Growing up, I was a baseball fan. My father – in his childhood – was a fanatic. My father did it all: Collecting cards, scoring games, playing elaborate statistics games at home on his bedroom floor while the Yankees played on the radio; or playing stickball in the street with his friends. For our fathers’ generation and many before; baseball was life – America’s Game. As I got older and began to understand and appreciate the game, I watched my father’s love of baseball erode before my very eyes. As I grew to enjoy the sport, my dad seemed to lose interest. I asked him once why his childhood passion was no longer a source of happiness for him, and he grew wistful in his response. He recounted that even though he and his friends liked other sports – they were all big football, hockey and basketball fans too – baseball was special because it was the only sport where kids and adults alike could look down on the field and think: “I could do that”. Baseball players were not the enormous superhuman athletes who dominated other sports – they seemed like average guys; some were short or fat, some wore glasses and had names like “Mick” and “Ernie”. Baseball was on every day and night, it was a sport where 30% success is considered all-pro. Baseball was the most accessible sport, the closest thing to ownership that a fan could feel for a game.
Time passed, and in 1998 I watched my Yankees win 114 games. I held my breath with the rest of the country as two superheroes competed to break the holy grail of sports records: the single season home run record. Though it’s 15 years in the past now, more than any other summer I feel like I can remember every day of 1998, watching news reports and catching front page headlines to see if McGwire or Sosa had pulled ahead.
10 years later as I watched these heroes stand accused of cheating on the floor of Congress, I understood why my father lost his love of baseball. Baseball was no longer the pastoral, blue-collar game he grew up watching and feeling a part of. Today’s players were now like those from other sports – gigantic finely tuned super athletes. Gone were the Babe Ruths and the Joe DiMaggios who reminded starry eyed kids of themselves, replaced instead with the likes of Alex Rodriguez and Barry Bonds: guys with multi-million dollar contracts and crates of steroids. Baseball was no longer a game for average men and boys, and that fact killed the love of the game my father and his generation previously held on to.
When Season 3 of League of Legends began this winter, I was struck by the synergy of the ranked ladder system for average players who wanted a tangible measurement of their improvement relative to top-level professional competition. Suddenly I found myself queuing for ranked matches on weekdays and tuning in to pro games on the weekends – two things which I’d never really done before. I saw guys just like me playing my favorite game at the highest level and found myself thinking: “I could do that”. Just like the kids in the street playing stickball and dreaming of being Ted Williams, professional League seemed accessible to me, I felt a greater connection to the game than I do with say, football. With League of Legends attracting record numbers of viewers, even mainstream media outlets are wondering: is this America’s new sport? MLG Dallas saw 2.6 million unique viewers, not a record high for e-sports, but what’s impressive is the “engagement time” – the average viewing time for MLG Dallas was around 150 minutes, much higher than the Super Bowl averages.
In some ways, the inter-connectivity provided by the web and the forward thinking team at Riot have created an environment in which a competitive spectator game can be enjoyed by fans all over the world in new, unprecedented ways. While traditional sports struggle to move into the 21st century weighed down by massive T.V. contracts and blackout restrictions, League and games like it enjoy a much more open experience for fans. Games are streamed all over the world for free. Replays are available on demand the moment the game begins – for free, and most importantly, Riot and other major games manufacturers encourage fans and sites (like allMIA) to cover their pro leagues. When we post match highlights, we’re able to bring you links directly to key moments in the broadcast in a way that a Hockey or Football blog simply can’t, due to NFL and NHL restrictions.
Our pros stream every day, connecting with the fanbase in a way that major sports just can’t. The game we play is the same game our pros play, and the dream that one day we’ll work our way up to the “challenger” tier, and qualify for a pro team is real and tangible, and it drives us ever closer to the game we love. As major American sports continue to alienate themselves from fans with bloated contracts, blackout restrictions, endorsements and lawsuits, companies like Riot offer a more attractive alternative. Consider this: 10 years ago, would you have ever pictured a scenario where you watched other people play video games with the enthusiasm that you watch “real sports”? I know I didn’t. Imagine where we might be in 10 years from now. We’re witnessing history, and even better – we can be a part of it. The NA and EU LCS first-half seasons wrap up in a few short weeks, will you tune in to see the future of competitive sports? Leave us a comment or tweet to us @ill_monstro_g – tell us what you think about the growth of e-sports and where we’re going as a community.
