The Uphill: Assessing Origen's decision to retain a bottom-focused identity

by theScore Staff Oct 28 2015
Thumbnail image courtesy of Riot eSports Flickr

Patch 5.18 hit hard, and for the most part, only teams already comfortable with playing around their top laners survived. The juggernauts very suddenly changed the way the game needed to be played. Elements jungler Marcel “Dexter” Feldkamp said of the slow adjustment time at the World Championship, “’s so obvious. Even from this perspective right now, it’s so easy to see what the flaws are of the teams, but if you’re actually playing the game, it’s very very hard to fix that.”

SK Telecom T1, KOO Tigers, and Fnatic all emerged as teams already adept at playing around their top laners. For most of the summer season, their top laners received above average gold shares in their regions, and their junglers and top laners had developed strong synergy.

Origen has never been a top lane centric team, preferring to invest most of their resources into their AD Carry, Jesper “Niels” Svenningsen. In some ways, Origen are in the same position as OMG in 2014, but the roles are reversed. Last year, OMG squeaked into semifinals with a team focused on a top lane carry amid three teams with powerful AD carries. This year, Origen threw Paul “sOAZ” Boyer to the wolves and built their team around mid-to-late game team fights with the play-making power of Alfonso “mithy” Aguirre Rodriguez and Niels’ steady damage.

Rather than trying to adapt to a more top-centric meta with the patch change, Origen stuck with and enhanced what they were already good at. Following examples like EDward Gaming where teams unused to playing around a carry top laner tried to adapt at the last minute, it’s plausible Origen’s approach allowed them to advance further in the World Championship than they would have otherwise.

The sOAZ factor

A lot of praise has been levied toward Origen’s bottom lane this tournament. Given how many resources Niels receives, it’s hard to say he’s the best performing AD Carry at the World Championship absolutely, but he’s made a strong case for himself. Over Origen’s 13 games, Niels averaged a 4.6 KDA, 81.7% kill participation, 32.1% of Origen’s team damage, and received 28.7% of the team’s gold. Niels played five different champions with a nearly 40% of team damage dealt on his Jinx games—with Jinx being noted as one of his weaker selections overall.

As much praise as Niels and his mechanically adept bottom lane partner have received, Origen could only make an AD Carry-centric style work because of the way the pieces fit together. Most would describe top laner sOAZ’s play at the World Championship as inconsistent. His two most played champions were Lulu and Kennen with a 7.8 KDA on Lulu and a 1.4 KDA on Kennen—including the fateful game against KT Rolster where he ended with a score of 0/9/3.

sOAZ himself described Origen’s approach to draft as picking champions 80% for team composition. Origen was happy to put themselves slightly behind with disadvantageous lane matchups to succeed in the mid to late game. For this approach to succeed, the lane lacking jungle pressure needs to play a stable game. That task fell to sOAZ in Origen, as Maurice “Amazing” Stückenschneider often focused most of his ganks and presence on the bottom half of the map. In a top-centric meta, sOAZ had to be more focused on warding his own lane and evading pressure from more aggressive top lane teams.

Origen’s results were mixed. Many remember sOAZ’s great escape against SK Telecom T1’s Jang “MaRin” Gyeonghwan and Bae “bengi” Seongung as a success story, but sOAZ wasn’t always so lucky. During that first game against SKT, Origen had one of their only games where they managed to get a reasonable lead in the early game, but in most games Origen fell behind as a result of laning phase misplays. By opting into a bottom lane centric game, Origen sometimes gave teams more focused on top lane aggression or more adept at lane swaps an easy target in sOAZ.

An ability to understand Teleports from the era of Enrique “xPeke” Cedeño Martínez and sOAZ’s Fnatic successes allowed Origen to manipulate the map well to compensate for deficits. Even from behind, the team understood how and when to use Teleport to play around objectives, often not putting sOAZ himself into the fights and relying on split push diversions. Niels’ self-sufficient damage worked well with mithy’s ability to get picks while sOAZ knocked aside structures to pull Origen back into games.

The road not taken

Even if Origen played resolutely around Niels at the World Championship, they showed more diversity in style during the European LCS Playoffs. Part of Origen’s sudden successes came from sOAZ’s ability to abuse the Gangplank pick before the rest of the world. In their surprising Game 1 destruction of Fnatic in the finals, Origen showed that they could build teams to abuse mid game power spikes with Trinity Forces. They took over the game early and closed out by smartly dancing around the map.

Before Gangplank was banned every game, sOAZ showed he demanded it. Gangplank could work well in stalled games with superior scaling and an abuse of globals. Niels’ ability to play AD carry picks that work well in different phases of the game also helped.

