An Analysis of Faker’s Mid Lane Irelia
On June 3rd Faker surprised everyone when he took Irelia into the mid lane against an Azir from Kuro of the KOO Tigers. The confusion on the faces of the Tigers was echoed by the confusion in the voices of the casters as they tried to figure out where SKT wanted to go with this pick. The fact of the matter is, the Irelia was a calculated choice by SKT specifically for that game.
Picks and Bans
Going into the draft phase SKT put a heavy emphasis on Kuro taking away his Viktor and the flex pick Lulu. SKT picked up Alistar, Evelynn, and Rumble during the first two phases of their draft and blue side and KOO Tigers picked up Sivir and Gragas in the first phase of their draft on red side. Going into the Tigers second pair of picks they needed their two solo laners and their support still. The Tigers decided to pick up their two solo lanes in Azir and Hecarim, leaving the last pick for their support.
Picking Azir when you don’t know the enemy mid laner is perfectly acceptable in the current meta. Nobody in common play counters him super hard and he scales well as the game goes on with excellent team fighting. SKT were ready for this pick though. In their final phase of the draft SKT locks in Corki and Irelia, finally revealing the heart of their team comp.
SKT Team Composition
SKT have been playing a very particular style for the past few weeks. They have been very focused on the mid game and the Trinity Force and Rumble power spikes. They have played different variations on this strategy with poke mid laners such as Ezreal, Kog’Maw, and Varus. Rumble is a very common top lane pick when they run this style along with Sivir in the duo lane. Now they have added an Irelia to this mix. Irelia doesn’t bring any poke to the composition, which is why they picked Corki as well, but she does have a massive power spike at Trinity Force and after her second item, Frozen Heart in the case of this game. SKT’s play around the two item power spike has been impeccable and this composition fits this strategy perfectly.
Azir is defined by his soldiers and his ability to control area with them and his ultimate. Between levels 1 and 5 his ability to move soldiers around and create them is limited. Irelia is able to jump past the zones created by the soldiers with her Bladesurge. Faker also bought a Phage on his first back building on this strength. Faker abused this strategy until he bought Trinity Force. At which point SKT began looking for fights with their extremely strong mid game composition.
There is no doubt that SKT played the mid game team fights immaculately. Faker and Bang weaved in and out of the fights expertly playing around their builds taking full advantage of the Trinity Force damage. KOO Tigers played their fights well. But SKT played around their power spikes beautifully and took the fights.
Irelia’s ability to dive the back line in the mid game is extremely strong if she can get a quick second item. Faker was able to get a quick Frozen Heart giving his Irelia significantly higher impact in team fights. Faker also reached a point where no one person could duel him straight up, allowing SKT to run an extremely effective 3-1-1 split push. This allowed SKT to either get free turrets with their insane pressure in lanes or they could force fights at Dragon. Fights they knew they would win. SKT won a fight after Marin’s Rumble got picked, leaving them without a crucial team fight ultimate. This fight marked the beginning of the end for the KOO Tigers in game 1.
The Irelia pick was a calculated decision by SKT when they already knew the core of the Tigers team composition. Irelia into Azir is a reasonable lane matchup for Irelia. It would have been much tougher if KurO had picked Cassiopeia instead. The early turrets that SKT secured also greatly increased the team’s and Irelia’s chances going into the mid game with the slight edge in items. Irelia was the perfectly prepared pick for this situation.