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Kelsey Moser's LPL Roundup: Sometimes there is no answer

by theScore Staff Feb 22 2016
Thumbnail image courtesy of IEM / ESL

My discussion with QG's AD carry Yu “Peco” Rui after the Reapers finished their series against Vici Gaming to close the week went like this:

“What do you think was the biggest thing that lead to QG’s loss in the second game?” I asked.

“We knew we could win the third one,” Peco responded casually.

“So the team didn’t put as much effort into Game 2?”

“I don’t know.” Peco shrugged. “This is very common.”

It’s difficult to pinpoint why LPL series seem as if they’ll go one way and completely turn around. Some may call it cockiness or point to a lack of preparation. I just prefer to take a page from Peco’s book, AKA “That’s just the way it is,” at times and respond with, “I don’t know. This is very common.”

There was quite a lot of that sort of thing in the LPL this past week, beginning with EDward Gaming’s close “clown fiesta” match against LGD and ending with QG’s inexplicably sloppy first two games and clean finish against Vici Gaming. Despite this, there’s a lot of unearthing that can be done, and as always, we tackle the behemoth that is summarizing an entire week of the League of Legends Pro League.

Top 3 takeaways

Hyper Youth Gaming are the worst team in the LPL

While this may have already been obvious to many, Hyper Youth Gaming had a chance to prove naysayers wrong when they faced the bottom team in Group A, Energy Pacemaker All. They ended up losing yet another series 0-2.

The downside to Hyper Youth Gaming isn’t that they have a terrible macro game. It seems as if they have a strong idea of what to do in the early game and how they want to execute it. They just can’t. It’s a depressing reality when you realize that there’s very little talent on one team. Last year, at least the bottom teams in the LPL had talented players with high ceilings like Zhu “NaMei” Jiawen or Lee “Heart” Gwanhyung. This doesn’t seem to be the case with Hyper Youth Gaming.

HYG's best prospect is Ye “march” Jiabin. HYG tend to start games off quickly, averaging one of the earliest times in taking their first objectives in the LPL, and their progressive map movement has a lot to do with march. HYG seem to understand the concept of building momentum, but their follow-through is riddled with failed flashes, mistimed cooldowns, and general feeding. They’re one of those teams that likely will need to learn to play around what most teams would consider “ideal play” to find any success. Right now, they still haven’t won a series.

Invictus Gaming are not a good team; they just play one on TV

Despite snatching the second game from EDward Gaming to 2-0 the series and give the reigning MSI champions their first loss with Ming “clearlove” Kai jungling, Invictus Gaming are not a good team. They’ve taken out the Group B's perceived best teams, but they are not a good team.

Snake Esports revealed that a very simple way to dismantle Invictus Gaming is to lane swap against them. Invictus Gaming exhibited what was probably the worst response to a lane swap I’ve seen so far this year in their first game against Snake. As the only team in the LPL to have never played a lane swap game until Round 2, saying that Invictus Gaming looked lost would be an understatement. They not only managed to attempt to push their first Tier 1 turret late, but they swapped again without knocking down a single turret, and also let Snake get the Tier 1 turret on the opposite side of the map.

Things only got worse from there, as Invictus Gaming actually lost teamfights to a Snake Esports squad that has looked uncoordinated in 5v5s since the start of the new season. Their simple formula of getting Song “RooKie” Eujin ahead collapsed with an open map and a Snake constantly slithering through the early game.

EDward Gaming didn’t lane swap against iG, which should not surprise anyone given how little EDward Gaming have lane swapped. They also drafted poorly, choosing Tahm Kench into Fiora and giving iG two very dominating solo lane picks in Fiora and Corki. iG put their new Korean AD carry, An “Rain” Hyeonguk (who, despite his assertion that he’s better than Tang “Time” Jintai on every champion except Kalista, doesn’t seem like a noticeable upgrade), on a safe Lucian and punished EDG’s over-extensions with superior warding.

Despite nearly getting Flame horizoned by clearlove in farm, Ge “Kid” Yan kept pressure up on the lane in which the team had a direct matchup advantage (in this case, the Fiora lane, and not RooKie). For once, iG didn’t just gank mid. When journalists asked Kid about the change in a post-game interview, he explained “Zz1tai had an advantage, and I wanted to help him expand it.”

It was a simple answer, but iG are a simple team. They’ve managed to eke out wins with strong drafts and simply understanding where they can find an advantage — a concept many teams have struggled with this split. Snake revealed that, as soon as you attempt to add any sort of complexity, iG lose their way.

So to reiterate, iG are not a good team — but they know how to identify and play to the few strengths that they have. It’s a quality that even very few “good teams” actually possess.

Nothing is sacred

Hoping for a truly dominant team that seems to logically approach the patch, destroy the opposition, and make a clear-cut case for World Class status is fruitless since EDward Gaming's hiccups last summer. EDward Gaming’s dynasty was truly exciting — the likes of which China hasn’t seen since Team WE. They won an international title and three LPLs in a row.

