Kelsey Moser's EU LCS Roundup: Fold the map

by theScore Staff Feb 20 2016
Thumbnail image courtesy of EU LCS / LCS Screengrab

Thursday's Kog'Maw preoccupation lead to the longest game in the European League of Legends this split so far. Today, some of the more interesting games ended in just around 30 minutes. Vitality, Splyce and G2 figured out how to keep moving from one side of the map to the other, folding the distance. In particular, Vitality's composition was designed for taking free turrets at an alarming rate and begs special attention.

The draft

Vitality began their draft with Unicorns of Love target bans, keeping signature picks from top, jungle, and AD carry in Poppy, Kindred and Kalista. As red side, Unicorns were forced to ban the OP picks of their choice, leading to a Gangplank shut down after Giants Gaming's successful upset over Elements.

This allowed Vitality to first pick Lulu. A first pick Lulu with Kog'Maw as powerful as he is should have been the signal for the void puppy pick, but the Unicorns chose to go for a strong 2v2 lane instead of denying it, allowing Vitality to grab both Kog'Maw and Lee Sin in their next rotation.

The Unicorns responded with lockdown from Viktor and disengage as well as Gragas' occasionally successful interaction with Lee Sin that can repel his engages. The goal is to keep Kog'Maw out, but also create an area Vitality can't enter in a fight.

Vitality's final Quinn and Tahm Kench pickup opened the door for the Unicorns' Malphite last pick. Malphite often gets chosen into multi-ADC comps, particularly against Quinn, to try to shut her down. Otherwise, she can push him out in split-pushes later. To combat this, Vitality put Quinn in the mid lane and Lulu top. This was surprising since EU LCS teams rarely play Quinn mid (unlike the LPL, for example, where it's frequently used as a solo lane flex), but also because Lucas "Cabochard" Simon-Meslet is much more likely to pick up a carry champion like Quinn than a utility champion like Lulu.

Understanding the composition

The composition Vitality drafted focuses on what I like to call "folding the map." By moving across the map quickly, Vitality can transition from side lanes easily, chopping out not just the side lane Tier 1 turrets, but also pushing to Inhibitors much more proactively than the Unicorns of Love after Vitality hit requisite power spikes.

Quinn is a strong split-pusher, but the ultimate, Behind Enemy Lines, gives Quinn as much as a 130 percent movement speed increase. As a result, Quinn is less reliant upon Teleport to get to a location quickly. Lee Sin is known for high mobility and getting to the back line. Mostly, however, Lee Sin's function here is to set up picks. If he finds a target, at least three members of the team can collapse from around the map.

Lulu naturally buffs the Kog'Maw and provides mobility for a target. The fact that Lulu can provide a shield, extra damage, movement speed, extra health, wave clear, and three types of crowd control is nearly insane. She provides too much, and I'm not sure how this champion concept was approved.

Finally, the bottom lane creates the main crux of the composition. In addition to providing a free escape for an allied target (usually Ilyas "Shook" Hartsema in this case, not Peter "Hjarnan" Freyschuss), Tahm Kench's Abyssal Voyage allows him and one target to move from one end of the map to another. This meant that Kog'Maw became a highly mobile turret crusher, and Vitality could delete a turret by utilizing Quinn and the Tahm+Kog'Maw combination whenever the ultimate was up. After slight nerfs on Patch 6.2, Tahm has seen less play, but his utility in this situation still makes him incredibly important.

The lane swap

At the start of the game, Vitality placed lane swap scouting wards in the red side blue buff jungle, but the Unicorns of Love had already sent their duo lane top in a blind swap. As they did against Fnatic, UOL's duo lane sat under their turret to prevent scouting.

It's unclear to me as to whether UOL predicted that Vitality would want to lane swap with their composition and so attempted a blind counter-swap. So far, both the Unicorns of Love and Team Vitality have benefited tremendously from lane swaps based on their teams' stylistic limitations.

