Cracking the Immortal Code: How to beat unbeaten IMT
Immortals has taken the NA LCS by storm this split, proving pre-season scrim rumors to be true (for once) and leaving most of us wondering whether we’re about to see IMT pull a Fnatic and go 18-0. They arrived seemingly fully formed, with an established identity and a level of polish that the rest of the NA LCS just couldn’t compete with. They’ve had the occasional struggle, but they’ve proven adept at punishing even the smallest mistake (and the big ones) to turn around any deficits they’ve found themselves in. The question on everyone’s mind are, Can they be beaten, which teams are equipped to do it and how. Let’s start with that last question and work our way back.
For starters, IMT is not flawless, even if they appear to be. There are aspects of each of their player’s playstyles that can be exploited with the right amount of preparation. On an individual basis, those flaws and how they can be exploited can be summed up thus:
Huni is a carry player to a fault and not only builds selfishly, but almost always builds full glass cannon. When you take into account Adrian’s preferred champion pool, that can sometimes leave IMT without a front line of any kind depending on the direction Reignover goes with his build. That exact scenario happened against CLG this past Saturday. With Reignover on a full AP Nidalee, IMT struggled to close what was a nearly 4.5k gold lead at 16 minutes because they lacked a front line to force objectives. I’ll go into this more in depth later when I address IMT’s flaws as a team.
Reignover is an aggressive jungler who likes to bully the opposing jungler in their own jungle to get an experience and gold advantage (Immortals leads the NA LCS in Average Share of Jungle CS at 57%). What makes Reignover so good is that he significantly out farms his jungle counterpart while also ganking more effectively. He’s been the clear MVP of the team in my eyes, but that doesn’t mean this style can’t be exploited. The ability to invade the opposing jungle is predicated on two things: Having winning lanes and deep vision. Against Reignover, you’re better off prioritizing defensive vision over offensive vision. A strong ward line all the way down the river is a must, but also not enough. Reignover prioritizes Nidalee and Rek’Sai and you have to take into consideration their ability to jump over walls and bypass wards for sneaky invades. That means wards within your own jungle as well. Then, you have to pick strong lanes that can push IMT’s lanes in and keep them at their tower. This removes the backup that Reignover relies on having when he invades. When the minion wave is pushed up and cleared, either back up to safety or roam and ward out so that IMT can’t take advantage of your forward position with those 4-5 man ganks teleport ganks we’ve been seeing a lot this split.
Pobelter has grown tremendously this season and now stands as one of the best Mid Laners in North America. He’s played 7 different Champions (two Lulu games) in 8 starts this season and done well on all of them. The key here is to really just get an advantageous lane matchup to keep him at his tower so he can’t roam or back up Reignover on any invades. The depth of his Champion Pool means he’ll get a Champ he can play, and he’s done a good job of knowing his role within each composition IMT runs. There’s only so much you can do against a player like that besides simply having a better one.
Wildturtle has looked impressive all season, and while he’s definitely improved over last year, the setup of IMT is masking the fact that he’s still not a great laner. Despite IMT being the best team in the League at lane swaps, and the relative safety created by the massive threat of Huni in the top lane, Wildturtle still averages a CS deficit at 10 minutes. In short, he’s still not a great laner. Teams are quick to pressure Huni because of the massive threat level he posses, but Liquid had success this past Sunday putting pressure on IMT’s bot lane, getting Piglet some kills and a solid CS lead early. Part of this was due to Liquid picking an advantageous lane matchup which, again, is the key to surviving IMT’s exceptional early game. Thus, while Wildturtle’s KDA looks good, his laning is still suspect and while he’s not as aggressive as he used to be, he still positions himself too forward sometimes. That high KDA is because IMT relies on Wildturtle for steady damage output in the mid and late game, something he’s been able to do because teams haven’t pressured him in lane. Pressure him in lane, slow down his scaling and you delay the snowball that IMT relies on to close games.
