End of an Era for Russian LoL Royalty
On June 4th 2013 it was officially announced that Support player Edward "Edward" Abgaryan had left Gambit Gaming, a move which marked the end of an era for competitive League of Legends. Over their 19 months playing together the five man line-up of Darien, Diamondprox, Alex Ich, Edward and Genja, had amassed over 378,000 USD in prize money won, been victorious in five offline events and never placed below fourth in their 12 offline tournaments played.
Once considered the world's best team, and one which had shifted the course of meta-game a number of times, Gambit was still considered one of Europe's top two teams and an elite contender on the international scene. With Edward's departure the European scene lost its greatest ever five man line-up and the world lost one of the all-time great line-ups to have played competitive League of Legends.
This is the story of five Russian players who rose up as underdogs to the top of the European scene, dominated all challengers for a span of half a year and then managed to change with the times and passing of the meta-game, still retaining their spot as one of the world's best through to the end of their time together. This is the story of LoL's Russian royalty.
The roots of the line-up
The genesis of the five man line-up which would become Moscow Five was relatively quick in terms of all five joining forces, but it had its roots in previous teams containing some of the members. Alex Ich and Genja (then known as Genja007) had been a part of Darien's Meritorious: The Gathering (MTG) in late 2010. Due to how young LoL was and the contentious relationships of some of the members the trio would not stay together, with Alex Ich and Genja splitting off in early 2011.
Alex Ich and Genja formed MyRevenge, along with Irugat, FlashInTheNight and the Zulin. Shortly prior to May's Dreamhack Season One Championship online European qualifier Alex Ich had to go inactive, due to internet problems, and the team failed miserably in the qualifier. Following a couple of months of inactivity Alex Ich returned to LoL, reuniting with Darien by forming a new team, which would have an initial line-up of Alex Ich, Darien, Genja, GoSu Pepper (later to be known as EdwarD) and Simple Reactions. It was quickly decided to remove the latter two, bringing in Irugat and Zulin instead, from Alex Ich and Genja's previous team. The line-up joined the Russian organisation Team Empire.
This line-up showed some promise, winning Go4LoL #58 in early October, but some of the relationships were still unstable. The pivotal moment came around the end of October. Alex Ich left the team shortly before the first online qualifier for the Intel Extreme Masters Season VI Global Challenge Kiev offline event. Turning aside offers from absolute Legends and SK Gaming, Alex Ich formed a line-up along with former MyRevenge team-mate FlashInTheNight, but it fell short in its qualification attempt.
"I can recall some epic matches with Darien after which he had been kicked from the team. The latest edition of our roster featured me, Darien, Zulin, Irugat, and Genja. After a little while it became clear that something had to be changed, but no one was willing to change anything so I left the team right before the Kiev's qualifier to join the ranks of FlashInTheNight's squad who failed really hard their qualifier matches."
- Alex Ich, speaking in an interview in August of 2012.
The Gathering of the five
The disappointment of failing to qualify led to the team immediately disbanding, and Alex Ich looking to form a new Team Empire line-up with Genja and Darien, who had been one of the top ranked players along with them throughout the year. For the final two spots they needed a Jungler and Support player, since Alex Ich wanted to move down to Mid and Zulin had been the Support player in their previous team together. Alex Ich asked GoSu Pepper, who he had duo queued with in the past, to take the Support role, a position he would later explain he didn't like but filled since the team needed it. The team still needed a Jungler though.
"I didn't really like the support role before, I joined M5 because they needed a support."
- Edward, answering a question in an AMA in October of 2012.
For the role of Jungler Edward suggested Diamondprox, an 1800 Elo player he had seen. Despite 1800 being equivalent to a bit over 2100 Elo in Season 2 numbers this was a low figure for a professional player, and what's more Diamondprox only played two champions at the time: Udyr and Trundle. This is best highlighted by an anecdote he later related about checking a TheOddOne guide on how to play Rammus, a champion he didn't know, during the champion selection screen, then going on to win the match with it.
"I learned from Oddone reading his guides, let us say, I learned how to set up masteries, runes and how to build heroes, mostly heroes I'd never played before. For example, during one of our tournies I had to play Rammus and during the champion selection I checked Oddone's guide, set up my runes and won. No problems. Thanks to Oddone."
- Diamondprox, speaking about his early days as a Jungler.
With this new line-up the team had a couple of weeks of preparation before entering the European Cross-Realm qualifier for IEM VI Kiev just past the middle of November. Despite losing in the first round of the upper bracket Team Empire stomped through the lower bracket to a match with SK Gaming. The winner of this match would take the last of the three qualification spots for the offline event in Ukraine in January.
Shocking the world
SK Gaming were one of Europe's best teams, having placed third at IEM VI Guangzhou and runners-up at IEM VI New York the previous month. Even with the departure of star Top laner Wickd the men around Ocelote were expected to secure the spot and head to their fourth successive IEM VI Global Challenge. Team Empire shocked the world, defeating SK over three maps and taking the offline event spot, they had put the world on notice that they were a team to be considered.
The birth of Moscow Five LoL
In early December Team Empire finished second in the 4Players.de Play4Fame 2011 December #1 cup, losing in the final to absolute Legends. That line-up contained ex-SK star Top laner Wickd and rising Mid talent Froggen, while only a minor online event in the context of LoL history this result marked the beginning of what would later become Europe's best rivalry.
On December 16th the quintent moved over to Moscow Five, Russia's top esports organisation, and began practicing heavily for their first offline event the following month. In the middle of January IEM VI Kiev began and M5 had their quite the challenge set before them if they were to take one of the top two spots, thus progressing to the playoffs. Their group contained Team Dignitas, who had won IPL3 just over three months ago; aAa, which still featured three members of the line-up that had been runners-up at the Dreamhack Season One Championship; and Team Sypher, featuring three members of the line-up that had finished third at IEM VI New York three months prior.
"Before Kiev we were scrimming European teams and we'd ask who they thought was the best. They'd always say themselves [...] and then Empire. We knew they were going to be the team to beat, like before we got to Kiev, cos the times we scrimmed them they demolished us, and every other team in the EU scene was saying they were the best, along with their own team."The Russians immediately set the stage for a new era of European LoL, running through their group with a perfect 3:0 sweep. Their semi-final draw saw them paired up with SK Gaming, a rematch of the final game of the qualifier for this event, with SK having replaced the CLG.EU team who could not attend. SK had lost Jungler Snoopeh, to the aforementioned CLG.EU, and were using a last minute stand-in, SleazyWeazy. The qualifier match online had been close, this time M5 were utterly dominant, crushing the mainly German team 2:0 to reach the final. Everyone in Kiev had quickly become aware, had they not already been, that this new Russian team were something special.
- TheOddOne, Jungler of TSM, speaking in an interview in March of 2013.
"Dignitas and SK were in that tournament and they didn't even stand a chance."