With Gambit Gaming on their bye week and in international competition at MLG Dallas for week 5, the other 7 EU teams had a week to shake things up without the dominant Russian squad around to spoil things. Without the competition of Alex Ich and his team, Fnatic took advantage in a big way, picking up wins in all 3 of their matchups, propelling them to a first place spot in the EU division. Former CLG.eu squad Evil Geniuses continued to toil with mixed results. Almost mirroring their former sister team’s struggles in the NA division this week, EG continues to play close games which seem to get away from them in the end. Froggen came out in an interview recently, expressing frustration with his team’s performance and stating that the playstyle which brought EG past success is no longer effective in the game’s current state, and that his team would have to adapt to survive. Froggen’s comments seem eerily similar to Doublelift’s frustrated remarks about the ADC role after CLG’s disappointing start to the NA season.
With some of the top teams in the world struggling to adapt to new strategies and team comps in Season 3, it would stand to reason that newer teams have an edge and should be rising; and yet like the bottom 4 NA teams, the bottom half of the EU standings continues to be populated with newer, less decorated teams. Wolves, GIANTS!, Dragonborns and Against all Authority all maintain sub .500 win percentages by continuing to trade wins with one another while consistently losing to the senior teams in the division (only bottom 4 team to beat a top 4 this week? aAa over SK). If top teams are still trying to adapt to Season 3 and new teams can’t seem to take advantage, what will it take to unseat a top pro team – and can whoever adapts best this season compete with the top Korean teams who continue to dominate on the international stage? Come back to allMIA later this week as we look ahead to week 6 EU and NA action and discuss some practical methods for western viewers to catch games in the top Asian leagues whose seasons begin soon.
Shh. Don’t speak. First watch this video.
That was CLG.EU (now Evil Geniuses) playing Moscow 5 (now Gambit Gaming) at Dreamhack 2012 this past summer. The kill spread may not seem like much to us average players, but take a look at the gold lead the Russian team has on CLG.EU – over 24,000 gold. Thats 7 and 1/2 Bloodthirsters. That’s 850AD (with max stacks). GG. Except… not. CLG sticks together, makes a play and takes the nexus for the win, down 24,000 gold.
It’s funny that these two little letters have so many different meanings and applications to gamers, yet usually we can tell exactly what they mean given context. Of course “good game” is meant to be a sportsmanlike affirmation of a friendly competition – the equivalent of a Baseball team shaking hands with their opponents after a game. Despite its intended meaning, GG has come to mean so much more to the summoners of League of Legends. Over time, it has morphed into shorthand for “the game is over” as a frustrated imperative. Players say “gg” after a bad team fight, following first blood or sometimes as early as champion select when – for example – a summoner doesn’t get the role they want to play.
“gg i cant play support”
“gg mid feeding”
“gg no jungle help”
“gg support KS”
These are all uttered by summoners around the Rift every day and has become a continually growing problem in League of Legends. “GG” said to teammates before a nexus is destroyed signals that a summoner has given up and will not play as effectively – or worse – when attached to a slew of insults (“gg top is noob, uninstall kthx”) demoralizes a teammate who is already (presumably) behind and in need of help, not insults.
Sometimes, a summoner will spout “gg my team sux” in [ALL] chat which is perhaps the most destructive abuse of the term. If signaling to the team that a summoner has given up is bad, imagine what happens when the enemy team sees that their opponent has given up.
To me, abusing “gg” is one of the most destructive habits exhibited by League of Legends summoners. Some summoners argue that the game they’re playing is hopeless, but saying “gg” prematurely accomplishes absolutely nothing except upsetting others, which should never be your goal. If you find yourself wanting to hurt another player, if you want to make someone else feel bad because they aren’t good at the game, or because they make mistakes; you are the reason you lose games. A player who is making mistakes can be taught to make smarter plays. A summoner with a mean streak who is so competitive that they berate their team at the slightest misshap can’t be taught to behave like a human being and will always reduce their team’s chances of success.
If you think of yourself as super competitive – and use that as an excuse to play angry – consider that truly competitive players always want to give themselves the best chance to win the game; this means never doing anything that reduces their chances of winning. You may feel that there is nothing you can do to improve your chances to win… but you can always make it worse. Don’t. Every game you play has something to teach you. Look for the lesson – even when your team throws – and you might just learn how to play from behind.
