NRG are fighting to stay in the #NALCS playoffs while TIP are in a slide trying to figure out how to play their comp in this patch. Both teams are trying to improve their shotcalling and perhaps more importantly, the little things (warding, namely) that set up the plays. Have to go with #NRGWin here.
Picks and Bans – The real story is the NRG draft of Gragas/Kogmaw followed by Tahm Kench/Janna, which means they are focused on keeping KonKwon alive. TIP are smart to follow first-pick Nidalee with Bard and Nautilus (removing a tank from the NRG lineup and adding a way to catch Kogmaw and Kalista/Viktor for range waveclear. Love NRG finishing with Orianna – she is such a good utility fighter, adds a shield for Kogmaw, and has both engage and disengage with the ult. She’s one of my favorite midlane champions to see or play with.
Early Game – Standard lane swap with 2 tower trades. By being faster, NRG shove the bot lane wave after their second tower take and head for Dragon. They get it but after an extended skirmish, TIP are able to respond by killing Impact (GBM missed his ult). Now that Dragon does not give gold, early Dragons are a bust unless you have significant CS advantages elsewhere. At 31:00, TIP, with a level and TP advantage, call the bot lane tier 2 and get it. On the way out, Mash is caught by the Gragas ult and TIP tunnel hard to save him. They actually do and turn a kill on KonKwon but don’t respect the shockwave enough, losing the fight 1-2. That Orianna! Still, TIP have a turret lead, a path to the bot lane inhib, and a Nautilus that is far ahead of Impact’s Tahm Kench. They just can't let Kogmaw continue to feed (out-CSing Kalista by a significant margin).
36:15 – TIP are smart to split Feng out and roam with the rest of the team. After a few sojourns through the jungle, getting Dragon and Rift Herald (for Mash?) on the way, they meet in mid lane where they catch LOD and almost kill him. Their main source of damage gone, it’s a lost fight for NRG and they are smart to shove the mid turret. They now completely control vision of the middle of the map.
38:15 – Impact looks caught but a big shockwave from GBM gets NRG back in the game. They are also able to clean up Pirean in the midlane using the Kench ult. Impact is starting to catch up in items given his low-econ build and Kogmaw still has a lead on on Kalista. With no Pirean, NRG should shove mid lane back and they do.
The next few minutes were a disaster for NRG. TIP maintain vision of the NRG red side allowing them to shove top and mid a bit at a time. They rotate between the lanes and eventually take both 2nd tiers. Facing a big gold deficit, NRG try a desperate Baron without sufficient vision control and they are caught in the pit for a 0-3 fight and Baron loss. I know Kogmaw shreds Barons but it felt like they were pressured into that play after losing a couple turrets. Analysts talk about warding all the time (and Dardoch mentioned in his Day 1 feature that warding doesn’t drop Nexuses), but this lead is almost exclusively a result of TIP’s control of vision in the river and the NRG red side. From here, TIP play smart by respecting the Kogmaw and slowly poking down the inhibitors. Another won fight at 56:40 gives them two inhibitors and that was basically the game. They play patiently by tugging NRG around the map.
TIP won the game off of comfort picks for Mash and Gate and a much improved performance from Feng on perhaps the safest champion in the current patch. They did a better job shotcalling than NRG, which could not accomplish anything with the Kogmaw despite an early lead and early power spike. NRG were caught between plays multiple times and picked a terrible time (first Baron) to be decisive. This is not a good performance for a team trying to make noise in the playoffs. TIP are not going to get comfort picks forever but they have to be encouraged by their cohesion and improved gamesense they displayed in this victory.