What we learned from IEM Cologne
Despite entering the tournament as underdogs, Gambit Gaming managed to take the title, obliterating Dignitas before smiting Counter Logic Gaming on their way to a historic sixth IEM title.
The level of play in Cologne didn’t match that shown in San Jose, where the top team in Europe, Alliance, and America’s two best squads, Cloud9 and Team SoloMid, clashed. Instead we got to see four of the middle ranked teams from last season’s LCS. But it was an exciting tournament filled with ridiculous plays and excitement.
Here’s what we gleaned from the action.
The institution of the League Championship Series may be the worst thing that ever happened to Gambit Gaming.
The team added their sixth IEM title to their trophy case, showing much of the same flare and creativity that made them popular when they exploded onto the League of Legends scene back in 2012. But the team seems unable to bring that same gusto to the weekly grind of the LCS, mired as they are in problems with administration, visas, and weekly travel. That grind milled Alex Ichetovkin to dust and saw Gambit nearly plummet from the LCS ranks last split.
At a one-off tournament like IEM, where Gambit Gaming enters the the tournament with fresh, new strategies, they shine.
Game two against Counter Logic Gaming, the ill-fated baserace that doomed the Americans, showed Gambit’s genius and willingness to creatively take advantage of the options afforded to them in League. Most fans focus on Counter Logic’s refusal to back in time, but it was a smart play by Gambit to make the move in the first place. Gambit bought Elixirs of Ruin, which improve siege damage, to stack with their two Dragon buff siege advantage. Counter Logic Gaming didn’t know what hit them.
Danil “Diamondprox” Reshetnikov showcased creative jungle picks like Sejuani. Support player Edward Abgaryan still doesn’t have the best vision control, but his playmaking ability is still one of the top in the world. The two remaining members of the Gambit squads of old both proved they can still perform in Cologne.
The new guys aren’t too bad, either. The team may not have a mid lane star like Alex Ichetovkin in Sebastian “niQ” Robak, who was solid if unspectacular at IEM, but the team’s new top laner and marksman both put together impressive tournaments.
Top laner Lucas “Cabochard” Simon-Meslet and marksman Kristoffer “P1noy” Pedersen both shined. Simon-Meslet dominated Dignitas with a 11/4/11 KDA line and kept Counter Logic Gaming top laner Darshan “ZionSpartan” Upadhyaya in check, while Pedersen had breakout games of his own, including 10/1/4 and 10/1/5 KDA lines in the final matches of each series. In the final set against Counter Logic Gaming, Pedersen laned against his hero Peng and accounted himself well. His Graves play in games one and four of the series were the difference for Gambit Gaming.
The current Gambit Gaming may be quite different from the one that dominated the League scene in 2012, but their win at IEM continues their legacy and shows that the team has found worth successors. Whether that translates to better success in the LCS is another story, but it’s a start.
Counter Logic GamingThis was it. The chance Counter Logic Gaming fans—and Peter “DoubleLift” Peng—were waiting for. A golden opportunity to score a win at a major tournament. But in true Counter Logic fashion, the team fumbled the chance, leaving us with this.
America’s sweethearts impressed in the semifinals by coming back from a map loss to best ROCCAT, the nominal tourney favorites. Austin “Link” Shin shut up his doubters for at least one day, putting together a 10/3/6 KDA on LeBlanc in the third game. Peng was his usual dominant self, putting new ROCCAT marksman Pawel “Woolite” Pruski on tilt by the third game. Upadhyaya did something no Counter Logic Gaming top laner has really managed in years: apply enough pressure by himself to take some heat off Peng.
But against Gambit Gaming, things unravelled. Gambit obliterated them in game one. In game two, Peng pulled out all the stops on Vayne, nearly single-handedly carrying team fights. But that led to the ill-fated base race. Counter Logic underestimated the siege potential of Gambit’s team, a fatal missed call in a game they were winning.