If you want to learn how to win a game that seems lost, take a look at our article covering game 3 of the IEM Hanover 2013 Grand Final (VOD). CJ Entus Blaze’s play in game 3 shows how a team should play when losing the early game if they want to make a comeback. While the rando-pubstars you’re matched up with in Silver III solo-queue may not exactly be Korean mega-stars, every game you’re losing is a chance to practice the kinds of plays and strategies which help turn around losing games. Don’t give up. Don’t blame your team. Don’t say GG until it’s really GG.
Game 3 of the IEM Hanover Grand Final between CJ Entus teams Blaze and Frost was the rubber game of a 1-1 tie for the two Korean sides whose play in the first two games was ferocious. At first it seemed as though these teams were backing off of their early aggressive play-style until Frost revealed the first trick up their sleeve. MadLife – still on his Lulu – buys an early red potion and sits in the forward bush in top lane with Woong’s Ezreal and Shy’s Singed. Flame, playing the Elise that Shy played so well in game 1 wanders into lane when the trap is sprung for First Blood. Not one to let a gank go unanswered, Helios – on Vi – hooks around the bottom side of middle lane and with one well placed Vault Breaker brings the kill score even onto RapidSTAR’s Lux. Almost simultaneously though, MadLife, Woong and CloudTemplar – on Volibear – secure a second kill on Elise again bringing Frost ahead on kills. With the First Blood gold, Frost looks very good early up 500 gold on their sister-team. Given the previous two games ending predictably after fast starts by each team, game 3 looks grim for Blaze already at just 4 minutes in-game-time. Frost’s advantage increases when MadLife and Woong, pushing bottom tower, stay a little too long. Blaze manages to catch MadLife and bring themselves just a bit back into the game until in turn Helios stays just a bit too long, leading to a highlight reel worthy play in which Frost lands not one but two flips on Cpt Jack’s Tristana giving Frost yet another kill. Frost, having timed the play very well gets to take the game’s first Dragon without a contest from Blaze.
After a rough early game for Blaze, they begin playing very cautiously and puts the focus on farming minions, a strategy which will pay dividends in the late game, especially with a Tristana who is so strong in the late period of the game. Blaze’s first big play to help climb back into the game comes with the second Dragon spawn. Frost manages to take down dragon but gives up 3 kills to Blaze, who close the gold gap a little. After the clash at the objective, Blaze continues to push lanes and carefully farm. It still appears that Frost has an enormous advantage as they manage to pick off two members of Blaze, increasing their gold lead to 3000. There is no further aggression from Blaze until Frost reaches out to flip Ambition’s Kha’Zix. At first it appears that Frost will take yet another kill off of Blaze, until Ambition quickly crushes Ezreal and leaps over the jungle wall to safety, leaving Lustboy’s Sona to Crescendo Frost, giving a double kill to Cpt Jack. It’s at this point in the game that it’s clear that Blaze’s wait and CS strategy has paid off, as Ambition has an 80 cs lead over his lane opponent, RapidSTAR. Additionally, Cpt Jack is – at this point – 20cs over opponent Woong. The disparity in gold for the key damage dealers in this matchup gives Blaze the advantage they need to run Frost over. The farm disparity is so great that the once 3000 gold advantage for Frost has completely melted away, giving Blaze a nearly 1000 gold advantage which helps lead to another team fight in which Blaze cleans up Frost 2-0.
Now with a huge gold lead, Ambition begins absolutely controlling the game by himself, soloing dragon. Blaze follows up on Ambition’s success by contesting and taking Baron. Frost is wise enough to back off of the Baron fight while they have the chance, taking no deaths but giving up a turret and red buff to Ambition. With these few plays, Blaze’s gold lead suddenly swells up to over 8000. By slowing the game down, farming and picking their fights Blaze has written the book on how to play from behind. Frost, now desperate to claw their way back into a game they once controlled begins to press Blaze’s inhibitor turret in middle lane, but over-commits and ends up losing a team fight they had no real chance of winning 2-4. Blaze proceeds to press their advantage, taking the match’s second Baron and an inhibitor. The final nail in Frost’s coffin comes when Frost double-flips Ambition which only pushes Kha’Zix past Frost’s front line where he easily picks up a triple kill and ends the game, demonstrating that Blaze’s gold advantage is just too much.
