“An immovable object is always greater than an unstoppable force. The only way for invincibility in nature is by defense, not offense.”
- Nick "LastShadow" De Cesare, Former Head Coach (Gravity)
When Elements’ nexus fell at the end of Friday’s clash, it was the conclusion of a hard-fought battle. Slow in victory, Froggen’s faux pas was determined to be as slow as possible in its eventual surrender to one of the most aggressive teams gracing the European LCS this split: Origen. No towers, no inhibitors, no hope remained, but for Froggen on Azir, he was in his element.
Holding off three waves of super minions, choosing his knockups as wisely as he could and running out the clock to the next wave, Europe’s former hope succeeded in extending the game further. This was fairly representative of how one of Europe’s best mages, if not its best, had played the game to this point in his career. On CLG.EU, Evil Geniuses, Alliance, and now Elements, his comfort zone was to extend the laning phase, extend the game, scale, win.
This time Origen would take the last part. A long, but convincing, win.
To think of Origen and Elements as opposites on a spectrum is almost correct. Their teams are structurally similar — Old God mid laners that hand-picked and constructed an entire organisation around them. Both teams, as you would expect, grew to reflect upon their mid laners’ characteristic styles. Mid-oriented teams in a mid-centric region. To criticise Origen or Elements is to criticise xPeke or Froggen.
Froggen leaves himself open to criticism. Though much has been made of his reduced capacity to dominate lane this season, Froggen’s playstyle has truthfully been going out of meta since his peak in Season 2. He played with the mindset of an AD carry, acquiring as much of a gold advantage and experience advantage as he could over his opposing laner.
Froggen was never one famed for flashy plays or incredible duels, but a slow consistent battering wherein your opponent would gradually lose his gold leads, and eventually his tower. You could not fight him because he did not allow you to, then you did not fight him because it would be suicide. Then he would win the game.
xPeke, on the other hand, was a phenomenal duelist who understood the pressure game. While Froggen was the king of mages like Anivia and Karthus, xPeke was dominating on assassin champions like Zed, Syndra, and of course Kassadin — a champion he became so famous for that he caused three separate nerfs, arguably a rework, and is known as the "Father of Kassadin" in Korea.
As the three Old Gods go (Froggen, Alex Ich and xPeke) Froggen and xPeke would come to represent two different mindsets, playstyles and metagames. This was something Froggen did not understand.
In an interview on Summoning Insight, Froggen was asked about the matchup with American mids. Focusing on Hai, he commented on how xPeke and Hai would "fit each other so well, except Hai roams a ton".
“Peke doesn’t roam that much. If you look at Hai’s games, he will always be roaming. At least once or twice before the 8 minute mark, he would have tried to roamed and it doesn’t matter on the champion. He loses 20 CS he doesn’t care.
Why would I ever give up one level of experience and that much gold for a roam that gives you half the gold and not even as much experience as just staying in lane would give you. How do I play against that? How do you play against that?”
A game of pressure
Froggen’s mindset and its weaknesses are exposed in this comment. He either carries or he loses, a line of thinking that is interpreted differently now but remains permanent in the vision of the European mid lane.
For him that means acquiring item advantages to maximize his individual potential in skirmishes, teamfights or as the primary threat in a pick composition. For a mid laner such as Hai, this means applying as much pressure as possible to allow his entire team to pull ahead of the opposition. Both teams can arguably be said to be mid-centric in a certain regard.
xPeke is the forefather of the current line of often misused and miscast EU mid laners (Nukeduck, Incarnati0n) who, when shown to their full potential,(Bjergsen, Febiven) are the deadliest mids in the world. They do not take the safe route. They do not build gradual advantages culminating in a solid lead. They prioritize. They snowball. They duel. They extend that advantage to other lanes through roaming.
The assassin mid meta was born from them. High mobility champions that can force an opponent out of lane — or even kill them — for a faster advantage, with a better capacity to transfer this into advantages in other lanes. This would inevitably lead to earlier skirmishes out of a faster end to the laning phase.
It was and is still argued that Froggen’s weakest period was this assassin meta. In reality, Froggen’s weakest metas are the ones where you cannot solo carry from mid lane.
In Season 4 Alliance won Europe, still extending the laning phase, with Froggen having a champion pool he could carry from. Perhaps this made them too comfortable coming into this season, where Cinderhulk brought about a plethora of meta changes that made any lane, much less mid, significantly harder to solo carry from.
Yet Froggen went all-in on his trusted playstyle, replacing the impactful Tabzz with the passivity of Rekkles while the meta continued to move in the other direction. Elements went from taking Europe to not even qualifying for playoffs in one split, a first for the LCS.
Meanwhile, xPeke built his team around aggression. Joined by sOAZ, xPeke had already secured two of the best solo laners Europe had to offer and neither were known for their lane passivity.
They were joined by two significant additions. Amazing, having just spent a split in TSM with a tenure at Worlds under his belt, was a fine follow up in the jungle. He was always a player who looked to make plays and further the advancement of the game directly.
Mithy had been and still is hailed as one of the best mechanical supports in Europe (even whilst in Challenger scene) and noted for his insane levels of aggression in lane and playmaking abilities outside.
These were players that did not wait to win. All four of them were joined by Niels, arguably a player more akin to Rekkles, but with the level of proactivity the team already harnessed he would suit them perfectly.
Origen spent their first weeks out of Challenger scene ending the laning phase early and hastening their advancement around the map through coordinated dives and roams. Origen were not a team that waited to win, but went on the offensive at the earliest point and snowballed their advantage until they took the nexus. This was not a team that waited to win, this was a team that wanted to win.
There is a problem with Elements and it is the same problem that their mid lane and team captain faces. Elements wants so very hard to become the immovable object. Standing strongly on their own merit, so powerful it would be suicide to go aggressive against. But they take no steps to reach this point as a team.
The unstoppable force that Origen seeks to become — almost like a challenge to the typically chaotic playstyle of the LPL, of which many of their picks mirror — is made possible by their early aggression and pressure game which translates strongly into the mid and late game. They take steps to snowball, to gather resources over their opposition overrun them.
What do Elements do? What they’ve always done. The addition of Dexter, recently returned from the North American scene, has not yielded the better understanding of the current pressure based metagame Elements so desperately need.
He has returned worse than at his peak as one of the top junglers in the European scene (some argue that Amazing left as the best European jungler, so arguably this is a trend) and the other new additions — Jwaow, PromisQ — don’t appear to have contributed to a change in mindset.
Tabzz’ return allows for perhaps better mid game play, but Elements as a whole is still stuck in extending the laning phase. In Season 2 this worked, but Season 2 was won by the team that introduced focused split pushing playing off against the team that introduced the sixth man/slow push strategy.
The unstoppable forces hold the advantage because the immovable objects are taking no steps to make themselves immovable. They are not a threat. They are not able to play their game out. Their game does not work. They are no longer immovable. They are simply unmoving.
Unless something changes in the mindset of Elements, not even the LCS position of Europe’s former great master of mid lane will be immovable.
Michael "Veteran" Archer is a freelance writer and former Origen analyst who loves Europe more than the British love tea. He is British. Follow him on Twitter.