Breaking Down Invictus's Decisive Early Game Strategy
On Saturday, September 5th Invictus gaming secured the last spot at worlds from China due to their 3-0 victory over Qiao Gu in the Lower Bracket of the LPL Regional Qualifier. In game one of this series, Invictus employed a very creative yet powerful early game strategy against their opponents.
Qiao Gu actually start out the game with a very interesting draft. They first picked Lulu, which is to be expected, as Qiao Gu is known for playing juggermaw compositions, and Lulu is a very key component of this type of playstyle. They go on to pick fairly standard champions that fit into their comp, with Gragas and Alistar, who can disrupt fights and keep Kog'Maw safe. In their last round of picks they also opted to pick Gangplank. This is not too strange as we saw V play Gangplank in their series against Snake earlier in the week. In response, Invictus choose Riven as a lane counter to gangplank, as it is imperative to make sure to keep Gangplank's power in check. Qiao Gu then shakes things up by making the unexpected call to run Gangplank on Doinb middle, and Lulu on V top.
Invictus Gaming realizes that they must keep Gangplank down, and that their lane counter of Riven top lane is not going to work, so they employ a new strategy. First they look for the 1v2.
By the one minute mark three things of note happened for Invictus.
A. First, they spot Lulu and Gragas toplane and assess that they plan to double jungle starting on their blue side, meaning their bot lane will likely start on the Krugs before going into bot lane.
B. Immediately upon seeing this, Ashe recalls and goes toplane, giving IG the lanes that they want.
C. Qiao Gu's Kog'Maw gets spotted on a ward in botside river bush, confirming that Invictus Gaming made the proper decision.
After this, Braum goes to the top side of the map while Skarner and Riven head to their own blue side jungle to mirror Qiao Gu's start.
Laning Phase Begins:
Once the laning phase begins, there are a few things to take note of.
A. Qiao Gu's botlane opted to take Krugs before going into lane.
B. On the other hand, Invictus's support invades the enemy blue side jungle and acts as a hindrance. He throws out a few Braum Q's and ultimately is able to draw their attention for a time. For a full 40 seconds, Braum remains in the enemy jungle acting as a delay tool and distraction. This allows Invictus's Top-Jungle duo to farm significantly faster.
C. Since she did not take Krugs, Ashe immediately starts preparing the minion wave to aid her in eventually taking down top outer turret.
All According to Plan:
Both Top-Jungle duos go on to clear their own red side jungles.
A. Since Ashe and Braum did not take Krugs at the beginning of the match, they are available for Skarner and Riven to take, allowing them to hit level 3 much earlier than the enemy Lulu and Gragas. Moreover, this level advantage means that they will go on to clear the next sector of the jungle faster than their opponents.
B. As blue Krugs are still down from the level one, Gragas and Lulu path awkwardly around the bottom side of the map, not getting any objective until they head into the river to take the scuttle crab.
C. Technically, Qiao Gu did not see where Invictus Gaming's Top-Jungle duo started. As such, Qiao Gu needed to obtain vision to see if there were camps available to take in Invictus's bot side jungle.
A. Qiao Gu's next step is fairly straight forward. They group as four and take down bot tier one. Based on the results of the next minute, one can only assume that they expected Invictus to do the same in the toplane. They were dead wrong.
B. As opposed to grouping up for top turret, Invictus dive middle, made possible due in part to a great shove my Viktor in the midlane. They end up getting Gangplank's flash and forcing him to use his teleport to re-enter the lane.
C. Meanwhile, since Ashe had been prepping the wave since the start of lane phase, she and Braum are able to answer with top tier one anyway without even requiring any additional teammates.
By the 5:30 mark, this strategy rewarded Invictus an advantage onto every single player, with a net lead of 500 gold, a two level advantage on their Support, 10 extra CS onto their AD Carry, a slight gold and experience lead onto their Top laner and Jungler, as well as a summoner spell advantage for their Mid laner.
This was some decisive play by Invictus Gaming. They analyzed the need to get Gangplank into a position where he was playing on the backfoot. They adapted well when their draft phase counterpick did not go as planned. Granted, it is likely that they had practiced this strategy prior to this match, as their execution was very crisp- from Braum's delay ensuring that there would be no countergank threat to the midlane dive, to leaving the Krugs available for Skarner and Riven. This really set the tone for the rest of the match and ultimately the series, which resulted in Invictus snagging the last spot for China at the 2015 World Championship.