For us summoners who are trying to learn important lessons from the pro scene, we’ve learned two important things from Blaze’s play in this game:
1) A great way to counter a “flip” team composition like the Singed/Volibear comp Frost was running is to play a champion with great escapes and high burst damage like Kha’Zix. Ambition consistently positioned himself in front of his team, making him the only viable target for CloudTemplar and Shy to engage on. Once he was flipped, Ambition made short work of the carries he was being tossed into and jumped away before he could be killed himself. Ambition’s play of Kha’Zix not only shows why the void-bug is such a popular choice in pro-play right now, but also easily makes him the game’s MVP.
2) When playing from behind, as Blaze was early on in game 3, it’s imperative to stay calm, disengage and try to farm as much as possible. Once Frost was ahead, Helios showed none of the massive aggression which was so key to Blaze’s game 2 victory, instead Blaze forced nothing, farmed up and became so strong that by time team fights began mid-game, Frost had no chance to defeat them.
With the victory, Blaze sets up a 2-1 match point in this best-of-5 IEM Grand Final.
The fourth game of this best-0f-five is an elimination game for Frost who must win in order to force a game 5. The dire nature of their situation does not seem lost on Frost who begins the match by setting up a 3-man ambush in tribush on bottom lane. At first they back off of a potential fight at Blaze’s Elder Lizard camp, but then put a gank on Lustboy’s Sona in lane where Shy – on Singed – grabs First Blood. Frost appears ready to come out very aggressively, wanting to put this game away quickly as they did game 1. Blaze, realizing how aggressive Frost is playing and remembering their success in slowing down and controlling game 3 begins to play very defensively, focusing on farming and positioning. The first action we see after First Blood is when Flame takes top tower with very patient poking. Frost, wanting to speed the game back up with their aggressive strategy sends CloudTemplar to bottom lane to mirror some of the aggressive Vi play we saw from Helios earlier in the series. With a well executed, patient lane gank on Lustboy Frost picks up a 2-0 edge on kills. Almost simultaneously on top lane, Flame tries to chase and kill Shy who proves why rule number 1 is “don’t chase singed” as he escapes unharmed and nearly kills his lane opponent in the process.
Despite the 2-0 lead on kills, Blaze is farming better than Frost at 10:30 in-game-time with Flame up 25cs on Shy and Ambition up 15cs on RapidSTAR. Blaze’s patient, focused farming which was the key to their victory in game 3 and 1-0 turret advantage is once again paying off as they maintain a 1000 gold lead. Blaze – continuing with their patient strategy – drops a pink ward on Dragon and takes it uncontested, further increasing their gold lead to 2000. Frost – again needing to pull themselves back into contention from behind – starts playing even more aggressively with Shy teleporting to bottom lane for a gank, but a well timed Crescendo from Lustboy assures that Frost’s plans are foiled and Blaze can continue to farm safely with top lane now 30cs in favor of Blaze, mid and bot lane 10cs in favor of Blaze a piece. Frost, seeming frustrated by the cautious play of their sister-team responds to the failed gank on bottom lane by trapping Flame between RapidSTAR and CloudTemplar for the only the game’s third kill. It appears as though all of the roaming and waiting Frost is doing to set up these ganks is costing them in farm as despite the kill score being 3-0 Blaze is now up 2.5k gold.
A key play in this game 4 comes when Frost attempts to set up a fourth kill on Cpt Jack and Lustboy. Notice how Woong misses out on cs while he and MadLife wait for an opportune moment. Cpt Jack – who appears oblivious – is calmly farming, increasing his already large gold lead until the trap is sprung. A miss-play by Woong allows Cpt Jack to set up outside of the range of Bullet Time, where he can start pounding on Miss Fortune. Woong has to cancel his ult early and begin the retreat with low HP. With good communication, Blaze is able to bring Ambition – on Zed – down to bottom lane to pick up a double kill right on top of Frost’s bottom lane turret resulting in even more gold for Blaze and – crucially – even more missed farm for Woong. Frost is able to respond by catching Cpt Jack near red-side’s tri-bush and successfully chasing down Lustboy. Despite the retaliation from Frost, the double kill, extra farm, and a good response from Helios taking middle tower while Frost busily scrambles for kills, gives Blaze a now a 3000+ gold advantage over their sister team.
