2015 World Championship Preview: Flash Wolves
Flash Wolves: LMS Seed #2
Summer Split Regular Season Record: 9-2-3
Summer Split Playoffs Record: 1-3
2015 LMS Regionals: 6-2
The Flash Wolves, despite dropping the yoe, are very much the same team from the inaugural split of the LMS. The summer was very similar to spring; the Flash Wolves were still at the top and beating out the majority of the teams. They maintained their trademark controlled early game and objective control, but continued to have trouble winning games where they did not procure an early advantage.
The Flash Wolves seemingly had no problem running over the bottom half LMS teams, but were challenged all year by HKE and MSE in their bo2s, while also being topped by ahq. Their series against the better teams in the LMS made their need for a controlled early game apparent, losing in situations where they attempted to outplay teams like HKE and ahq in the early game. This stemmed from their dependence on Maple to carry, a player who needs a more controlled laning phase.
Recognizing this weakness, the Flash Wolves brought in Korean AD KKramer, hoping to bring a reliable secondary carry into the tea. While he was a mechanically strong player, he did not fit into the team well and handicapped SwordArT’s ability to affect the game, due to their language barrier and his weak laning. This weakness was accentuated in the playoffs where the Flash Wolves would lose to HKE and end the season at third place.
During this time, their reliance on scaling compositions and problems in the pick/ban phase were also made more apparent. However, Regionals would have them back stronger. Shifting NL back into the lineup over KKramer was their course of action for Regionals. The change worked wonders and SwordArT and Karsa were an unstoppable duo in their 3-0 against MSE. Eventually the team would overtake the team that had beaten them before, HKE, to go onto the 2015 Season World Championship, with weaknesses fixed, and some remaining.
4.2 KDA (2nd)
65.6% KP (5th)
-6.3 CSD@10 (2nd)
15.2% DMG (7th)
Most Played Champions: Maokai (7) Hecarim (3) Irelia (2) Rumble (2)
Steak, for some time, was a decent top laner in the context of Taiwanese League of Legends. Steak has regressed this season, struggling to be super impactful on any champion that wasn’t Maokai over the course of the regular season. His teleport flanking and timing was not particularly inspiring either. It is for this reason, that he receives the lowest gold priority of any top laner at the 2015 Season World Championship.
Steak’s main role within his team is to be low economy tank bot, soaking damage and protecting the back line. He is basically a secondary support. As weak as Steak’s play has been this season, the team has shown to be confused without his shotcalling in the mix. This can best be seen in the difference of the FW’s mid and late game, when playing with Steak or their other top laner, MMD. Steak’s champion pool and laning ability is considerably worse than any other top laner in his group. Smeb, ZionSpartan, and Mylon all possess a sizable edge on the veteran shotcaller.
4.9 KDA (2nd)
71.7 KP% (6th)
16.2% DMG (2nd)
2.6 CSD@10 (3rd)
0.94 WPM (5th)
0.36 WCPM (1st)
Most Played Champions: Gragas (9) Rek’Sai (8) Nidalee (6)
Karsa was the initial catalyst to the Flash Wolves’s strength in spring split, dominating fellow Taiwanese junglers, on warrior champions such as Lee Sin and Rek’Sai. Karsa possesses fantastic mechanics and specializes in early game pressure, playing aggressively in the first ten minutes of the game or so, contributing to the Flash Wolves’s leading first blood rate of 68%. However, he is not as good on tanks, than he is on early game focused junglers or carry junglers.
Karsa plays a very mid focused game, setting the tune for the Flash Wolves’s mid focused game plan. His early jungle pathing is often tailored to setup an early gank for Maple and recently has began to control the scuttle crab earlier. He focuses his vision around the mid lane as well, assuring Maple the safest laning phase possible.
Karsa is not always the best on tank junglers, but generally impressed on Gragas and Rek'Sai. Nevertheless, it is not his preferred style of play. However, with the rise of Lee Sin and Elise as viable junglers, Karsa will look to function in the way he likes, an early game terrorizer with a knack for creating picks. Karsa is also one of the stronger junglers at Worlds, being above the likes of his group adversaries, Hojin/Wisdom, Huhi, and SirT.
5.3 KDA (2nd)
63.8 KP% (3rd)
4.0 CSD@10 (1st)
30.8% DMG (4th)
Most Played Champions: Azir (6) Zed (5) Varus (4) Viktor (4)
Maple is hailed by most as the crowned jewel of the LMS and the best mid laner in Taiwan. He has shown to be able to perform at a high level on both mages and assassins. Maple favoured mage and poke champions this split, but was not without his pocket Zed pick, during the season. He is the main carry on his team and receives the most attention, having died the least of any mid laner this split. This however does not manifest itself in gold. due to KKramer’s presence on the team, in the latter half of the split.
