Analyzing picks and bans, LCK Spring Finals GE Tigers vs SK Telecom Game 1.
After narrowly beating CJ entus in game 4 of the semifinals , SKT were able to take a very convincing blind pick game 5 to make it to the finals to face off against what was once deemed, the best team in Korea (pre patch 5.5 and the introduction of cinderhulk tank meta.) Riding the huge momentum that SKT managed to gain from their final Victory, SKT were actually considered favorites to win because their performance on the tank meta was really good.
Again, even for the finals, SKT fielded in TOM as their jungler and Eazyhoon in the middle lane. This significantly changes the banning strategies for both teams. Eazyhoon has always bewn known as a more passive, control mage player, where as Faker is a play making aggressive player. Usually what this means is that SKT will be the ones banning Leblanc instead of their opponents, thus giving Eazyhoon a safer time in mid. Another very important difference is the fielding of TOM over bengi, since it takes away the Rek'Sai threat from SKT's side, which also force them to ban it because Lee has found great success on that Champion. Sure the argument can be made that Rek'Sai isn't as much of a damage threat in the mid and late game post cinderhulk patch, but she is still disruptive and creates enough early to mid game pressure to make up for her not so impressive late game (even though she still can pose a split pushing threat because her ultimate can allow her to get to fights in time).
GE Tigers bans: Lulu, Gragas, Ziggs.
SK Telecom bans: Leblanc, Kalista, Rek'Sai.
As mentioned previously, Leblanc and Rek'Sai get banned because TOM and Eazyhoon are playing. KurO is a good Leblanc player and the ban is still justified from SKT's side similarly to what they did against CJ. Just because it's not Faker on Leblanc, doesn't mean that they won't kill you repeatedly.
Ziggs bans might start being common as well as Azir bans. Currently the power to control zones and wide areas can sway fights into your favor by a huge margin. The athenes buffs plus the wave clear plus the zone control make for an overall well rounded mid lane pick that is great for defence and offence alike. Thanks to the new Luden's echo item, poking enemies off of turrets becomes easier thus allowing teams to siege turrets effectively.
The interesting ban is the Lulu. GE Tigers had blue side first pick in game 1 and nobody should forget, this is the team that brought the Jugger'Maw composition to competitive play. Sure, with the tanky champions and the mass of CC that the meta requires, it is harder to pull off the Jugger'Maw successfully, but if any AD Carry is capable of doing it, it's PraY. This suggests that GE had either a Kalista, Urgot or Rek'Sai first pick in mind, all depending on what SKT banned since they only had 2 more available bans after the Leblanc was taken away. If GE has no intention of picking Lulu, you can't leave it up for SKT. Lulu is possibly the only champion that Eazyhoon and Faker share in their respective pools. The way Lulu is played in conjunction with Sivir is unique to SKT and they have found great success with that duo. SKT places Lulu in the hands of the midlaner and give Sivir to Bang. Using both On The Hunt and Whimsy simultaneously allows SKT to create picks and chase down any champion to kill them in isolation. Usually this composition gets paired with a Thresh support to create the initial lock down of a target.
Sure enough, GE pick a page out of CJ's book and first pick the Urgot. Safe pick up, good lane bully after he gets his manamune, can be played mid or ad carry, is incredibly hard to kill late game because of how tanky he becomes and has a good ultimate to pick off opponents. There really is nothing surprising about an urgot first pick in this meta .
Now, SKT has seen this exact scenario in the last series but this time Gragas is banned. Knowing that Rek'Sai is banned and Lee has not played any game on Sejuani during the entire spring season , SKT feels comfortable picking their jungler this early in the draft phase. This narrows the choices of Lee since the only other meta jungler that most teams pick is Nunu. Last time Lee played the yeti rider, it was against SKT and that game was a loss. With all of this in mind, SKT locks in Sivir And Sejuani. This should raise alarms in GE's booth. Sejuani has really good engage and Sivir's on the hunt makes it a lit easier to follow up whatever move TOM will make. With Gragas and Sejuani out of the picture, Lee has little options on what to fall back on.
Sivir is a great pick up for SKT. This team is quite possibly the best at early skirmishing with Sivir on their side. They maximize her ultimate usage and cluster enemies well enough to allow ricochet to do continous damage to the enemy team. Thereis no other AD carry worth while early picking right now. Sivir works with every team composition and is both safe as an offensive and defensive carry. Her only drawback is her late game autoattack range makes it really difficult to walk up to turrets and take them down quickly.
So he decides to pick Nunu. There is nothing wrong with the champion per say. Nunu is a great tanky jungler who is a pain to deal with for enemy junglers and who's ultimate is good as zone control. However, Lee has always been good at applying pressure with his ganks and presence towards the lanes. Nunu isn't exactly like that. Sure he can gank and apply pressure that way, but Nunu's biggest jungle strength has always been how you use consume. Continously invading the enemy jungle and keeping tabs on the jungler is where Nunu excels. With the buffs from jungle camps that Nunu gets with his consume , he gets even tankier and much more annoying to deal with. He can walk into the enemy jungle, place down a ward or 2, consume a camp, walk right out untouched. Nunu's pressure is how much information he can get about the enemy jungler without being too punished for it. We already know that Lee is completely out of his comfort zone.
I can't help but think that the Azir pick feels forced. Not that KurO can't perform on Azir, but rather GE looked at CJ and what worked for them in game 1 against SKT. The key difference is that SKT didn't have good engage against it. Once Sejuani was locked in for TOM, the GE Tigers should have thought twice about the Azir. The reason why Azir worked for CJ against SKT at that time, was because SKT's team composition revolved around them throwing themselves into the opponents. SKT didn't have any other reliable way to start a fight if they were ahead because in the jungle they had Gragas and their support was Janna. Neither of these champions has reliable engage even though they do have reliable CC and peel. Emperor's Divide blocks champions, not skillshots. Other than attempting to recreate the team composition that CJ ran in that game 1, we could assume that it was also a take away from Eazyhoon who has been playing it a lot recently in Solo queue.