Frost – who was unable to play from behind previously in this series – suddenly jumps back into the game when the next contest for Dragon begins. Superior positioning leads RapidSTAR to pick up a triple kill with a fourth kill coming on Flame from Shy, giving Frost a 4-0 team fight victory and helping them close the gold gap down to under 1000 after grabbing the Dragon objective. Frost’s aggression does not end there as RapidSTAR leaps onto Ambition in middle lane while at the same time Shy and Cloud Templar pressure Flame on top lane. Blaze takes this opportunity to once again show off patience and superior positioning as Flame uses Repel effectively to shred Cloud Templar with his tower, turning the gank around into a 1-1 trade while in middle lane another tower dive goes wrong for Frost as Lustboy, Helios and Cpt Jack collapse on Ambition and CloudTemplar for a double kill and another turret. With the great response from Blaze, the gold lead once again opens up to 2.5k in favor of Blaze.
While Frost has – until now – been able to stay in the game, the balance of power tilts completely in Blaze’s favor when Frost – again trying to force a team fight with an ambush from the brush – doesn’t quite catch Blaze who successfully disengages, turning the team fight around the top corner of blue side’s bottom jungle. Lustboy – who to this point appears to be the game’s MVP – drops a perfectly placed Crescendo which leads to another 3-0 trade for Blaze, now up over 4000 gold on Frost. Unfortunately for Frost it’s late enough in the game that Blaze is also able to increase their gold lead to 5.5k by picking up Baron Nashor on the lopsided team fight.
The final team fight and win for Blaze comes when Frost tries to force another a fight they can’t win on Flame in middle lane. Flame outplays his sister team with a great Cocoon and Repel, melting RapidSTAR down, allowing Blaze to overwhelm Frost in their own base and to take the nexus for the game and series win, making CJ Entus Blaze IEM Hanover 2013 Grand Final champions with a series score 3-1.
With CJ Entus Blaze and Frost destroying the European competition in this IEM tournament, the story for the Season 3 World Championship becomes clearer. Can the North American and European teams find a way to stop the seemingly invincible stable of top Korean mega-teams? With top EU team Gambit Gaming losing in spectacular fashion to Frost in the semi-final while dominating the EU LCS it makes an e-sports fan wonder: how can a team like Coppenhagen Wolves or the under-performing former CLG.EU squad (who was shredded in the group stage at IEM Hanover) hope to compete on the international stage when the top team in the EU LCS gets pounded by a top Korean team who doesn’t even go on to win the Grand Final? How bad would it be if a team like Dragonborns (5th place in LCS) squared off against CJ Entus Blaze? For the answer, turn your eyes to Week 5 of the LCS where 5th place NA team Marn looks to climb into the top 4 and perhaps prove that “underdog” teams have a legitimate chance on the big stage. Check back this week for more coverage on professional League of Legends play when allMIA previews specific matches to watch in Week 5 of the League Championship Series!
After Frost avenged their Katowice Grand Final loss to Gambit Gaming in the IEM Hanover semifinal round and former Azubu “B-Team” Blaze tore up Anexis, these CJ Entus teammates face off against one another in the IEM Hanover Best-of-5 Grand Final. Which team will emerge from IEM Hanover as champions? Read ahead, but beware of spoilers!
Game 1 kicked off with former Azubu “A-Team” Frost showing why they were considered superior to their teammates Blaze as an early First Blood turns quickly into a 4-0 kill advantage for Frost. Before long, Frost holds a 1000 gold advantage for ADC Woong – on Ezreal – alone. By 7:30 in-game-time, Frost holds a total gold advantage of over 3000. The early advantage created by the tight play of Frost is not let up as an excellent play by MadLife – on Thresh – leads to another kill, bringing the total to 5-0 and the game’s first Dragon. From here, the game slows down a little as Blaze scrambles to protect what they have left. The next team fight results in 2 kills for Blaze… but 4 for Frost. As Shy – on Elise – chases Flame – on Nidalee – down to the Blaze interior turret on top lane, MadLife swings around from the top jungle creating a very loose fight full of chasing and late ignites. The tough fight for Blaze leads Frost to pick up yet another Dragon, further increasing their lead which by 15:30 in-game-time is over 7000 gold. Shy, who absolutely dominated Gambit in the Semifinal forcing Gambit to ban Singed in the last two games, was able to pick Elise (who was banned in all 3 contests with Gambit). With very accurate skillshots on Elise’s Cocoon and timely uses of Repel, Shy controlled game 1 very effectively, pushing top lane and drawing a ton of attention from Blaze. From this point in the game Frost continues to roll over Blaze, catching them out of position and forcing them into terrible situations, but it’s not until a very early uncontested 20-minute Baron Nashor that Frost puts the final nail in Blaze’s coffin who nearly immediately surrender after a completely dominant performance by Frost.
