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Kelsey Moser's LPL Roundup: Swift victory

by theScore Staff Jan 17 2016
Thumbnail image courtesy of IEM / ESL

The first week of the League of Legends Pro League has lagged by (pun intended). This is no longer the LoL Pause League, but the Long Pause League with new tournament production crew pausing nearly every five minutes. A few games managed to run without a stutter, and even the games that were likely as painful to play as they were to watch had pieces of information in them — not all of it was information we wanted to see.

So you need not suffer through live pauses or the muddle of atrocious games to find the gems, you need look no further than the collection of the best and the worst in the weekly LPL Roundup.

Top 3 Takeaways

1. The kids are not all right

Both teams pegged as top teams in the LPL from last year, EDward Gaming and LGD Gaming, ended the week without a series win. In the case of EDward Gaming, Coach Ji "Aaron" Xing has taken a break, and this seems to mean star jungler and team leader Ming "Clearlove" Kai has also taken a step back in order to develop Zhao "Fireloli" Zhiming.

It's not working.

When one gets out jungled by Ge "Kid" Yan, who isn't really even a jungler, it's bad enough, but the main difficulty of Fireloli on the squad is the lack of direction EDward Gaming exhibit. Clearlove's demanding nature makes him well-suited to lead the team both in game and out of game. It also doesn't help that, in addition to Aaron taking a break, the team's stand-in coach, Jung "Rapidstar" Minsung only just arrived in China and could not lead the team's drafts this week. EDG had no coach, they had no shotcaller, and they very clearly had no plan.

LGD Gaming continue to coast listlessly through their games, putting up nearly no resistance as the QG Reapers demolished them. The only kills they acquired in their first game stemmed form QG diving the fountain as they took out LGD's Nexus.

During their Snake series, LGD Gaming showed signs of life, but low jungle pressure and players constantly getting caught out are both symptoms of persistently poor communication. I know everyone loves to blame only Chinese players, but literally every member of the team had some horrific misplay during this series as shadows of their former selves. The current expectation is that LGD regress after a disappointing defeat and will have to work up to talking again next week.

2. QG and RNG have done the most with their time off

While LGD, EDward Gaming, and Invictus Gaming took turns "embarrassing LPL's fans on the international stage," QG and Royal Never Give Up grew hungry for more international experience. Both teams made large roster acquisitions, and both teams have made public statements about their desire to attend the World Championship this year. QG and Royal have topped their respective groups with not only better individual play, but smarter macro play.

At the core sit both teams' junglers. Liu "Mlxg" Shiyu has finally begun to reflect the praise he's been given with faster map play. He still will have the unfortunate need to dive five people every once in a while, but with an improved ability to secure early game leads, it's less devastating. A glimpse of the 2014-15 offseason Team King has returned, largely down to the activity this new Mlxg brings to Royal.

Baek "Swift" Dahoon loves to take kills and start risky fights with his ever-faithful mid laner, Kim "Doinb" Taesang. The Korean duo and AD carry Yu "Peco" Rui have developed a new level of consistency and form that have made QG Reapers the laning phase crushers most never would have predicted they could become.

QG's new signings of well known mid lane and AD carry substitutes make the need to perform more pressing, and this QG does not want to be replaced. Time will tell if they can maintain their form against Group B's current leader, Royal, and last year's giants — assuming LGD and EDward Gaming can eventually get it together.

3. It's finally about the top lane

After arriving at the World Championship without practicing top lane centric compositions, the LPL has apparently had a revelation. More junglers drift top to get duelists ahead so they can split push and grab turrets quickly. Teleport still in vogue means getting a lead in the Teleport lane applies pressure to all other lanes.

The LPL has exploded with picks ranging from Tahm Kench and Nautilus to Quinn, Fiora, and Poppy. A region famous for aversion to split-pushing has finally learned the value of a duelist 50 CS above his opposition. Games have exploded around their solo lanes, and teams have looked for unique — not always advisable — methods of propping their top laners.

Welcome China to the other side of the map.

Weeklies

Each week, in addition to major themes, it's time to chronicle the best games, the best series, and the things that make the LPL the LPL. Not everyone has time or inclination to watch every game, so it's best to unveil the cheat sheet.

Series to watch

The best series this week extended to three games between Royal Never Give Up and Vici Gaming. The series came with something that may appeal to any LPL enthusiast from clean execution and rotation in Game 1 to the back-and-forth blood baths and furious team fights of Game 2. Young Chinese players Zhu "Loong" Xiaolong, Mlxg, and Li "xiaohu" Yuanhao complemented their legendary Korean teammates, and the Cho "Mata" Sehyoung and Choi "DanDy" Inkyu grudge match even ended in an onscreen kiss.

