“I always prefer to snowball, if you snowball correctly even if the opponent is supposed to outscale you, with the advantage you took early on you can actually win him during all the game, until everyone get 6 items obv but it rarely gets to this point.”
Gambit Gaming is top centric. With Alex Ich they drew pressure top. With Cabochard they centralised around it. With Forg1ven acquired in a meta outside of his carry ADC pool, Gambit already had the answer. Cabochard established himself from the outset of IEM Cologne to be a premiere western top laner after dismantling ZionSpartan and helping Gambit storm CLG in the finals. Now he’s in relegations.
Cabochard’s journey from his explosive introduction (barring his time substituting for the team at London in Season 4) to his current predicament is one marred by the background of his organisation and highlighted by his own phenomenal play. At no point in his short career, despite only winning one game during Spring playoffs and failing to qualify for Summer’s, did Cabochard ever leave the conversation of being Top 3 or even Top 2 in his role. It’s almost undeniable at this point that Cabochard is a Top 3 top laner in Europe, and his rivals, Odoamne and Huni, both listed him on separate occasions as the one that gave them the most problems.
Let’s make no mistake. Gambit were not a team that had to change much to accommodate Cabochard. With Darien, Gambit were already drawing much of their pressure top lane, and many of Diamondprox’s ganks would be situated accordingly. Nonetheless, it wasn’t Darien who would be viewed as the main carry. Their star mid laner and one of the Old Gods of Europe, Alex Ich, rewarded Diamondprox’s special attention towards vision control of his lane and the facilitation of the island with consistent playmaking and a general hard carry of Gambit’s games. That is not to say others would not step up. After all, who could forget Genja’s final showing at IEM Katowice that would earn him the tournament’s MVP, or doubt the legend that Diamondprox became.
Regardless, it was less of a change in early game style but rather a change in how the results bore relevance. I lack the statistics to tell you whether this is reflective of Darien, but under the new Gambit Cabochard has received the highest percentage Gold Share of all top laners in the EU LCS at 24.2% compared to the next highest, Huni, at 22.0%. He is the top laner prioritised the most by his team at the expense of their jungler, Diamondprox, who only holds 15.9% of the Gold Share, which is bottom three of his role by comparison. In his debut split, the stat remains. 23.1% and still the highest, this time above Fredy122 with Huni in third. In that split though,Cabochard was the sole top laner in the Top 10.
Let’s look at Spring. Cabochard stood atop of the pack at a staggering 4.09 KDA bested only by his rival Odoamne at 4.6. Unlike Huni, Cabochard was still excelling on tanks and utility based champions. Gambit won their Maokai game that split (Fnatic did not) and Cabochard took it to the playoffs against the Unicorns of Love. The Unicorns had them all figured out, and picked compositions designed to duel Gambit's now infamous Top/Jungle combo. Dropping the first game with Nautilus, they responded to the Maokai/Rek’Sai setup of Gambit with Sion/Udyr, Udyr being a precarious duelist and one of the best in the game. Diamond should know - he was responsible for its prevalence in the scene in Season 2.
A swift Flash Level 2 gank top from Udyr on the Unicorn’s purple side signalled the overall tone as the top lane became a bloodbath. With a 2- 1 lead over Gambit, Udyr was banned out for the fourth game of the set, but UoL still had another fine duelist up their sleeves in the form of Shaco. Shaco bullied Gambit to no end, and Gambit’s switch to Cabochard’s Hecarim didn’t help. The Unicorns would take the series 3-1, but Gambit’s top laner had met the onslaught on his position well and still emerged with a comfortable 4.00 KDA. Despite the pressure he was accumulating topside, and his tenacity in surviving the barrage, Gambit had not taken the necessary advantages elsewhere on the map. The team attempted to solve this with the acquisition of Forg1ven, but the priority on Cabochard only increased going into the summer season.
