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OGN Playoff preview - NaJin Sword vs. CJ Entus Frost

OGN Playoff preview

This match preview was written by  Andrew "nubofdeath" Kim, previewing a match for the Round of 8 of OGN's OLYMPUS Champions Spring 2013 tournament.

Najin Sword (#4 Group A) vs CJ Entus Frost (#1 Group B)

Matchup Overview: The rematch of last year’s finals comes at an earlier time than most people expected with Najin Sword struggling to regain their Championship forms. As for Frost, they have remained a formidable force in the Korean scene even with the departure of Woong. Now, the two titans who have had polarizing results ever since the last time they met square off in battle once again to determine who will move on to the next round of competition.

Najin Sword is a team that’s still feared by many due to their amazing ability to snowball games. When Najin Sword is on their best, they may be the most complete team in KR featuring a good laning phase and combining it with their much improved game management skills. However, the main problem with Sword is that they are a very streaky team. Almost every member on Sword with the exception of the bot lane are typically not very consistent in their performance especially this season. This is why Sword has been one of the most perplexing and frustrating team to watch this season.

In the opposite corner, CJ Entus Frost is a team that is a model for consistency. The fact that they have made every finals since the inaugural OGN Champions says a volume about their team. Even more impressive is the fact that Frost has undergone a roster change in almost every season of Champions while maintaining their high level of communication and awe-inspiring team fighting ability. This season’s rendition of the Frost team has not looked much different from the past versions with one exception; they have become noticeably stronger in the laning phase. This is not to say that Frost is a strong laning team by any means but so far they have not been stomped in lane as they have in the past even without much jungle presence. This means that Frost is now a much scarier entity who possesses decent laning with an extremely potent late game. 

When these two teams square off on Friday many things will be on the line. As the players prepare for the famed “lol classico” between the two giants, they will know that this matchup is all about Pride and Redemption. The victor will be able to claim both come Friday and earn a date with Blaze. 

Top lane matchup: MakNooN (3 kda) vs Shy (3.9 kda)

The 1 v 1 that never was defines the matchup in the top lane when Shy will face off against MakNooN. MakNooN will no doubt try to show the world that the fans were wrong in picking Shy as the allstar but Shy will not be an easy opponent for MakNooN to handle.

MakNooN is possibly one of the scariest players to have on your team and have as an opponent because when he plays well, he can thoroughly dominate almost anyone but when he has a bad day, he can be dominate just as thoroughly by everyone. In terms of individual skill, MakNooN is definitely a player who has lots of it but he can be over zealous at times and make rash decisions. In recent times however, he has become a much more team oriented player and while he is able to carry from time to time, MakNooN doesn’t have to be accountable to carry every game as was the case last Summer when Sword was first formed. 

When compared to MakNooN, Shy seems to be the opposite of MakNooN in every way. Shy is more or less one of the most consistent performers on the scene who can fill any role that the team needs whether it would be a carry role or a more utility role. In addition, Shy is probably one of the best or if not the best at recovering from an early deficit in the lane. Finally Shy was the new guy on the team who has continually gained increasing amounts of importance on the team to the point that he has now become the captain and the cornerstone of the team. Reflecting on the loss they had last year, Shy will surely want to dispose of Sword this time around and it would be much more satisfactory to him if Shy is able to beat MakNooN to do so. 

Looking at the champions that the players opted to use, it’s clear that both players love to use Rumble and Elise. However when both champions are unavailable, Shy has opted to use the Jayce pick extensively while MakNooN has utilized the Kennen pick. Knowing MakNooN, he will probably prefer to play a very aggressive hero which could showcase his individual skill and flair but he may end up playing a more utility role. While Shy on the other hand could be using anything given his track record, Shy will most likely be playing the role of an off-carry which means that he may be playing lots and lots of assassins if Jayce is picked or banned.

The battle between the two captains will surely be a battle for pride. Although the this matchup may not even determine the #1 top laner in Korea, coming out on top will surely mean a lot to both of these players. That's why this particular matchup will be too close to call. 

Jungle matchup: Watch (3.1 kda) vs CloudTemplar (3.8 kda)

The herbivore vs the carnivore. This was the title that was given to this matchup the last time and we all know what happened last winter when these two faced each other. Since then, things have seemingly remained the same but there have definitely been some changes. 

Watch was a player who was called the "topgler" for a long time since he was often found setting up a tent in the top lane. In the recent games, he has been frequenting the top lane much less and he is often found trying to get the mid lane ahead much more. Additionally, Watch is one of the few junglers that will invest heavily in the early Oracle's and this allows Sword to have that precious early vision advantage which is one of the tools that Sword loves to utilize in snowballing their game typically between the 15 ~ 20 minute mark. The key for Watch in this matchup will be to provide this type of map control again so that he can restrict Frost's movements and deter their growth which will be hugely detrimental for a late game team like Frost. 