Halfway through the split, Origen didn’t distribute much gold toward the top lane, but by the end of the summer following playoffs, sOAZ had above average gold distribution for a top laner in the European LCS. Origen showed they had a versatile team that could have played more toward the top side of the map with certain picks, but instead focused on playing around dragons and the bottom half.

It’s hard to say whether Origen would have performed better focusing on the top side of the map, but even in games in the EU LCS where sOAZ would do well in lane and carry, the team didn’t seem to play around him. He functioned as a split-pusher on Hecarim or Fizz while the rest of the team fixated on getting the proper dragon fight.

In the semifinals against SK Telecom T1, Amazing appeared to struggle with indecisive play. He misplayed around team fights or simply failed to act in key situations. Yet until that point, Amazing had performed very well at the World Championship.

It’s unclear whether Amazing’s earlier confidence came as a result of Origen sticking to what they knew in terms of both jungle picks and slower building team fight strategies before the team was forced to choose more aggressive early junglers with the Gragas ban like Evelynn and Lee Sin. If Amazing’s lack of familiarity did result in his poorer performances, however, it supports the idea that sticking to Origen’s practiced pathing and what they already knew helped them advance further than they would have otherwise.

A lucky draw

Origen weren’t expected to get out of Group D. Europe’s third seeded team wasn’t considered the worst squad in their group, but LGD Gaming and KT Rolster were clear favorites. Several analysts have posited that LGD performing far worse than anticipated was a piece of luck for Origen, as in the team’s second encounter, LGD looked rejuvenated and seemed to smother Origen early.

In Origen, Behind the Scenes 3, the team rejoiced upon realizing they would play Flash Wolves in quarterfinals. In this case, it seemed that Origen had a great deal of luck in getting to the semifinals where they finally fell out at the hands of SK Telecom T1. As many posit SKT will eventually win the World Championship, losing to SKT in the semifinals is only one step down from losing to them in finals.

Though luck certainly played a role in Origen making it as far as they did through the World Championship, Origen’s improvements cannot be undersold. Origen improved in scrims through the bootcamp in Korea, and they managed to split even with both KT Rolster and LGD Gaming, Group D’s favorites.

Origen’s ability to play around objectives in the mid and late game was definitely worthy of praise. They chose compositions intelligently, securing picks like Anivia and Orianna to allow them to stall for when Niels could maximize his damage and the rest of the team could chip away at towers.

It is worth noting, however, that before losing to SK Telecom T1, Origen's real piece of luck came in the styles of the teams they played against. Origen only faced one team that played well around their top laner. LGD Gaming focused much more on bottom lane in their losing match and mid lane in their victory. Team SoloMid has always been known as a mid centric team that does little to get their top laner ahead. Flash Wolves’ Chou “Steak” Luhsi’s selling point was his ability to remain stable without jungle pressure.

Origen showed serious hiccups in their ability to play against KT’s and SKT’s more top-centric style, and sOAZ’s and Amazing’s inconsistencies came out much more strongly in these matches. Even so, Origen showed an ability to adapt and come back against KT and to avoid bengi’s top lane ganks against SKT. Despite obvious flaws in early game coordination, they managed a convincing run while bucking the meta.

Given Origen’s inconsistent execution and the small luck factor, their ability to make semifinals playing around an AD carry is impressive. When other teams attempted to completely overhaul their style, they seemingly collapsed. SKT, KOO, and Fnatic all found success playing to the top lane and following a similar formula to the one they’d employed for most of the summer. They adapted to the picks and the fast push lane swap, but adhered to the same team dynamic.

Teams like EDward Gaming flopped completely when they couldn’t adjust their dynamic properly to play around their top lane. Origen’s success story suggests that it’s best to continue to play to a team’s strengths under pressures of a sudden and extreme meta change. By not trying to adjust their dynamic and instead focusing on the changing picks and strategies of Patch 5.18, Origen performed much better than other teams that also tried to change jungle pathing and gold distribution.

This World Championship is full of lessons for Origen. A team run by a player can find success. An abrupt change in coaching staff can work as long as it's a change that suits the needs of the players. Niels is truly a marvel. Though the lesson that stands out for me the most in the wake of Origen's run, it's that a team will do a lot better if its players and staff understands itself. The lesson isn't "don't adapt," it's "adapt according to your own capabilities." An AD Carry centric team isn't going to become a juggernaut team overnight, but Origen showed us it doesn't have to be to exceed expectations.

Origen retained their identity. As themselves, they made it much further up the hill than almost anyone predicated.

Kelsey Moser is a staff writer for theScore eSports. You can follow her on Twitter.