There's literally nothing else you might want. Except for xiaohu to not pick Azir in Game 2.

For the pickier connoisseur

Not everyone enjoys everything, so for the more selective individual:

Hard carry performance: Song "RooKie" Euijin in iG vs EDG, Game 1

RooKie's Leblanc completely opens the map for Invictus Gaming to have their way in between excruciating pauses (which, thankfully, have been cut from the VOD).

Map play game: Royal Never Give Up vs Vici Gaming Game 1 (see above)

While the LPL didn't have the greatest quantity of high level games this week, the ways in which the junglers in this game apply pressure and lay out vision for invasion is truly a treat. In addition, Royal Never Give Up's composition was great to see in action.

Blowout: LGD Gaming vs QG Reapers, Game 1

What was done to LGD in this game is probably illegal in some countries.

Nail-biter: LGD Gaming vs Snake, Game 3

Though Snake almost always had the lead in this game, a series of continuous throws and picks made it constantly seem like LGD was on the verge of a major comeback.

Lane swap concept: QG Reapers vs Team WE, Game 1

This game may give some insight into why Chinese team lane swaps looked so bad on the international stage. Though double jungle has become less appealing as a result in the reduction of experience available to top laners sharing creeps, Team WE foolishly considered it a good idea. QG Reapers, likely expecting to find themselves swapped on, compensated with a top lane Nautilus pick able to 2v1.

I imagine QG communicate lane swap decisions like this. It's the only way it makes sense.

There are some very confusing things about this early game, including Bao "V" Bo's failed attempt to solo the first blue buff only to find himself invaded upon (it's likely the intention was to take the blue buff to help clear in the 1v2). Swift instead gets three-buffed, but the extra help Ke "957" Changyu provides in the invade allows V to get a strong lead. QG pressure it well and come out ahead.

To adapt to losing the blue, Zhang "Mor" Hongwei went top to assist V temporarily, which also resulted in Peco's Miss Fortune acquiring Level 6 early. While I don't usually think it's worth it in the current meta to give an AD carry solo experience, Miss Fortune's kit revolves significantly around her ultimate, so in this case, it worked out positively for QG. In the future, one might be want to send top laner and support top to counter the lane swap initially and give the Miss Fortune solo farm from the beginning.

Just completely awful: Team WE vs Energy Pacemaker All, Game 1

For the rare individual who gets strange pleasure out of watching truly terrible games, the worst game this week was Game 1 of WE vs EPA. While the worst series was definitely OMG vs Hyper Youth Gaming, WE vs EPA Game 1 was probably the game I've seen where the least amount of things happened in the history of my competitive gaming viewing experience.

Some games have a high level of rotational play in which one team skillfully avoids the other in securing objectives, so it appears as if nothing happens. This game, on the other hand, was as close as one might get to simply setting both teams in the fountain and letting the minions decide the game without moving.

MVP: Swift

As one would probably consider QG Reapers to have had the strongest week, credit goes to the young man who had the most to do with the team's success. While Swift made his own share of poor engagement decisions against WE in Game 2, he also found ways to camp significant lanes and isolate the important targets to destabilize teams.

For as much time as Swift spent sitting on a lane, he should have fallen behind in creeps, but he managed to at least stay even against his opponent junglers in both series. Swift was absolutely everywhere he needed to be, and in a week full of strong jungle performers (obviously, Fireloli excepted), Swift had the cleanest run.

"That's so China" Pick: Graves jungle

The Chinese meta typically has its fair share of quirks that are hard to find elsewhere. Things like Fizz top evolve from China and end up featured in every game to the incredulity of international analysts before they spread — and sometimes they never do.

While Graves appeared as a jungle champion in games outside China, Graves was picked or banned in 18 games out of 25 games in the LPL this week. Graves has a ridiculously high clear speed, which allows players to abuse tiny farm advantages to create extra pressure. In the 2016 season so far, even a jungle camp advantage can allow a player to bully his opponent in his own jungle.

Graves also does a significant amount of burst and has high mobility, making him a fast ganker with a lot of power. Unfortunately, the downside to Graves is that he will fall off after 20 minutes without a lot of farm, making him harder to manage in the jungle. LPL being LPL, junglers have compensated by ganking frequently and taking kills or relying on the top laner to handle map pressure with Teleport while they farm.

The Graves pick significantly backfired against Fireloli for EDward Gaming, but Mlxg and DanDy in particular have had tremendous success, making Graves a possibly attractive pick for other regions.

10 series in 10 words or less

For the TL;DW enthusiasts:

1. EDG vs RNG

The Aaron and Clearlove break has left EDG headless.