The herbivore jungler CloudTemplar's goal in most games nowadays is simple. Don't feed, contest objectives and win team fights. Many people, including myself have argued that CloudTemplar hasn't been adapting as well as he should to the s3 changes and he has been one of the weak points of Frost for a long time. However, it was remarkable to see how CloudTemplar was adapt to the S3 changes during his play this season without being a carry force like the other junglers. CloudTemplar is a very unique jungler in that he still plays like a secondary support player instead of a fourth laner that the other junglers opt to play. Even though the approach seems to be counterintuitive and against the current meta, CloudTemplar has made this work somehow. Much of this credit goes to CloudTemplar for discovering a champion like Rammus who really doesn't need many items to do what he needs to do. The challenge for CloudTemplar in this match will be to recover from last year's nightmare and have a better presence coming out from the jungle than last year when he was targeted heavily by Sword. 

On the one hand, Watch will definitely be the aggressive one trying to give his team the early lead they will need to end up being triumphant and on the other hand, Templar will be looking primarily to counter gank and support his lanes so that they don't lose their towers very early and don't fall too behind compared to the opponents. The carnivore vs the herbivore round 2 could potentially be one of the focal points in the match just as it was in the last Champions final. 

Mid lane matchup: SSONG (3.4 kda) vs RapidStar (3.8 kda)

The mid lane matchup features two of the most inconsistent performers on their respective team in SSONG and RapidStar. For fans, these two mid laners maybe the most frustrating players to watch. while both of them have the skill sets to be one of the best mid players in the scene they are very streaky and they have periods where they can play really well followed by periods where they can play absolutely bad. The interesting thing is that both of these mid laners are pretty aggressive in nature. They would both rather be trading kills than passively farming minions in lane. These two also prefer to roam around pretty heavily in order to give other lanes some leverage in their laning. 

The focus of this match may come down to the picks and bans where the obvious candidate for the most contested pick/ban maybe the Karthus and the Khazix.

Both of the mid laners can play Karthus and Khazix very well and given the power and strategical versatility of those two champions, there is no doubt that both of those could be in play. Aside from those two champs, SSONG has played Orianna and Diana as well depending on the team comp but you can never count out a surprise Evelyn, Kayle or Zilean to come out from SSONG depending on the team comp that Sword will employ. As for RapidStar, he has also played Diana and Lux when he didn't play Karthus or Khazix. Aside from those champions, we may see Ahri or Gragas depending on the matchups. 

The mid lane matchup will definitely be an interesting one to watch. The player that finds his former self the first may just end up being the X factor that leads his respective team to victory. Whether SSONG or RapidStar will be able to rise to the challenge and fulfill that role, we will found out. 

ADC matchup: PraY (3.6 kda) vs Hermes (4.1 kda) 

The battle of the hypercarries defines the matchup in the bot lane. Interestingly, both Hermes and PraY have a similar champion pool with both the players preferring to play Twitch, Kogmaw and Miss fortune. While their choice of champions has a lot to do with how both teams are run, the matchup in the bot lane can be summed as who can carry the hardest when it comes time for the ADCs to shine. 

PraY was voted to be the allstar in KR because he is a versatile ADC who can be aggressive or passive in lane and he is one of those ADCs that will try to get a maximum output of damage during team fights even if it means that he will die. Often, this sort of damage dealing allows Najin Sword to come out ahead on team fights and in recent times, PraY has become THE carry for the Najin Sword team. Thus quite often, you will see Sword running a protect the Kog or protect the Twitch comp in order to allow PraY to have his room during these engages.

The new comer Hermes was always known as a great mechanical ADC and at spurts this season he showed people that he indeed was a mechanically sound ADC. Contrary to many worries, Hermes has synergized quite well with MadLife so far and the laning phase of Hermes and MadLife maybe better than that of Woong and MadLife even at the time that Woong became a good ADC. This increased laning potency compared to last year will surely help the duo survive and even perform well against the aggressive PraY/Cain duo. The real question will be if Hermes can perform well during the late game high leverage situations even without the required experience. As Hermes has mentioned, ever since he joined Frost, all the focus has been in trying to perfect skill combination timings and improving team work. If Hermes can perform as well as Woong used to in the team fights, then Frost will have a great chance to come out ahead in their rematch of last season. 

Both of the ADCs have great mechanics and both of these love to be that hyper carry. The question is who will remain standing when the dust settles and the team fights ends. This matchup will probably come down to the one who can have the most influence in the latter stages of the game. Will it be Hermes? Or the allstar PraY? It may be too close to call. 