- TheOddOne, Jungler of TSM, speaking in an interview in March of 2013.
The opponents facing Moscow Five in the final of their first offline event were Team SoloMid (TSM). The North American team were considered by some the best team in NA, and thus the best team in the world. Following months of solid but not spectacular offline results, usually finishing third or fourth, TSM had moved into a gaming house in October of 2011. The very next month they'd won MLG Providence, thus claiming the NA crown, for the time being. Of particular note was that Diamondprox would be facing off against the very same TheOddOne, in the jungle, whose guides he had studied previously. With no CLG.NA in attendance some might have imagined TSM destined to take the title in Kiev.
With M5 on a 5:0 run in maps to that point the final was a more competitive affair, in the sense that it went to three maps, but all of the games were one-sided. After being rolled over in the first game the North Americans mimicked the strategy that had seen them snowballed, tying it up at one map apiece. In the final map, thanks in large part to the play of Top laner Darien, M5 found themselves ahead and they never stopped to look back
"At Kiev they did a snowball strat, basically games were pretty boring since we just copied that once we saw it, since we didn't have the playstyle to counter that, which is stall like crazy, so we just did that to them. So if you look at the VODs for that IEM they were just complete stomps, from like maybe 5 mins on from when ppl start taking the enemy buffs over and over."
- TheOddOne, Jungler of TSM, speaking in an interview in March of 2013.
Moscow Five were the champions of IEM VI Kiev and 12,000 USD richer. Europe had a new champion and the LoL world had a new contender for its top spot.
"in scrims we were playing a lot, like 8-10 hours a day, and we started to win everyone. Our team had so much confidence coming to Kiev, that I wasn't sure that we could win it, but the team was sure about it, so we just came and dominated almost every game there."
- Alex Ich, speaking in an interview in March of 2013.
The newly crowned European champions had just under two months until their first chance to defend their title offline. In the mean time they set about competing in numerous online competitions. Despite their offline dominance the Russians proved far from unbeatable online, failing to win all but one of seven online cups. Of particular note was a loss to CLG.EU in the final of the Kings of Europe tournament, setting in place a rivalry which would simmer until their first offline meeting, later in the year.
This inability to win online ended up costing the team a chance to venture to the USA for IPL4, as they were eliminated in the quarter-final of the online qualifier by Monomaniac, a relatively unknown team containing current LCS players NintendudeX and Wild Turtle. An incident of miscommunication led to the Russians being considered impolite, or down right rude, by a lot of the English speaking LoL community, as they had misinterpreted a comment from one of the Americans as trash-talk, replying in kind, or so they thought. They later apologised for this incident, which had likely been exacerbated by their disadvantage of high online ping.
"I don't think that we got a lot of edge online, but offline we got some robots in team that are not afraid of anything like Darien and Genja. They are just boss offline."
- Alex Ich, answering an AMA question in March of 2012.
Defending the throne
Despite their online struggles M5 seemed confident that once the game transitioned over to the offline environment things would be much like they had been in Kiev: very much in their favour. When early March's IEM VI World Championship rolled around they lived up that sentiment, stomping their group with a 5:0 sweep, beating teams like TSM, SK, Curse and China's EHOME.
Due to the format of the tournament that top placing in the group moved them directly to the semi-finals, where they would await the winner of CLG.NA and Curse, two North American teams. With M5 having beaten Curse in their own group many were looking to a match-up with CLG.NA, which promptly arrived as the NA team rolled in the semi-final 2:0. In 2011 CLG.NA had briefly been considered the world's best team, having won IEM VI Cologne and MLG Raleigh in August.
Their stock had dropped following that, finishing third at IPL3, runners-up at IEM VI Guangzhou and top four at IEM VI New York, but they had recruited a new star in the making at AD Carry, Doublelift, and moved their previous AD Carry, Chauster, over to Support, putting in place what would later be known as one of the all time great botlanes. They were the only truly elite NA team which had yet to face M5, so some still held out hope they could bring resistence against the rampaging Russian titans
"CLG.NA was probably the only team that had a remote shot at beating them, cos it just so happens that their strategy of split-push wasn't bad against [them]. They were sort of similar to CLG.EU in that they stalled the game a lot, but as soon as [CLG.NA] lost the first game I figured it was probably over."
- TheOddOne, Jungler of TSM, speaking in an interview in March of 2013.
In the first map of the semi-final CLG.NA seemed up to the challenge of Moscow Five's playing style, taking a a gold lead and doing well in most of the lanes. At that point M5, who had been unstoppable in almost every offline map they'd played to that point, summoned the first real instance of what would become a legendary fighting spirit. Powered by Alex Ich's mid lane play they held on and, with the help of CLG mistakes, brought themselves back to win the first map. Alex Ich would later list this first map as one of the most memorable of his career.
"That game we managed a really huge comeback, so afterwards I felt that we could win the tournament.
If we had lost that game maybe we would have lost the tournament, but we fought for it and made our comeback. I think there was a 6-8k disadvantage for us, I felt that I did a really huge comeback in that game, because I was the only one who won my lane. I got the frag on bigfatlp and because of that we could hold our mid-lane. Then the enemy started to make mistakes, HotshotGG was throwing the game, so we won it and I still remember the game".
- Alex Ich, speaking in an interview in March 2013.
The second map went the Russians way also as CLG faded, ushering M5 through to a second straight offline final. They had yet to lose a map and in the final was a familiar opponent: Team Dignitas. The Americans, who had been destroyed by M5 in the group stage of IEM VI Kiev, had been spurred on through their campaign in Hannover by the inspired play of emerging Top lane star Voyboy, who was later named MVP of the tournament
Any thoughts that CLG.NA's first map display had highlighted some weaknesses in M5's play, or exposed the method to beating them offline, went out of the window in the final, as scarra's men found themselves thoroughly dominated. Team Dignitas would later reflect that they had made a crucial mistake giving M5 Shen during the pick stage, leading to them being "severely outplayed". Team Dignitas star Mid laner scarra in particular was the target of M5's dominant play, getting camped at mid so heavily he later stated "It was the first time I'd ever experienced such a hard camp".
"At Kiev M5 was like obviously a top world contender, like no question, but at the time we didn't know that they were that good. We knew that they could beat us.Moscow Five had defended their crown, becoming IEM VI World Champions, and taking the 50,000 USD without a single map loss. Over two IEM tournaments their loss to TSM in the Kiev final still stood as the only time anyone had taken a map from them offline.
When we went over to Hannover and played them in the final [...] they were so ahead of the curve, they would do strategies that would come out two months later, three months later.
They realised you could do the two man on one buff and invade for the other one. Then they'd just TP and use that Urgot solo to be able to beat our bottom lane 1v2. At the time we were just like 'nobody's ever done this to us before!', our minds were like blown. Because at the time people were like 'it's gotten pretty stagnant, like nobody's testing stuff in NA' then we saw that and we were like 'they are god!', they were just so good."
