The start of MSI exposes weaknesses in regional playstyles
Honoring long standing traditions, day one of MSI 2018 wasn’t fantastic for North American and European teams. We’re only one day into the group stages of the international MSI tournament. I think it’s only fair that readers be reminded of that fact. In that short time, and during the play-in games which involved wildcard teams, favorite teams are quick to be established. Who will rise among the best regions have to offer?
A spicy start for the West…but who’s surprised
For those who haven’t watched the games yet, here’s the TL;DR. Team Liquid and Fnatic were overpowered day one, losing to Vietnam’s EVOS, Korea’s Kingzone, China’s RNG and Taiwan’s Flash Wolves. While few audience members are surprised by these loses, they do expose a weakness in the playstyle of Western teams.
Consider the great game between Kingzone and Team Liquid day one. A great game it was, until the 25-minute mark. Although Doublelift and Olleh struggled early in lane, Impact managed to hold his own against a Chogath and even Pobelter made his Ryze pick work into a strong early game composition from his Korean adversaries. Although Pray’s Ezreal was as impressive as ever, demonstrating both his aggressivity and proficiency when it comes to team fight positioning, Olleh was the real carry for Kingzone.
Before I get to my next point, let me acknowledge that Olleh is a fan favorite for good reasons. His personality and banter with Doublelift have both won the hearts of many a league of legends fan, but his positioning can be crippling in the competitive scene. The high-risk play style benefits Doublelift in lane but they leave the whole team exposed later along in the game. This was an issue in the NA LCS regular season, and it continues to be an issue on the international stage.
Just five hours ago, Steve Arhancet announced that Olleh would be benched on Day 2. Like any mature player would probably do, the decision to step down tomorrow came from Olleh himself. It’s an unfortunate situation, particularly because the support player clearly takes a lot of the blame for today’s loss. Team Liquid fans should keep in mind that Joey (Olleh’s sub) will be experiencing his first international event tomorrow. Time will tell if he crumbles under the pressure or rises up to the challenge.
Also, thanks to Pray, Ezreal with teleport is a thing now. RIP Solo-queue, players are advised to remain calm while the phase passes. It’s unfortunate that people don’t realize why Pray took TP, and why his choice of summoner spell is heavily based on his proficiency with the champion.
Kingzone DragonX: KZ seems to be in a league of it’s own, even taking an easy victory over RNG. Their calculated playstyle, along with Pray’s performance seems too much for any team to handle. Why is that? Casters are right to point out that the Korean team focuses primarily on vision and objectives, while others like EVOS and Liquid seek fights and kills when they can. Although it’s almost become a meme of it’s own within the League of Legends community, some rosters ARE more bloodthirsty than others. Korean teams have traditionally used this to their advantage in order to prioritize objectives, and punish what is often a single major misplay from their opponents.
Team Liquid: I love Olleh, let me be clear, but his unfortunate performance today only highlights my last point. His getting caught out in the mid-game sealed his teams demise. Pobelter was forced into a tricky position top-lane, not wishing to concede any unnecessary pressure, and was subsequently deleted. While casters have been quick to put the blame on the Pobe, his choices have to be analyzed in the context of the game, and the pick KZ had done on Olleh. What Team Liquid’s support did was start a chain of events which ultimately led to baron, and their loss. That’s not to say his performance was wholly bad, just that it was disappointing given the pressure which Impact and Pobelter had previously been absorbing.
Flash Wolves: Taiwan’s representatives are coming into this tournament with renewed vigor. This team has always been represented by a metaphorical coin-flip. Sometimes they show up, and take games off the Korean representatives, sometimes they get dominated by EU. At MSI 2018 their jungler (Mujin), midlaner (Maple) and Support (SwordArt) are showing up big time. Should Flash Wolves keep puting SwordArt on his comfort picks, and Mujin on objective-focused junglers, their future in the competition looks bright.
“I can do a thousand push ups. I don’t think any other pro gamer can do that. I’m not afraid of anyone” – EVOS Warzone
What’s to become of Gambit
Let’s take a step back and talk about the play-in’s. Gambit’s performance was decent during most of it, but they unfortunately fell short when it mattered most. Their loss to EVOS was particularly disappointing given the claims of their jungler, Diamondprox. At the start of the competition, he stated that his team would make top 4 in Europe if they were still playing within the EULCS. After Fnatic’s performance today, that’s less of a bold claim than one might think.
All jokes aside, Gambit really fell apart when their bot lane was punished by EVOS’s characteristic aggressiveness, and PvPStejos couldn’t keep up. It was particularly tragic to witness Diamondprox give up on his bot-lane, relegating his Graves play to the jungle and being completely useless for the better half of the game. Indeed, their strong team fight performances only highlighted the potential of the roster when it worked. It was a real shame to lose them so early in the competition.
Last but not least…
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