If one is in search of a new sleep aid, Game 1 of today’s Longzhu and e-mFire series might just do the trick. Much has recently been made of the current League of Legends metagame, and none of it is particularly exciting. There is little incentive to fight over neutral objectives early, and coordinated laneswaps destroy side lane turrets early before teams awkwardly posture in mid lane for the center turret while they wait for Baron to spawn. This, paired with longer death timers has accompanied a risk-averse stagnancy on Summoner’s Rift, more potent than the strongest of sleeping pills.
Combined with four teams that are each in the process of discovering their respective team identities, this metagame resulted in two long, drawn-out, and often sleep-inducing series in Korea today.
Creative, but lacking execution.
Last year, Samsung Galaxy was a creative team that lacked execution and skill. Often able to take one game off of superior opponents due to an impressive draft or odd composition around the pocket pick of a specific player, Samsung still was never able to pull together and improve by any large measure throughout 2015.
In spite of a downgrade at the AD carry position — neither Lee “Stitch” Seungju nor Jo “CoreJJ” Yongin are as good as Lee “Fury” Jinyong — and a jungler who is not actually a jungler in Kang “Ambition” Chanyong, Samsung looks far more synchronized this year. With a better understanding of how to play the map, this Samsung team also has a good idea of how the current metagame is played. Unfortunately, this is all too often undone by an individual misplay, and Samsung has made many in a season that is particularly punishing of mistakes. Samsung often wins due to an opponent’s mistake, or falters following their own error, rather than executing any sort of intricate gameplan. They do know how to leverage dragon stacking, which is what netted them a win today, and they place more wards than any team in Korea at 4.19 a minute.
Performing better than expected were both Ambition and top laner Lee “CuVee” Seongjin, whose Lissandra was fairly impressive in both of the games that he played it in today. Naturally there were still individual errors — including an odd Glacial Path into a team fight that resulted in a death without using his ultimate or Flash — but CuVee’s Teleport flanks on Lissandra are usually on point, again highlighting Samsung’s strong warding patterns.
Strong, but occasionally forget how to play the game.
This current iteration of the Jin Air Green Wings, much like their 2015 predecessor, has trouble closing out games. Fully capable of designing specific game plans for their opponents, and executing them well early, Jin Air often appears to forget how to play the game for approximately 10 minute intervals. Last year, this meant a precise early game orchestrated by then-jungler Lee “Chaser” Sanghyun before falling apart in the mid game. If Jin Air managed to stall their opponents past the 50 minute-mark, then they would close out the game on the back of former mid laner Lee “GBM” Changseok.
Initially this season, it seemed as if this lackluster mid game had left with Chaser, replaced by a stronger, more concise Jin Air plan of attack. Top laner Yeo “TrAce” Changdong is having the best year of his career thus far, and mid laner Lee “Kuzan” Seonghyeok has shown large amounts of promise. However, following a close series against the Afreeca Freecs and today’s exhausting three games against Samsung, the new and improved Jin Air still only appears in about half of Jin Air's actual games. Jin Air in 2016 still grapples with how to close, like all Jin Air teams that came before them. Combined with Samsung’s method of waiting until their opponents make a mistake rather than proactive movement, this made for a drawn-out series decided by which team made fewer, less timely misplays: Samsung.
Coordinated, but lacking skill.
Completely written off going into this 2016 season, e-mFire was thought to be the worst team in Korea. While they certainly lack talent compared to all of their Champions counterparts, they make up for it with a surprising amount of coordination. An interesting comparison can be made between e-mFire and Champions bottom-feeder SBENU Sonicboom, which is packed with talent at all positions but the top lane and still unable to win a series. SBENU is the only team that e-mFire has managed to beat in a series, and they did so with superior teamwork.
Sadly, e-mFire isn’t likely to move much in the Champions standings with their available talent, especially with Suk “Hipo” Hyunjun in the top lane. Hipo has an incredibly limited champion pool and falls behind opponents quickly, having the worst creep score differential at ten minutes of any starting player in Korea at -12.3.
Talented, but lacking coordination.
Dubbed Korea’s “superteam” going into Champions Spring 2016, Longzhu has talent doubled up at nearly every position. The most egregious examples of this are Lee “Flame” Hojong and Koo “Expession” Bontaek splitting time in the top lane while Shin “CoCo” Jinyeong and Kim “Frozen” Taeil share mid. Additionally, with the rise of new jungler Lee “Crash” Dongwoo, the jungle position is now divided between Chaser — Korea’s best jungler of 2015 — and the incredibly promising Crash. This Longzhu team will be faced with another tough roster decision when Lee "Fury" Jin-yong’s competitive ban is lifted and he has to compete with Kang “Cpt Jack” Hyungwoo for the starting AD carry spot.
Yet, for all their talent, Longzhu has struggled in Spring 2016, failing to find any sort of roster synergy. Longzhu’s team fighting is some of the worst in Korea, likely due to the fact that they are constantly swapping players in and out, trying to find their best roster combination. Regardless of what lineup they choose to field, they default to poke compositions in order to mask the fact that they are simply unable to fight as five. Even in their Game 2 win over e-mFire — the most decisive game of the day — Flame was late to a few fights and the team continued to appear disjointed or without strong communication.
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.