A large part of the win was thanks to a creative mid lane pick from Lae-Young “Keane” Jang: Urgot. The battle crab hasn’t been seen in the LCS—or any other major league—this year, but that didn’t stop Keane, famous for his penchant for pulling out oddball picks, from wielding one of the top ten least popular champions in solo queue against the region’s best mid laner, Soren “Bjergsen” Bjerg.
“We’ve practiced Urgot for a week,” Keane said.
It seemed like Gravity made the selection with a specific plan in mind: countering Bjergsen’s Zed. Team SoloMid’s Lucas “Santorin” Tao Kilmer Larsen told the Daily Dot as much after the match.
“We second rotated Lulu and Zed,” Santorin said. “We shouldn’t have done that. With those picks, they know what we’re going to do because we’ve played the same strategy so many times. It’s telegraphed.
“We knew they probably had a counter pick to Zed, because why would they leave it up when we win every game with Zed?” Santorin had an inkling it could be Urgot, but the team believed they were strong enough to win even with a Gravity Gaming counter.
But Keane says that Gravity Gaming’s plan was to pick Urgot all along, regardless of Team SoloMid’s own mid lane selection.
“We’ve practiced Urgot for a week,” he said. “I was going to pick Urgot anyway, against any champion. They picked Zed, and they were an AD heavy comp, so it was really good for our comp.
“[Urgot] is really strong in lane. Your E and Q has really long range and does a lot of damage. He’s good against assassins too, because his passives reduce the damage by 15 percent. He’s a really strong pick even before the buff.”
That played out in the match: early on, Keane built a big lead in creep score, leading by over 20 creeps around seven minutes into the game. Team SoloMid’s superstar was struggling to build the early lead Zed needs to make an impact in the mid game. But at the 10 minute mark, after an attempt to all-in by Bjergsen failed, Keane made a critical mistake: flashing into the tower chasing a kill on Bjergsen. The wily Dane flashed away with only a sliver of health as the tower finished off the battle crab. Keane smiled a little when I asked him about the play, saying he got “greedy.”
“I was winning lane, and then if I just didn’t flash and made him flash, I would have snowballed that pretty hard,” he said. “If it was another mid laner I wouldn’t have flashed. But it was Bjergsen. I want to solo him so bad! So I went full greedy and died.”
Luckily, it didn’t cost him or Gravity Gaming. The kill didn’t put Bjergsen ahead enough to turn him into a monster, and Team SoloMid made a critical mid game mistake: falling into a team fight. Gravity Gaming cleaned them up, with Keane scoring three kills on Urgot.
“But it was Bjergsen. I want to solo him so bad! So I went full greedy and died.”
“At that fight, our team held all the armor and they were an AD heavy comp,” Keane said. “We just five-on-five on that point, and we win. They needed to split more. It was mid game, so Zed’s not that strong even with that kill.”
This isn’t the first time Keane’s succeeded with a surprising off-meta pick. In the LCS promotion matches for this season, he nearly knocked Counter Logic Gaming out of the LCS with mid lane Hecarim. Today, Hecarim is a staple in many team compositions, making a mark in the top lane, jungle, and even mid.
Whether that happens with Urgot remains to be seen, though Keane believes he’ll rear his ugly face in the near future—as are other off-the-wall picks. Playing out of meta champions, he says, is just too effective in the LCS.
“It’s like a cheesy pick,” he says. “It works really good in LCS, best of one, not three or five. Just one game a day.”
Bjerg likely had zero experience playing against Urgot in the mid lane on Zed, which makes it very difficult to know when you can trade, when you can go for farm, and when you can win an all-in, like the one that almost put him far behind, save for Keane’ greed.
Keane’s become a bit of an off-meta whisperer. He obviously has no fear in trying unlikely champions and playing them in meaningful games, and unlike many other would-be innovators, he succeeds with it. He says it’s because he gets bored easily playing the same champs in solo queue, so he tries something new every day. “If it feels good, then I try it in scrims, and if it works out, then we pull it out in LCS,” he says.
At first his team didn’t like that—they wanted him to play it by the book. But that changed at some point, he says: “I play really well in scrims with the new champions, so the don’t care anymore.”
Of course, his teammates aren’t the only people he needs to win over. Recently Gravity hired itinerant coach Nick “Lastshadow” De Cesare, who commutes from Korea to coach the team. But he wasn’t involved in the picks and bans this week, Keane says.
“He mainly helps us with rotational moves,” he says. “It helped us a lot. For the pick bans, we usually decide ourselves on picks. The Urgot… I just wanted to pick it this week, so I practiced it all week.”
The win moves Gravity Gaming into fifth place in the LCS with an 8-7 record, with matches against Dignitas, Cloud9, and Team 8 left on the schedule.
This isn’t the first time Keane’s succeeded with a surprising off-meta pick.
“I think if we win two more games, then we’re going to go to playoffs really easy,” Keane said. “We have to try hard and see. We’ll have to see Winterfox and Team8 today and see how it goes. I think Team8, we have to win this game. So we’re going to try harder.”
Whether that means Gravity Gaming pulls out Urgot again or a different pick remains to be seen, but it’d probably behoove Danny “Shiphtur” Le to buff up on his play against Urgot considering Keane’s practiced it all week.
As for Keane’s next creative pick, it seems he’s looking at the top lane for ideas, not the bottom lane where traditional marksman Urgot usually appears.
“I really like Rumble mid. I play him solo queue a lot. If there is a good matchup that comes out in LCS, I might pick it. I like playing top lane champions,” he said. The current metagames features a wide variety of champions in both solo lanes—the top lane has assassins and tanks, the mid lane features marksmen and assassins. “Right now, it doesn’t even matter. You can just play Ahri top. Sion mid. In LCK, they play Sion mid. You can play anything in solo lane.”
And he really means anything. “Maybe Maokai mid? I don’t know. Any champion!”