- scarra, Mid laner of Team Dignitas, speaking in an interview in March of 2013.
"I think a lot of the games are decided even before the picks. The enemies are just afraid of playing offline, so they get nervous at the pick phase, making mistakes. We get our picks and just know what should we do. If something goes wrong, if we get a better late-game and some chances we play until the end :)"
- Alex Ich, answering a question about M5's offline edge in an AMA following the IEM VI World Championship.
Innovating unstoppable counter-jungling
The key innovation of Moscow Five's approach had been the Counter-Jungling of Diamondprox. Counter-Jungling had previously existed, but faded away due to not being that effective when opponents warded. Diamondprox had made it a game-changer by coupling his invasion of the enemy jungle camps with synchronised play from his solo laners. M5 would get CV, the spell that shows the map, so they knew where the enemy was. Using strong aggressive Jungle champions, capable of winning 1v1 duels with the enemy Jungler, Diamondprox could kill the opposing Junglers, who were often playing passive, supportive Junglers.
Since M5 knew where the opponent's Jungler was they could win their lanes without the threat of being ganked, while the opponent still had to fear M5's Jungle threat. Opponents found themselves facing not only a new approach to the game, but one they couldn't stop even when they knew it was coming.
Resident Team Acer LoL expert nubofdeath explains the significance of Diamondprox's Counter-Jungling innovations:
"Diamondprox has always been known as the innovator in the jungle ever since he came into the scene. The concept of “counter jungling” is now a common practice for all junglers around the world in any level of play. However, before Diamond really popularized the idea of counter jungling, there were very few if there was even any that practiced this popular tactic. By taking the jungle camps of the opposing jungler, Diamond figured that he would be depriving gold AND exp from the jungler which would mean that jungle ganks would be less potent for the opponent while he himself would grow stronger.
To suit his needs, Diamond popularized champions like Shyvana and Lee Sin who were both specialized for counter jungling with their fast clear, high mobility and dueling potential. He would also especially be good at knowing when to go into the opposing jungle without facing extraordinary threat of dying. With this aggressive counter jungling added to the fact that junglers would be getting early oracles in S2, Diamond was also able to provide a considerable amount of map control for his team. The enemy jungle was no longer safe for the enemy jungler. This presence across the map allowed for M5 to aggressively seek out objectives and win dominantly."
Diamondprox claimed the basis for his Counter-Jungling had come from watching Alex Ich, back when the M5 Mid had been a Jungler for Team Empire, streaming. Alex Ich had been playing Shaco and run to the enemy blue buff to fight for it. This caused Diamondprox to think “Why not do that with every strong jungler?” and put that notion into practice.
"Back in S2 the position of jungler was weaker, but back then all the other people, who played in other lanes, were playing weaker and in terms of a teamplay as well. Just look at all those silly (obvious) invades, which are really hard to execute with success [now], they were working back in S2 with a bang!"
- Diamondprox, speaking in an interview in April of 2013.
The rest of the LoL world had to marvel at not only the concept behind this new Jungling approach, but the skill with which Diamondprox and his team could execute it against even the best teams in the world.
"During that period of time it was a really good strat, because after S1 counter-jungling kind of died, because everyone just warded and stuff. But what they'd do is synchronise every lane with Diamondprox, so suddenly you weren't just facing Diamondprox, you were facing their entire team, which was really smart. So say Mid pushes up, Alex pushes up, and then he follows Diamond to the jungle, it's like what's the jungler gonna do? Their Mid lane can't follow them, cos his lane's pushed up, so he'll lose several CS in the process if he goes to follow the Jungle/Alex ich, so that's basically what happened.
M5, yeah they just basically reintroduced it into the scene, they just really covered all the bases. Before that counter-jungling was like a solo operation, like EU mid lane wouldn't push up and then help you, that was basically unheard of.
"Diamondprox just made it a really efficient team-based counter-jungling and it worked a lot, so he has great awareness and such. Also he played Shyvana, which not many people played at all, because back then people were trying to do ganks and stuff. But Shyvana, back then, was an amazing counter-jungler, because she didn't need blue buff and she was always at full strength."
- TheOddOne, Jungler of TSM, speaking in an interview in March of 2013.
After two offline events of domination, thanks in large part to this approach to Jungling, teams and opposing Junglers would adapt and come up with solutions, but the decision-making and strategic mind of Diamondprox proved a tricky puzzle to come up with an answer to.
"it's never been an easy thing to copy... well, to execute it on a proper level, to be exact, and win with it. Just because it was me, who invented this strategy, and people immediatelly started to think how to counter it. At the same time other people were trying to copy and improve on my play style. These points of view collapsed into a tight theory-crafting field, so that right at the moment one opponent had created something to improve my strategy, another one had a general understanding of how to counter it."
- Diamondprox, speaking in an interview in April of 2013 about opponents's early attempts to counter his Counter-Jungling.
As Diamondprox explained, strategies were drawn up which would prove effective, for a time, and allow opponents a chance to win in spite of Diamondprox's Jungle play.
"It was a really smart strategy until obviously some other teams started picking up on it, I think it was absolute Legends and CLG.EU. What they'd do is send their support back around seven mins, when their blue buff spawns, then they'd be at the blue buff before the counter-jungle happened."
- TheOddOne, Jungler of TSM, speaking in an interview in March of 2013.
A worthy challenger arrives
The period following the IEM VI World Championship saw another lengthy spell without offline events for the team most now considered the world's best. Their online play improved over the previous period, winning three cups/qualifiers, gaining a spot for IPL5 later in the year, but there had still been notable losses, and M5 was still very much beatable online for a number of teams. The two teams who stood out as threats online were absolute Legends (who would later become Curse.EU) and CLG.EU. aL went back-and-forth with them, trading wins and losses, but CLG.EU got the better of the Russians convincingly both time the two teams faced off.
With one of the online qualifiers M5 had won being for Dreamhack Summer they traveled to Sweden to go for three offline victories in a row. Starting out 2:0 overall they headed into a final group stage game, knowing they had reached the playoffs. There they would face CLG.EU for the first time offline. At this point in time CLG.EU were 3-0 in matches over M5 online and 7:2 in maps. Still, M5 were impossibly dominant offline to that point in time, and CLG.EU had floundered under the pressure of their first offline event in April, finishing third at Gamers Assembly in France, losing out to aL and Sypher.
The final game of the group was one for the ages, with M5 up over 27,000 in gold at one point, but seeing CLG.EU pull of a comeback of truly epic proportions. The game lasted an hour and more than 100,000 viewers witnessed the first instance of CLG.EU's impeccably defensive stall-out style overcoming M5 offline. The online results had not been mere online anomalies to be correct offline, CLG.EU were a real threat for M5 where it mattered. Nevertheless M5 had reached the playoffs, and would face Curse.EU there, another team who had upset them online.