QG have yet to lose a series, but this week they exhibited the kind of behavior that has lead analysts to feud over whether Chinese teams are bad or just occasionally choose not to put their best foot forward. Responses like Peco’s only succeed in fanning the flames. Both QG’s losses and near losses to OMG and Vici Gaming featured questionable forcing in the early game with a scaling composition. The team has fixated almost entirely on compositions built around Viktor and Ezreal, picks that other squads have chosen to take or leave as it suits them, guaranteeing that they’ll almost always be open.

Then there’s the weird lane swap strategy.

QG aren’t EDward Gaming. They have revealed several easily exploitable weaknesses, and only their mind-bogglingly tight team fighting from behind has kept them ahead. In some games, it’s clear they understand how to minimize losses, but others leave puzzles. “Why are they fighting at level three with Ezreal, Graves, and Viktor?”

No one knows.

As for the leaders of Group B, Royal Never Give Up, they have now dropped two series to once-majestic teams in Invictus Gaming and Team WE. Despite having once championed Chinese League of Legends, both teams are shells of their former selves. A cocky attitude and poor AD carry positioning seemed to lead to RNG’s downfall against Invictus Gaming, while abysmal Baron calls dropped them against WE. It’s almost as if some days, shotcaller Cho “Mata” Sehyoung eats his Wheaties, and others he’d just rather not.

EDward Gaming’s draft today provided us with flashbacks of the World Championship, and the return of “light clearlove” or “heavy farm, no gank clearlove” was unwelcome as Kid exerted more pressure in the jungle. Even LGD looked slightly less hopeless against EDG. At least this time, EDG’s problems don’t seem to lie with the underperformance of their players. In the post-game interview, RooKie said of Heo “pawN” Wonseok, “I watched his games, and I thought he was in a bad state, but today he was performing well. Both he and I were even.”

“The meta,” AKA “That which EDG are perpetually on the wrong side of.”

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

Once again, several individual games stuck out, but it becomes difficult to recommend a series in its entirety. Recency bias begs for QG Reapers vs Vici Gaming, but QG Reapers vs OMG has a game for both those who love back-and-forth team fighting and a cleanly executed dive composition.

Game 1 had a final score line of 28-27 kills in 39 minutes. That’s not a typo.

From the moment QG attempted a questionable top lane skirmish with scaling carries until the last clean ace, OMG and QG spent their time fighting in every corner of the map, including places in which you’ve probably never seen team fights. Because why not?

As if to say “Just kidding,” QG switched their approach in Game 2. With Nidalee and Kassadin, QG dove their way to a 27 minute finish and a 20-5 score. Swift’s movements in this game were beautiful to watch, and he roamed with Zhang “Mor” Hongwei to take advantage and snowball the mid lane. A quick and easy game to enjoy.

For the pickier connoisseur:

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

Hard carry performance: Xiang “Condi” Renjie in Royal Never Give Up vs Team WE, Game 2

While this choice may not be immediately transparent, Royal nearly had this game in the bag. Two questionable Baron calls later, and WE were destroying their Nexus. In the entirety of this series, Condi made excellent map plays to get his lanes ahead, but Royal didn’t acquire a single Baron in either game. Condi’s ability to secure the Nashor completely upended things for Royal, and WE gave them their second series loss in 2016 LPL Spring.

Honorable mention goes to Peco for his incredible Ezreal kiting against both OMG and Vici Gaming, but to say that Bao “V” Bo wasn’t also firing on all cylinders would be an injustice.

Map play game: Snake Esports vs Invictus Gaming, Game 1

Is it weird to recommend a game because you want to demonstrate how a team shouldn’t lane swap? That’s more or less what I just did. To Snake’s credit, they gave iG the complete run-around from start to finish. It seems Snake will dominate this category for quite some time.

Blowout: QG Reapers vs Vici Gaming, Game 3

To continue their trend of lax Game 1/Game 2s and strong finishes, QG forced Vici Gaming to surrender just after 20 minutes in their third game. Vici failed to secure a single dragon or turret and bowed out at 23 minutes after only returning four kills for twenty, padding Kim “Doinb” Taesang’s KDA in the process.

Nail-biter: QG Reapers vs OMG, Game 1 (see above)

Back and forth fights, check. Sense of urgency, not so much. While OMG theoretically could have turned the tides and won, it still felt as if QG had better map control the entire time, and Doinb was laughing with every single one of his seven deaths. It still felt tense, down to the one kill difference in scoreline at the end. Are QG goofing off or are they just extremely prone to early game fumbles? It’s safer for now to assume the latter is the case.

Concept game: EDward Gaming vs LGD Gaming, Game 2

What does a Runic Echoes + Banner of Command Nunu look like? Pretty hilarious, actually. Ming “clearlove” Kai alternated between buffing pawN’s split-push and helping Kim “deft” Hyukkyu rotating across the map to smash other turrets. Add a Lulu to the composition, and EDward Gaming were winning 4v5s at Baron while pawN took Nexus turrets.

