But it was a bit of a culture shock to see them dominating Cloud9 in the first game of the tournament in one of the most one-sided matches of professional League this season. GE Tigers held 10,000 gold lead by 20 minutes, with 22 kills on the board.
The Koreans followed it up with another convincing victory against SK Gaming, securing the first spot in the bracket stage of the tournament on Saturday.
Cloud9 opened the game well, scoring a free kill on Kang “GorillA” Beom-hyeon in the jungle as the support player was caught with his pants down and hands off the keyboard. They successfully implemented a strategy to neutralize superstar marksman Kim “PraY” Jong-in in the laning phase, with jungler William “Meteos” Hartman zoning out some experience and letting his bottom lane control.
But those were the only things that went right for the Americans.
The match was a coming out party on the international stage for one of the new kings of League of Legends, top laner Song “Smeb” Kyung-ho. His Lissandra was literally all over the map, using teleport on cooldown to score kills after kill, finishing the game with a 12/1/9 KDA. Song combined with jungler Lee Ho-Jin to decimate the early game. It was a stellar performance by one of this year’s new superstars.
I swear to god that Smeb has a lower cooldown on TP than normal
— Marcel Feldkamp (@MarcelFeldkamp) March 13, 2015
Mid laner “Kur0” backed him up with a 12/1/10 KDA on LeBlanc, though much of his total was accumulated after GE Tigers held a prohibitive lead. Part of the reason why, though, was how easily he handled his Cloud9 counterpart Hai Lam, who fell far behind on Kennen.
Cloud9’s solo laners couldn’t stand against GE Tigers’ dominant presence. Ahn “Balls” Le finished the game 1/9/7 on Rumble, with Hai a similarly poor 1/6/8.
Then GE Tigers continued their rampage against Europe’s best team, SK Gaming, and their uniquely singular focus on lane-focused tower rushing.
GE Tigers nullified the European side’s fast push style with some precise bans and early game strategy. They banned out Graves and Lucian, Konstantinos “FORG1VEN” Tzortziou ‘s two favorite lane bullies, forcing him onto Caitlyn. Then they picked Corki and lane swapped him for the early levels, avoiding the potential danger period where Caitlyn’s range would make things dicey for him. SK Gaming didn’t do themselves any favors, giving GE Tigers some of their more comfortable picks like Maokai and Victor.
But the Europeans still put up a much better fight than Cloud9, scoring a couple towers and keeping the gold nearly even despite giving up kills. But SK Gaming couldn’t keep the pressure going once GE Tigers started grouping to battle for objectives.
It wasn’t the slaughter of the match against Cloud9, where GE Tigers gave themselves a 10,000 gold lead by 20 minutes, with 22 kills on the board. But the final total was close, with 27 kills for the Tigers against 10 for SK Gaming. Smeb continued to make his case for tournament MVP with an 8/4/14 Maokai, scoring many of the early kills that fuelled the GE Tigers carnage.
In both games, Smeb suffered early ganks as Cloud9 and SK Gaming both tried to neutralize GE Tigers’ weapon. But his stellar play allowed him to turn both situations favorably.
It wasn’t the performance Western fans hoped to see from their favorites, but it’s what GE Tigers has done to the Korean scene all season long. They have a 10-0 series record and 20-2 map record in the top League of Legends region in the world, and they showed why to open IEM.
SK Gaming is still in the tournament, though they’ll have to survive another clash with yoe Flash Wolves to reach the bracket stage. For Cloud9, disappointment continues. They lost to the Taiwanese side despite building a big lead, cutting the American’s run in the tournament short.