Innovation in Western League of Legends: Calitrlolz8 & Fenix
When we, the League of Legends community, think of innovators in professional League of Legends, we tend to think of either flashy moves or new picks. Some prime examples that come to mind are MadLife, with his Thresh plays, his Blitzcrank and to a lesser extent his support Lux, MiSiYa with his Twisted Fate & inSec, with "The inSec". Today I want to talk about two players in the NALCS who had innovative games this week that made me look at the game slightly different: Fenix, in Team Liquid's win against Counter Logic Gaming, and Calitrlolz8 in Team 8's win against Team Solo Mid.
Let's start with Calitrlolz, because his innovation was more subtle and based around shotcalling. Gnar vs. Irelia is a strange match-up. Assuming that both people play the match-up correctly, Gnar should win due to his range, and because Mega-Gnar can trade really well if he gets engaged on. Because of the match-up, Calitrlolz knew that he had to get an early lead against Dyrus' Gnar, so he decided to fake a laneswap. Watch the laneswap I'm talking about here:
As you can see, Calitrlolz, Maplestreet, Dodo and Porpoise all dove Dyrus while he was still level two with low rage. This was set up from the start of the game when Team 8 made the decision to start the double jungle on red side and get the red buff to Calitrlolz and the blue buff to Porpoise. I believe that they decided to give the blue buff to Calitrlolz as extra protection in case they had to adjust their route. Dyrus had no warded his tri-brush, but if he had the same dive could have been executed by entering the red side jungle at the raptor entrance and looping around past the krugs. The red buff ensures that Calitrlolz can put out a high amount of damage with just the flask if Bjergsen and Santorin had caught them out in the jungle. I have not seen any other team deal with a lane swap and a potentially unfavorable match-up like this, and as the shotcaller for Team8 Calitrlolz deserves credit for this creative idea.
On a more individual level, Fenix played Azir differently than anyone else that has played the champion on a professional stage. Up until now, we've seen Azir players stay back and play a more risk averse style, but Fenix was not afraid to go in on his Shifting Sands if it meant that he could get a kill out of it. More often than not, these plays worked out even if Fenix himself went down. If you want to watch the plays, click on this link:
So in this play Fenix places a soldier, allows it to do the maximum amount of damage possible from it's auto-attacks, then uses shifting sands of that soldier, flashes behind CLG and pushes them into a Cataclysm from IWillDominate's Jarvan. Even though he and Quas went down for the play, they killed Rumble and Blitzcrank, along with the wave, forcing CLG to end their siege on the inner turret and go back to base. This allowed Team Liquid to get everyone back up and regroup for the next fight.
Along with these creative, aggressive plays, Fenix is also the only player I've seen use his Sun Disk in an offensive way. At about 37:20 in the video, Fenix is standing alone in mid lane, right next to the fallen outer turret. When he sees three members of CLG coming towards him, he quickly places a Sun Disk onto CLG's fallen turret, and a soldier next to the Raptor pit. After the Sun Disk and soldier attacks chunk Link down, he goes in seemingly in desperation, only to have the other members of CLG locked down by Jarvan to set up the double kill for Fenix. By contrast, most other Azir's would probably place a soldier in the jungle entrance between CLG's two turrets and try to make a long escape through the jungle. If Fenix can continue playing like this, his Azir may wind up being a necessary ban.
While you're watching the LCS, LCK, LPL and LMS, keep an eye out for innovative plays and strategies. Even if they are subtle like Calitrlolz lane swap, they could wind up changing the competitive League of Legends meta, and the way we watch the game we love so much.