Blaze, now on blue side for game 2 starts by curiously not banning the Elise which so plagued them in game 1. After seeing Shy dominate the previous series and starting the Grand Final so effectively, it comes as a major surprise that Blaze chooses to skip on the Elise ban. Blaze does, however, pick two of Frost’s favorites in Singed and Lulu, leaving Frost to pick up Elise – but not for Shy. Instead, with Thresh banned and Lulu picked by Blaze, Frost elects to send the Elise pick to support player MadLife, while Shy picks Rumble for top lane. Like the final game of the semifinal, CloudTemplar ends up playing Skarner as a response to the Xin Zhao ban. These interesting picks and bans would end up having a major impact on the outcome of game 2, and eventually the entire series.
The game begins on a fairly typically with none of the crazy invades and tower-diving plays we’ve seen so frequently at Hanover this year. The only noteworthy development in the first 5 minutes is a lane swap where ADC and Supports for both teams face off in top lane with top laners in a 1v1 situation on bottom lane. The bottom lane 1v1 ends up being the stage for First Blood just around the 5 minute mark. A timely Vault Breaker and Flip from Helios and Blaze on Shy is quickly followed up by another kill from Blaze, putting the former “B-Team” up 2 kills to 1 early. The aggression on bottom lane doesn’t end there, when just moments later, Helios returns for a second gank on Shy who is more ready this time. Turning on Blaze, Shy secures the first kill of the game for Frost but eventually goes down to Helios’ Assault/Battery leaving the score 3-1 in favor of Blaze.
The story of game 2 ends up being the very effective play of Helios on Vi, who secures a third consecutive successful gank on bottom lane, killing Skarner after being pulled onto Frost’s tower. This play, more than any other might just prove that while Skarner is viable, Vi continues to be picked over him for the jungle role because her kit – while somewhat similar – simply packs more “punch”.
At 12 minutes in-game-time, Frost makes a move to close the kill gap, but remains several thousand gold behind. It’s at this point, as Blaze responds with a kill bottom and a tower dive and a second kill in mid lane that the game begins to look very grim for Frost.
Two consecutive fights over the Dragon objective help bring Frost back even with Blaze in kills, but after the second fight Blaze still maintains a nearly 5000 gold advantage, which proves simply too much for Frost who lets Blaze take Baron around 25 minutes nearly completely uncontested. It’s not until the second Baron of the game in which Frost pushes back, seemingly coming out ahead, when Flame crushes the Nexus turrets by himself with a full complement of super minions to end the game, evening the series up at 1-1. At the end of this game, I’m forced to wonder about the champion select choices of giving Elise to MadLife and not Shy who played the Spider Queen so effectively in game 1. Shy’s Rumble was simply not on par with the dominance he showed in game 1 as he was continually ganked and abused by Blaze jungler Helios.
SERIES TIED 1-1
After a spectacular performance by both teams in games 1 and 2, the series stands tied at 1 a piece. How did the series wrap up? You can check out the VODs here, or wait for part II of our full IEM Grand Final analysis tomorrow morning.