Raymond "kaSing" Tsang's ward placement has been important for Vitality, and they've benefited from opening the map quickly so he can cover it with vision. Similarly, Zdravets "Hylissang" Iliev Galabov appears to micromanage the team's jungler, Rudy "Rudy" Beltran, in that he seems to make fewer questionable pathing decisions once Hylissang roams with him.

Though I can't be certain, it seems that Vitality recognized that both teams have natural incentive to swap, and that's why they chose this game to run this composition. It's possible Unicorns opted into the swap on their own, but the drafting of the Lucian and Thresh lane makes it seem as if they predicted the Kog'Maw after the Lulu first pick and wanted to attempt to put it down in the 2v2 lane.

Regardless, Vitality got their lane swap. This provided a safe laning phase for Kog'Maw to scale and acquire the Guinsoo's Rageblade uncontested. It didn't just benefit the Kog'Maw, however. It also benefited the solo laners. Cabochard's style is to push out waves in side lanes and allow Vitality to roam more often and place deep vision. Lulu allows him to do this almost as effectively as Graves.

Perhaps the largest beneficiary of the swap was Erlend "Nukeduck" Våtevik Holm's Quinn. In the LPL, I've seen many Quinn mids become targets of early ganks. Though the Quinn pick countered Viktor early in lane, Quinn's squishy nature and tendency to over-extend pre-level six makes her a gank target. Teams often deal with Quinn mids through collapses from supports and junglers in standard lane situations. Since supports and junglers often find themselves tied up in lane swaps, that didn't happen this game, and Quinn found her way to the side lane split-pushing phase of the game with ease.

Give kaSing the MVP

Following the early lane swap phase, Vitality bunched up to take Tier 2 turrets as early as 14 minutes into the game, completely opening the map. Vitality could use their vision placement for Shook to find picks and the rest of the team to quickly collapse. They then transitioned to additional objectives, usually with Nukeduck reactivating his ultimate.

Outside of securing a safe laning phase for Quinn and Kog'Maw in a lane swap and solo lane flex drafting, the success of this composition hinged heavily upon the effectiveness of the Tahm Kench pick. In multiple instances, a Vitality team member appeared close to destruction, but a well-timed Devour kept him from harm. Though this pick seemed designed to keep Kog'Maw safe, kaSing spent much of the game pulling Shook out of engages that the Unicorns attempted to turn. When Shook got caught roaming the jungle for picks, kaSing seemed to be there, capable of bailing him out.

When kaSing did use Devour on Hjarnan, he usually did so to move his AD carry to a free turret or Baron. Vitality picked up their first Baron before 22 minutes into the game as a result of fast movement, vision and Kog'Maw's ability to decimate targets when allowed to sit still. Lulu's presence often makes it easy for him to sit still.

The use of Devour in this composition requires strong communication. In the Origen series, when Alfonso "mithy" Aguirre Rodriguez used Tahm Kench, he sometimes seemed to Devour his teammates while they burned other cooldowns. This didn't happen here, and kaSing always seemed to save the enemy-targeted champion. If kaSing had used Devour to obstruct Kog'Maw's Bio-Arcane Barrage and free-hitting at an inopportune time, it could havev severely reduced Vitality's overall damage output.

In general, there are several ways for this composition to go wrong. Incorrect timing in grouping around turrets, getting caught out in finding picks, ineffective pushing from Nukeduck allowing the enemy team to isolate him in a side lane — missing the lane swap. Yet Vitality's execution was as strong as their draft phase. Vitality succeeded in folding the map in half.

Other games today had interesting moments. Giants reversed their fortunes with a Gangplank pick. H2K's questionable Baron calls continue, but their superior coordination and understanding of power spikes trumped Origen. Yoo "Ryu" Sangook is devastating on Leblanc. Fnatic mis-timed Noh "Gamsu" Yeongjin's split-pushes, giving Splyce a ray of hope in their victory today. G2 showed off their jungle-mid synergy once again against Team ROCCAT.

Yet Vitality's creativity is slowly turning this into the "Vitality Roundup." As long as their games remain interesting, I'll keep writing about them.

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