Thursday, June 30, 2016

LoL Analysis: NALCS 2016 Summer, TSM vs CLG (Week 1)

Yes, I know, I'm behind. I've been working on a few projects for other sites, but have notes dating back to Week 1. Let's get to it!

CLG bring back the same lineup that took it to the rest of the world at MSI. Can they continue to play around Stixxay like they did? Or will nerfs to ADCs and other changes force them to go back to more Darshan play? Either way, at the beginning of the split, this team must have had high hopes for the rest of the year.

TSM on the other hand struggled through week after week of inconsistency in Spring 2016 before turning on the jets in the playoffs and giving CLG a very close series. Although they lost star support Yellowstar (one of my favorites) I actually think they'll be quite good in this split. Bora struggled to fit in with Doublelift, was an ineffective shot caller at times, and couldn't quite adapt his champion pool to the ranged support meta. Biofrost is an unproven challenger player, but I think that benefits TSM in that they can possibly mold him into a better fit. Of course, that puts shot-calling at a premium, so it will be interesting to see how cohesive this team is beyond 10 minutes.

Oh, and #BO3 in the #NALCS! Hype!

Game 1

Early game – CLG camp the duo lane to get Stixxay ahead (smart), but that leaves Bjergsen 1v1 against Huhi, a colossal mismatch. Bjergsen continually zones continually Huhi with well-placed bombs, setting up a successful dive at 33:00 when Huhi walks away from his turret and his support. It's pretty inexcusable for Xmithie to not be there - they had just seen Sven contesting his blue, Bjergsen was shoving a lane without a ton of vision, it's either a gank or a counter.

36:20 – Pressure in all lanes allow TSM to roam and Huhi is a dead again. TSM are making well-coordinated cross-map plays, a rarity in the Spring Split. Of course, they cede a few kills back (oh TSM), but overall, they are running CLG around the map. I did not expect that, especially with a new support. They have vision for their plays and are moving together. Impressive. 

44:30 – Not sure what Huhi is expecting. They see Doublelift in the top lane pushing. They just saw Biofrost in their red side jungle clearing Rek’Sai tunnels, and other than one ward in the river, have no vision of this quarter of the map. What is he doing in the jungle away from everything? Why even Flash!? That’s a free turret and 3/0/1 on Lucian vs. a 0/1/0 Ezreal.

56:20 – Acceptable all-in risk from CLG to try this Baron. They just don’t have the damage, lose the teamfight 0-4, and that’s the game.

TSM won because Svenskeren camped their strongest matchup, Bjergsen’s Zilean into Huhi’s Viktor, and catapulted Bjergsen to a fairly massive lead. That freed up the rest of the map, with Doublelift and Biofrost free to make plays and Hauntzer left alone a lot in lane. Huhi got caught time after time and it was a fairly straightforward game after that. 

Game 2

Early Game – Strong lane pressure in a second straight game allows TSM to 3-buff CLG. Darshan gets back into the game with an aggressive double Doran’s start and aphromoo does well to to fend off an Elise gank in the bot lane – Rek’Sai will eventually scale much better than Elise. But the kills for TSM start at 22:00 as Svenskeren turns a TP flank around to take out Darshan. Bjergsen shows Huhi what the Viktor ult can do as he catches 3 CLG members in a choke. It feels like CLG are consistently on the back foot of these plays.

26:20 – This is what CLG need! The punish Biofrost and Doublelift for overstaying and turn around another TSM initiation at 28:40 for a messy teamfight win and Infernal Drake steal. Darshan finally gets going on Fiora and takes a free turret. Then win another disjointed fight at 36:30 – after losing Xmithie on a terrible overreach and deciding to go back on the Drake with no jungler. Huhi is left to die, but TSM are low and Stixxay picks up a Double Kill, giving Xmithie time to ult back into the fight and get Bjergsen. Oh and they got the Drake.

41:30 – It's encouraging to see CLG fight their way back but they still haven't solved their core problem: Hauntzer is huge. Nobody can match him 1v1 and that allows TSM to set up the superior split push. Once Xmithie leaves the jungle, their vision is gone. I really don’t know what they were trying to accomplish here as the tower was almost certainly not going to fall. Hauntzer rips through the entire team and TSM get Baron.

CLG are actually able to survive the first Baron buff with a strong teamfight win, but Hauntzer is just massive. He keeps everyone off his carries, dives appropriately, and sets up the Ace that finishes the series. I agree with Pastrytime – he has basically outplayed Darshan and CLG at their own game. He had a stronger lane phase and never looked back. And the rest of the team – they were together on calls, a notable weakness in the Spring Split, and Biofrost looks to have much better synergy with Doublelift than Yellowstar did for much of the last split.

Final Thoughts

As we've seen since this first game, CLG's struggles weren't just a fluke. The changes to the meta have required them to make big changes to their style of play, and Darshan just hasn't gotten back to that level of player that he can card carry the team. Stixxay has been fine, but is not the star he was at MSI, free hitting behind tanks. And critically, they give up so much map pressure via the mid lane that it's hard to imaging them playing an effective split push. You can solve some of that with a TP midlaner, but do they really trust Huhi to make the right call?

As for TSM, sure they made mistakes, but their mistakes were not punishing, they dove accordingly, and most importantly, they controlled the pace and map in both games. That is the type of coordination that leads to teamfight wins, and was so often missing for them in the Spring. Their execution wasn't always perfect, but the shot-calling was sharp, and we can only assume it will continue to improve.

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