Wednesday, January 23, 2013

IEM Katowice In-Depth Analysis

IEM Season VII - Global Challenge Katowice 

As my first tournament analysis, I will try to inform players of IEM Katowice and its main issues, implications, highlights, and aspects of the tournament. In addition, I will try to point out certain implications it has to jungling and what players should and can learn from the best players on the global stage. Check it all out after the jump!

Mandatory spoiler alert for those who have not watched IEM Katowice; be warned!

Tournament Format 

IEM Katowice consisted of eight qualified teams with a group stage followed by a single elimination stage. Teams were split into two groups where they played three best-of-one games in a round robin style. The top two teams in the group stage would advance in the single elimination stage. Teams who advanced would then play best-of-three games in a single elimination bracket to determine a winner.

The eight participating teams are as follows:
Gambit Gaming, formerly known as Moscow 5
Azubu Blaze
Azubu Frost
Fnatic RC, the Season 1 World Champions
SK Gaming
Curse Gaming
Absolute Legends

Tournament Predictions

Early predictions showed that more practiced Korean teams would have an advantage in the tournament following the explosion of "Korean" meta and practice regime which dominated the global scene after the TSM vs Azubu Blaze MLG Summer Arena. With the absence of Chinese Teams such as the respectable World Elite and the current world champions Taipei Assassins, it seemed obvious that Korean teams Azubu Blaze and Azubu Frost were going to sweep the tournament. Furthermore, Fnatic RC, who had a phenomenal showing at IPL5 by defeating out Taipei Assassins in the semi-finals, would play IEM Katowice without their previous AD Carry making many believe the Korean teams would have a much easier time sweeping the tournament.

Digibet's pay-out for bets provides a prediction for tournament results

In the early stages of the tournament, predictions seemed to be accurate. Premier League of Legends betting site Digibet showed that heavy predictions towards the pair of Azubu teams throughout the tournament with low payouts for those who bet towards the tournament favourites. However, after the former Moscow 5 smashed Azubu Frost 2-0 in the semi-finals, Digibet changed it's persistent predictions in the finals with Azubu Frost sister team, Azubu Blaze and heavily favoured Gambit Gaming. Digibet's predictions on the finals were accurate and Gambit Gaming managed to destroy the Korean team Azubu Blaze in a dominating 2-0 sweep to win IEM Katowice.

An original "political comic" emphasizing Gambit Gaming's difficult
group phase in comparison to Korean Team Azubu Blaze by "Doragon."

IEM Time Coefficient Ruling Controversy

Although Gambit Gaming managed to win the single elimination stage in a dominating fashion, less can be said about their play in the group stage. Barely winning out in the group stage with the record of 1-2, Gambit Gaming clawed their way into the single elimination stage through a controversial IEM ruling. Although Gambit Gaming had the same group stage score as MeetYourMakers and Curse Gaming, they were given second place in the group due to IEM's time coefficient ruling in the case of ties. In a game where late game strategies are common place and respected, it may seem foolish to break ties with a time coefficient; however, every tournament is different and rules are established well before players begin the game. Ultimately, it is the team's responsibility to understand how a tournament is formatted and to plan accordingly. Although I do not think IEM's method of handling tie breaks in the group stage is optimal, I certainly do not agree that it was unfair on the teams.

Play and Strategy Highlights

IEM Katowice was filled with extremely high level play from the champion select to baron dances as expected by the top League of Legends teams in the world. However, I think everyone would agree Group B's group stage game with SK Gaming vs. Fnatic RC was the single most exciting game that ended with Fnatic RCs AP mid player xPeke's amazing two versus one Nexus backdoor on Kassadin.

Check out more highlights of IEM Katowice through thoveNTV's amazing highlight videos below:

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3 

Of course, xPeke's backdoor of SK gaming's Nexus was not a pre-mediated strategy by Fnatic RC; neither team could have guessed how the game could have ended before the game started. However, real time tactics and micro oriented decisions should not be the only highlights out of a high level tournament. Many players fail to see the strategy behind pro teams; early placement of players, and wards were designed to follow specific level 1 strategies and give or prevent teams from gaining lead. Well practised Korean team Azubu Blaze took clear advantages in the early game with pre-mediated strategies designed specifically for certain situations and team compositions. Also, Gambit Gaming was able to successfully defend dangerous invade compositions with well placed level 1 wards. 