Smashing Curse.EU 2:0 M5 might have hoped to have banished some of their online demons, they now needed to do the same in the final, where CLG.EU now awaited them in a rematch of what some were calling the best map of LoL ever played. This time there could be no excuses that the game didn't matter, CLG.EU defeated M5 2:0 to hand them their first ever offline series loss and prevent them making it three offline event wins in a row.
"The other games, in the finals, their morale was pretty crushed and we were feeling pretty high and mighty, so we could snowball that.
Both of our teams were really good at team fighting, and that was the key. If we got behind in lines we were like 'fine, shit happens' but once it gets to the team fight we were so in synch and coordinated together, back in that metagame everything revolved around team fights. No game was finished by split-pushing or backdooring, or whatever. It was always the build-up to the 20 min mark, where you will contest the drake and you know, inevitably, there will be a 5v5 fight. Even if you are prone to lose it you must take it."
- Krepo, Support player of CLG.EU, speaking in an interview in April 2013.
Diamondprox later stated that he had considered CLG.EU weaker than them prior to Dreamhack, still considering them weaker as individuals following it. He did grant that CLG.EU's teamplay had been superior in Sweden though.
"I realise that I made a mistake by not picking skarner in the last games vs CLG.eu. Now I think that I would have won it myself with no chance for them, at least for one game before ban. They couldn't play vs skarner in those days, had never seen him before. However, I was sure that we are going to lose them without this champion, because they had better teamplay and better champions individually (before all the nerfs came after this)."
- Diamondprox, speaking in an interview post-Dreamhack Summer 2012.
For the first time in their careers M5 had been forced to settle for second place, and now a worthy opponent had not only risen up to challenge them, but bested them outright. For the first time M5 were the ones who would be puzzling over how to counter another team's new approach to the game
The triumphant return
Over the next month M5 were surprisingly successful online, despite the next spell of online play coming in the wake of their first offline series loss. They qualified for ECC Poland, beating CLG.EU in an online series for the first time, and won a number of tournaments, including three straight in2LOL King Of The Hill exhibition matches. CLG.EU had notably been missing from the majority of the online tournaments though, as M5's nemeses were over in South Korea practicing for, and competing in, the OGN Champions Summer tournament.
At the end of July ECC Poland came around, with a very healthy 15,000 USD first place prize awaiting the champion. As fate would have it M5 found CLG.EU drawn in their group, once more. The team who had stung them in Sweden had been making the most of their time in Korea, sweeping their OGN group and entering the playoffs, then heading over to Warsaw for ECC. It must have felt like Dreamhack all over again, as M5 found themselves defeated by CLG.EU offline again, but progressed out of the group anyway. Even the semi-final was a rematch, as M5 again cast aside Curse.EU 2:0.
In the final, of course, awaited CLG.EU. The European division of CLG was 4:0 in maps over Russia's finest, and 11:4 in maps played both offline and online overall. M5 had been great champions when they were dominating, feet firmly held on the throats of their previous challengers, but now they found themselves heading into a final as the underdogs. This would require some of the resolve that had allowed them to comeback against CLG.NA in the opening map of their IEM VI World Championship semi-final. This was another opportunity for M5 to show their ability to adapt and resolve to remain the best.
Beating CLG.EU in two maps straight they stopped talk of the M5 era being over. CLG.EU, with their experience in Korea, were supposed to be the team to put an end to M5's time at the top, and, coupling Dreamhack with their online victories, they seemed to have all the tools required to neutralise the Russians who had dominated the early part of the year's tournament calender. Instead the Warsaw-based event ended up another victory parade for M5, now fully battle-tested and reinvigorated as Europe's, and perhaps the world's, best.
"In Poland they had our number, they let us pick what we wanted, but we had some counters prepared and we made some individual mistakes and then they snowballed that. They're a good enough of a team that, I once said at the [analysis] desk that if you give them a finger, they'll take an arm!
Moscow was known back then for 'see hero, kill hero'. Which basically means Alex plays something like Ryze, puts a Snare on a guy and that's like a giant target for like 'kill this guy now'".
- Krepo, Support player of CLG.EU, speaking in an interview in April 2013.
Proving themselves Europe's reigning kings
It would be less than a month before the Season 2 Regional finals for Europe, where the top three teams would earn spots in Riot's Season 2 World Championship. During the downtime before the event M5 only improved upon their already elevated online play of the last period, winning two more in2LOL King Of The Hill matches and crushing Curse.EU 3:0 in the final of IGN ProLeague Elites. Their only moment of weakness had been a loss to SK Gaming in the final of the SK Trophy July.
Drawn against the Poles of EloHell in the quarter-final M5 made quick work of them 2:0 to reach the semi-final. A win here would guarantee them one of the three S2 World Championship spots, so there was understandably a degree of pressure involved, even for the monsters of Moscow Five. Despite going up in their series against fnatic after the first map matters were pushed to a decider after fnatic pulled level. M5 kept their resolve, winning the third map and moving on to the semi-final.
With CLG.EU facing SK Gaming in the other semi-final many expected a trilogy of finals match-ups for M5 and the team who had slain them at Dreamhack. Indeed, CLG.EU had continued to impress in Korea, beating China's World Elite to reach the semi-final of OGN Champions Summer. Not all of M5 were convinced they'd be rematching CLG though. While Alex Ich had not predicted SK would even make the top four of the tournament, both Diamondprox and GoSu Pepper (Edward) felt Ocelote and company would beat CLG.EU and reach the final, perhaps going off their new recruits and thinking back on M5's own loss to them in the SK Trophy final.
The latter two proved correct, SK excitingly defeated CLG.EU and joined M5 in the final. That final were quite a bit less exciting though, with M5 smashing home the victory 2:0. Some would later comment that some of SK looked to be feeling the aftereffects of a night's celebration, and indeed both teams knew they had secured S2 World Championship spots already. M5 secured their fourth offline event victory, having made the final of all five offline campaigns. Their prize money haul for the year stood at 127,000 USD already.
"Well, I think I'm emotionally worn out a little bit, since we've been winning a lot lately, so comparing it to the time we won in Hannover, which was a really great thing, right now it's more like "well, we won". I think it has something to do with a fact that our opponents didn't put up a good fight to make you feel that happy about winning. But anyway, winners are always happier than the losing side.
I think the reason is that top 3 teams are going to season finals and when we played the semis it was a fight for a spot, which is a really big deal, when today it was basically a game for 10 grand, and that obviously isn't as important. But anyway I think our opponents were way too relaxed or may be we just overestimated them."
- Darien, speaking after the final.
Assassinated en route to the official world title
In October Moscow Five flew to Los Angeles for the S2 World Championship. First place paid 1,000,000 USD and carried the title of official World Champion for League of Legends. This was the biggest tournament in the history of the game and Moscow Five came in as one of the heavy favourites, though some of the Koreans had their own ground swelling of support. M5 certainly seemed confident, with Edward having said that he didn't understand why "such a weak team" as China's World Elite had been granted a spot directly into the quarter-finals of the tournament. Darien had also explained that he'd seen some of the Asian teams, "but they showed nothing extraordinary".
