The Road to Worlds: an in-depth look at the Bangkok Titans

by theScore Staff Sep 28 2015
Thumbnail image courtesy of Riot

When the Garena Premiere League split in two earlier this year, few would have predicted that a team would emerge from the weaker half to claim the wildcard crown. Faced with the long-standing regions of Turkey and Oceania, the GPL looked to be a distant third when compared to their wildcard cousins. But here we are, with the Bangkok Titans representing Thailand at the 2015 World Championship after proving all the critics wrong.

Known for their bloodthirsty and hectic style of the play, the Bangkok Titans emerged from the bottom of the GPL pile to become king of the hill with record speed. Although they have a long way yet to go, expect this team with a love of fighting to put on a show no matter what.

The Road so Far

The current iteration of the Bangkok Titans was assembled in bits and pieces over the past two years, bringing together some of the best up-and-coming Thai players under one roof. Led by Pawat “WarL0cK” Ampaporn, the Bangkok Titans have experienced a meteoric rise to the international level from their humble beginnings only a few short months ago.

Before the separation of the League of Legends Masters League (LMS) and Garena Premiere League (GPL) in 2015, the Bangkok Titans were the region’s basement dwellers, never finishing above 5th in a premier event. Although they found success in smaller events such as the Thailand Pro Leagues, in the GPL they struggled to scrape together wins and never made the playoffs. The addition of Nuttapong “G4” Menkasikan and Chayut “007x” Suebka in early 2014 was a start, but it didn’t immediately translate into a major improvement.

However, the league shuffle was a blessing for the Bangkok Titans, allowing them to develop their play and rise to the top of the pack in the now less competitive GPL. The mechanical abilities of their players helped them surpass most of the competition, and in the inaugural 2015 GPL Spring season they took second overall, only failing to beat the strategically superior Saigon Fantastic Five.

Fate continued to favor the Bangkok Titans, who were sent to the 2015 Mid-Season Wildcard Invitation in the place of the Saigon Fantastic Five after VISA issues left the GPL champions stranded at home. In their first major international event, the Bangkok Titans impressed by finishing the group stage in first with a record of 5-1. Although they were swept by Turkish representative Besiktas eSports Club 3-0 in the semifinals, the appearance was the Bangkok Titan’s first taste of success in years.

Channelling their international momentum back into their domestic performances, the Bangkok Titans went on to smash through both the 2015 Summer GPL season and playoffs, closing out the latter on a clean six game win streak. Seeded first in the 2015 Southeast Asia Regional Finals, they topped Full Louis 3-2 before moving on to beat the Saigon Jokers 3-1 to lock in their spot at the 2015 Worlds Wildcard Invitational.

Based on their last international appearance, audiences were expecting a solid performance, but predicted the Bangkok Titans would lose out to Australian side the Chiefs eSports Club or Turkish champion Dark Passage. Although the first day of the group stage was a big shaky, the Bangkok Titans pulled it together with a pair of key wins on day two to finish in second with a record of 3-3 and advance to the finals. Despite going 0-2 against the Chiefs in groups, the Bangkok Titans surged in the Finals and earned their revenge, smashing the Australians 3-1 to book their spot at Worlds.

For the Bangkok Titans, the Worlds berth is the culmination of a year’s worth of exponential growth, taking them from league whipping boy to champions of the GPL and Wildcard circuit. However what comes next is infinitely more challenging from what they’ve already experienced, and they may not yet be prepared.

The Current State of the Team

If there is one word that defines the Bangkok Titans best, it would be “FIGHT.”

And yes, the All-Caps are needed, because the Bangkok Titans are quite possibly the most recklessly aggressive team to ever set foot on the Worlds’ stage. Throughout the Garena Premier League and the International Wildcard event, the Bangkok Titans fought their way to the top of the pack without a moment’s thought or hesitation, throwing themselves into the fray with the sort of reckless abandon that is completely unmatched by any team at the Worlds.

The charge is lead by mid laner Nuttapong “G4” Menkasikan, whose assassin-picking, split pushing ways is the crux of the Bangkok Titan’s strategy. During the wildcard tournament, he single handedly carried his team to victory of Diana and Yasuo, and draws so much jungle attention as to all but make up for the deficiencies of the other lanes. However, he is the definition of a high-risk, high-reward player, and if properly shut down the Bangkok Titans can struggle to compensate for his absence.

