The very first time OMG's "super" roster encountered Edward Gaming in the LPL this year, I went into great detail covering the illusion of the rivalry between the two teams. At the time, OMG and Edward Gaming had played against one another in 20 distinct games, with OMG only winning six.
Since then, OMG has played Edward Gaming in six more games. In 2015, OMG's record against Edward gaming stands at 2-4, which is one of the better records any Chinese team has against them (for example, Invictus Gaming's 2015 record against EDG is 1-15 after today). This shores up their all-time head-to-head to 18-8. The record is only marginally better, yet for the first time since Spring of 2014, the rivalry might not be a joke.
Uzi's acquisition stood out as a landmark for OMG. The buzz suggested the team would institute a triple carry threat. At first, that seemed to be the case. Gogoing, Cool, and Uzi demolished their lanes in farm advantage and steamrolled through sheer skill. Despite this, there was a disconnect. Historically, Uzi's Royal Club teams have been built around him, featuring him as the sole threat. Those close to him have said he's used to being the centerpiece.
When OMG succeeded, they often sent Uzi to side lanes to chip down towers as Sivir while Cool and Gogoing served as the threats. OMG used to operate this way in 2013 and 2014 with San, pressuring jungle with invades and skirmishes. When the team integrated Uzi and tried to play team fights around him, it seemed as if communication dried up instantly. Uzi sometimes went into team fights with very limited peel, and brawls ended before they began when he died.
The conflict took its toll. Loveling and Gogoing received fewer gold resources. More ganks went to the bottom lane. Individuals spent less time practicing. Jungle pathing became predictable.
For Edward Gaming, 2015 Spring represents their strongest LPL split to date. Deft thrived during the heyday of Jinx, Corki, and Kog'Maw, and Clearlove became a devastating force in the jungle for the longest period of his career. Their solo laners thrived with limited resources. Rookie support Meiko flexed his vision muscles. The team took the Demacia Cup, LPL, and MidSeason Invitational titles despite health problems plaguing mid laner pawN.
OMG took steps to unify their squad and give it an identity. Gogoing, Loveling, and Cloud all took spots on the bench in favor of xiyang in the top lane, juejue in the jungle, and Amazing the support. The team rallied behind the duo carry threat of Cool and Uzi.
That's something I've never considered a good idea. Cool is at the core of OMG's 2013 and 2014 identity: the pick composition, the tower dives. Uzi plays for all the resources and an all-in 5v5 approach. After jungler Loveling's return, tension increased on the team, resulting in disappointed looks, even after victories. It became clear something need to budge, and AD carry North debuted for OMG in their Round of 16 best-of-five against Hyper Youth Gaming.
Cool and Loveling went back to their roots, but North still pulled his weight with aggressive play in lane and self-sufficient positioning in team fights while the rest of his team dove in. LSPL team Hyper Youth Gaming wasn't the best test, and Uzi returned to the squad for LPL the next week.
After a disastrous 0-2 at the hands of Unlimited Potential and dropping a game to Royal Never Give Up, North appeared again. His Jinx gave him a 10 KDA for the game even with Loveling focusing primarily on other lanes and Cool diving towers with the Ahri-Nocturne combo. Following OMG's old-school style victory over RNG, North accompanied OMG to Demacia Cup.
On the way to the finals, OMG only dropped one game to Snake when Zzr's Ekko decimated the team's low mobility lineup. It quickly became clear that North isn't just a stable ADC who lets Cool and Loveling play how they like; he's a carry.
Since Gogoing stepped down, OMG hasn't been able to build around dual threats. This weekend, they did. Cool and Loveling play the way they've always played, Flashing at the back line, splitting groups for picks — and team fights still work. North positions in the back and runs gankers ragged 1v3. He's got the safety of San and, so far, that little extra sharpness OMG has been missing in their bottom lane.
As a result, OMG's map play and objective control has also looked more together. They know how to split and siege turrets, how to invade and lay down vision. It's all the good OMG has had in the past with more weight on the bottom side of the map than the top.
Edward Gaming have had a much rougher 2015 Summer than 2015 Spring. Injuries have hit both pawN and Koro1, leaving Edward Gaming flexing their solo lane roster. Korean top laner Ray, Chinese top laner AmazingJ, Korean mid laner BaeMe, and Chinese AD carry Jinjiao have all made appearances on a roster lacking the same identity and synergy that just clicked for them this spring. The AD carry meta has also shifted ever so slightly out of Deft's wheelhouse.
Their road through the tournament has been rockier. In Round of 16, LSPL team WE Future managed to snatch a game from them with a bottom lane focus. Edward Gaming's play against WE looked as convincing as ever, but today, they stumbled against Invictus Gaming.
Seeing Edward Gaming win again is welcome, but it's important to note how they're winning. Invictus Gaming has played increasingly subdued since Edward Gaming shifted a heavy lead against them the last time they faced off in a best-of-two. In today's first game, iG seemingly followed EDG around and watched them take objectives for free.
IG took their first ever win off EDG when they came into the game with a plan, a somewhat unconventional composition, and executed without hesitation. The diving, the relentless pursuit — the initiative won Invictus Gaming their only game against EDG in a total of 16 games played this year. EDG couldn't find their old legs to come back because they still seemed to lack confidence and unity, and the team fight synergy they had in the past is off the table.
The new initiative OMG has been exhibiting lately won them their games with North. Loveling's been freed up to gank the lanes he wants, and though he hasn't taken to the new jungle champions naturally, Gragas suits OMG's natural pick style, and he's been adapting. Cool's fondness for Varus and Viktor has aided him even if Azir has let him down. When the going gets rough, he always has his pocket Ahri.
Xiyang continues to be a struggle for the team with his limited champion pool, but his Ryze play in Game 3 against Snake was his most devastating top lane performance to date. He still will do best on Maokai, but demolishing Flandre so convincingly boosted him enough to tell the interviewer after OMG's 3-1 victory that, if Edward Gaming are 100% sure of victory, he's 110% sure.
Most fans will continue to view Xiyang as a liability, but his struggles to improve with limited gold resources make him the unsung hero of a dual threat mid lane and AD carry team. Even though Uzi has played perhaps the best split of his life on an individual level, Cool and North have worked better together than Cool and Uzi.
OMG has an identity for the first time all year. They actually look like a team instead of a power 5v5 bottom laner tacked onto a resource-strained pick composition team.
This final is the best chance any Chinese team has had to win a tournament against Edward Gaming in 2015. If OMG's North is that extra bit of magic the team needs to finally challenge the giants, they could walk away having downed China's Behemoth; that's something they've been craving for a long time.
It's hard to be optimistic. OMG has a pattern of tripping. They haven't won a tournament since November of 2013 despite making it to several semifinals and finals. This started before EDG took the throne. OMG couldn't close on their most dominant regular season in history in Spring of 2014 and lost to Invictus Gaming in the semifinals.
OMG's new AD carry has only really faced an LSPL team, a bottom four LPL team, LGD Gaming with their star mid laner as their AD carry, and Snake with two rookie additions of their own, Martin and jungler Zzr. OMG making the Demacia Cup finals could in itself be an illusion. If LGD had their full lineup, it's hard to imagine OMG's new Jinx player zipping past quarters. This title should have been theirs.
That's why tomorrow's best-of-five is the only thing that matters. Make no mistake, Edward Gaming are still the favorites to take the Demacia Cup, but they sit at the edge of their throne. A wind from the North could be enough to knock them from it.
Kelsey Moser is a staff writer for theScore eSports. She isn't too optimistic that OMG can win tomorrow, but she believes it's worth noting that this is the best chance they've had in a long time. You can follow her on Twitter.