Kelsey Moser's LPL Review: China's got [Game] Talents

by theScore Staff Jun 20 2016
Thumbnail image courtesy of LPL / LPL Screengrab

The intergroup round has begun, and as these things normally progress, the League of Legends Pro League heavily tested and defied any pre-conceived assumptions. With many predicted outcomes reversed, making sense of the LPL has become even more difficult. What had begun to look like one of the most predictable seasons in LPL history has again defied expectations.

Especially in the case of Game Talents. Built from the pieces of Masters3 and Energy Pacemaker All, two relegation-level teams from last split, Game Talents have found their place in second place of Group A after a 2-0 week and greatly improved drafts and team cohesion. A few surprises always make our favorite esports events more exciting.

Top story: Everything you know is wrong

Near perfect predictions from the first three weeks feel like a distant memory. Of nine matches, I only correctly predicted the winning team in three of them. I can only properly respond by breaking down exactly where I went wrong.

EDward Gaming vs. Royal Never Give Up

Going into this match, I had expected that direct lane matchups would matter, primarily because neither of these teams lane swap with high frequency. Both teams focus a lot on their bottom lanes, and both teams have elite 2v2s in Kim “deft” Hyukkyu and Tian “meiko” Ye and Jian “Uzi” Zihao and Cho “Mata” Sehyeong. One can anticipate solo lanes will fend for themselves without jungle pressure, and EDward Gaming has a history of drafting weak lane matchups.

Almost all of that happened, but instead of Royal Never Give Up’s Jang “Looper” Hyeongseok and Li “xiaohu” Yuanhao getting far ahead of their counterparts unchecked, Royal Never Give Up chose to insist upon standard lanes in their first match, setting Looper behind, and then didn’t properly pressure their solo lane advantages in Map 3. Instead of using Looper to split push with his massive CS lead, Royal continued to impale themselves repeatedly on the bottom lane.

Royal’s loss demonstrated that they need to correct their narrow focus on a single lane. Luckily their series against Invictus Gaming already showed a broadening of their horizons.

Invictus Gaming vs. Oh My God

Song “RooKie” Euijin debuted Taliyah in the League of Legends Pro League. Invictus Gaming used Taliyah to exert additional pressure in side lanes, and iG accumulated a lead, as anticipated. What didn’t go as anticipated, however, included a strange tunneling onto Baron in the later stages of the game, in which Invictus Gaming appeared to randomly abandon their side lane control plan.

Teams in the LPL rarely perfect a consistent identity to a reliable level — let alone Invictus Gaming. Believing that Invictus Gaming can remain committed to a strategic bent was my first mistake. The second was in failing to predict that Yan “juejue” Hong would bring out his trademark Lee Sin and control the map. LPL has a lot of Lee Sin enthusiasts; juejue chose today to play his trump card and help OMG win their first series of the split.

Team WE vs. Game Talents

Game Talents’ drafting improved considerably this week. They brought out new compositions like their Jhin and Trundle bottom lane, which proved eventful when paired with Leblanc. The catch potential of Game Talents’ new offering completely surprised Team WE, who couldn’t play well against it in Game 1 or 3.

Yet WE did nearly perfect game Game Talents in Game 2 — that pesky turret — which continues to beg the question of just how large an impact the list of must-ban champions on red side is. With a persistent 62.3 percent win rate for blue side in the LPL, WE being unable to ban GT’s deadly combination could have granted them the win.

Snake eSports vs. LGD Gaming

The despondent LGD Gaming still exists, they just randomly wake up about 35 minutes into the game.

Chen “pyl” Bo’s return to LGD has invigorated them to an extent, just not a large one. As many teams enjoy grouping early and forcing pressure mid, LGD Gaming remained committed to farming eagerly in their side lanes, amassing monstrous leads on Gu “imp” Seungbin and Jang “MaRin” Gyeonghwan. LGD came online in the late game for tense wins over Snake’s strategy to group with Lê "SofM" Quang Duy in jungle invades.

In the first game, LGD also correctly predicted SofM’s pattern and shut him down. Teams have started to pinpoint SofM, but not on a consistent basis.

Newbee Gaming vs. Vici Gaming

If I could refuse to actually analyze this series, I would. The worst series of the week, including I May vs Saint Gaming, featured Vici attaining early leads through chipping down turrets and finding picks with Choi “DanDy” Inkyu only to lose to poor late game shotcalling.

I don’t necessarily mean team fights, I mean chasing Bao “V” Bo down the lane instead of actually defending their crumbling base. That happened. I doubt Newbee have fixed their problems; Vici have just exposed an obvious lack of clear-headedness in the late game.

Snake eSports vs Team WE

Team WE have returned for my last incorrect prediction of the week. What started out strong for WE ended in disaster. Team WE caught out SofM’s invade attempts in Game 1 and kept proper pressure on side lanes, but in Game 2, their attempt to counter SofM at the start sent WE spiraling downward when Snake rallied behind him, and the stronger jungle matchup won out.

Xiang “Condi” Renjie has gained accolades for Baron steals, but he’s not the most creative jungler, and Su “xiye” Hanwei’s lane pressure usually guards him on its own. But more persistent junglers from Game Talents and Snake eSports showed WE need to learn to coordinate better around their jungle in the early game. The lanes themselves don’t need protection from dives; Condi does.