Just completely awful: EDward Gaming vs LGD Gaming, Game 1

Sorry, not sorry.

MVP: Peco

53

That’s Peco’s KDA for Week 4 of 2016 LPL Summer. Peco managed to secure 53 kills and assists in three games this week with only one death to show for it. His overall KDA stands at 18.2, putting him past KDA King clearlove and the other AD carry on his team, Jian “Uzi” Zihao.

While KDA is an extremely misleading statistic, one only acquires a 53 KDA in three games total if those games feature a great deal of fights. AD carries are often clear targets in team fights, and Peco’s use of Arcane Shift has been jaw-dropping, allowing QG to kite and play team fights well in an open or confined space as the case may arise.

Peco has also averaged a slight creep advantage of two at 10 minutes in every game so far in the LPL this split, making the argument that “Peco is bad in lane” less valid. While no one who watched the second game of QG Reapers vs Vici Gaming would blame Uzi for the team’s only map loss so far, Peco’s self-sufficiency has been a sight to behold and a major factor in QG’s team fight comebacks.

If nothing else, the addition of Uzi has seemingly lit a fire under Peco. While he only played Ezreal this week, he’s demonstrated proficiency on a great deal of champions so far this spring, and he only seems to be getting better. This may well be the year he finally climbs out of Uzi’s shadow — but that's a tall order.

"That's so China" Pick: Ezreal

While other major regions play Ezreal, few major regions have had the same preoccupation with the champion in their history. Ezreals used to flood solo queue, as the champion provides some of the highest outplay potential and self-sufficiency in his kit. It was a signature pick of Gao “WeiXiao” Xuecheng and everyone who wanted to be like him by extension.

Almost any excuse to play Ezreal seems to be a good one these days, as Ezreal has been picked or banned in 50 of 88 games, giving the champion a 56.8% pick-or-ban rate in the LPL overall. According to OraclesElixir.com, Ezreal has only been picked or banned in 37.5% of other major leagues (and the Brazilian CBLoL).

Every Ezreal player in the LPL has favored the kiting utility of the blue build. Uzi and Peco have demonstrated the power of Ezreal, but so have other prominent AD carries like deft and Jin “Mystic” Seongjun.

With the popularity of scaling Ezreal, it's surprising lane swapping in the LPL isn’t more common. I suppose that’s something teams like EDward Gaming and Invictus Gaming will have to learn the hard way.

10 series in 10 words or less

1. EDG vs LGD

Don’t watch Game 1. EDG learned to split push.

2. WE vs RNG

You don’t steal Baron from Condi.

3. M3 vs VG

Easyhoon loves his Lissandra.

4. QG vs OMG

Do or dive.

5. EPA vs HYG

Even EPA look clean against HYG.

6. Snake vs iG

Invictus Gaming are the worst lane swappers ever.

7. LGD vs RNG

Some say LGD went to Paris and never came home.

7.5. EDG vs iG

iG punished EDG for an inexcusable draft and early game.

8. M3 vs OMG

I may have to start giving S1mlz more credit.

9. QG vs VG

QG team fight well, but sometimes Swift just dies.

Standings Summary

Placement Group A Score Group B Score
1. QG Reapers 7-0 Royal Never Give Up 5-2
2. Team WE 4-2 EDward Gaming 4-2
3. Snake Esports 4-2 Invictus Gaming 4-2
4. Energy Pacemaker All 2-4 Vici Gaming 3-4
5. Masters3 2-5 Oh My God 3-4
6. LGD Gaming 1-6 Hyper Youth Gaming 0-6

Despite not losing a full series, QG Reapers did manage to drop a game this week. They still look like the best team in China, as EDward Gaming find themselves trapped somewhere between innovation and lagging behind without being on par. Royal Never Give Up's Jang "looper" Hyeongseok insisted in an interview with 15w's Ryan Luwei that Royal will "definitely go to MSI," but the team still has a lot to prove before I believe them.

Team WE and Snake Esports both show signs of high upsides with jungle control working in WE's favor and Snake understanding early strategy better than any other team. WE need to get a feel for momentum across a single series, and Snake's team fighting remains unpolished.

Vici Gaming have improved since Week 3, but the bottom lane remains a pain point, and Lee "Easyhoon" Jihoon has had less of an impact on champions not called Lissandra or Azir. As already discussed, Invictus Gaming aren't a good team, but they are a team that understands how to play to their strengths.

Energy Pacemaker All, Masters3, Oh My God, LGD Gaming, and Hyper Youth Gaming are proving to be worth talking about less and less with crippling flaws and a lacking sense of identity. Most of these teams have frequently rotated players just trying to make something work. Some of these rosters have talent, but they either don't understand the meta game or haven't found a style they've committed to developing.

Next week, QG Reapers brush with the top ranked team of Group B, and EDward Gaming tangle with Snake Esports' lane swap prowess. Both will be matches well worth watching.

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

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