Friday, January 22, 2016

League of Legends: 2016 LCK, SKT T1 v. CJ Entus (Week 1, Day 1)

I can't claim to be a League fan and not write about how the World Champions are doing in Korea. So far, in EU and NA, we've seen a very lane-focused meta where turrets are much more valuable than neutral objectives. While Riot has tried to push the pace of games, in some instances, the de-emphasizing of neutral objectives and lack of vision have made teams play a more defensive midgame. I'm very curious to see how the best team in the world are playing the meta.

I'm also interested in SK Telecom T1 because, unlike most champions in the past, they've managed to keep 4 of their 5 Worlds starters on the team. It's a huge weakness of eSports that stars and teams don't stay together - the NBA can bank on LeBron and the NFL can bank on Peyton Russell Wilson for years. The last dynastic in eSports is probably Flash on Starcraft Broodwar. But Faker is starting a nice little run of his own and I'm glad SKT has kept the team in place to contend for another title. Of course, the guy they lost was pretty important - MaRin was not only the MVP of Worlds, he was the teams shot caller (and darn good one). Can Duke give the team a presence in top lane as they head into the Spring Split?

Their first matchup was a pretty friendly one in a young CJ Entus squad. But as we saw when SKT and Tigers went home from Worlds, competition in Korea is always tough and even the best teams can never take winning for granted.

SKT T1 vs. CJ Entus, Game 1

  • This meta really punishes teams that don't get vision since it's harder to get and fighting for positioning is more important. Bubbling and MadLife gave up first blood to SKT because of lack of vision in the bot side river.
  • As the caster’s indicated, Faker's Corki (!) bullied Sky's Twisted Fate in lane forcing the teleport out of him to get back in lane twice. First TP led to second kill of the game to SKT - Bubbling was down bot, no mid support meant Untara should have played safer but instead went into the jungle to clear wards. It seems in this meta, unless you have a clear plan to support the lane and get to your item spike, you're going to struggle. TF's global pressure early in the game in theory helps dive the other lanes... but does not help his own.
  • Bubbling consistently tried to gank bot because Tahm Kench is so hard to kill. Would have needed TF ultimate or TP to pressure top, but not able to get the global pressure.
  • CJ's gank at 16:45 (in YouTube time) was well conceived but does not earn a kill. They headbutt and arrow Bang, but Wolf pulls him out and tanks the damage before Kalista ult pulls him out. Sky ults in way too far and Bengi blows him up almost immediately. CJ had a 4v3 but made a good decision not to chase with Faker on the move. SKT is ahead mechanically and it's just a joy to watch Bang and Wolf play Kalista and Thresh - they play so well off each other. CJ eventually caught Bang, but Kalista/Thresh saved each other more than a few times.
  • 3rd kill for SKT was due to Sky not freezing the lane correctly while Faker went to base. With Corki getting the payload and SKT with the lead – have to play more carefully. Again, mechanics.
  • SKT’s dominating vision position allowed them to aggressively push mid and bot, but CJ did a good job clearing to set up the well-executed gank at 23:20.
  • SKT played the meta well – they got a dragon but otherwise focused on shoving lanes and taking towers. Vision was focused on the CJ jungle focused on lanes, not neutral objectives.
  • Big fight starting at 25:38 was won by SKT because Wolf, Duke, and Bengi did a fantastic job keeping CJ off of Faker and Bang; Sky was dead and Kramer was unable to find the right angle to engage the back line. CJ was really scattered and couldn’t focus damage despite getting Faker so low. Bubbling and Kramer were really zoned out of the fight and I'm not sure why Bubbling flashed over the dragon pit and walked around, doing now damage the entire time.
  • CJ did well in the 27:50 fight around Baron - Untara died but did a great job CC’ing SKT, giving his carries room and stopping the Baron. CJ did a good job learning from their mistakes intragame and fought well through a big deficit.
  • The last real fight at 30:30 was just SKT having a huge gold advantage and CJ unable to kill Rek'Sai or Kench. Bengi baited the whole team in and SKT had them surrounded. Not much CJ could have done.
SKT T1 vs. CJ Entus, Game 2

  • Game 1 was basically an SKT squad that got to stay together (minus Marin) for an entire offseason vs. a green and not yet coordinated CJ team.
  • Not sure what Bengi was doing giving up first blood. Bubbling successfully invaded without his buff while the top and mid were pushing, Bengi should have given it up. CJ improved a lot coordinating in the lane phase.
  • CJ set up 3-4 ganks really well in building a 5 kill and 3 k gold lead by 18 minutes (game time). Bubbling did a great job of protecting his carries while Wolf and Duke were unable to keep Bang alive.
  • It felt like SKT was fine with a deliberate pace for Duke to get tanky and their itemization to catch up. CJ’s early ganks didn’t really lead to major objectives or help them rush their power spike. When SKT's items came up, they zoned CJ out of 2 towers and a dragon in quick succession (fight started at 31:50). It really seems that this meta focuses around midgame and CJ was unable to extend their early advantage.
  • SKT’s next won fight came as Bubbling and Sky tunneled a little too deep trying to blow up Faker and were caught by CC from all sides. Again, a good concept, but Faker just kited too well and Wolf did well protecting him. This would likely have been a draw at best even had they insta-killed Faker, but it’s encouraging that they were able to make aggressive calls and almost pull them off. 
This series was about SKT's superior coordination, understanding of the meta, and fantastic team play from a group that have been through the fire together. As for CJ, they should be proud of how they learned from their mistakes and improve both in-game and betwen games. They were able to make plays on the SKT carries in the second game but just weren't coordinated enough to keep up pressure and vision long enough. 

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