"We don't have rivals. The most team that is rival for us is M5 itself. We are our main enemies and the [reason] we are losing most of the time."
- Alex Ich, speaking in an interview in September of 2012.
Winning the S2 Regional for Europe meant Moscow Five began directly in the quarter-final of the tournament, skipping the group stage. Their first opponent would be Invictus Gaming, China's second best team and the second placed team of Group A. The Chinese team had defeated CLG.Prime and SK Gaming, losing only to Azubu Frost, considered Korea's strongest team, due to having won the OGN Champions Summer tournament. M5's previous words about Chinese teams perhaps held some weight, they beat IG 2:0 to reach the semi-finals.
Their semi-finals opponent was somewhat unexpected, as Taipei Assassins (TPA), winners of the S2 Regional Finals for Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau, considered by far the weakest region, had upset OGN Champions semi-finalists NaJin Sword, home of star Top laner MaKNooN. This looked to be quite the boon for M5, TPA were considered nowhere near their level.
Indeed, CLG.EU's star Mid laner later said that his team had been hoping TPA would be their quarter-final opponent, since they considered the South East Asian team, along with World Elite, the weakest teams in that round of the tournament. Similarly, CLG.Prime's Chauster also considered TPA weak, claiming to have beaten them numerous times online, and, despite ping disadvantage for the SEA team, saying that it was convincing enough for him to know TPA were the weakest of the four teams in the semi-finals.
M5 won the first map, but one map from the final was as close as they would come. TPA defeated them in two maps straight to take the semi-final series, going on to surprise once more in the final, downing Azubu Frost there 3:1 to be crowned S2 World Champions. Even to this day M5's players consider it a series they should have won
"In reality, no one would think that a team like TPA could beat us, and most people were predicting that CLG.eu or Frost would beat us. TPA were just considered the best team in the South East Asian scene, but everyone underestimated Taipei, who turned out to be the best in the world in the end.
"A lot of things changed. They developed strategies we weren't aware of, and used champions that we never saw in their replays. No, they weren't on another level. Unfortunately, they were actually on a level below, and that's why we were sad to lose.
If you can't deal with their main strategy, in fact it's a simple split-push strategy, which everyone has used nowadays and know how to struggle with it, and with their perfect skill in warding, map awareness, their ability to disengage and engage at the right time etc. Then, with no experience in dealing with it, you have not a single chance to win."
- Diamondprox, speaking in interviews in October of 2012 and April of 2013.
For all their success in 2012, which had been considerable and awe-inspiring, Moscow Five found themselves failing to make the final of their first offline tournament at the worst possible time, deep into the biggest and most important tournament in LoL history.
"You always know that you could do another thing and you would win with high percent of chance, but we lost and the team that we lost to deserved that, because they came in really good form or shape and they showed a really good S class game."Beyond finishing outside of the top two for the first time, now critics of M5 had some solid ground upon which to fight their battle that M5 weren't the world's best team: claiming they were weaker against Asian teams. Since M5 had yet to face any of the elite Korean sides, and had just lost to an SEA team who weren't even considered contenders prior to the tournament, they were once more in the position of needing to prove themselves. The 150,000 USD they took for their placing was little more than a light financial balm to soothe a raging sore in M5's competitive egos going forwards.
- Alex Ich, speaking in an interview in March of 2013.
"I think Moscow Five was doing ok up until World finals, but every since then they have dipped. I think when they placed top four, and lost to Taipei Assassins, the suffered a lot in morale, their confidence got shaken.
Unless the teams have been to Korea, like Dignitas, ourselves, fnatic or CLG.NA, they don't know, they're very naive. Like Moscow Five thought they were going to stomp the World Finals, then they didn't, it was two Asian teams."
- Snoopeh, Jungler of CLG.EU, speaking in an interview in late November of 2012.
A month after the S2 World Championship M5 headed into the offline portion of the Tales of the Lane tournament looking to have an easy run at another offline title. Their online play had been kind enough to them to allow them to skip to the semi-finals, where the offline section would begin. Facing Curse.EU should have looked like an easy prospect on paper, they had batted previous Curse.EU line-ups around like a racketball in offline semi-finals, but this time Curse had brought in the ex-Acer.pl botlane of Creaton and SuperAZE.
This new look Curse.EU line-up stunned M5, handing them their third ever offline Bo3 loss, and the second ever to a European team. The Russians beat SK for third place, but the damage had been done. Curse.EU went on to take the title, but their win over M5 would be the main story everyone would be talking about in the days that followed. Diamondprox put it simply, stating that "They dominated us on both maps and things ended up the way they did."
"Analyzing their gameplay and picks. Everytime we played them before, we didn't prepare at all on what to ban/pick and just thought of something in picks n bans. Before TOTL we dedicated a week to preparing for the game against M5."
- extinkt, Mid laner of Curse.EU, answering an AMA question on the secret to beating M5 offline, post-TotL.
M5 headed off to China, where they were to be guests of the Tencent Games Arena Grand Prix Winter 2012, in Taicang, Jiangsu, China. At the event Moscow Five played showmatches against the two best Chinese teams, IG and WE, beating both. The downside of the trip was that it cut into their practice time for the upcoming IGN ProLeague 5 event in Las Vegas, and also meant they could not participate at Dreamhack Winter. At the end of November M5 flew out to Las Vegas, seeking their first event win on US soil.
Another Asian disaster
The format for IPL5 meant that teams first competed in a group stage, with the top two teams moving into the upper bracket of the playoffs, and the bottom two being placed into the lower bracket. The Russians' group contained Curse.NA, an unknown Thai team and the team who had slain them in LA: Taipei Assassins. If M5 truly believed that semi-final result to have been a fluke then they would have a one map opportunity to prove otherwise here.
"Lets see if they improve between now and the tournament. If they don't, and we don't play worse, then they've got no chance."
- Diamondprox, speaking in an interview in October, on the prospect of facing TPA again, at IPL5.
In the second game of the group M5 fell to TPA once more, but made it out in second to reach the upper bracket anyway. Their first opponent in the upper bracket would be World Elite, the Chinese team one of their members had called "very weak" only months prior. World Elite proved anything but weak, beating M5 2:0 and going on to stomp the tournament without a series loss, how times had changed.
In the lower bracket M5 quickly moved past Meat Playground to run into Azubu Blaze, sister team of Frost and a team who had seen considerable success on US soil, winning previous MLG events. M5 got their first Korean win under their belts, beating Blaze in a three map series. Next up was CLG.Prime. This time M5 did succumb to the heat of the NA team's pressure, losing the first map. Beyond that they were resilient though, showing heart to win the series 2:1. That struggle bought them a rematch with TPA, who had been bounced to the lower bracket by, surprise ticket of the tournament, fnatic
Faced with another opportunity to gain some redemption from the S2 World Championship M5 were still unable to prevail against TPA. They lost the series 0:2, to put their overall score against the World Champions at 1:5.
