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Monday, April 18, 2016

LoL Analysis: 2016 NALCS Spring Split Playoffs, IMT vs TL (Game 1)

I wrote a preview of this series on SB Nation’s new LoL blog, The Rift Herald. In it, I noted that the matchup was basically a statistics question: sample size and recency bias. We have a huge sample of Immortals dominating NALCS teams, including two games against Team Liquid where TL were unable to get to 30 minutes. On the other side, we have the most recent results: an IMT loss to Team SoloMid where they looked completely lost in the pick/ban phase and were dominated at nearly every position, vs a TL loss to Counter Logic Gaming where Liquid at times looked very much like the best team in NA. Recency bias can be dangerous at predictions, however, and I went with #IMTWin in 4 as I felt they would be able to read the meta and read Liquid a bit better. Also, I trusted their ability to consistently shot call as a team more in a Best of 5 setting.


Picks and Bans – Already a very different draft from IMT, who have had a week to think about their loss to TSM. Azir is first-picked by Pobelter and does a lot to counter top lane AP tanks. The downside – Fenix is a VERY good Azir player and picking it this early gives him a chance to counter (see TSM vs C9). TL smartly take Ekko/Graves for aggression there, but I’m worried about a lack of CC and hard engage. Can Lourlo hit on the convergence? Is there CC from other areas coming? IMT go Elise/Kalista for a strong duo and CC/tank jungle. Then TL go to Bard/Caitlin – pretty standard as well, and there is that CC that chains very well with Ekko. If the can land a few combos, this could be a very strong teamfight comp -- IF Matt and Lourlo can land their skill shots. Gragas/Janna for IMT – there is the tank for Huni and further disengage. TL finish with LeBlanc – Fenix is a very good Azir player and this mid lane matchup is fascinating.


Early Game – IMT swap WildTurtle out of the straight matchup. At 22:45, both Huni and Reignover get caught in the Parallel Convergence (Lourlo smartly cast it from a bush), Huni body slams a minion, and it’s First Blood for Dardoch. Very good start against Reignover. Then at 24:30, TL try to invade the IMT red like they saw Svenskeren do again and again. Adrian spots it and IMT rotate faster – there’s that shot calling advantage. Dardoch and Matt exit through the pit but what is Lourlo doing? After being late multiple times against CLG, he roams preemptively, flashes AND ults into 3 members without backup. And the target was Adrian! TL then try to save Lourlo rather than give him up for dead and an ingenious cask from Huni kills Matt AND blows Dardoch into the team. The fight goes 3-1 to Immortals. Dardoch roams up top for a kill on Huni a couple minutes later, and strangely, the solo lanes are going for TL while the duo is in IMT’s favor. I like this for IMT a little more – I still trust Turtle as a carry more than Lourlo.

32:40 – Good read by Liquid. IMT are the ones that opted into the lane swap and long lanes to protect Turtle. This is the price to doing that and still trying to execute their pressure across lanes: Huni on a low-mobility tanky top laner pushed far in lane. He doesn’t have vision of Dardoch and this is an easy gank until Lourlo almost dies to the turret (second straight time), ulting out at the last second. Adrian, WildTurtle, and Reignover try  to chase but Matt’s Bard play has been sooo good. Adrian is blown away and Dardoch is now getting big on Graves. At some point, even without a tank, TL can siege behind Caitlin/Bard and blow up anyone that tries to get to Piglet.

34:30 – Fenix tries to blow up Adrian but Janna lives with a sliver of health. WildTurtle then ults Adrian back in to die immediately, but they stop Liquid from running. Huni goes down to Dardoch but Liquid are scattered and Turtle kills two. Then from OVER THE WALL, 2 sand soldiers from Pobelter skewer Piglet AND Matt! Fenix lives but what a Q from Azir!

36:10 –  IMT are so strong confident they are just baiting. Not know they are on a ward, TL dive Reignover but Fenix is cocooned immediately and Turtle is there while Piglet is in the top lane alone. IMT use a lot but Huni picks up a kill on Fenix, who’s yet to really impact the map with LeBlanc. IMT head to Baron and at 38:15, it looks like Liquid have it sniffed out: they catch IMT in a choke with only WildTurtle on the outside. But where is the team? It’s only Matt and Dardoch! Despite absorbing the Graves ult, Turtle takes out Matt and the team arrive to kill Dardoch. They don’t get Lourlo but they do get Baron.

39:45 – TL do the same thing that TSM did and trap Immortals in a bush. Check the bushes! That erase the Baron power play altogether. Then Huni gets killed in the Baron pit and the Baron play ends negative! TL take the mid turret and go 4-0 in kills and 1-0 in turrets against Baron. Maybe they should bait IMT into taking it again? I kid, I kid. At, 42:40 Immortals roam into the TL jungle at precisely the wrong time for Piglet. Huni TPs around and kills him, then Pobelter sacrifices himself to ult all of Liquid into a maelstrom of damage. Only Lourlo and Fenix live with their ability to blink out of fights, with Lourlo being late to yet another fight. This should be an inhibitor and it is. This game is over.

It turns out TL didn’t pick the right comp for this game. All of their late damage was on Piglet, which is fine, but they didn’t have the right people around the Caitlin. All the counter picks make sense in a vacuum, but as a team, TL didn’t have enough strong initiation for fights outside of Bard (and Matt’s bard was again, fantastic) or notable disengage at all. They needed to accelerate the game, and while the turret trades helped, Lourlo never got to the point where he was a substantial split-push threat and Piglet was flat out-played by WildTurtle. He never recovered from the early kills IMT gave to their ADC. A deficit at the most important position combined with a low-scaling comp made the late game much easier for IMT.t

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