Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Season 3 World Championship Thoughts - Fall of the Olympians, Birth of the Titans

This article is going to quickly highlight my thoughts on the 2013 Season 3 World Championship Tournament where there has never been so many new teams playing and old teams disappearing. While I am aware at the time of this post there has already been two days of play, I feel like it is irrelevant to my post as I will be, most importantly, going over the reasons for my thoughts and not just calling it as it is. With that said, click the jump to see what I think of the S3 LoL WCs.

SKT1 and Faker are clearly the heavy favourites in the tournament, can they be stopped?

Without a doubt in most people's minds, SK Telecom T1 (SKT1) and Samsung Galaxy OZone (SSO) are the heavy favourites going into the Season 3 World Championships (S3 WC). Everyone and their Mom are already ready to submit to their Korean overlords in this international tournament; even professionals are willing to bet their life savings on the fact that Koreans are heavy favourites in this tournament. Everyone would have a very good reason for believing so, even I think that I would be naive to say that SKT1 and SSO don't have an incredible chance to win it all this season. However, with that being said I would say that the Korean immunity is most vulnerable this season. Furthermore, Korean teams actually have a very poor track record in large scale international tournaments. The Korean meta has shifted away from the high pressure, objective control, tower dive with intricate forced team fighting towards a more farm and late-game heavy meta. Korean teams show trends to pick towards late game champions like Ryze, Vayne, Singed, Tristana, Caitlyn, Zac, Nasus where their superior mechanics can completely dominate a game. In addition, they choose strong early game junglers like Lee Sin, Elise, and Jarvan to facilitate the early-mid game where they give up a lot of farm to put on a ton of pressure on the map so that these late game champions can make it out of the laning phase in good shape. However, while that is the more favourable comp that Koreans like to play, it isn't their only. Koreans are more than willing, as seen in the OGN, to play push comps and pick comps that don't revolve around those champions. So, why does this play style make Koreans more vulnerable to international teams? It's because late game champions are always able to be shut down in the early-mid game where teams who pick aggressive mid-game power spike champions are able to secure an advantage and snowball it into a win. However, with international teams potentially getting the best opportunity to take down the Korean titans I still believe a Korean team has a very high chance of winning S3 WCs. The Korean team fight in mid-late game is very distinguishably stronger than any other region. Their ability to pick players and completely dismantle teams in intricate team fights is unparalleled to any other region in the world. Perhaps this is the reason why the OGN region is perhaps the best region in any competitive area; new Korean teams are forced to play in this highly competitive team fight phase over and over again where they are forced to adapt or perish. The Korean team fight phase reminds me of when M5 exploded onto the scene; no longer are teams just farming and grouping when they have items to head on 5 v 5 fight.

OMG cool is said to be the 'faker' of China, will he live up to the name?

With Korean teams being heavy favourites in S3 WCs, I strongly believe that Chinese teams have the best chance against the Koreans. The LPL region is arguably just as competitive as the OGN region where the likes of previous power houses like World Elite and Invictus Gaming did not even qualify for worlds. Team OMG is perhaps the heavy favourites coming out of the Chinese region. The reason? A lot of people are saying that because OMG cool, their mid laner, and OMG san, their ADC, are some of the best at their roles. OMG cool is even said to be the 'faker' of China. However, individual player skill is usually not a good strategical reason for tournament predictions. Usually, skill level is very similar at such high level of play such that a strategical advantage needs to be created for a team to win. There are two reasons why I think China will do well in S3 WCs; one, OMG's track record, two, China's sporadic meta. First off, in order to analyze OMG's track record, as they are a very new team, we have to look at the previous giants of China - Team World Elite (WE). While Team WE did not make the S3 WCs, they are a very important analytical factor because just 9 months ago they were the top of the world. Team WE, after their abysmal showing at S2 Worlds, exploded onto the international scene at the IGN IPL 5 International tournament where they took first place in a brutal tournament with dominating fashion. Team WE beat out the likes of a very strong Fnatic, the seemingly invincible TPA, the intimidating Moscow 5, the once powerful Azubu Blaze, and the strong CLG EU squad of the past at IPL 5 to take first. Never has so many teams at the top of their game played in one tournament and Team WE beat all of them to take home first. Now, imagine this WE team who just defeated the best of the best in every region in one of the largest international tournaments outside of worlds. They go back into the LPL league and they are absolutely struggling against the Chinese competition. Teams like OMG, IG, Royal, and PE are playing on the same level as Team WE who just defeated the world's best of the best. In the end, Team WE doesn't even place in the top 2 of the LPL and gets knocked out of the regionals by OMG and Royal Club. What happened? Did team WE just lose their lucky cat? No. It's because the Chinese region is competitive and fierce. Secondly, OMG has an incredibly sporadic meta where they pick absolutely crazy things. There was a week where Shyvana was a first pick, first ban champion! Things like Yorick Jungle and Annie support, which would be called troll in the NA LCS (TSM and xpecial i'm looking at your Annie, Xin Zhao lane) are the meta in China. These off-picks, where other regions are going to have a very hard time practising against because players in those regions don't play these champions in these roles, are going have a very big impact on group stages as they are best of 1.