Adrian has been getting a lot of hype from the caster team for his Janna play and while he’s definitely a great Janna, I think he’s been getting more credit for IMT’s victories than he deserves. Part of this is due to his streak of death-free games to start the season, something that would be far more impressive if he was playing a heavy engage style like Hai does for C9, instead of his supportive and very safe Janna/Soraka picks. Surprisingly, he’s actually middle of the road in WPM (Wards Placed/Minute) and bottom of the pack in WCPM (Wards Cleared Per Minute), considering his reputation for having exceptional vision control. In general, IMT doesn’t ward as much as their reputation would indicate. I’m curious to see how that translates if they find themselves in the position where they’re team that has to play scared. Back to Adrian himself, the question as always is what would happen if a team forced him off his comfort picks. This is potentially a viable strategy since there’s honestly no use in banning out either Huni or Pobelter, considering their champion pools. My guess, Wildturtle would end up exposed without all the shields, heals and peeling the likes of Janna and Soraka provide.
As a team, Immortals has the highest EGR (Early Game Rating) of any team in the NA LCS. OracleElixir’s EGR model (which I highly recommend for anyone who loves statistics) rates how well a team has set themselves up for victory by the 15 minute mark of the game. A score of 50 is average, under 40 is very bad and over 60 is very good. EGR is important right now because Poke compositions are predominant in the current Meta and its very hard for a poke composition to do anything at all if it falls behind. You usually just get steamrolled. Immortals rates out at an exceptional 68.5 EGR, but you probably didn’t need a statistic to tell you that Immortals has a killer early game. They have two sub-twenty minute wins. What EGR can do for us is give us an insight into what teams might be capable of beating IMT and why. The top 4 teams by EGR are Cloud 9, IMT, CLG and TSM. This is significant because IMT’s closest victories were against these two teams. Also keep in mind that IMT faced C9 without Hai, which explains why IMT stomped the team with the highest EGR in the league. TSM is the only team to hold a lead of any significance against IMT at the 15 minute mark. They were able to snowball that lead using Hauntzer as a split pusher to keep IMT off-balance and were well on the way to victory before pre-emptively cutting short that split push and opting into a 50/50 Baron that they then lost. A few doublelift catches later and that was all she wrote. CLG was playing IMT to a dead heat and had a fed and scaling Darshan on Ryze in position to carry the game before some extremely aggressive forward positioning by Darshan between IMT’s bot inner and base tower led to him dying for free, but not before baiting Aphro into dying in a valiant attempt to save him. IMT was then able to chase down two more kills and snag a tower and a dragon for a whopping 4k gold swing. IMT is reminiscent of classic Cloud 9 in that they can take the smallest mistake by their opponent and turn it into a massive gold lead in a matter of minutes. That’s a sign of a good team and, make no mistake, IMT is a very good team.
So why is this so important? Why am I making such a big deal about EGR and the method to which IMT beat CLG and TSM? Because IMT’s identity changes completely when they aren’t able to snowball their early game leads into quick victories. In the early game, IMT is one of the most pro-active teams in the league. If they aren’t able to quickly snowball the game, they become very reactive. This is where I tie in Huni’s tendency to build selfishly. Below you’ll find the Match Overview for IMT vs CLG
You can see the 4k gold swing I talked about earlier at around the 15 minute mark. Now look at the next 12 minutes of the game. In those 12 minutes, IMT was able to take only a single tower, no other objectives and their gold lead only went up incrementally. IMT tried to push down the Mid Lane, but because Huni built glass cannon on Cho and Reignover was on a full damage Nidalee (and diving a Zilian with neither is a recipe for disaster) they had no way to force their advantage. When that didn’t work, they spent the rest of that 12 minute span trying to dance around the Baron pit and land enough poke to make something happen. It did eventually work, but it’s startling that IMT essentially did nothing for a 12 minute span in the middle of the game. Waiting for the opponent to make a mistake is usually the mindset of a team that is losing. In addition, with a full AP Lux, a nearly-full AP Nidalee and a Kalista, IMT didn’t necessarily need Huni to go glass cannon. That’s just how he always builds. You can see here how that could leave IMT out in the cold in certain situations.
