Fifty best of ones took place over three days, crammed onto two separate streams. A double Round Robin painstakingly chose what were supposed to be the top eight teams — all culminating in four 3-0 stomps as Snake eSports, Royal Never Give Up, I May and EDward Gaming advanced to the semifinals, slated to take place early November.
With what one can only assume was very little concentrated preparation for each matchup, Demacia Cup gave way to a lot of upsets. Traditionally, League of Legends Secondary Pro League teams value the Demacia Cup more than League of Legends Pro League teams, as it represents a chance to prove themselves. Two of four attending LSPL teams advanced to quarterfinals, but their journeys ended swiftly from there.
As matches dwindled and standings became fixed in group stage, however, teams brought out what can only be referred to as "cute" or "experimental" compositions. These ideas, perhaps thought of in the shower the night before, at times lacked execution and ended in disaster.
Rather than chronicle the bitter-sweet rise and fall of Legend Dragon or talk about how EDward Gaming is still the best team in China, it's instead my task to rank some of these composition ideas. In the end, the only one that actually won is the game to watch.
#4: Low range assassination — or something
As the final day of the Round Robin wore down, Oh My God, doomed to fail to escape the group stage, faced Royal Never Give Up, tied for first. I charitably would like to say that Oh My God felt their best chance of victory was coming up with something truly surprising — because Tahm Kench, Kha'Zix, Vladimir, Mordekaiser, and Blitzcrank definitely was that.
In theory, Blitzcrank grabs the opponent and brings him closer, which works well if your main damage dealers are all short range — which OMG's are, in this case. Even so, you still then have the problem of being unable to siege a turret. Tahm Kench also serves the function of rescuing an overzealous Kha'Zix, especially against something as unstoppable as Hecarim, but this may beg the question of why OMG would pick Kha'Zix into Hecarim anyway.
Even with this questionable draft, focused on snowballing Mordekaiser for dragon control, things went immediately wrong for OMG as Royal identified their win condition and ambushed OMG at Level 1, getting a lead on their bottom lane. With five deaths in the first twelve minutes of the game, the situation did not improve for Mordekaiser.
Mordekaiser terrorized the rift at the World Championship, but well-deserved nerfs and difficulty sieging or handling ranged opponents as well as struggles in lane swaps removed him from competitive play for the time being. I'm not saying one shouldn't ever play Mordekaiser, but OMG's attempt characterizes many of the reasons pros usually don't.
#3: The Evelynn submarine and more Blitzcrank
After EDward Gaming thoroughly destroyed Game Talents two games in a row during the quarterfinals, it occurred to me halfway through the third game's champion select that Game Talents bear a striking resemblance to 2015's Unicorns of Love. They make disastrous rotational calls, their Baron decisions are questionable, they seem to survive by playing gimmick compositions, and, for whatever reason, people think they're good.
This tournament demonstrated convincingly the same thing spectators witnessed in the most recent week of the League of Legends Pro League — without Trundle, Game Talents look decidedly less talented. GT tried to bring out something besides double assassin and Jhin-Trundle bottom lane in their last gasp against EDG, but while this was a better idea than the one OMG had against RNG, Irelia, Evelynn, Orianna, Kalista and Blitzcrank didn't end any better.
Picking champions in the precise order so that swapping champions after champion select no longer becomes necessary may be the first sign that Game Talents were playing this one as they went. Evenlynn and Orianna make a submarine composition from two champions that don't currently see a lot of play, and the Evelynn pick feels more like a challenge to Ming "clearlove" Kai, as that's his signature pick.
Irelia works well to bully in duels, and EDward Gaming's willingness to choose Maokai blind has almost become a joke, as their top laner started to laugh as he locked it in. The Kalista gives Blitzcrank maximum range, and paired with Orianna, this could make for some epic dragon fighting, but it doesn't make the most holistic sense when you combine all of the fragments. This is especially true since Kalista can't necessarily burst a target Blitzcrank pulls in so much as persistently chase it down and pop rend stacks.
Did I mention that we don't want any defensive keystones, here? Only Thunderlord's and Fervor of Battle users need apply.
The game started off well with Wang "WuShuang" Haili stealing red buff from clearlove, but then the lane swap came out, and to compound GT's general difficulties, Sivir and Thresh naturally have better pushing power than Kalista and Blitzcrank. WuShuang was constantly underfarmed next to clearlove's Kha'Zix and Tian "meiko" Ye denied almost all gank attempts with Thresh's lantern.