Joining him in the carry role is Juckkirsts “Lloyd” Kongubon, who displayed some chops at IWC on champions such as Lucian and Kalista. Much like his mid laner, Lloyd’s over-aggressive tendencies can be as much a blessing to the Bangkok Titans as a curse, especially if G4 is having a bad game and the weight rests more heavily on Lloyd’s shoulders. His tendency to favor mid-range AD carries also puts him in the line of fire, and his mis-positioning occasionally costs his team games, as it did against the Chiefs in the IWC event opener.

Supporting the two high impact carries are Chayut “007x” Suebka, Sorawat “Moss” Boonphrom and WarL0cK. 007x’s main role is to control the river and ensure the carries have safe lanes, while Moss and WarL0cK are role-players and in-game leaders who bring some much needed stability to the roster. WarL0cK is a versatile leader, but mainly sticks to tanks are rarely ventures into the realm of high-damage carries, while Moss does his best to contain his bot lane partner. The trio is the front-line off of which the carries can play, peeling for their teammates and setting them up for success.

Credit where credit is due: the Bangkok Titans know what works for them and they run the strategy well. They pour a tremendous amount of resources into G4 both in champion select and in game, giving him plenty of solo farm, warding protection and space to split push freely, hoping he can outplay his opponent in a 1v1 while the rest of the team pressures the other side of the map. Until they can free up G4, the Bangkok Titans are relentless in taking skirmishes, ignoring objectives in favor of taking down enemy champions. However, the strategy is inherently risky in itself, because if the early laning or fights go poorly the 4-1 split push is not an option.

Overall, the Bangkok Titan’s haven’t really developed past their current style of play, and have little strategic understanding to fall back onto if they are unable to find the kills they need. That’s not to say that their isn’t any room for the Bangkok Titan’s too grow, simply that up until now they’ve been able to win purely through mechanical skill and snowballing off kills, and haven’t necessarily needed to develop a deep playbook of rotations and map movements to win in the GPL or IWC events. The games that the Bangkok Titans tried something different at the IWC, such as putting G4 on poke champions (Varus) or WarL0cK on damage dealers (Rumble) didn’t go well at all, which is indicative of this over-reliance on the G4-centric strategy and a lack of flexibility in the team. Furthermore, the games where opponent was able to slow down the tempo, control the map and force the Bangkok Titans to march to their beat were the ones where they looked the worst. They’ve shown some improvement, but at the moment it’s nowhere near enough to compete at the world level.

Outlook for Worlds

Unfortunately for the Bangkok Titans, the tragic reality is that they are almost certainly the worst team at the 2015 World Championship by a fair margin, and as such were already staring down the monumental task of finding a single win even before the group were drawn.

Now, after having been placed placed into one of the most stacked group at the entire event, Group C, alongside the juggernauts of SK Telecom T1, EDward Gaming and H2k-Gaming, a winless outing is all but written in stone.

So far, the Bangkok Titans have relied upon a single strategy which the lynch pin of which is the mechanical ability of the mid laner and relentless aggression to compensate for their weaker strategical play and laning phase. However, G4 is facing up against three incredibly experienced and skilled opponents in Ryu, Faker and PawN, making his burden all the heavier if he is to carry his team to victory. Not just the mid lane, but the skill gap across the board is significant for almost every matchup against the Bangkok Titans. To make matters worse, SK Telecom T1, EDward Gaming and H2k-Gaming won’t fall for the sort of split pushing shenanigans that the Bangkok Titans so often pull, and won’t be easily flustered by their bloodthirsty tendencies either.

Basically, the odds are less stacked against the Bangkok Titans as piled to the rafters in an overwhelming mountain.

The Bangkok Titans need to go into the event fully accepting of their imminent destiny, and tackle every game with the same level of reckless abandon that got them this far; getting intimidated by the history or pedigree of their opponents will only lead to disaster. Since their only hope is to try and snowball out of control, chaos is the name of the game if a single win is to be in the book for the Bangkok Titans. If the Bangkok Titans can’t fight their opponents in a strategic sense, the best they can hope for is to overwhelm them with kill after kill after kill.

If this past year is anything to go by, the Bangkok Titans don’t back down from a challenge, no matter how fearsome the opponent. They went from worst to first not only in their region, but on the wildcard stage, and now need to stand tall when it looks all but hopeless on the biggest stage in League of Legends.

It won’t be easy, but you can bet your bottom dollar the Bangkok Titans will do it fighting.

Nic Doucet is a News Editor for theScore eSports. You can follow him on Twitter.