Picks and Bans – IMT go with the standard wave-clear focused pressure team with Irelia top and Nidalee jungle. Can they accelerate the game fast enough? They have good zone control but I wonder if the lack of a tank will hurt them. NV respond with a lot of late-game scaling – and boy do they have it with Ezreal/Ryze. The pull a do-si-do with Ryze flexed top, Trundle at support (love) and Karma in the mid lane. I’m just worried that they’ll struggle controlling the waves against the best team in America at pressure.
Early game – WP by NV. A sneaky lane swap puts IMT on the back foot and then Hakuho steals red away from Reignover and Huni. He had bullied Reignover so low that he had to smite early for health. Overall, they do a fantastic job pushing Reignover out and preventing him from taking over the jungle – Procxin stays even with him through 15 minutes. And yet when Immortals group mid at 32:20, they have all lanes pushed, LOD is off in the top lane alone, and it’s an easy play for IMT to call. The kill on Hakuho was just icing. And then the smart macro play kicks in again – instead of staying around and trying to take the turret 5v3, they back, clear the top lane, and all the work LOD put in goes to waste. The only thing going for them are two dragons and a misplay by IMT when they let Rift Herald despawn.
39:00 – An extended trade around this turret is won by NV 2-1 (could have been more for either side), but Immortals get the turret. More importantly, even though NV have some items on their carries, they still can’t quite one-shot Immortals when grouped. And look again at the side lanes – everything is pushing for IMT.
46:00 – This is a nasty habit that IMT have to break (and really almost eveyr NALCS team). Look at the map. Outside a solitary ward around Baron, there is precious little vision anywhere for Immortals. NV too have almost no vision, but for some wards in their blue side jungle. This will get you killed and that’s exactly what happens – Reignover and Pobelter face check, get jumped, and an extended teamfight ends in an Ace and a Baron for NV. That will crack the code. They now have a compositional advantage and with the Baron buff, they push down the midlane inhibitor turret.
56:00 – NV are playing this very nicely – they try to bait Baron; this is the second attempt. But then Ninja walks too far forward and is locked down and deleted! And then Immortals wait around, sustain for a bit, and get a free Baron. NV had such control of vision, why are they face checking in the IMT jungle? That’s Elder Dragon for IMT too. Now IMT can use the minions as a meat shield and walk in. And that healing. They can just sustain for days behind the minions and take the game. One mistake. That’s what happens when you play a team this good.
Which of these two teams can correct their vision mistakes? The jungles were dark for much of that game and that just can’t continue. I don’t think either team necessarily have to do much differently, other than more CC for Procxin. I know Rek’Sai is a god tier champion right now, but for the life of me, I don’t understand why Elise isn’t more of an option.
Picks and Bans – Interesting that Nidalee is such a priority for IMT. The Ryze ban was nice respect for Seraph, but that leaves a lot up. NV go back with Karma, which I question a bit. Then again, they were in control of Game 1, so maybe they shouldn’t change much. IMT then go Jinx with Braum – ok! She can be bullied in lane and Ezreal (who NV grab) has a very safe lane phase, but if she gets rolling, look out. And IMT can play around her – Azir will stand strong against Varus in the mid lane and if they can get a swap, they should be okay having Reignover camp the duo lane. That’s not their typical strat, but you can’t snowball Huni every game.
Early Game – IMT have to swap lanes and get the wards they need. I’m a big disappointed that NV don’t try some cheesy walk to lane to try and avoid the wards and guess the swap. IMT go with an interesting invade start in the NV jungle which gets them an extra buff later on. Instead of standard lanes, IMT proceed with an interesting strat to accelerate the pace and push mid – they know NV just want to scale and can’t let them get as comfortable as last game. That strat has risks - at 15:30, an enormous Varus ult kills Huni, but they get the turret down at 17:30 (along with a few kills). NV chase down for some kills but the map is open and IMT get a Mountain Drake for free.
22:40 – Look what you can do with vision! IMT have two wards in the NV blue side and a ward at the red buff, so they feel confident TP’ing in and chasing through for 2 kills. That’s another turret for IMT who have 5 outers down while NV only have the 2 from the lane swap. They do it again at 28:45 – Seraph is trying to split push on Trundle, but IMT will have none of that. Another TP from Huni, 4 kills for nothing for IMT, and the game is all but over.
Or is it? NV do a fantastic job holding up at their base and contesting the next few neutral objectives, but the gold lead and pressure advantage still favors IMT. NV just can’t set up the methodical 1-4 split and they could never get the lanes past the halfway mark. Over-dives and a lost Baron fight at 38:00 are worrying for IMT fans, but the teamfight loss under their turret at 42:15 is a disaster! We’re back in it! Huni tried to lock down LOD, but his ult and Pobelter’s ult just miss and LOD picks up several kills and an Ace. Huni has to TP and sacrifice his life just to stop the Baron. Even gold. They try to bait Baron, but are pushed off and Huni/WildTurtle get Elder Dragon for free. After some baiting around, IMT grab Baron in like 10 seconds.
49:00 – If I’m an NV fan, I’m encouraged by this defense at the inhibitor turret. They burned a lot of IMT cooldowns and almost pushed them off the turret altogether. IMT are too good though and get the inhibitor, but I don’t think the average NALCS team could get the inhibitor without losing someone. Another strong defense at the top lane inhibitor turret (51:30) is equally impressive but they still lose the turret. These fights are so close.
55:45 – IMT with supers in mid and pushing waves, bait Baron. Adrian takes a ton of damage and is blown away. It’s an extended 3-1 for NV who push for the mid lane turret. Turtle and Reignover 2-man the Baron and they go down too! It’s a Baron and Elder Dragon for NV! Can this be what they need to close the game? They need to get an inhibitor on this push.
59:00 – NV are sieging in the bot lane, but Huni is backdooring the inhibitors! One inhib goes down, another goes down, but NV choose to stay in the IMT base! 1 Nexus turret goes down, Adrian goes down, Reignover is SO LOW! NV have blown all their cooldowns though and need to be careful. Another nexus turret goes down but an Azir turret is up. But Procxin dives onto Turtle instead of staying with his own ADC! Huni claws in and picks up LOD and Hakuho with his ult and all of a sudden, it’s Seraph and Ninja alone! Instead of hitting the nexus, Ninja turns onto Pobelter, who Zhonya’s with a smallest sliver of health. The nexus goes below half but Immortals hold! That’s it!
NV fans should be encouraged - coming out of a fantastic ending to the Spring Split, they have shown that they belong as a major contender. They had chances to win both games, even when things seemed snowballing out of control, which is extremely hard to do. They need to continue to get better playing as a team - Immortals are free to make a lot of big plays because they all know what to do individually to set the team up for those plays. But when the map shrinks and the objectives and calls get a little easier (that last nexus bungle aside), they've shown good mechanics and ability to read the meta. As for Immortals - yeah, they're hard to stop when everyone is diving appropriately. A lot of beating them is luck since you need to string together several winning plays together to put them in a bad position. Their strengths from the spring are carrying over and if they can continue to read the meta correctly and find comps that work, they'll be tough for anyone to handle.