In League of Legends analysis, there is a great debate regarding champion select that rivals the philosophical struggle between determinism and free will. Spawning onto the rift with a specific champion, accompanied by a set team composition, all of the success, failures, and misfortunes in game. If a game is already set in stone by its composition, then why even play? There are those champions better suited to the meta than others, those born to fit with a certain player or team. If that’s all predetermined than Riot Games is incredibly unfair and cruel. Because, ever since that champion select, none of us had a future, and the only certain thing was that we wouldn’t amount to anything.
All kidding aside, Champion Select doesn’t determine a victory. It’s important, and it must be approached while contemplating a myriad of factors. This includes the champion pools of one’s players, strong champions in the current meta, the strengths of one’s opposition, and the manner in which said champions coordinate together to form a composition with an optimal win condition in mind.
For example, when a poke composition is played well, turrets, inhibitors, and the enemy nexus are burned down in rapid succession, leading to one-sided end results. One needs to look no further than the ROX Tigers’ third game against KT Rolster earlier this week to see a poke composition executed precisely for a 23 minute victory.
Today’s program offered the best game that the North American League Championship Series Spring 2016 Split has seen, as NRG eSports met Immortals in the second match of the day.
Much like the ROX Tigers’ in that Game 3 where mid laner Lee “KurO” Seohaeng took Varus to the mid lane and Kim “PraY” Jongin played one of his signature champions in Corki, NRG eSports chose to run a poke composition against Immortals. The arrangement was similarly centered around mid laner Lee “GBM” Changseok's Varus and AD carry Johnny “Altec” Ru's Corki. Support Kevin “KonKwon” Kwon took Alistar, like Kang “GorillA” Beomhyeon before him. NRG eSports jungler Galen “Moon” Holgate selected Nidalee – either for personal comfort, supplemental poke, or both – while top laner Jung “Impact” Eonyeong took up the tank mantle and played Maokai. Ideally, this team wants to rotate around the map, whittling down opponents and structures until they wearily concede the objective.
Meeting them on the Rift was a pick composition designed around Teleport flanks from Immortals top laner Heo “Huni” Seunghoon’s Lissandra, jungler Kim “Reignover” Yeujin’s Rengar, and mid laner Eugene “Pobelter” Park’s Zed. When Huni initiates, Reignover follows up with additional crowd control to further lock down NRG damage dealers while Jason “WildTurtle” Tran puts out consistent damage on Lucian.
Both teams loaded onto the Rift knowing full well how their respective compositions were optimally supposed to be executed, the only questions lay in the execution itself. For the first 20 minutes of the game, Immortals took advantageous fights from Teleport flanks and NRG eSports answered by chipping away another turret.
One of NRG’s major mistakes was the lack of wards at their flanks. While a poke composition is sieging, they automatically extend a bit further up in lane, leaving themselves exposed to Teleport engages from the enemy top or mid laner – depending on who is taking Teleport, in this case it was solely Huni’s Lissandra. Just before the 23-minute mark, Immortals break the game open thanks to NRG pushing up onto the top tier-two turret, opening themselves up to an engage from Huni’s Lissandra into the center of a grouped NRG eSports team. Pobelter immediately jumps onto Altec in the backline of the teamfight and bursts both Altec and Moon in rapid succession. The end result is an ace of NRG, followed by a Baron and eventually the game.
This game looked far more one-sided than what it actually was – a delicate balancing act between both teams until that teamfight at approximately 23 minutes. In a league where Dignitas cost themselves their own game due to impatience, a Cloud9 team whose win condition is shotcaller Hai “Hai” Du Lam regardless of team composition or what position he actually plays, and a Team Impulse squad that won with a poke composition supplemented by Gangplank, this Immortals vs. NRG eSports match was a pleasant breath of fresh air.
Returning to the execution of poke compositions, it’s worth noting that ROX’s GorillA, and his Alistar pick, played a huge role in how they shut down KT Rolster’s flanks, something that NRG’s KonKwon was unable to do. In fairness, GorillA is the best support in the world right now, so KonKwon shouldn’t feel too badly about this, but instead study how GorillA’s precise knockups always came at the end of KT mid laner Song “Fly” Yongjun’s Glacial Paths. This rendered Fly’s Lissandra useless throughout the game. With better warding from ROX combined with GorillA’s peerless Alistar play, Fly was unable to execute any sort of similar Teleport plays onto the Tigers’ poke composition that Huni pulled off today against NRG.
Immortals look unstoppable not because they're without flaws, but because they understand their own win conditions better than any other team in North America. NRG fell just short of them today, but also showed a strong understanding of what needed to be done in order for their team to win. North American fans should look forward to the next time these two teams meet on the rift.
Emily Rand is a staff writer for theScore esports. Her love for the 2013 KT Rolster Bullets will never die. You can follow her on Twitter.