"Their play style is kind of similar to CLG.EU play style, so we got some problems against that play style, that's why I think we're losing to them, because they play some sort of defensive game and we try to break it with our aggressive play style. We do a lot of mistakes and that counts to our loses, so there are some kind of things that we need to do."
- Alex Ich, speaking in an interview in March of 2013.
With TPA themselves being eliminated in the next round, losing in turn to fnatic again, questions swirled about whether M5's era had come to a close, Asians seemingly overrunning the top end of the scene, on the whole. M5 left Vegas with only 3,000 USD in prize money, though they had at least continued their streak of never finishing below fourth in an offline tournament.
"We'd been to Asia [...] and played against [Asians], while M5 were on the rise, and we said to all the other NA players 'Well, just wait until Asia gets into it and you'll see!"
The NA scene and the European scene just wasn't even competitive, so when the Asians came around, I guess it kind of changed the game and every team had to catch up fast, or else [they'd] be left in the dust."
- Saintvicious, Jungler of Curse.NA, speaking in an interview at IPL5.
When they'd been beaten by CLG.EU, at Dreamhack, Moscow Five had adapted to bounce back to their winning ways. Now they looked to be in the first bonafide slump of their careers, almost four months removed from their last offline final. What's more they had an opponent who was holding over them, who they seemed unable to defeat. The split-pushing style of TPA seemed to solution to the Moscow Five puzzle that had eluded so many other top teams.
"Asians love a lot to split-push, that's kinda why we do it now. We went to Korea, for a short period, for two months to OGN, and we were scrimming Koreans and they were so annoying with the split-push, like all day long. You are winning and suddenly they start split-push and win the game. I think from that I learned a lot, that that's the best that you can do, play with a team. When they are good in team fights, just split them and they will make a mistake.
That's something that if you are not prepared, if you are not used to split-push, they can do that to you. Then you're just going to go into the game, try to fight them and they are way better than that and they're gonna beat you, like they did with M5."
- xPeke, Mid laner of fnatic, speaking in an interview in April 2013.
nubofdeath explains why TPA became M5's stumbling block:
"The one road block that the former M5 did run into was the S2 champions TPA. Before TPA, M5 had not lost consistently against a single team but against TPA, M5 lost in the S2 WC and in IPL5 later that year. In their first meeting with TPA at the S2 WC, it was very clear that TPA had done their preparations against the tactics of M5. Being a great defensive team, TPA was able to limit the number of aggressive skirmishes coming out from M5 and they were able to specifically control Diamond in all their meetings. By keeping Diamond under control, TPA was able to take advantage in the lanes especially in the top lane where Stanley had his way with Darien.
The only times that M5 would be able to beat TPA would be when they chose picks that they did not previously use but when M5 reverted to their old favourites, they were not able to beat TPA which showed how well prepared TPA was against the M5 style. In addition, the old S2 M5 was usually only beaten in Europe by a good defensive team in CLG.EU during LAN tournaments. What this hinted was that a defensive styled team who don’t make many mistakes and plays for a late game could have a much better chance compared to a team who would take their chances and answer to M5’s skirmish attempts.
TPA in many ways resembled the CLG.EU team with supportive jungler, aggressive top laner, a farm first mid laner and a consistent bot lane thus it was not a surprise that the TPA style would give M5 some troubles and even be able to beat them since arguably TPA was playing better than CLG.EU had in the S2 WC and IPL5. Thus the lack of preparation and a mismatch in terms of playing style allowed TPA to dominate M5 like no other team had done in the past."
2012 had begun so well for the Russians, ascending to the top of the world throne, and their four offline titles stood alongside the 315,854 USD they'd earned over the course of the year, the spoils of their efforts. In total they had played in eight offline events, winning four, placing at least top two in five and placing top four at worst in all of them.
Another return in Poland
Admist rumours of alleged criminal activity the Moscow Five organisation was unable to retain their LoL squad going into 2013, as the five Russian players and their manager instead signed with Gambit Gaming, and unknown organisation out of the UK. The first event of 2013 for them would be IEM VII Katowice, located in Poland.
Drawn in their group were Azubu Blaze, Curse.NA and MYM. Losing the opener to Blaze, whom they had beaten in Vegas, Gambit found themselves shocked with an upset loss to Curse.NA in the second game of the group, putting them on the brink of elimination. Curse.NA had not ended the year strong against international competition, few even considered them a top three team in NA, and due to visa issues with their Mid player (NyJacky), they'd had to use stand-in Rhux, who was a Support player. Despite these seeming handicaps Curse had shocked the Russians.
A glimmer of hope still remained though, as Curse had lost to MYM in their opening game. Since Blaze were heavy favourites to beat Curse the Russians needed to beat MYM and they could force a three-way tie for second place, with only the top two teams progressing. Prior to the match ESL admins explained to them that the tie-breaker would be time, so the Russians needed to beat their opponents quickly. To complete the storybook turnaround they did just that, defeating MYM and stealing the second spot and entry into the playoffs. With good reason Alex Ich still considers the MYM victory one of his most memorable matches played.
In the semi-final Gambit were facing Azubu Frost. Frost were not only the runners-up of the S2 World Championship, but widely considered Korea's strongest team. They had just reached the final of OGN Champions Winter, making that three straight finals appearances in Korea's most difficult competition. They were the reigning champions of OGN and had swept their group here in Katowice, beating SK Gaming and fnatic along the way. If Gambit had lost to Blaze, few gave them much chance to overcome supposedly the stronger Azubu team in a Bo3. It was an Asian team again standing in the way for Gambit.
Gambit turned up to the semi-finals a different team from the one that had barely edged out of the group stage, with wounds suffered at the hands of an upstart NA team. This Gambit Gaming swept Frost 2:0 to reach the final. Korea's best team had fallen by the wayside, thanks in part to Gambit's strategical approach to combating their botlane. This would become a theme of the next series also.
In the final Gambit faced the other Azubu team, Blaze, in a rematch of their group stage game. They had beaten Blaze 2:1 in Vegas in December, but here in Katowice they had suffered a loss to them in the group stage. Gambit once more repeated their miraculous feat from the previous round, 2:0ing Blaze to take their first offline title in around five months. Key to their strategy had been their, correct, analysis that the two Azubu teams relied on two champions for their AD Carries. By banning these champions out they forced the botlanes of the Koreans into disarray, as they played champions which were outside of their comfort zone. Thus did Gambit 4:0 two of Korea's strongest teams to win their fifth offline event.
"At that moment back in Katowice we just banned two champions, which were seen in the "most-played" of the enemy teams, so they started to pick totally useless champions. And, in addition, they had no clue how to play them properly. I don't know why that happened at all, maybe we can say that they just have small champion pools."