Lee "scout" Yechan's Azir also constantly pushed in the Orianna, allowing clearlove to invade WuShuang and further deny him farm. This composition had some concept to it, but Game Talents had trouble executing the lane swap, and Evelynn doesn't fare as well from behind or farm as efficiently as more popular jungle picks. That's putting it somewhat mildly considering clearlove's final 14/1/7 scoreline.
#2: Cinderhulk Yasuo jungle
I know what you're thinking — well, not really, I'm just guessing — how did Cinderhulk Yasuo jungle garner more approval than either Game Talents' or OMG's compositions? For one thing, this one was executed much better than the two previous choices, and for another, it makes some sense against EDward Gaming with the players Star Horn Royal Club have.
As both EDward Gaming and Star Horn Royal Club had already qualified for the quarterfinals and, even if SHRC had won this game, they could not have claimed first seed, the results of this match were absolutely meaningless outside bragging rights. If one is familiar with Choi "inSec" Inseok's behavior in China, that usually means things like pre-rework Poppy top lane and a good helping of, "Well, it actually didn't seem like a good idea at the time, but I did it anyway."
The basics of Star Horn Royal Club's Zac, Yasuo, Vladimir, Ashe, and Taliyah composition come from having their best players in the top, jungle, and support position. inSec is not above playing hard carry picks like Master Yi or Zed that require a lot of farm, then come out of the jungle to wreak havoc. Yan "letme" Junze seems to excel best on tanks, and Le "LeY" Yi's vision control when he has the ability to roam will always be underrated. Taliyah can roam quickly and efficiently while also providing crowd control.
Lei "corn" Wen will always look best on something that's either Fizz, Orianna or a pick he can button mash, and Ju "Bvoy" Yeonghoon is at home as a utility AD carry. This composition is designed to target EDward Gaming's greatest threat, averaging nearly 34 percent of team's damage per game, Kim "deft" Hyukkyu.
For a period of the game, this composition did precisely that. By diving hard in the back line, letme created a great deal of disarray and opportunities for inSec to all-in. Taliyah provided even more disruption, especially in confined spaces around objectives, Ashe could pin down Jhin from a long range, and Vladimir could pool in for maximum back line access. SHR's unexpected control resulted in a five minute back-and-forth at Baron with China's top team.
Most likely the most hilarious game of the tournament this week, but I still don't understand the Cinderhulk part of the Cinderhulk Yasuo. Maybe someone can explain it to me.
#1: Morgana returns against WE's low engage
Some may find this composition far less bizarre than the others, but that's part of the reason it actually managed to win. The Demacia Cup featured a heavy fixation with picks like Hecarim and Rumble more than we're used to seeing, but perhaps the biggest surprise pick was Morgana. Morgana featured in a handful of matches as a support, but upon further examination, Morgana is strong against compositions with low engage. If only one ability will lock a team down, Morgana's Black Shield can render it fairly irrelevant.
I like WE's composition. Jin "Mystic" Seongjun's proficiency with Ezreal, and the strength of Karma allow WE to create a really strong poke and kiting composition, as they often want to do. With Bard, they can disengage or isolate a player and burst them down with Graves. Rumble zones well to allow them to siege or just get objectives for free.
Morgana was a response to Karma, but it negates a lot of single target crowd control from either Bard or Karma. This made it extremely difficult for Xiang "Condi" Renjie to follow up on any heavy poke. It also allowed Hecarim or Twitch to get into the back lines fairly unperturbed given WE's lack of heavy magic burst damage outside Karma's Soulflare and Inner Flame.
The later the game got, the harder it was for WE to gather and force Young Miracles off objectives. Hecarim and Twitch could easily get at them and use Twitch's Rat-ta-Tat-Tat! to quickly eliminate some of WE's squishy targets. This meant when WE eventually had to contest for Elder Dragon, they lost to YM's comp after being unable to close the game for a long period of time. YM being able to disengage from WE's poke at key moments in early and mid game proved crucial.
This looks much less like a "cute" comp than any of the former three, likely because though Young Miracles could no longer escape their group, they could at least split even with Snake and WE. Young Miracles nearly made the LPL at the end of Spring before losing two best of fives in Game 5. Perhaps they have a better chance this time around.
Kelsey Moser is a staff writer for theScore esports. You can follow her on Twitter.