Level 1 Shenanigans- How EU's 3rd Place Match ended in under 2 minutes
(Spoilers for today's UOL vs H2K ahead)
Watching the European 3rd place match today was like being tied to a chair and forced to listen to nails scratching on a chalkboard. So many mistakes were made by both teams throughout the games which delayed H2K's victory; here we'll focus on the mistakes made by UOL during the first 3 minutes of each game that, in my opinion, cost them the series.
The first thing we saw in Game 1 was H2K grouping in the pixel brush near the baron pit. They move forward and UOL sees them; this prompts Hylissang to ward the bot side entrance he was standing in, after which he and Vardags walked up to try to defend against the invade with his team. The problem here is that they don't actually defend against the invade. H2K get the deep wards they want. Vardags and Hylissang, instead of moving into the bot side of H2K's jungle (which they KNOW is unoccupied because they saw every H2K member in the top side) and placing their own deep wards to even out the situation, decide to back off and sit idly while their H2K get exactly what they want: an easy laneswap.
At this point, H2K back off and all they have to do is sit behind their mid tower until 1:40. They don't see anyone walk over the wards they placed in UOL's top side jungle, so they know they are safe to walk up to lane and get the 2v1 they want. This causes some issues for UOL: they lose out on their early pressure because they picked a strong ADC and Support that are meant to win lane and accrue a lead, while keeping the Tristana down. Instead Hjarnan gets to farm freely in the top lane while donating the Gromp to kaSing so he gets the early level 2, who promptly ganks mid lane and chunks out PowerOfEvil's health, putting him behind in a lane that he should be able to win early on. This left UOL's early-mid game composition falling behind from the very beginning of the game, while H2K's composition scaled gradually into the late game.
Game 2's level 1 was even more disastrous for the Unicorns. It started off a little differently but mostly the same. Ryu places a defensive ward in the bot side pixel brush and it is spotted by UOL.. This should telegraph the invade, as there is no reason to place the ward there when you can simply stand there and be a human ward, which is common among EU teams. Instead, Hylissang mirrors that ward, and Vardags does the same. This has already thrown UOL's laneswap out the window; H2K are free to invade the top side and place deep wards with no retaliation wards by UOL on the bot side.
H2K do just that. They invade with all 5 members into UOL's blue side jungle and place deep wards to spot where UOL's side lanes are starting. H2K get exactly what they want with their Tristana+Thresh lane moving into top for the 2v1, and UOL have no response. Once again, kaSing gets the level 1 camp donated to him and gets the early level 2, then roams. This time, though, his roam gets so much more for H2K: he joins Odoamne and Loulex to invade H0R0's blue buff. They kill him easily and take his blue buff, resulting in H2K denying the Evelynn any early pressure she H0R0 could've had with her.
H0R0 and Vizicsacsi were right in starting their strong side of the map near their duo lane, but when they got to their blue buff, they started it with no vision and no one nearby to protect them.
The third game, however, went differently than the other two. After two games of losing in the level 1, UOL try to answer back by grouping in a bush and waiting for H2K to walk into it; H2K weren't dumb enough to fall for it. In the previous games, H2K had seen at least 1 member of UOL before invading. This time, they saw nobody and were a lot more cautious. UOL stood at the far side of the bush, giving Odoamne the chance to place a ward in the bush and spot them. UOL chase H2K out of their jungle but don't get anything for their trouble; however, they did deny them the deep wards they wanted. Still though, at this point it was too little too late. The match-ups weren't too bad for either side, and the deep wards H2K wanted weren't as important this game as the other two. Hell, you could argue H2K won out anyway because UOL blindly swapped their duo up to top lane. H0R0' moved up to help his duo take down the tier 1 turret, leaving him in a bad position to defend PowerOfEvil when Loulex came mid. Ryu gets an early kill in a losing matchup, and he roams to bot a few minutes later which nets Hjarnan a kill.
UOL's reckless and overall weak level 1 play, plus a lack of being able to adapt to what happens during the first couple of minutes of a game hurt them badly this series. I would argue that these games' victor was decided significantly by the first two minutes. The early minutes of a game in a competitive match influence so much of what happens afterward, and UOL seemed totally unprepared for it.
Still though, H2K played the early game well in this series, and despite their significant mid-late game problems in the first two games, they closed out the series leaving no doubt in our minds which of the two teams is superior.
Photo credit: Riot Games