Example 1: Early Strategy Analysis - Azubu Blaze Vs. Gambit Gaming Group A (The 3/4 Map Split)

- Ally team blue side
- Enemy weak blue start jungler
- Ally strong unconditional start jungler
- Ally first blue hand-off
- Ally lane swap in enemy red area
- Enemy traditional non-lane swap

Failing Conditions
- Enemy top / bot lane swap
- Enemy early red start
- Enemy early red invade

- Early Enemy wraith brush ward (offensive)
- Early Ally wraith entrance ward (defensive)
- Late Ally red buff ward (defensive)

- Splits map control to 3/4 for ally
- 3 buff start early game
- Ally early 3 camp finish

1. 5 man push for early offensive ward
2. Top + Mid wolf start, Jungle wratih start, AD + Support Golem start
3. Olaf to top - OOM (out of mana) with heavy jungle pressure coming
4. AD + Support to mid to deny and control enemy red
5. Support + Jungle invade against enemy red buff when mid and top are both 1 v 1 and jungle is a 2 v 1
6. Mid to bot late with blue to farm pushed lane

The 3/4 Map Split secures Azubu Blaze three early buffs to the enemy's one
Azubu Blaze effectively secures a heavy early game advantage by abusing the fact that Amumu's early game relies heavily on a blue buff start and that the enemy team does not lane swap or invade. They secure three buffs early on against Gambit Gaming by splitting map control due to placement of wards and players in their favour. They deny Amumu his own red buff because they are unable to defend due to a mis-match of player numbers. Furthermore, Amumu is not able to effectively abuse the loss of bot lane control because Azubu Blaze has already secured the objective down there first.

After Gambit Gaming learns from Azubu Blaze's aggresive early game tactics, Gambit Gaming effective executes a strategic early game defense against Azubu Blaze sister team, Azubu Frost.

Example 2: Early Strategy Analysis - Azubu Frost Vs. Gambit Gaming Semi-Finals Game 1 (The Tri Ward Wall)

- Ally team purple side
- Enemy aggressive level 1 team
- Ally unconditional start jungler

- Early Ally Tri-brush ward (defensive)
- Early Ally wraith entrance ward (defensive)
- Early Ally bot J-brush ward (defensive)
- Late Ally wraith brush ward (reactive)

- 3 jungle entrance unmanned defence
- Early game tri-brush gank warning 
- Complete early red jungle control 

1. Traditional 5 split variant with support rushing Tri-brush ward and mid rushing bot J-brush ward 
2. Support over-the-wall brush ward to prevent early game Blitzcrank aggression 
3. One man bot lane scout against late blue invade
4. Jungle smiteless early blue start 
5. Jungle early red pick-up

The Tri-Ward Wall successfully warns Gambit Gaming against early game aggression

After learning from the match between Azubu Frost, Gambit gaming execute a pre-mediated unmanned defence against an aggressive invade team. By placing the rushed ward on purple side tri-brush, an over-the-wall ally wraith entrance ward, and bot J-brush ward, they effectively have complete vision on 3/4ths of the jungle entrance with no danger of being flash hooked by Blitzcrank. This opening effectively prevents Azubu Frost from executing many aggressive level 1 strategies available to a Blitzcrank team by deterring them from doing so in controlled areas.

Statistics and Ratios

Along with the amazing plays and outstanding level 1 strategies, IEM Katowice provided the League of Legends community with statistics on top tier champions in competitive play. Check out the amazing ESFI World infographic by Connie Lee and Beth Sullivan which statistically solidifies the top picks, bans, and win percentages of the competitive scene during IEM Katowice. Out of all the champions, the most picked were Ezreal, Olaf, and Sona due to their utility they provide in their respective roles. Also, the most banned were Lee Sin, Evelyn, and Kha'Zix due to their ability to snowball and roam extremely effectively. Perhaps one of the least surprising statistics was that teams who secured the first tower, dragon, or baron was statistically more likely to win the game; this would explain why early game jungler Xin Zhao, commonly used by Gambit Gaming, had a 80% win ratio, whereas late game jungler Amumu, had a 12.5% win ratio. With those statistics, one could justifiably make the assumption that the snowball meta is still a very effective strategy.

IEM Katowice Award Ceremony for Gambit Gaming

Following the above noted statistics, it is simple to understand why Gambit Gaming won IEM Katowice against both Azubu teams in a dominating fashion. Originally utilizing the "snowball" meta and team compositions in IEM Kiev to win against fan favourite Team Solomid, Gambit Gaming continues to show the world that they are the best early-game team in the world who has perfected the "snowball" meta using aggressive early game champions. When both Azubu teams, favouring champions such as Singed, Amumu, Cho'Gath, Anivia, Jax, Shen, Kogmaw, Vlad, and Vayne, picked late-game power house champions in matches against Gambit Gaming, they became more susceptible to early game aggression. Furthermore, Gambit Gaming were able to end most games against both Azubu teams relatively quickly with the shortest game against Azubu Blaze taking only 22 minutes and 50 seconds.


What can average players take from this tournament besides the images of astounding plays and entertainment by the best League of Legend players in the world? Unfortunately, due to the nature of the competition, there are few Solo Queue applicable implications from IEM Katowice besides the knowledge of which champions are strong to snowball in Solo Queue and the fact that at least two Warmogs and five Giants Belts were bought every game. If Solo Queuers are to take away anything from watching IEM Katowice, it would be to play early game snowball champions and build items with Giant Belts or Health in general. However, for players looking to implement strategy from top teams into amateur teams there is a major precedented implication - pre-mediated level 1 strategy with strong early picks and aggressive control on the map creates a snowball effect that can defeat even the best teams in the world. 

No comments:

Post a Comment