2. VG vs OMG

The Loong con.

3. WE vs EPA

Very confusing top laners farm a lot, and xiye Kassawins.

4. LGD vs QG

QG Reaped, but they were already LGDead.

5. VG vs RNG

Mlxg earns leads, then throws them. A very Graves situation.

6. OMG vs HYG

I only watched for cool's face cam. He's hollow.

7. EDG vs iG

Roaming Nautilus top dives Leblanc for disastrous collapse. TBC.

8. QG vs WE

QG dominate. How to waste 4 kill lead on Rengar.

9. M3 vs EPA

crisis wins big. Some day EPA will learn to close.

10. LGD vs SNAKE

LG-half-Dead. Martin no QSS. Always Morgana top.

Standings Summary

Snake's TANK
Placement Group A Score Group B Score
1. QG Reapers 2-0 Royal Never Give Up 2-0
2. Snake eSports 1-0 Invictus Gaming 0-0*
3. Team WE 1-1 Vici Gaming 1-1
4. Energy Pacemaker All 1-1 Oh My God 1-1
5. Masters3 0-1 Hyper Youth Gaming 0-1
6. LGD Gaming 0-2 EDward Gaming 0-1* 

*EDward Gaming and Invictus Gaming finish their series Feb. 21, iG are one game up.

EDward Gaming and LGD Gaming bottom the table at the end of Week 1, an outcome many did not expect. Both teams have recourse for recovery, as they've faced the most difficult opponents of their groups. LGD showed signs of regaining their flare, but need to continue to improve communication flow to tighten game play. EDward Gaming need time with their new coach and, most likely, to just make Clearlove play again. Fireloli can play scrims, but Clearlove's absence is intensely felt.

QG Reapers and Royal Never Give Up have raced to the top. Like EDG, RNG have dealt with some of the most intimidating opponents in their group, so their largest challenge will come in the second leg of competition or against the surprisingly spry Invictus Gaming. QG Reapers have named Snake as their most fierce competitor in post-game interviews, but Snake didn't show the level of execution QG exhibited. Perhaps the only thing that might slow the QG hype train is Royal Never Give Up or the resurgence of LGD Gaming and EDward Gaming.

Oh My God, Masters3, and Hyper Youth Gaming may be the worst teams in the LPL. Neither show a sense of macro play, though HYG may stand apart in prioritizing objectives. Yu "cool" Jiajun shall be known only as "lukewarm" from now on. lukewarm carried OMG to their series win over HYG with the only champion on which he vaguely reflects his former self, Twisted Fate, and it was still brutal.

Team WE have had terrible Game 1s, but aggression from Xiang "condi" Renjie in subsequent games has shown WE's ceiling. They seem unlikely to hit it with a lost macro sense, but both he and top laner 957 are the highest ranked Chinese players in Korean solo queue, showing a baseline of talent in a more lane-oriented meta.

Energy Pacemaker All looked significantly better with the addition of their LSPL jungler, Huang "crisis" Zhen over He "Rabbit97" Zhihong. crisis increased the pace at which EPA acquired their lead, but they still have no idea how to end a game, which the higher ranked teams in Group A will exploit easily. Zhang "Romant1C" Cheng is a major liability in team fights with poor positioning, and likely the reason the team tries to avoid them all together.

Vici Gaming's top-jungle-mid core has found a semblance of synergy, and DanDy appears less lost. Duan "caveMan" Deliang has also shown promise, though Xu "Endless" Hao, like Romant1C for EPA, makes VG more likely to lose team fights.

Invictus Gaming is perhaps the largest pleasant surprise so far. Jungle Kid worked significantly better than expected, and when iG seemed to notice Tong "Koro1" Yang departing the top lane, the Kid and Liu "Kitties" Hongjun came to collapse on mid lane, showing an improved sense of coordination. RooKie will remain the main vehicle for success for iG, but they're less completely hopeless than anticipated. Unfortunately, they're still iG, and liable to fall apart at a moment's notice.

Snake eSports lack the team fight coordination of their old roster, even against a barely revived LGD. Tan "Martin" Qi's build decisions raised eyebrows, and he found himself caught out frequently. Park "TANK" Danwon lacks the late game team fight pizzazz of Ceng "U" Long. I'd like to see Snake start with either U or Yang "kRYST4L" Fan for a talent or identity change against QG Reapers.

With the available information, the most interesting match next week is LGD Gaming vs WE. WE is the most difficult opponent of Group A that LGD have yet to face, and LGD show more signs of recovery than EDward Gaming. If they secure a win in this set, they can carry their momentum into the last two sections of LPL Spring.

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

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