Ants vs. Giants: How pr0lly Planned for the Biggest Series of his Career [Part Two]
This is a two part piece, in order to fully enjoy the article, you really should read the first installment, which can be found here.
It's egregious how much weight is placed on achievements in order to judge the quality of players relative to their peers. The comparison between Bae "Bengi" Seong-ungand Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok might very well be the most famous consequence of this flawed reasoning, forcing people to raise Bengi close to Faker status in order to keep ignoring the fact that achievements are not a good metric for measuring individual performance. It is clear, however, that many junglers have surpassed his skill by a wide margin, be it Lee "KaKAO" Byung-kwon in the past or Yoon "Peanut" Wang-ho in present times, while never achieving even one World Championship title.
Nevertheless, very few roles suffer as much from this effect as the coaching position does. Often times, the coach of whichever team finished first in the LCS league will take the coach of the split award home, regardless of team cohesion, macro play, composition quality and win condition understanding showed by the team. Plenty of examples of this come to mind, but its neither the point of this article nor is it in good taste to list and lash out each one.
There are two main reasons for me to choose this game to breakdown. First and foremost, when strategists have a lot of time to research and prepare, usually, is where we will find the most exciting matches, at least from a tactical point of view. This is especially true for the first match, where both team's plans were shown in their raw form, having worked on them sometimes even weeks before the match, and before improvisation stains masterful attention to detail.
However, giving credit where credit is due is something writers should always keep in mind. It's one of the main purposes of esports analysis and, especially when talking about coaches, one of the areas where a casual viewer might struggle the most to make a fair judgement. From a tactical perspective, Neil "pr0lly" Hammad gifted us in this first match with one of the most impressive strategic performances at Worlds. That was his present for us, the viewers. In return, we owe him recognition for it.
This article focuses on breaking down the picks and game plan, to guarantee that the reader gets as good of an idea as possible on the main ideas behind each choice, as well as how his plan was supposed to work.
The Unveiling of the Plan
As important as the previous article was for understanding how this draft would develop, it is only now that we can finally understand how every idea comes together. Without further ado, let's dive straight into the picks:
Because of how important the Olaf pick is, H2K purposefully forfeit this stronger jungler, getting in the process an extra ban and taking out of the way the dangers presented by one of their most wanted picks. Seeing as Samsung ended up choosing to go with the Viktor pick, we can't help but wonder about the merits of picking Olaf instead of Nidalee since, for the early game at least, Viktor will most likely get pushed in anyway, making Olaf's poor mid lane pressure not as important. With all things in consideration, having to stop H2K from snowballing and with Nidalee being both an S tier jungler and one of Ambition's best picks, if not straight up the best, the choice remains very reasonable and most likely the correct option.
Olaf and Zyra
SSG were now caught between a rock and a hard place, even if they didn't realize it at the time. The Olaf pick was a no-brainer for H2K. They could, of course, pick another jungler, since they already succesfully kept Samsung from getting it, but Olaf works perfectly for their concocted game plan. Picking him now hid the Kennen pick and posed two main risks: the risk of SSG drafting hard to gank side lanes and the risk of losing the Kennen pick, completely ruining H2K's plan and chances to take the game. But the second pick, however, is where the true beauty of this draft finally comes together, and both of these threats almost completely disappeared. The Zyra pick not only secures another most wanted pick, but it almost forced SSG into the Ashe pick, and here is how:
With Jhin and Caitlyn banned, and Zyra selected, if Samsung take the Ezreal pick, they will probably find themselves facing Konstantinos-Napoleon "FORG1VEN" Tzortziou's Ashe, paired with Zyra and against Olaf. Most likely, they would get snowballed on hard if they chose to go down this path, making it so that only Ashe or Lucian were now a reasonable choice for SSG. Here is where the baiting ensues. With Zyra already picked, Ashe and Miss Fortune becomes a bottom lane that would run great results for Samsung. Outranging both Lucian and Sivir, and with great pick potential on the Zyra, everything seems just perfect for the Korean squad.
Ashe and Miss Fortune
By picking the Ashe, SSG secured themselves a winning bottom lane, because of the previously exposed. The Miss Fortune pick can, indeed, be saved for the future, but SSG were none the wiser to H2K's strategy, and they chose Miss Fortune now in order to secure themselves a winning bottom lane, while also keeping the ability to later counterpick whatever H2K chose for one of their solo-lanes. They showed nothing and they got a winning lane. Seems like an ideal scenario, but we will now expose why they got baited, and how this played exactly into pr0lly's plan.
Here is where the last member of our nost wanted club makes its appearance: the Kennen. He could not be secured first, and thanks to Samsung's greedy Miss Fortune pick, it runs now into an ideal scenario. If H2K secure Kennen and Zyra in their first rotation, the most likely scenario is that SSG will pass on the Miss Fortune counter pick, and will take Lucian and Nami, a much safer bottom lane against H2K's projected Kennen pick and overall game plan. By offering SSG a “safe” and obvious countering duo, they tempt them into securing two immobile squishies and get to secure the Kennen pick. Still, the risk that SSG would draft Ashe and Kennen existed, and would have completely bursted pr0lly's plan wide open. Here, H2K took a gamble, and SSG completely took the bait of trying to counterpick the solo lanes. They ended up getting counter picked composition wise and giving H2K their desired pick for free.