Add a weird obsession with Baron when WE began to panic against Snake’s scaling, and WE’s double loss week hits home hard. If WE want to avoid losing their spot as second in their group, they’ll have to take a long look at their flaws and continue to evolve for next week.

Recommended Watching

Game Talents vs. Team WE

A WE series again makes an appearance on the recommended list. This time, the curious compositions proffered by WE and Game Talents make it exciting. WE’s Hecarim and Taric composition lost, but they lost to something equally interesting in Leblanc, Jhin and Trundle.

Following the first game, WE showed their strengths in a near perfect game, and finally, Game Talents used their deadly combination one more time to get picks. As pick compositions invade the meta, this series can lay down a blueprint.

Single games to watch

EDward Gaming vs. Royal Never Give Up Game 1

EDward Gaming demonstrated how to penalize a swap, but more than that, their Kha’Zix and Ashe combination is underrated. Though the Ekko blind pick is questionable, EDG still demonstrated an interesting approach to how to get catches and spread pressure across the map.

LGD Gaming vs. Snake eSports Game 2

One of the most interesting comeback games of the split so far, LGD Gaming show the strengths of their new style in stalling out. Split-pushing Trundle also made an appearance. Jhin and Trundle continue to take over the LPL, and this is an exciting match to watch it in action.

Most Valuable player: republiC

Game Talents surprised many by winning not one, but two series in the League of Legends Pro League this week. Their true strength came through in the draft. They both picked around their foes and responded well to adaptations to punish them (for example, LGD Gaming’s Jhin first pick resulted in a great deal of crowd control and dive drafted by Game Talents).

Choosing an MVP for Game Talents, who sorely deserved the spot, became a trial. GT’s bottom lane showed up huge with the Jhin and Trundle combination, but mid laner Bong "republiC" Geuntae won the day. He played three different champions with drastically different roles and came up massively against LGD Gaming in the final game with a 13/1/11 Kassadin. On Energy Pacemaker All last split, republiC's consistent lane pressure always made hims worth consideration as a strong mid laner.

In reality, nearly any Game Talents member could have won the MVP this week. The entire team seemed to fire on all cylinders. My runner up goes to support Jin “Savoki” Hao for demonstrating the proper way to use the Trundle pillar and for 1v2ing LGD Gaming’s top laner and mid laner at Level 1 in Game 1 of their series.

That’s so China pick: Kassadin

A guilty Kassadin-picker

Granted, a lot of motivation for putting Kassadin down here comes from the League of Legends Secondary Pro League, where Kassadin has been running amock with a negative win rate for seemingly no apparent reason. It made a few appearances in the League of Legends Pro League this week, but only one resulted in a win.

Kassadin has always been a go-to for Chinese mid laners because of his high mobility and ability to bring ruin upon his foes if he scales well. The problem is that he doesn’t come with any safe wave clear, and he’s easy to dive, especially prior to Level 6. The LPL likes to do this.

It still mystifies me that Kassadin continues to be a favored pick when the chips are down. I can only suspect that the rise of more squishy supports and changes to Rod of Ages make this pick look attractive, but it’s not. At all. Kassadin remains high risk. If one must pick it, do so in a situation where one can last pick it, and there’s almost no crowd control on the enemy team.

This is basically never. If one wants to see a good Kassadin pick game, check out Game Talents vs LGD Gaming Game 2.

Standings Summary

Placement Group A Score Group B Score
1. EDward Gaming 6-0 Royal Never Give Up 6-1
2. Game Talents 5-2 Team WE 4-3
3. Snake eSports 4-3 I May 3-3
4. Newbee Gaming 3-3 Vici Gaming 3-3
5. Invictus Gaming 2-5 LGD Gaming 2-5
6. Saint Gaming 0-6 Oh My God 1-5

Yes, that is a 6-1 next to Royal Never Give Up. After Week 4, only one team remains undefeated, and only one team remains without a win. Oh My God picked up their first victory from Invictus Gaming, but remain at the bottom of the pile, while Royal Never Give Up had some of their weaknesses exposed by EDward Gaming's bottom lane advantages. They already showed signs of improvement against Invictus Gaming, but let's not get our hopes up until next week.

Team WE and Invictus Gaming both had the worst weeks, losing both their series. Invictus Gaming fell from a second place hopeful to a team outside the playoffs safe zone. Team WE remain in second, but won't for long if they don't show improvements to jungle control next week.

Game Talents' drafting improved considerably, but Trundle did a lot of work for them this week. Questions still linger as to what this team looks like without their preferred support pick. Snake eSports met their first sign of resistance, but have already rebounded, solidifying their support around their jungler.

I May's uptick seems short-lived, but Vici Gaming's fall hits them hard. With LGD Gaming showing signs of life, they may again find themselves fighting for a spot in playoffs. Newbee's victory doesn't leave me with a lot of optimism, but at least the team looked more pleased in the wake of success, even if the win came unconventionally.

Little need be said about Saint Gaming, who still barely appear to actually show up for their matches. Oh My God has a win, but they may be reliant on Lee Sin to succeed, and their more difficult opponents can knock them down again next week.

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