The Unlucky Ones
The term “unlucky” has become something of a meme in Europe. There are a few western teams this could be applied to in Season 5: Team Dragon Knights and their visa woes, The Copenhagen Wolves and the Dentist/Deficio conspiracy, Cloud 9’s nearly-complete capitulation at the absence of Hai.
Cabochard was one of the unlucky ones. Forg1ven and the dynamic he demands bore more weeds than fruit upon his addition to the roster. Widely rumored scrim issues were abundant even before the team set foot on the big stage. Gambit began with a four game losing before being saved by the late addition of coach Shaunz, and the introduction of Taric as a counter pick to Kalista.
Forg1ven was suspended from the LCS due to in-game toxicity just prior to their final run for playoffs. Having Moopz as a substitute, Cabochard put on some of the best displays of his life. Gambit vs. Elements was essentially ‘The Cabochard Show,’ as the top laner used his Kennen to repeatedly eliminate Froggen’s Kog’Maw from the map, finding ways to flank and dive their back line despite the augmentation of the Sivir and the protection of the Thresh from Elements’ side. Cabochard ended with a scoreline of 8/2/2 from the losing side, significantly lengthening the game and bringing his team back into it several times.
Gambit’s final game saw Cabochard go up against his old rival, Odoamne. These two top laners have distinct styles and this game bought those differences to light in their absolute extremes. Cabochard got his prized Fizz, Odoamne got his favoured Rumble. Cabochard rarely left the top lane, acquiring a massive CS advantaged while Odoamne sought to pressure elsewhere, opening up the map for his team. Cabochard became a split pushing monster, unable to be contested by Odoamne’s Rumble, while Odoamne continued to group with his team and use his champion to control drakes, towers and create advantages. Had Forg1ven been a part of the roster maybe Cabochard’s team would have held off the H2K assault enough for Cabochard to become unkillable, but alas his Fizz was not enough.
It is unfair to say that Cabochard is binary. Unlike Huni, he has used tanks and utility champions in his pool and won with them with impressive stats. It is safe to say though that we haven’t seen enough, particularly not this recent split, to determine whether Cabochard is versatile on the level Odoamne has displayed. We can say that Huni’s remarks were justified. Up until the Elements game I had been referring to Cabochard as a worse Huni but during those games I saw a litany of decisions that maintained his aggression without placing him in situations detrimental to his team. No, he didn’t play perfectly, but he never stopped playing to win and he never stopped trying to win intelligently.
It can be said that his playstyle was a victim of the times. Cabochard himself does believe the way he is playing fits best the meta before us and many other analysts have commented on how top centric the times are. Yet Gambit were playing like this anyway. Cabochard has been slot into Darien’s role, but is arguably doing more with the attention Darien received. With the resources being piled into him and the attention Diamondprox is giving him, should he really be looking to play a more utility based role as Odoamne is? Should he be looking for openings for his carries, or being the carry himself? However Cabochard landed on his current carry playstyle, we have had flashes that he is adept at other champions outside of this. I hold out hope that we haven’t seen everything there is yet.
There is a flare to Cabochard lost on others in his role. The pessimism and acceptance found elsewhere in the bottom half is absent here. He has a drive. He has an urge. He has an objective in mind and second place is not that. He has bore rightful recognition as one of the best in his role but that isn’t enough for him. Nor should it be. His team was and is clinging on to survival but that’s not where he wants to keep it. Nor will he. Cabochard has never not been one of the best examples of doing what he does and what he does is improve. Game after game, week after week. I hope that remains split after split. I hope the organisation behind him can go without the background issues we’ve heard of (Leviathan) and seen in the fore (coach absence, Forg1ven) and if none of that happens I hope Cabo doesn’t lose his aggressive determination to prove himself as the best.
This split Huni said Cabochard was the closest to him. Next split I hope he’s trying to catch up.
Statistics courtsey of oracleselixir.com
Michael “Veteran” Archer is a professional writer, analyst/coach and EU enthusiast. He figures sOAZ should get a mention so here it is. You can follow him on Twitter.