Origen secured their spot in the 2015 World Championship semifinals on Thursday, as the EU LCS runners-up beat the second seeded Taiwanese team, the Flash Wolves, in a slog of a series. The Europeans eventually put away the Wolves by a score of 3-1, only dropping the third map in the series and saving their best performance of the night for the final game where they survived through their opponent's mid-game power spike to take it home with their comfortable late-game decision making.
This series won't go down as one of the all-time greats, and both teams are probably wishing that they could take back a few of their plays in the four game match. Origen and the Flash Wolves entered the quarterfinal matchup as the two slowest starting teams left in the tournament, both averaging around 40 minutes to close out their games.
In the case of Origen, it was more due to their way of playing — they've played the objective game over tunneling in on kills. They were dead last in terms of combined kills in their games, electing to beat teams with their teleport play around the map to pick up objectives instead of getting into brawls. Their mobility tactics worked for the first four games of the Group Stage, but their weaknesses were exploited in their final two games against LGD Gaming and KT Rolster, as the two Asian teams matched Origen with global transportation and not letting the European team beat them through outmaneuvering with map pressure.
For the Flash Wolves, well — it's been a funky ride. They were the major outliers from all the teams that made it to the quarterfinals. Although they were able to beat the difficult KOO Tigers twice in the group stages, they lost to paiN Gaming, an International Wildcard squad, in their first game against them and should have lost the second if not for a lack of bold shot calling from the Brazilian champions. While they proved to be able to capitalize on the mistakes the teams in their group gave them, they were prone to making blunders of their own, creating games where the Wolves and their opponent would trade leads back and forth until one team mercifully lost.
If Origen were the team that used map pressure and rapid shot calling to win in the late-game, the Wolves' best tactic through the group stages was when they could get a poke comp and continually fire Nidalee spears at the enemy team or have Maple on LeBlanc dart in to output damage before escaping back to a grouped up squad.
The narrative played out how you'd expect in the first two games. Both teams paced around the map early, farming up the map and awaiting the late-game. But in both games, like the group stages showed, it was Origen's proactive nature around objectives and Baron that got them the wins in two closely contested matches. Flash Wolves held their own and even at times looked stronger in skirmishes and teamfights against Europe's third seed, yet those kills and superficial advantages didn't amount to anything — Origen still repeatedly beat the Taiwanese team to the punch when it came to Drake control, allowing them to play around the latter dragon stacks and split the Wolves' attention between the two major monster objectives.
With their backs against the wall, the Wolves did showcase their strengths in the third game, beating Origen in the most one-sided game up to that point. NL picked Caitlyn and was allowed to the freeze bottom lane while Origen couldn't do anything with their extra mobility summoners and Maple's Viktor repeatedly saving his mid turret with his trusty laser beam. Even when the game seemed to be at a standstill and at a deadlock, the Wolves pulled ahead with the extra wave of minions that NL was getting in the bottom lane that Origen couldn't deter. This time when the Flash Wolves won teamfights and got ahead in the gold, they were able to win the objective game — let's just forget the fight around Baron where the Wolves almost imploded for the third straight game — and siege down turrets with the Caitlyn and perform a classic split-push in the side lanes.
The final game was all about the least experienced member on Origen: Niels. A Challenger player with the rest of OG's veterans only a few months ago, he's had a meteoric rise in 2015. In the spring, Niels and the rest of Origen powered through the European minor leagues, advancing to the European LCS appearing like a possible contender for a top spot in the summer season. In the summer, Origen lived up to the hype and expectations, finishing second in the playoffs after losing an instant classic series 2-3 to xPeke and Soaz's former team, Fnatic, in the finals. And now in the fall of 2015, Niels is going to the semifinals of the World Championships, a feat that only a select few will ever be able to reach.
What sets Niels apart from other rookies that have come before him isn't necessarily his mechanical skill, teamfighting, or anything like that. While he's been strong in-lane, skirmishing with his team, and carrying when his team builds a composition around him, it's his poise that makes him one of the best rookie players to ever play in the World Championships. In situations where we've seen elite players in domestic play falter and either do too much or too little on the world-stage, Niels has played these games like he is back in the Challenger scene with a few dozen people watching him on stream instead of millions.
Origen have shown that they trust Niels to come through when they need a win. After falling on the third map of the quarterfinals and against a team that was starting to get momentum on their side, they crafted a composition to have Niels carry them to try and clinch the semifinal birth. Soaz sped him up and gave him a buffer if needed on Lulu; Amazing was able to cocoon targets for Niels' Jinx to delete off the map; xPeke's Anivia allowed Jinx's turret pushing to be nearly unstoppable with walls blocking any entry ways for the Wolves to dive; and Mithy on Morgana gave the Jinx even more shields to protect himself and bindings to shoot down the Taiwanese squad like fish in a barrel.
On a team with four players who'd already experienced the World Championships before, Niels hasn't stood out at all as a rookie. If you had to pick someone who looked out of place as a green player, Niels wouldn't be your first pick on Origen from the games in the World Championships — he's been their ace carry that has delivered the kills. Soaz and xPeke have been the pillars of the teams with their countless games on the world-stage and teleport play that's won several games for Origen in this tournament, and Niels is the centerpiece of this semifinal Origen squad that they rally around when they need someone to be the individual carry in a do-or-die game.
Moving forward, however, Origen will need to improve and mix up their strategies if they want any chance of making a Cinderella run to the Summoner's Cup Finals on Halloween night. Flash Wolves were the perfect team for Origen to play against; they did nothing in the early-game to disturb OG's farming, and when you compare their late-games around objectives, the Europeans were able to exploit the Flash Wolves' glaring holes that weren't punished in the group stages. In the game against the KOO Tigers that allowed the Flash Wolves to get first place in the group and avoid possible eliminated from the tournament, the second seeded Korean team made a myriad of careless mistakes, throwing away an early-game lead that allowed the Wolves to move on. Origen, although with mistakes of their own, still played a solid enough game into the middle stages to use their superior objective control to win the series.
Regardless of which team Origen play in the semifinals, their relaxed, comfortable farming and cruising to the mid-game won't be allowed. ahq, while also a Taiwanese team, play a more uptempo style compared to the Wolves and won't allow them to casually stroll along the map without any issues. And if they draw SKT T1, the favorites to win the tournament after the group stages, they'll need to drastically fasten their play — T1 adept in getting leads fast in-lane and winning games by the time Origen and the Flash Wolves started to truly play against each other today.
The last rookie to have this amount of composure and confidence as a rookie and make it to the world semifinals was the man Niels might face in the next round: SK Telecom T1's Faker. Origen's rookie titan might have taken over London, but Brussels could be an entirely different story — this time he'll be the one under attack.
Tyler "Fionn" Erzberger is a staff writer for theScore eSports. You can follow him on Twitter.