- Diamondprox, speaking in an interview in April 2013, on how they defeated Blaze and Frost.
Gambit had a new name, a new home and a new title for the new year. Were they back to being contenders for the title of world's best team?
"If we don’t consider it as a mistake the fact that their AD Carries can play only on two champions, then we won only by improving our skill."
- Diamondprox, speaking in an interview after the final of IEM Katowice, on why they overcame the Koreans.
nubofdeath analysing why GG were able to overcome the Korean teams:
"After their losses to TPA, pundits were complaining that even the mighty Russians were no match against the Asians. This all changed however when the newly formed Gambit Gaming (GG) faced off against two of Korea’s best in Azubu Frost and Blaze. Against the Azubu teams who were struggling to adopt to the S3 changes, GG showed everyone why they were still a force to be reckoned with.
Diamondprox was at the heart of their domination of the Koreans when he brought out the Xin Zhao jungle which worked so well with the GG playing style of making aggressive plays early on and creating skirmishes across the map. Added this to the fact that GG would look for early 4 man dives in the bot lane which would oft en turn out very successful and it would lead to a fast tower/dragon which would lead to an unstoppable snowball. GG also showed everyone that they were the innovators by showing off some new team comps which would later become the trendy picks.
Aside from the jungle Xin, the top Renekton pick would also become popular in the next months and completing the armor shredding team comp would be Miss Fortune who would be able to shred the opponents’ armor using her ultimate in conjunction with Black Cleaver. These types of new team comps that GG showed off along with the aggressive skirmishing around the map was what Sword also utilized few weeks later when they dominated Frost to win the Champions Winter."
The LCS begins
For Season 3 Gambit would be a part of the European division of the Riot League Championship Series (LCS), with the Spring season beginning in early February. Eight teams would gather in Cologne, Germany, each week to play matches. The regular season would have each team play 28 matches, then there would be a playoff bracket for the top six placing teams. As Europe's best team Gambit looked favourites to take home the 50,000 USD on offer at the end of the Spring season. The opening week would be quite the shock, though.
With three games to play in week one, Gambit finished up 1:2, losing to rivals EG (formerly CLG.EU) and shockingly to heavy underdogs GIANTS!, from Spain. The ship got back on course from week two onwards, and for the next three weeks Gambit went undefeated, bringing their record to an impressive 9:2. There would now be a break while the teams competed in the last big offline event outside of the LCS: the IEM VII World Championship. Gambit were going back to the tournament which had confirmed them as the world's best a year earlier, and thanks to their Katowice result they had yet to lose an IEM event they had played in.
Returning to try and repeat as champions of the IEM World Championship
The group stage saw a familiar site for fans of the Russian team, as they swept it, going 5:0. Beating the likes of Blaze, fnatic and Incredible Miracle, Gambit looked to be in strong form. Skipping straight to the semi-finals the opponent they would meet there was none other than Frost, now of CJ Entus, their semi-finals opponent from Katowice. Frost had lost the OGN crown the previous month, meaning they were perhaps no longer Korea's best
-CJ Entus Frost
The Koreans were wise to the strategy that had broken them in Poland, this time Frost struck back and won a close three map series. Gambit's last unblemished stronghold had been breached, they had failed to repeat as IEM World Champions. With Frost going on to lose to sister team Blaze in the final, the Russians couldn't even claim comfort in losing to the eventual victor.
"recently we had a chance to notice that they found out not only how to counter our strategies and in their turn create new strategies, which are hard to deal with for us, but also expanded their AD champion pools... and now... it is hard to win against them just with two bans."
-Diamond, speaking about GG's loss to Frost at IEM.
"Frost is a really good team and they've got really good strategies. We were kinda even and it was close games. We went for an aggressive level one and we failed. They won't forgive mistakes so they got the advantage from that and just snowballed it."
- Alex Ich iview at IEM, on frost semi loss.
With the following week off from LCS play, Gambit headed out to Dallas, Texas, for the MLG Winter Championship International Exhibition. Featuring Team Dignitas, Curse.NA, KT Rolster B and themselves, the four team tournament had solid prize money and was a rare chance for fans to see international competition outside of LCS, which would now dominate the calender of the top European and North American teams.
Facing Team Dignitas in the opening round Gambit reminded the NA team that they were still the better side, beating them 2:0. In the final they would face KT Rolster B, who had slain Curse.NA in the other match. KT B were not only heavily hyped as one of the best new Korean teams, but featured star Jungler inSec, who was wowing fans across the globe with his incredibly mechanics, farming from the jungle position and use of champions like Zed and Lee Sin. Diamondprox had once said "You can’t call yourself a jungler, if you haven’t mastered Lee Sin." Now the Russian would face a Jungler many felt could be his equal, or even his better.
KT Rolster B prevailed in the final, taking the match in three maps. Again Gambit had lost a three map series to a top Korea team. Their IEM Katowice high seemed short lived and relegated to the past suddenly. They headed back to Europe to close out the LCS season, looking for another European title.
"[inSec's] skill-level is way higher than, for example, an average European jungler's skill-level. He can aim skillshots perfectly, knows how to position himself properly, but I noticed, that he makes a lot of mistakes, just as we all do. Like... He died from Udyr just because of his imprudence. But still he is remaining in a position of “the best in the world jungler”, and I know no other players who can be compared to him.
I really liked how he played against us at MLG. His picks were somewhat unwise from my point of view but he executed them well, both Lee Sin and Zed. He is worthy opponent. On one hand, I don't like rivals, on the other hand, it's good to have such players ;)"
- Diamondprox, speaking about facing inSec at MLG.
Falling at the finish of LCS Spring
Back in Cologne Gambit continued to put up winning records over each passing week, but not without losses. From week six to week nine they went 7:2, losing once to fnatic, again to underdogs GIANTS! and for the first time against SK Gaming. The last week would be a 'Super Week', as they would play five maps. Going 3:1 over the first four, their only loss being against EG, they face Wolves in the final map of the season. If they won they would top the regular season, if they lost they would finish second.
If Gambit won they would get the side of the bracket where they would wait in the semi-final for the winner of Wolves and EG, the latter having been the only team outside of GIANTS!, who weren't in the playoffs, to have beaten them twice over the season. If they lost then they'd move over to the other side, where they'd await the winner of SK Gaming and against All authority. The former had beaten them once, the later never. The final game proved to be a loss for Gambit, ensuring them a bracket run to the final which, on paper, looked easier.