Support matchup: Cain (5.4 kda) vs MadLife (5.2 kda)

The god vs the one who maybe the closest to god in Korea; this is the story surrounding the support matchup. MadLife is one of the most popular players not only in Korea but all across the world. His legendary Blitzcrank, Alistar, Thresh and Sona plays have all made the opponents shaking their heads and his playmaking has long been one of the forces behind Frost's dominance in the scene. Cain on the other hand is a much less heralded support player but he may be one of if not the best Sona player in the world (along with Fzzf) and when it comes to making plays, Cain isn't far behind MadLife in his level of execution.

With both players having the required ability to make the game changing players for their respective team, the focus has to be put on the other aspects of the game in order for one to gain the advantage over the other. One of the key battles between the supports throughout the series will be gaining vision control all across the map. If Watch on Sword is known for his early Oracle's in S3, MadLife is the support player who will not hesitate to grab an early Oracle's for his team if he deems that the Oracle's are necessary for cementing the outcome of the game. Through the early Oracle's MadLife usually sweeps out many wards and tries to gain control of vision all across the map. Cain on the other hand, tries to gain control of the vision by pelting the map with wards, especially in a situation where Sword would be ahead.

In the cases when Sword is ahead around the 20 minute mark, Cain (and the rest of the team to a degree) would be focusing on placing wards all across the opponent jungle and these wards would often be vision wards so that they can also ensure that the opponent stays unaware of what goes on in their own jungle. This type of suppressive map control that is often seen by the Sword team allows them to go for many objectives all across the map while being very safe and it also allows for a number of pickoff opportunities. 

Frost will have to make sure that Sword is not able to reach this level of map dominance and much of this burden will fall under MadLife who will be asked to clear out these wards and provide some map control for his team. This battle of vision could be quite crucial especially for Sword considering that they will probably have to try and pick fights on their terms to make up for their inferior team fighting. Having map control will only make it easy to engage in favourable situations. 

3 keys for Sword's victory 

1. Win the lane win game

As many of the KR pros mentioned, Sword is by and far one of the best snowballing teams around. If they manage to get ahead in the lane AND start dominating objectives, it will be difficult even for a great team fighting and game management team like Frost to comeback. As such, it will be Sword's number one priority to make sure that they get ahead especially in the top and mid lanes so that they can start to roll the snowball that they need. 

2. Please be a good day

As mentioned, Sword is a very streaky team. Watch, SSONG and MakNooN all have clear bad days and clear good days with no intermediates in between. Sword then better hope that the forms and conditions of these players are at the highest levels achievable if not, Sword may not be able to pull this one out like they did last year. 

3. Surprise! 

One of the reasons that Sword had lots of success last season was their ability to adapt very fast to the new metas and bring out new and innovative picks to the table. However, unlike last year, Sword has yet to show anything new or innovative and if they remain the way they are, they may become too predictable for Frost to prepare against. Whether or not Sword can bring some fresh ideas to the battle will be one of the focal points of the match.

3 keys for Frost's victory 

1. Team fights, team fights and more team fights

As it's been seen many times in the past, Frost is a team that possesses a miraculous team fighting ability and they thrive in situations where they can team fight the other team even when they are behind. This is what makes Frost one of the most dangerous teams to face against and this is also what makes Frost games one of the most entertaining games to watch. Frost will have to make sure that this time around they can thrive in the part of the game that they excel the most by surviving the laning phase. 

2. MakNooN? More like Maknub 

Everyone knows that even with his recent slump MakNooN is a great player however, his biggest weakness is that when he goes behind in the lane, he will usually never recover enough to be a relevant force in the lane. Knowing this and knowing the fact that Shy does well when he's set back, Frost may want to strictly opt for 2 v 1's in all of the games to take advantage of MakNooN's weaknesses. Even if 2 v 1's don't occur, Frost may allocate more resources in the top lane to shut down MakNooN and make him suffer in the matches. 

3. Do what they've always done

The one interesting fact about Frost is that in their official matches, they have never lost to the same opponent twice (with the exception of Blaze). Time will tell if the same holds true against Sword but this speaks volumes about how much the Frost team spends time trying to prepare against an opponent who may have dominated them once before to come back against them triumphantly. In addition to this, Frost has never missed out on a single finals of the OGN tournament let alone compete in the NLB. The members of Frost will certainly not be wanting to break any of these streaks now especially when they have a chance redemption against a team that utterly destroyed them in the Winter finals. 

Game predictions: On paper, Frost should probably dominate over Sword but I believe this match will be very close and we may witness the first blind pick game of this season when these two titans meet. When the game goes to blind pick, Frost has yet to lose in the Champions tournament thus look for Frost to pull out a 3:2 victory to advance. 

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