The 2014-2015 offseason was huge for League of Legends, and was especially big for Chinese eSports. More than a dozen professional Korean players joined Chinese LPL teams this offseason, strengthening the league and pushing competition within the region. Kicking off the start of the 2015 LPL season was a battle between the Chinese “old guard”: World Elite and Invictus Gaming.
IG had a successful offseason, adding Korean pros Save, KaKao, and Rookie. The botlane of Invictus Gaming appeared to be the weak spot of the team, going into the matchup. Kid and Kitties would be going up against WE’s solid Styz / Conan duo.
On the World Elite side, Samsung Blue jungler, Spirit was the only addition to a team that seemed to have a disappointing performance in 2014. WE’s toplaner, Aluka, appeared to be the weak spot going into the matchup. IG’s Save was and is regarded as one of the best in the world at the role, forcing fans to question how Aluka would do.
Invictus Gaming management chose to use Pokemon in the toplane and Rookie in the midlane, as opposed to using Save and Zzitai. The decision removes some strength from IG’s sololanes, however it creates playmaking opportunities around midlane due to Rookie and KaKao’s synergy. The substitution of Zzitai also spawns questions about the team would operate without their primary shotcaller.
The opening week of LPL would be played on the 4.21 patch, with Kalista and Rek’Sai available. LCK games on this patch saw teams put priority on toplane picks; such as Gnar, Lissandra, Rumble, and Kassadin. Lee Sin and Jarvan IV also appeared to take almost complete precedence over other junglers throughout the pick / ban phase in Korea.
Invictus chose to go with a pick comp – powered by Twisted Fate and Sivir. Alongside a strong dragon fight, IG’s comp can make easy picks due to hard cc from Nami, Twisted Fate, and Maokai.
World Elite chose to go with a similar team comp, however with a weaker dragon fight. WE also put Spirit on Riven: a champion that can carry when ahead, however fails to contribute in fights when behind. The selection of Jayce, Corki, and Rumble also suggests that the team could attempt to use the composition to siege turrets.
It’s easy to suggest that Invictus came on top after the pick / ban phase. The composition’s ability to teamfight, create picks, and push turrets creates more opportunities for IG to make plays over WE’s seemingly “one dimensional” team composition.
No Longer a Rookie
While Game 1 saw lanes go essentially even, it was the duo of ex-KT Arrows Rookie and KaKao that created an early lead for IG. Rookie was able to properly combo his ultimate with the location of KaKao’s Jarvan, stacking slows and stuns to find kills toplane and in the enemy jungle; leading to an early dragon for the team.
World Elite was unable to decisively win lanes; allowing IG to effectively utilize their pick comp. IG’s early lead would force their opponents to either find their own picks, or to capture objectives; something that would be difficult to do from behind.
How to Snowball
Ending near the 35 minute mark, IG vs WE Game 1 is a perfect example of how to snowball in competitive League of Legends. Synergy between the champions in IG’s team composition gave the players opportunities to continuously find picks across the map. Picks then turned into objectives, which turned into a gold lead, which turned into continuous teamfight victories.
World Elite’s inability to win lanes proved to be a major flaw of the team’s champion selection. While IG was able to find picks from a distance, WE was unable to create an early gold lead that could have been used to fight against the heavy cc team comp that Invictus had chosen to run.
The second game of the series would see no roster changes or substitutions from either side. While IG could have opted to use Save and Zzitai for the second game, the decision to stick with their successful Game 1 roster seemed to be the safer decision.
World Elite’s decision to ban out Rookie’s Twisted Fate and KaKao’s Jarvan forced Invictus to take a slightly different approach in champion select, despite ending on a similar composition after all was said and done. Fizz and Lee Sin, while lacking in the stuns and slows that TF and J4 provide, fill similar roles. Again, IG would be able to create picks with Sivir’s movespeed and a large number of gap-closers from Invictus Gaming.
Across the board, World Elite would pick a team with strong assassination potential through Rengar and Twitch. WE’s composition also offers more teamfight potential than their previous picks, through AOE damage from Twitch and Xerath.
While it might be a slight improvement from their picks in Game 1, World Elite again was unable to pick champions that had complete synergy in executing a specific strategy. It’s understandable that players on WE were simply looking to rely on comfort champions; however Invictus was able to successfully pick compositions that could both succeed in team fights and to create kills around the map.
Going back to a comfort champion in Game 2, Spirit would be able to create more plays through Rengar than with his Riven in the previous game. WE’s jungler would allow the team to pick up three early kills in the toplane, and would force World Elite to trade one-for-one through a counter gank in bot lane.
Despite Spirit’s early lead, Invictus Gaming was able to come up strong with a teamfight victory around the 15 minute mark. Taking the first two dragons, Invictus was able to successfully win exchanges through ideal positioning from Rookie and Kid. 5/0/2 at the 20 minute mark, Rookie was again able to become a major threat after collecting kills in the game’s initial teamfight. While the team did fall short during a brawl in botlane, Invictus was able to grab a 25 minute baron finding an ace during a midlane teamfight.
Similar to to the team’s performance in the first game, Invictus was able to successfully win teamfights through proper positioning across the board. The ability of Nami, Lee Sin, and Maokai to peel for carries Sivir and Fizz allowed the team to delete the relatively squishy World Elite team. This time ending around the 33 minute mark, IG was able to seal both games through strong pick ban phases and teamfight performances. While Spirit was able to generate early leads in the second game, World Elite as a whole was unable to stay ahead of an Invictus Gaming lineup that could constantly win in teamfights.
What went wrong for WE?
Many things went wrong for what appeared to be a struggling World Elite team in their Friday set. The team heavily prioritized Janna in champion select, however failed to do anything more than go even in lane phase across the map. Botlane, especially, seemed to do poorly against Kid and Kitties.
Their issues began in pick / ban phase, where the team was unable to pick champions that were lacking in depth. While Game 2 saw Spirit succeed in the early game, allowing the team to take a small gold lead, WE lost the game once Invictus began to win teamfights and take objectives across the map. Invictus chose hard engage team compositions with strong pick potential and solid laning abilities in both games. World Elite, howver, seemed to be one dimensional and this “lack of synergy” between picks ultimately came back to bite the team once IG’s team compositions found their power spikes.
Even with champion select aside, World Elite was unable to protect their carries in both games. While NinJa should have been taking time to poke down IG in order to gain objective control, NinJa and Styz were seemingly deleted come teamfights. Invictus could then take the gold lead and and snowball the game.
LPL continues on 1/16 at 9 PM PST with Star Horn Royal Club vs Master3.
[Photo Credit: Riot Games, Tencent]