Breaking down WE's team fighting problem at IEM Katowice

by Kelsey Moser Mar 16 2015
Thumbnail image courtesy of Dennis Gonzales / theScore eSports

Team WE, the team that pulled off the biggest upset in League of Legends history, collapsed at the finish line Sunday when Team SoloMid nearly ran over them in a 3-0 victory. While TSM deserves a lot of praise, it's also worth investigating what went wrong with WE in the Grand Finals match.

It's fair to say that WE's lack of professional matches as a unit helped them as much as it hindered them. WE picked up a lot of games by coming prepared with two different strategies that the opposition had no way of identifying beforehand: the less successful Teleport mid lane Diana strategy and the GE-beating pick compositions.

Both come from the need to solve a very glaring flaw; WE hasn't developed the coordination, either in LPL with Ninja and Styz or with this IEM roster, to team fight properly. As a result, WE's best course of action was to develop fast-paced styles that snowball off picks. High mobility and double Teleport allow WE to run a 1-3-1 split pushing strategy and extend map pressure for free: something that, even when they used it to win against CJ Entus, they didn't ever execute properly.

WE's more successful pick compositions, centered around Ahri and Jarvan IV, seem to take inspiration from Team OMG, the second place LPL. Rather than initiating frequent 5v5s, OMG prefers to move quickly around the map with high mobility champions like Sivir and Hecarim to split the opposition and catch single players out of position, which then allows their assassin mid laner to rack up kills.

If that sounds familiar, it's easy to look at OMG to see what WE tried to achieve and then examine where they went wrong.

The first task is in vindicating the Jarvan IV pick. Some analysts fixated on the priority WE applied to the champion as a flaw, but if there's one thing OMG and WE have in common in 2015 it's prioritizing Jarvan IV. One might look at Cool's impressive Ahri record and think that it's OMG's most prized pick, but they more often than not will first pick Jarvan IV when it's left open. In this split of LPL, Loveling, OMG's jungler, is 13-1 on the selection with their only loss being at the hands of the dominating Edward Gaming. Just this weekend, when Patch 5.4 hit, and Demacian Standard armor nerfs took hold, they managed to go 3-0 with Loveling playing Jarvan IV.

What Jarvan IV gives OMG and WE is a split in the team fighting. Cataclysm creates cut off terrain that both zones for an AD carry and can separate a team to allow a mid laner to make a pick. The E-Q combination can also catch out a target for instant follow-up burst and destruction in roams. WE found their first ever LPL win with Spirit playing Jarvan IV against Vici Gaming. It doesn't have to be for team fighting, where a great deal of armor is useful. In fact, when WE chooses Jarvan IV, they don't want to team fight, and that's where they ran into problems in their first game against Team SoloMid.

WE's team fighting is subpar next to Team SoloMid's and, with their pre-IEM LPL roster, nearly every other LPL team. But when analysts and casters say that WE's team lacks coordination, it helps to break down an example.

In the Game 1 winning fight for Team SoloMid, Spirit, Aluka, and YuZhe were caught by a ward after claiming the dragon area scuttle crab. TSM's flanking around the river wall allowed them to eliminate Spirit immediately. They then forced out AD carry Mystic's Flash and Arcane Shift when he re-actively went to approach the fight, removing his self peel. TSM continued to herd WE into their own jungle. Dyrus' Equalizer forced xiye's Spirit Rush to remove him. A lack of coordination between Aluka and YuZhe sent Aluka running ahead of YuZhe so that a stun caught him, he lost most of his health, and was forced from the fight so he would not be able to use any abilities to aid his carries. 

Meanwhile, TSM guarded their side after forcing out xiye such that his subsequent Spirit Rushes only allowed him to help Mystic take out the front line of Santorin and Dyrus. At this point, Bjergsen re-entered the fight, and he and WildTurtle could clean up the defenseless Ahri and peel-less Ezreal.

When one says WE has flaws in team fighting, a lack of communication after an initial pickoff exacerbates them. Team SoloMid could force out peel while holding their front line, WE couldn't get in, and they couldn't get out.

Throughout the series, TSM chose picks that could herd and lockdown WE in choke points with flanks so that they would have to fight their way out of a situation. These picks included Sivir for her On the Hunt, Rumble for his Equalizer, and Lissandra's Frozen Tomb. Once TSM could force WE to fight a more traditional 5v5, they knew they could win. If TSM could eliminate Spirit's Jarvan IV first, he would be unable to cut off one side of TSM's flank with a Cataclysm to create an escape route for his team.

TSM identified WE's major flaw after their series against the GE Tigers: something the Tigers themselves were unable to do as a result of missing data. WE's lack of professional matches together both aided them in making their strategy difficult to crack and hindered them - coordination in team fighting ultimately became their undoing.

WE should be proud of what they accomplished at IEM Katowice as they are the LPL's last place team, with 22 losses and only eight wins so far this split. They were not favored to win a single game and advanced to the finals, and they eliminated the team that many projected to be the strongest in the world leading up to the tournament. 

Even so, celebrations may be short-lived, as WE returns to China this week and must face LGD, LPL's fourth place team, on Friday, and the Jarvan IV-Ahri masters themselves, OMG, on Saturday. 

Comparing WE's execution of OMG-style compositions to OMG's shows WE have a long way to go to climb LPL's ladder and avoid relegation. TSM has exposed their flaws and given them a lot to work on in their fight for their spot in the 2015 LPL Summer Split.