Maple is the most consistent source of damage for the Flash Wolves in teamfights, with players like Steak and NL on his team. Considering this fact, he is very well protected, having the least deaths (57) of any mid laner in the LMS. The meta seems to be shifting more into Maple's favor with champions like Leblanc and Zed appearing more relevant. Maple is known to be overconfident in the laning phase, but is playing against the likes of Kur0, Pobelter, and Kami, not remarked for their lane phase. Comparatively, he will be quite competitive with these mid laners at Worlds.
9.3 KDA (1st)
72.4 KP% (3rd)
-1.9 CSD@10 (6th)
28.1 DMG% (4th)
Most Played Champions: Sivir (8) Lucian (3) Varus (3)
NL is a very weak carry at this World Championship and does not contribute much to the success of the Flash Wolves. He is a weak laner that would face egregious CS deficits, if not for the presence of SwordArT bottom. Furthermore, he is a weak link in teamfights, that will consistently misposition, and without the help of SwordArT, would be much less effective. He is a weaker carry than KKramer in many facets of the game, but he holds the advantage of familiarity and communication within the team.
NL is similar to Steak in the way that he brings an intangible to the team. He does not directly aid the team, but speaking Mandarin and laning with SwordArT for years now, is key. He allows for SwordArT to be a more aggressive roaming support and part of a two man unit with Karsa. NL will likely be resigned to only picking Sivir and Varus, champions that aid in engage or disengage situations with their ultimate. He is no doubt the weakest carry in this group and will be the weakest point of the Flash Wolves come Worlds, but is serviceable on Varus and Sivir, at the very least.
7.5 KDA (1st)
76.3% KP (2nd)
1.27 WPM (4th)
WCPM 0.27 (5th)
Most Played Champions: Alistar (11) Morgana (7) Thresh (3) Janna (3)
SwordArT has been recognized as a strong support from both Western fans and Eastern fans alike, often receiving praise for his play on the Korean solo queue ladder and his performance at IEM. He is the facilitator of everything the Flash Wolves are able to do, providing the vision they need for their objective game, and playing to control their early game. SwordArT is fantastic in many facets of the game, but generally has had trouble taking over a game.
The benching of KKramer actually helped this fact, allowing him to be more of a free support. His specialty has always been disengaging unfavorable fights for the Flash Wolves and protecting his carries through any means. Switching back to NL immediately unlocked his threat as a roaming support, being a huge playmaker on Alistar and Thresh during the LMS regionals.
SwordArT is a good laner, but has been weighed down by NL and KKramer, making him more of an offsetter than an aggressor. SwordArT is a competitive support in this group and while a step behind Gorilla, is competitive with the pool of supports, also featuring Aphromoo and Dioud.
Flash Wolves coming into Worlds are one of the weaker teams present, but were luckily placed into one of the weakest groups possible. The Flash Wolves enjoyed some international success this year, winning a few bo1s against the likes of SK Gaming and Cloud 9, while also taking a game off of TSM in a best of 3 at IEM Katowice. Regardless, they are still a team with many weaknesses and are a complete coin flip due to their inconsistent nature and positional mismatches.
The Flash Wolves compare well positionally, from the jungle, mid, and support position, but do not compare at all from the top lane and AD carry position. Their deficiencies in top lane will be the main concern for the Flash Wolves, however. While the Flash Wolves have had good lane swaps that get Steak ahead, it is not something they’ve consistently replicated, and not something they can count on against teams like KOO, CLG, or paiN. At the very least, Steak is very good at not getting snowballed on. He may not compare in CS, but he will not feed relentlessly.
NL is another weakness on the Flash Wolves, but will be less targetable due to SwordArT. Regardless, Karsa’s lack of attention to bot lane will allow for enemy teams to easily snowball on this part of their game. The other team procuring a laning advantage also makes it more likely the other team will control the dragon timer and be able to take towers. The bottom lane will be another point for teams to accelerate the early game against the Flash Wolves, a team that needs to play a controlled early game, or will almost certainly flounder. This will be a problem for them against both CLG and KOO, as they both possess strong lanes that SwordArT cannot offset by himself.
The Flash Wolves, despite their weaknesses also have their strengths. The Flash Wolves generally have strong early game planning and set the tone for their more controlled early game. This is often in the form of a laneswap, where Karsa and SwordArT seek to make some sort of advantage for the likes of Maple. Lee Sin and Alistar will be incredibly important champions for the Flash Wolves in this group, so that they can leverage an early game lead and take it from there. While it is not realistic that the Flash Wolves defeat KOO, it is likely they will do away with CLG and paiN, if given the opportunity to play their ideal laneswap.
The aforementioned early game is of the utmost importance to having Maple carry the Flash Wolves. It is extremely important that Maple not get behind in their games, as he is the primary carry for his team. Expect to see a lot of the trademark mid lane focus from Karsa and SwordArT during the group stages. The Flash Wolves will certainly not get first in this group, but it is very possible they steal second away from CLG, especially considering their lack of a jungler. However, due to the importance of the top lane and the Flash Wolves specific conditions, it is more likely that the Flash Wolves end third behind KOO and CLG.
All photos used from lms.garena.tw!