It was surprising to see MaRin decide to pick Gnar over champions such as Hecarim and Maokai but in all honesty, had he picked anything else it would've been a mistake. Both Hecarim and Maokai are losing match ups in lane against a Gnar aswell as being really easy to isolate when the enemy team has Azir which would cause an exact repeat of SKT's loss to CoCo's Azir. The last option for MaRin would've been Rumble. With reliable engage such as Sejuani's Glacial Prison, MaRin would have an easy time laying down the Equalizer on top of it. However Smeb is a really good Gnar player and can easily snowball the advantage he could create from the top lane against Rumble. If MaRin and SKT are able to play around the Gnar rage bar teamfights can go very smoothly in favor of Eazyhoon and crew.
Speaking of Eazyhoon... Look what we have here. Very seldom can anybody say that somebody plays a mid champion better than Faker can, but here we have the biggest example of that statement. Cassiopeia has been Eazyhoon's best champion this year and he's shown some impeccable performances on the Serpent's Embrace. Both team compositions seem like they want to move into the later stages of the game which gives Eazyhoon plenty of time for his Cassiopeia to scale up. I have nothing to add here honestly. With Ziggs banned and Azir already locked in for KurO, there is really no other champion that Eazyhoon can pick into GE and expect the same results. Even the worst case scenario in a teamfight is alright for Eazyhoon. If Cassiopeia gets targetted by Urgot's Hyper Kinetic Position Reverser, she will be right in range to use Petrifying gaze on either Azir/Urgot/Both.
The top lane pick is where everything goes south for GE Tigers. Smeb's pick, out of all available champions to him besides Gnar, is Irelia. There is no rhyme or reason for this champion to be picked into the composition it's being picked into. SKT has Cassiopeia so if Smeb attempts to dive into SKT's back line, he'll be turned into stone. Gnar has a favorable match up against Irelia in the laning phase. Sivir can out run Irelia before Smeb can catch up to Bang. The list goes on. Ultimately the biggest issue with Irelia currently is that she requires a very heavy lead to be able to become a splitpush threat. Her 5v5 teamfight isn't great even though she skirmishes in 2v2s and 3v3s really well. We've also established that Nunu can't apply the same level of pressure as Rek'Sai can, nor the same ganking presence. Even if Lee were to hard camp top, all he'd manage to achieve after level 4 is a slight farm lead for Smeb. (I understand the Irony of me typing this since Smeb did get first blood onto MaRin, but if you watch the rest of the game, Lee has absolutely 0 impact on the top lane which allows Gnar to constantly push Irelia out of lane and get the turret.) It baffles me that with Maokai/Rumble/Hecarim available (all being champions that Smeb has winning records with), Smeb opts to play Irelia for the first time this entire season. On paper I can understand Irelia as a pick, but she requires far too many resources funneled into her which would slow down the power spikes of your AD carry or mid laner.
The final pick for GE Tigers is Nautilus, which GorillA has played before during the regular season. Good CC, great peeling potential and great follow up engage with Depth Charge, Nautilus just makes for a good zone control champion. Seeing as GE were trying to recreate the zone control strategy of CJ, Nautilus support helps Nunu be effective in prolonging fights and delaying engages from the enemy team. As with several of the other picks, there isn't anything wrong with going for Nautilus support in this composition, but I repeat, considering the hard engage coming from SKT, a hard disengage support would allow the Tigers enough time to reposition to use their ultimates appropiately. This is just nitpicking however, Nautilus is a good pick up.
In case Sejuani's ultimate was not enough, now we have random hooks being tossed out to start a fight. Wolf sticks to a comfort champion that has worked for him over the seasons. Thresh offers good peel for his AD carry and is capable of setting up picks thanks to his Death Sentence. Wolf plays his lane Thresh very effectively too, maximizing the use of his dark passage and making sure that the timing is just long enough to drag his carry to safety. Wolf could have also picked Alistar, a champion he is very good at, but seeing as there was an Azir on the enemy team, it is much better to pick a champion who's strongest CC is a skillshot that would bypass Emperor's Divide. Since SKT is looking to hard engage, there is no reason to think of Janna or Nami. The latter of the disengage supports can be considered good follow up, but you simply can't deny the impact a single Thresh hook can have at a clutch moment.
GE Tigers really wanted to use the Zone Control composition that CJ Entus showed us in game 1 vs SKT. All this pick/ban phase really shows us is how ready SK Telecom were to face this team composition again. Their picks allowed them to play around the Azir wall effectively and the overall teamfight potential was just stronger. GE's biggest issue during this entire series has been Lee and the first game pretty much sums up all his flaws. When he's not on an aggressive pressure jungler, he is confused on what lane to pressure at what times. The cinderhulk meta shoved some of the snowball potential out of the top lane even though it is still perfectly plausible to carry as a top laner. In addition to not knowing what to do, Lee had trouble walking into the enemy jungle since none of his lanes had the necessary pressure for him to do so. If he ever found TOM in SKT's jungle, it was always much easier for SKT to collapse onto Lee than it would be for GE to go and help their jungler. SKT picked against the zone control composition almost perfectly and simultaneously denied everything GE tigers were comfortable with, exposing all their weaknesses in the current tank oriented meta.
Screenshots courtesy of ongamenet, lolesports and riot games.
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