So, how do you beat Immortals?
- Pick strong lanes to A. Expose Wildturtle in lane, B. Prevent Pobelter from roaming, and C. Make it unsafe for Reignover to invade your jungle. (This would be as opposed to NRG, who typically picks scaling compositions to cover up for their poor early games with the hope of scaling back into the game. As indicated by their bottom tier EGR, but top tier MLR. This works against some teams, but against a team with a strong EGR like C9, they get steamrolled before they can scale.)
- Ward defensively along the River and in your own jungle to mitigate Reingover’s early aggression. As opposed to offensive deep wards that are usually used to track the movements of the enemy jungler. As Reignover spends a lot of time outside his own jungle, they aren't as efficient. Better safe than sorry.
- Look for the 2v2. Piglet and Matt showed that you can abuse IMT’s bot lane in lane if you pick a strong matchup and play the 2v2.
- Have a strong Top Laner that can match up to Huni.
- If possible, attempt to force Adrian off of Janna/Soraka.
- Avoid catastrophic mistakes.
If you want a TL:DR, it’s essentially to survive IMT’s early game without falling behind significantly and avoid catastrophic mistakes.
What teams are equipped to beat Immortals?
For a team to beat Immortals, they have to have a strong early game. Those teams are C9, TSM and CLG. Each of these teams fit some of what’s required to beat IMT, but have their own issues as well.
TSM has three strong lanes, including a top laner that can match up to Huni, but don’t always give him the jungle/mid support you’ll need to match up to the Huni/Reignover duo. They have their own aggressive jungler who can theoretically match Reignover’s aggression and they undoubtedly have better mechanical players at the Mid Lane and ADC positions. The main thing holding them back atm is that they are still a very Raw team despite having about a month of practice under their belt. But these are the guys who will challenge IMT the most down the road and this could turn into a pretty exciting series as the season goes on.
CLG can match Huni with Darshan, and they did a pretty effective job of not only keeping him in the game against Huni, but getting him ahead. Xmithie is the right kind of jungler to play the vision game to keep Reignover from aggressively invading. Aphro has played against Wildturtle for years and, in theory, Stixxay and Aphro could bully Wildturtle and Adrian in lane. The key here is whether Huhi can continue to improve. Keep an eye on this matchup going forward, because these games should continue to be close.
Cloud 9 as the highest EGR in the league and from a macro play standpoint is the team best equipped to survive IMT’s early game and play the map effectively in the mid and late game to take advantage of IMT’s reactive play. The main problem here is Balls. While C9 (Hai) has done a great job manipulating the map to protect Balls, the Balls/Huni matchup does not induce confidence. Hai loves to play aggressive supports and that’s the exact style you want against Wildturtle and Adrian in lane. The problem is, I can’t imagine C9 opting into normal lanes as that would place Balls directly in Huni’s path. On the other hand, IMT really hasn’t faced a team that’s actually a better macro team than they are and I’m curious to see how they’ll do. Luckily for us, we only have to wait
Can/Will Immortals be defeated?
Most likely. It’s extremely hard to go 18-0. When you’re at the top, you have to constantly innovate or teams will eventually figure you out. That’s part of the reason why TSM tended to struggle more in Summer Splits than in Springs Splits in the past, because they were notoriously slow to adapt to meta changes and usually stuck to one style as long as it worked. Eventually, it stops working and you have to try something new. IMT’s big test will be whether they can maintain this level when the first big meta change of the season happens which, if Riot keeps up their MO, will probably come right before the playoffs.
All stats are courtesy of Tim "Mag1c" Sevenhuysen's www.oracleselixir.com and if you haven't checked it out yet, you should. It's the best resource for competitive League of Legends stats out there.