If this was everything behind pr0lly's plan, it would have been good, but it would not be a masterpiece. Luckily for everyone, there is more to it. H2K purposefully shoot themselves in the foot, not only to secure the Kennen pick, but also to secure as much fighting as possible for Olaf in the early game. They craft the composition with the purpose of getting shoved in by two immobile characters and they choose one of the junglers with the highest snowballing potential. With this, they secure plenty of early game fights for Olaf in the bottom lane, granting control over dragon, giving plenty of chances for snowball to get going and never actually intending for bot to be a 2v2 lane.
Lastly, and this is maybe the most important point that brings the whole idea together, it looks reasonable as a much simpler idea. It looks reasonable that H2K could simply bet on SSG not daring to pick the Miss Fortune. That's what it looked like to most of us. That's what it looked like to me when I saw the game. They come as underdogs, and they have to take a bet to make things work, so they try their luck. This, ultimately, brings the whole plan together. Had SSG realized they had been baited and outsmarted, they probably would have had better early game ward timing, putting a stick into Marcin "Jankos" Jankowski's brilliant jungle pathing that led to their second kill of the game. Because the strategy looks reasonable as a way simpler idea, it avoids the opposing radars, and gives H2K a chance to succeed with it.
These were the key points defining, not only the pick and ban phase, but also how the whole match would be played.
Kennen and Sivir
Responding to Samsung securing both bottom lane picks, H2K finally got their hands on the Kennen and the Sivir. We've already covered why Kennen is a key part of the composition, and Sivir is just needed to secure a reasonable way to engage onto the opposing team for the immobile characters in their composition. It also helps SSG feel safe bottom lane and guarantees their push in the early game.
Viktor and Ekko
Ekko has a safe laning phase and a good zone control to protect Samsung against H2K's composition. He can reasonably avoid top lane ganks and engages. As discussed when talking about the bans, I doubt there is a better top lane pick for Samsung.
Crown is probably the best Viktor in the world. Not only that, but the pick has great wave-clear that helps to stall the game and even more tools than Ekko does for punishing a composition and forcing itself onto your team. These were very smart picks by Samsung Galaxy, probably the two best available at this point.
This is a very hard to judge pick from H2K, especially taking into account the hot streak Ryu "Ryu" Sang-wook was running on during the second week of the tournament. It's a very mechanically intense pick, which is an area where Ryu has often looked shaky. It has no escape mechanisms, and was facing Ambition's Nidalee. This paints a pretty grim picture, but if Samsung was able to figure out H2K's plan, this pushing lane could have secured control over Nidalee's jungle and given other ways for the Olaf to be effective, as well as options for securing with the deep wards for Kennen to teleport to. It's perhaps the hardest choice out of any in the draft, but sometimes you need to gamble on something working out; there is no safe approach to victory for the underdog team.
The X's and O's
With the draft finally resolved, the coaches now quickly instructed both teams on their game plans. However, since we can't actually hear what the coaches were fleshing out, we need this section to understand how each team should have approached the game.
It's hard to believe that H2K didn't already know every idea at this point, seeing how deeply crafted the draft was. Still, a reminder is never a bad idea. H2K needed to abuse the losing bottom lane as a resource to give Olaf ganks and get the team going. They also had potential fruitful ganks in the top lane once Kennen reaches level six. Ryu's pushing matchup should be abused to more safely ward the opposing jungle, in order to keep Nidalee from snowballing. H2K should look to fight at every opportunity they get, because if they don't get the snowball going, they lose. They should use these advantages to force dragons and towers, and eventually transition into a mid game where they abuse their lead to team fight around objectives. Since they are by far the inferior team, some cheese is to be expected during the series to throw opponents off. Doing it now would open the chance to cheese again in either game three or four without it becoming easily predictable.
As for Samsung Galaxy, early game wards are more important than ever in this match, and should be used sparingly. Keeping H2K from getting any kind of lead in the early game was key. If they can reach the 20 minute mark even or ahead in gold, they practically have won the match. Ambition should spend most, if not all, of his time on the bottom side, using the bottom winning lane to control the opposing jungle, in order to keep the Olaf from snowballing off of it. This control over the bottom jungle should also be looking to exert mid lane pressure, in order unleash Crown as soon as possible.
Ganking top makes no sense. Even when they could get a kill on Kennen, the influence of both top laners in the game would barely change, and they would be forfeiting the very valuable bottom jungle pressure. They should also try not to over-reach at any point. They were not pressured to take action in any way, because as long as they keep even, they are winning. Whenever in doubt, the defensive option is most likely the correct one.
I've chosen not to say anything else regarding how the actual match played out. If you haven't seen the game, and you've read this article, you will most likely get way deeper satisfaction from watching and understanding yourself how each of these elements came into fruition than from anything I could ever write. If you have already watched the game, you will still most likely deeply enjoy revisiting it from this new angle.
Whether you are now on your way to either watch the game or re-watch it, one thing is for sure, you will definitely join me in appreciating pr0lly for the brilliant tactician he is.
@Cabramaravilla is a freelance journalist and analyst.