Picks, bans, early aggression and lane swaps were all central to the outcome of the hotly anticipated IEM re-match between BenQ Gambit (undefeated in IEM) and CJ Entus Frost, who were taken down by Gambit the last time these two teams faced off in the IEM Katowice Grand Final. This best-of-3 received extra international attention as a top European team competing at the peak of the EU LCS was facing off against a top Korean team. Would Gambit remain unbeaten in IEM competition, or would CJ Entus Frost prove once and for all that the Koreans were the teams to beat in the LoL pro scene? Read on, but beware of spoilers…
GAME 1 (VOD: IEM Semifinal GG/CJF Game 1)
A lot of interesting choices started off the best-of-3 semifinal between Russian team BenQ Gambit and rival South Korean team CJ Entus Frost. GG support player EDWARD, known for his Thresh play saw no ban from Frost. The Korean team seemed more concerned with the top lane play of Darien as bans against Renekton and Shen both came out from Frost. Likewise, GG misses an important ban, giving CJF top laner Shy his preferred champion: Singed. Predictably, Shy stepped up in game 1 to show the world exactly why Singed is getting a nerf. GG ADC Genja elected to go with a Miss Fortune pick, which would prove to be popular in the semifinal in general, taking ghost instead of flash perhaps for the synergy with MF’s movement speed passive. Additionally we’d see MadLife’s Lulu throughout the series, and both Xin Zhao and Kha’Zix represented throughout the series by both teams.
First blood came out for Gambit on a spectacular play on top lane which turned very bad for the Russians due to a quick response by CJF jungler CloudTemplar. Diamondprox – on Volibear – swings up to top lane to assist Darien – on Jax – whose health has dropped fairly low after some early trades with Shy’s Singed. A great flip from Volibear paired with a good Jax Counterstrike lead to first blood, but not before the ever popular Xin Zhao shows up to crash the party. CloudTemplar cleans up the low health Volibear and chases Jax through the brush, burning Jax’s flash but then responding with a flash of his own followed up with an Audacious Charge and the final hit on Three Talon Strike to turn the GG first blood into a double kill for Frost, plus a refreshed double buff on Xin Zhao and buff denial for the Russian side. From there, CloudTemplar wasn’t done; picking up Boots of Mobility, Xin Zhao was flying around the map ganking every lane and playing hyper aggressively. The tenacious play of CloudTemplar helped lead to a 7:25 objective as CJF pushes and takes mid tower, increasing the gold lead to upwards of 1,500 for Frost.
The first attempt for Gambit to get back in Game 1 was an early dragon that they ended up trading for top lane’s tower. The global gold from Dragon might have helped, if not for the continued aggressive play of Frost, who proceed to rotate down the map, nearly taking the interior turret in mid lane, before rotating further down to take the first bottom lane turret, making it 0-3 on turrets at just under 11 minutes, advantage: Frost. From here, the laning phase has collapsed, leading an underpowered Gambit into a dangerous team fighting mid-game. A lot of the problems which plagued Gambit in the laning phase become very apparent by the first mid-game team fight. First, EDWARD spent much of the laning phase roaming, trying to pick up kills which left Genja’s Miss Fortune alone to farm. In fact, this becomes such a major problem for GG that RapidStar – on Gragas – outfarmed Genja by over 20-30 CS at some points, and certainly outfarmed Alex Ich – on Kha’Zix – who, unlike Gragas had to compete in a 2v1 lane. The gold advantage for Frost became too much as eventually the persistent pushing of Shy forces Gambit to over-commit 3 champions to stop Singed on top lane, allowing CJF to finish taking the interior mid turret and to cycle down and take another turret on bottom lane. In the end, the item advantage Frost held was far too much for Gambit to overcome, leading them to drop their first ever IEM game to Frost.
GAME 2 (IEM Semifinal GG/CJF Game 2)
With their backs against the wall, Gambit had to pull out a win in game 2 to remain in the series. Gambit, who curiously missed the ban on Singed in game 1 apparently learned their lesson, banning him out for game 2; the first of a series of good choices by Gambit who played with poise and confidence in the second clash. Like the first game, game 2 was full of hyper aggressive plays which began very early. A late invade by Gambit leads to a stolen blue buff and a series of very important advantages for Gambit which help them snowball the second contest. First, Frost tries to respond to the stolen buff by heading over to Gambit’s Elder Lizard camp, but a quick response by GG sets up first blood for EDWARD and no buff for Frost. In addition, all of the attention paid to these early invades by Shy’s Jax gives Darien’s Darius a huge advantage in lane. By the time Jax arrives in lane, Darius is already more than 10cs up with a 3-to-1 level advantage. The lane swaps from game 1 persist, but even more strangely in game 2. By 4 minutes in game time, it becomes apparent that top laners Shy and Darien would be facing off in bottom lane, mid laners Alex Ich and RapidSTAR would fight it out in top lane, and the bottom lane duos of Genja/EDWARD and Woong/MadLife would compete over creeps in mid lane. Initially, this presents a major problem for Gambit, whose Kha’Zix has limited access to blue buff on red side while all the way on top lane.
