled and Huni on a tank, allowing Flash Wolves to take the game from the top lane.

As for the Jungle, it goes without saying that Peanut’s Lee Sin must be denied in order for the Wolves to have a fighting chance. Taking Lee Sin on the side of the Flash Wolves will also

SwordArT is not the cool, calm, and collected shot caller you may be used to. Courtesy of Riot Flickr

greatly aid Karsa, as he is adept on the champion. In the middle lane, Maple’s utility orientated champion pool must be able to survive the likes of Faker’s assassins. If Maple can avoid giving a lead to Faker, he may be able to turn some mid game team fights into a victory for the Wolves with his excellent Weaver’s Walls and Realm Warps.

 

Taking a lead in the bottom lane is most important for the Flash Wolves. Giving SwordArT the opportunity to roam and snowball his team’s lead alongside Karsa, will be the win condition the Wolves need. However, the lanes go, if the Wolves do not start with leads, it is unlikely they will ever bounce back to take a lead.


Featured image courtesy of Riot Flickr

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