North America's Cloud 9 exploded in the NA region, will they implode at Worlds?
I can't be a NA player and not even talk about the NA region; however, I think most people can guess the angle i'm going to approach this topic. TSM and Vulcan have been very lack-luster in the region to a point where I don't think they will survive group stages. TSM has a very poor track record in international tournaments and their play has been slumping recently. Moreover, the NA region is playing an older version of the Korean objective meta slowed down. That being said, I actually think Vulcan has the biggest opportunity for NA to win worlds. Their aggressive play style is very much mirroring Koreans; however, they are essentially a underdeveloped Korean A-list team. As such, Vulcan actually has the best record against Cloud 9 in the NA LCS because of this reason. Now, I get to the topic of Cloud 9, NA's last hope at beating a Korean or Chinese team. While I personally would like to see Cloud 9 win worlds, show the non-believers, and be the first NA team to show Koreans that they suck, I actually think its going to be the complete opposite. Cloud 9, who plays a very passive, efficient, and objective based style are going to suffer at the hands of Koreans and, specifically, Chinese teams who punish junglers and laners at every corner. Cloud 9 who, I say shamefully, have been dominating the NA scene because they have been capitalizing at NA team's mistakes. Mistakes that Koreans and Chinese will probably be making a whole lot less. Furthermore, Cloud 9 has looked the most vulnerable to Vulcan who is, as I have said, is essentially a premature version of a Korean team. Unless Cloud 9 changes their play style completely I am not going to be betting money on them making it anywhere far despite coming in as NA's first place seed.

Will Fnatic be the world's first 2 season champion? Doubtful.

Finally, we get to the last of the 'big 4' regions - Europe. Honestly, I think Europe only has more of a chance than NA at winning worlds. Not only did they have an incredibly poor showing at All-Stars (ok, communication errors, etc.); however, their meta has been evolving very slowly. Whereas Koreans are playing lane control with emphasis on proper rotations, Europe has just evolved into a more aggressive season 2 meta where champions like Aatrox can exist. Of course, if I had to bet any money on a team in Euriope, despite not watching EU LCS frequently, I would have to put it on Gambit Gaming (GG). You can always count on Alex Ich and Diamond to completely dominate the pace of a game with their insane synergy and amazingly consistent play. However, Fnatic can't be counted out too as they come into S3 WCs as the number one seed for Europe. In addition, Fnatic has arguably the most success and experience in international tournaments than any other team in this tournament which may play to their advantage. I honestly have nothing to say about Lemon Dogs because I haven't seen much of them and of the play I have seen from them I have not seen anything revolutionary. My prediction is that Lemon Dogs will fall out with their lacklustre play and their lack of experience in large scale international tournaments.

As for which junglers to watch out for in S3 WCs, I honestly think none of the Korean and Chinese junglers are amazing. They are all mechanically fine, but they aren't high profile players who are willing to throw it all on the line on some insane strategy. You're going to see Korean and Chinese junglers stick to their roots and favourites like Lee Sin, Elise, Jarvan IV. North American, and European junglers are more likely to go out of the comfort three and play champions like Vi, Nautilus, Aatrox, Nasus and Evelyn. If you've noticed, I haven't mentioned any of the teams outside of the 'big four' regions because I honestly don't know anything about them. However, i'm sure teams are going to be a lot more cautious after last year's TPA scare.

With that being said, everyone should go watch worlds! It's going to be an amazing tournament where the world will get to see if the Korean hype train is actually a Japanese bullet train or an American colonial train out of coal. Regardless of the outcome, I don't think an international tournament has ever had so many new names playing and so many old names disappearing.

No comments:

Post a Comment