The Russians met SK Gaming in the semi-final, sweeping them 2:0, to set-up a final vs. fnatic. Gambit and fnatic had been the two best teams of the regular season, and only a final map loss had grant fnatic the top spot at the end. The final was Bo5 and Gambit won the opener, only for the fnatic to reply and tie it up 1:1. Gambit again took the lead, winning map three and going one map from victory, but once more fnatic rallied to tie the series. The LCS Spring season for EU would head into a final map for the 50,000 USD first prize, the loser receiving half as much. fnatic proved the team with the winning touch, taking down Gambit 3:2 overall and claiming the crown in the first LCS season
-fnaticLittle did the world know, that would prove to be the final match of Edward's career with Gambit. The era of Europe's great five man Russian line-up had come to a close, after 19 months together the quintet had lost a member. Mere days after leaving Gambit, Edward signed with Curse.NA, heading over to America.
"It's very difficult to play with him. It's only at first glance where it looks like it's easy to stay him him in one lane (you are at the brushes, and he kills two). But that's not how it works. Genja has a unique playstyle, which is not comparable with other AD Carrys in the world. Therefore to adapt his playstyle was not easy at all."
What's so unique about his playing style? It looks like he is farming and then killing? If he can kill the enemy without, while using Heal and flash and surviving, he won't do it. I am saying this to underline that he is a very safe and passive AD Carry. So you can say we are the opposite of each other. My playstyle is very aggressive and he is very safe and passive."
- Edward, speaking an interview in July of 2012.
End of an era
nubofdeath examines what role Edward played in Gambit Gaming/Moscow Five:
"Why was the former M5/GG line-up with Edward so special and why was it so dominant? The fact of the matter is that the former GG was a line-up which had its flaws but was nevertheless consisting of 5 really good players. Darien was always cited out as a weak link in the team having a limited pool of champions and being caught inexplicably time and time again but it was always interesting that even when Darien got “caught” and team fights would break out as a result, GG would often come out ahead of their opponents with their amazing team fighting ability and the fact that Darien would be taking all of the opponents spells, summoners but still manage to survive. What this meant was that even though Darien would get “caught” it would all be expected in the minds of other GG members who would take advantage of the opponents not having the required, resources to fight the rest of the members.
As mentioned before, the jungler Diamond has always been one of the key members of GG. With his great mechanics and the ability to bring out something unexpected, he was able to carry many games coming out the jungle and provide GG with an early lead. In addition, Diamond has always been very good at getting objectives which allowed GG to build early leads and snowball their games behind their ability to team fight. Another player who has been the key carry force on the team is Alex_Ich. Throughout S2 and S3, Alex has always been in the conversation for the best mid laners in the world. The thing that Alex brought to the team is consistency through great farming, roaming presence and the ability to play the all of the OP champs in the particular patch. Whether it would be his Evelyn, Khazix, Zed, Karthus or even Master Yi, Alex would demonstrate a high understanding for the champion and he could be counted on to perform up to a high standard so his team would have a chance for victory in every game.
The always underappreciated Genja brought with him his great positioning which allowed him to play a champ like MF to a tee and also allowed him to survive very long during team fights even though his tem would not spend much resources to peel for him. In addition, he has always been the mastermind on GG, bringing a wealth of in game-knowledge and strategy which has been a hall mark of GG’s successes. Last but not least, Edward brought with him a unique brand of aggressiveness which has allowed him to get the title of “support carry”. Edward’s aggressiveness combined with his play making skills allowed him to make many crucial plays for his team both in lane and in team fights with champions such as Sona and Thresh and in many cases, Edward’s use of the Sona Crescendo, or Thresh Death sentence would be the reason why GG won the game.
When these 5 members played together using their unique attributes, GG was able to play in their customary fashion. The early game would be where Edward and Diamond would shine. Diamond with his dangerous ganks across the map as well as getting dragons whenever he can while Edward provided great lane presence to allow for Genja to get ahead. The mid game would be where the teamwork of GG would shine through as GG would usually know when to engage and get out ahead in their team fights especially in fights where the engages are usually messy and two teams end up in a brawl. The members of GG would especially know when each member could go in and out of the fight so that by the end of the fight, most of the members would be alive but only with a sliver of health.
This early aggression leading into a messy brawl would be characteristic of GG games and they would be very good at inducing these even against teams like Frost and Blaze who would normally be looking for organized fights. The final polishing touch that made GG so good was in their discovery of new champion picks which would allow them to play their game while giving the opponent a different look. Many of their new champs would be designed to bolster their already existing strengths and would work in the grand scheme of things as far as GG would be concerned but these picks would provide a variant of their existing tactics so that even though teams would know what’s to be expected, they wouldn’t be entirely sure until they faced against the new team comps.
With Edward now being on Curse, what will GG miss from him? Edward was undoubtedly the top 2 play making supports in Europe along with nRated and he was one of those supports who could swing a game in to his team’s favour by making the big plays at the crucial moments. Edward also provided enough laning presence to cover up for the rather passive Genja and he would always be a threat to secure first blood whenever the opportunity presented itself. The threat from Edward’s Thresh was so high that it would routinely draw bans from the opposing team which allowed Alex and Diamond to get their hands on a pick that they wouldn’t have gotten otherwise.
GG will for sure miss the carry threat from the support spot considering the fact that GG’s top lane and the ADC are not usually asked to play a carry role and whoever the new support is, it is for certain that he will have some big shoes to fill. However, there were some things that Edward did do poorly on such as being so obsessed with making aggressive plays that he sometimes forgot that his role was to support and he needed to perform some traditional support duties like providing lots of map control for his team. In addition, because he would buy items like Doran’s shield to compensate for his aggressiveness, he would be behind in gold in the long run and sometimes you could see him being down one or two large support items due to this.
If the new support can be better than Edward in these aspects of the game, he may not seem as flashy as Edward but he may bring more depth to an already scary team. Whether or not this new support player will allow GG to improve in their style remains to be seen but one thing is for sure, fans will be chanting for the “Thresh Prince” if he fails to perform."
MonteCristo, English language commentator for OnGameNet (OGN), gave his take on what made the M5/GG five man line-up so special:
"Gambit displayed remarkable synergy and adaptibility throughout their time together, leading to their legacy as one of the world's greatest League of Legend's teams. They consistently broke new ground by challenging the established metagame and caught opponent's by surprise with their willingness to experiment. They played League of Legends beautifully, and were at their best when on the ropes and forced to adapt on the fly."
From November 2011 to June 2013 the five man line-up of Darien, Diamondprox, Alex Ich, Edward and Genja was a truly a force on both the European and world stages. Winning five offline events, placing top four in all twelve they attended, winning over 378,000 USD, setting the meta-game with their innovative approaches and showing resiliency to return from defeats to triumph again and again. Team Empire/Moscow Five/Gambit Gaming, we salute you!
Team Empire/Moscow Five/Gambit Gaming (November 2011 - June 2013)
Evgeny "Darien" Mazaev (Top)
Danil "Diamondprox" Reshetnikov (Jungler)
Aleksei "Alex Ich" Ichetovkin (Mid)
Edward "Edward" Abgaryan (Support)
Evgeny "Genja" Andryushin (AD Carry)
(Photographs all courtesy of their respective owners)