Game 2 was about even trades early on, as Shy, trying to tower dive Darien gets taken down, leading to a dragon-for-tower trade, resulting in GG coming out with a slight gold advantage. So even were these early trades that by around 14 minutes in-game-time the game is deadlocked on kills at 4-to-4. It took a huge play by Gambit to force the game in their direction. A successful Hook/Box combo from EDWARD leads to a massive team fight that starts off looking great for Gambit until Frost responds leading to an intense chase through the jungle. RapidSTAR in pursuit of Darien barely misses a few barrels due to great jukes and a timely flash from Darien. Gambit comes out one kill ahead as Darien’s long chase results in an execute on Frost’s bottom lane inhibitor turret – not a kill for Frost. That one fight cost Frost much more than it looked at first, as GG was able to extend their gold lead by taking dragon, now up over the Koreans by 3000 gold.
The gold advantage for GG shows itself in the next contest for Dragon in which at points it seems like Frost has superior positioning, but thanks to a tight formation from GG, effective zoning from Genja with Bullet Time and a straight up better complement of items, Gambit takes the team fight 2-for-0 plus the game’s second Dragon. From here, the game settles down a bit until the next major team fight in which Gambit decimates Frost, takes down Baron Nashor and rolls on to a win which was predictable since First Blood. With a final kill score of 20-to-7, Gambit takes game 2 with ferocity.
GAME 3 (VOD: IEM Semifinal GG/CJF Game 3)
Game 3 was decided in champion select – a sentiment we here at allMIA generally try to avoid, but look at the lineups: Gambit picks late game hyper carry Kog’Maw in response to Woong picking up Genja’s MF. The Frost picks of Kha’Zix and MF come seemingly in response to Gambit first picking Xin Zhao – a decision that Gambit made undoubtedly before considering they would end up running Kog’Maw. Because of these picks, Gambit ends up playing “protect the Kog’Maw” with a team who is simply unsuited to protect the ADC. With patchy CC here and there, Gambit’s team composition leaves them with no reliable way to peel for Kog’Maw, which – in the end – costs them the game and the series.
First blood comes out in flashy style, as EDWARD jumps in on a low-HP Lulu at the top lane tower at just level 1. Just like the previous two games, both teams trade kills fairly quickly in the early game, resulting in 3 total kills by 3 minutes in-game-time. The game heats up after Frost takes the game’s first Dragon nearly uncontested, resulting in a 1-for-1 trade that ends up favoring Frost who get the extra global gold from Dragon. Until the first Dragon, Gambit’s curious champion select choices haven’t been a problem. The first time it becomes apparent that “protect-the-Kog’Maw” will not succeed for Gambit is this teleport play in which Genja gets caught and killed. This would happen to Genja too many times in this contest, leading him to a 2/4 score by 21:00 in-game-time.
The advantage Frost builds early shows itself in the first major team fight of game 3. The play starts with Kog’Maw caught by himself again, this time by the Skarner played by Frost jungler CloudTemplar. In his first game of the series away from his preferred Xin Zhao, Templar shows off why Skarner is still a viable choice out of the jungle; dragging Kog’Maw to his death. Templar starts a fight which would continue up river and end on Gambit’s mid lane turret with kills on Diamondprox and EDWARD for a 3-0 “trade”. From this point, the game has swung so firmly in Frost’s direction, that Gambit cannot mount any kind of a comeback. By 25 minutes, Frost is over Gambit by 10,000 gold. With Shy and RapidSTAR continuing their dominant play, both summoners begin the game’s last team fight with 7/1 scores.
With the small advantages Frost was able to build – starting with smart picks and bans in champion select – Gambit was simply unable to overcome the might of one of Korea’s top teams. Frost, who avenges their IEM Katowice loss to Gambit moves on to the IEM Hanover Grand Final to face CJ Entus teammates Team Blaze, leaving the e-sports community with several questions: how will Gambit respond to the tough loss next week in LCS competition? Does this mean that Korea does truly have the best League of Legends teams in the world? Was Azubu wrong to lose Blaze and Frost? These two teams simply dominated at Hanover to the point where the only challenge they end up facing is one another.