S2 champs 3 lessons learned
Essay on the S2 World Championship
More than a week after the Season 2 Championship and it still is the topic for many people in the League of Legends community. The tournament itself has been one of the most viewed esport events ever with 8 million unique views throughout the tournament and a peak of 1.1 million concurrent views. In comparison, the Season 1 World Championships had 1,6 million views in total, this should be a definite indicator of the rising interest in League of Legends all around the world. But I want to shed light on the in-game changes this last season has brought into the game, especially the different things we were able to learn from the World Championships.
1) European teams are not invincible
Does anyone remember the poll on reddit about the winner of Season 2? As you can see, the actual winner which came out on top at the end was on almost nobody's radar. Along the way towards the World Playoffs, it was especially the team around their captain Alexey "Alex Ich" Ichetovkin, Moscow Five, which was able to fascinate spectators all over the world with their amazing plays, nice individual skills and awesome team compositions. The only (European) team that was able to keep up with them was CLG.eu around Mike 'Wickd' Petersen.
At gamescom, where the European finals took place, the only question was which team would qualify as third together with above mentioned M5 and CLG.eu. Also in trans-continental it were mostly the European teams which were able to come off better which deservingly made them the huge favorites for the Season 2 title. And if someone was considered to be able to stop them, it was one of the teams out of North America, namely CLG Prime or Team Solomid, latter even given a better chance to become world champions than CLG.eu.
But what have we witnessed in the play-offs? In the semi-finals, it was Moscow Five vs. Taipei Assassins as well as CLG.eu vs Azubu Frost and everyone was just waiting for the European dream final to be transfered to the World Championship stage. But there was a different outcome, it was the Asian teams to come out victorious to ultimately eliminate the European supremacy and maybe start to create one of their own.
Well, how did that happen? Two European teams, namely CLG.eu and Natus Vincere, were in Korea for a decent amount of time to play the OGN Summer Season and were able to get to know the Korean or Asian methods in League of Legends respectively. After returning to Europe for different tournaments, f.e. the European final at gamescom, their had split opinions over their time there. On the one hand, it was awesome for them to get those experiences and see how the teams in the OGN were playing, which was hugely different from the play style of the others, which brings us to the reserve of the medal, it was extremely hard for them to cope with the European game style after getting used to playing against Asian teams only. This should be an expressive indicator to highlight the huge differences the Asian players are creating to get the edge over the other teams - as the World Championships have shown, it works.
Next question might be, what exactly do these changes look like? Something that has been coming throughout the whole season was the lane switching that were introduced into the meta development, f.e. changing top and bot lane to have decent pressure on the solo top laner as well as have someone on bot lane that is able to handle a 1v2. This results in the top laner, who has not been prepared for this and maybe has picked a champion that is absolutely not able to handle this, being taken out of the game right from the start and there-by, his team definitely having a huge disadvantage going into mid and late game.
Another aspect which has been developed are team compositions in general. Asian teams tend to focus on a very good setup to evolve and extend an early game advantage and put pressure on their opponents from minute 1. A perfect example for this is the best-of-three between Moscow Five and the Taipei Assassins, especially the third game of this encounter, where the top turret was easily taken by Stanley against Darien, one of the scariest top laners in the whole scene. But it was not only top lane, which had instantly fallen into disadvantage, it was all three lanes that had suffered from the mechanics exploited by the Taipei Assassins. The exceptional fact concerning this was the jungler of TPA wasn't even the crucial factor in this development, he had a decent struggle to get into the game. Moreover, it was awesome play by the laners.
This directly brings me to the last aspect. While the common consensus has been to build up everything for the best team fight composition which is superior in mid or late game, the World Championships have shown that early game build ups are mostly the ones, that have a much larger impact on the outcome of a game. Everyone knew the snowballing effect first blood or a series of good ganks to deny one of the lane opponents a decent amount of farm could be immense, but especially the Taipei Assassins exploited this in a very extreme fashion and arguably, this is what made them so successful throughout the whole tournament.
In all of the four games of the grand final, they easily dominated the early game and in three out of these four times, they were able to snowball it extremely well in order to secure the victory. Throughout the whole encounter, Azubu Frost tried to adjust their picks to make sure they sustained the early game compositions TPA had waiting for them but they were extremely unsuccessful, it seems to be very hard to do something about this when your opponent has perfected this way of playing like TPA has done. In my opinion, this must make the dominant teams from North America as well as Europe try to find new ways to adapt to this kind of play style introduced by TPA as well as others.
(Photographs all courtesy of their respective owners)