4 May 2015 - 13:36
gamurs-logo

Looking back at TSM vs C9 - who won Picks & Bans?

This article will take a close look at the pick and ban phases, contemplate which of the two teams performed it better, and speculate on alternate champion choices that may have given the teams superior team compositions and a greater chance to win.
Dot Esports
preview

 

We recently witnessed TSM triumph over C9 with an impressive 3:1 victory to secure them 1st place in the North American Spring split. The games were decided by a multitude of factors including individual play, team coordination and the pick and ban phases. This article will take a close look at the pick and ban phases, contemplate which of the two teams performed it better, and speculate on alternate champion choices that may have given the teams superior team compositions and a greater chance to win.

 

Game 1

Let’s join the pick and ban phase 5 picks in:

 

  TSM (Blue side) C9 (Red side)
Bans               Rumble Thresh
  Vladimir Hecarim
  Nautilus Janna

 

  TSM
C9
Picks Gragas  
    Maoki
    Urgot
  Lulu  
  Nami  

 

What should C9 pick? With a Maoki and an Urgot already locked in, and against a TSM composition that’s set to pick a hyper-carry for Turtle to synergise with the multiple Nami and Lulu buffs, C9 need a way to get ahead in the game before it reaches the late-game. With high wave-clear from both Lulu and Gragas, and the option to pick up even more wave-clear from the mid and ADC position, TSM are also well-placed to neutralise a mid-game poke/siege comp from C9.Therefore, C9 need to be able to make rotational plays in the mid-game and force favourable fights around objectives. To do this, C9 need hard-hard engage.

Here’s what they pick:

 

  TSM C9
Picks  Gragas  
    Maoki
    Urgot
  Lulu  
  Nami  
    Sejuani
    Braum

 

Sejuani – such a powerful jungle pick in the current meta – is a wise choice that offers some hard-engage potential. Braum, however, I’m more sceptical about. Braum’s offers decent follow-up engage, but against a coordinated team isn’t great at starting fights by himself. By picking Braum C9 put a lot of pressure onto either Meteos to start fights with the Sejuani’s Glacial Prison, a task that’s difficult to do reliably, or Balls to find opportune flank engages with the Maoki. I feel that an Annie or Kennen for LemonNation would open up a lot more engage opportunities, and make C9’s ability to start fights a lot less linear and predictable.

 

  TSM C9
Picks Gragas  
    Maoki
    Urgot
  Lulu  
  Nami  
    Sejuani
    Braum
  Ahri  
  Jinx  

 

From here TSM choose Ahri and Jinx. I think that the Ahri is a great choice – she offers good wave-clear, along with Lulu, Gragas, and Jinx, more than enough to neutralise a poke comp from C9 should they choose to pick Corki for Sneaky. As well as having a decent laning phase against Urgot, Ahri has great ability to disengage and avoid C9’s attempts to catch TSM out of position.

Jinx isn’t a horrible pick, TSM probably consider the previous Gragas Lulu and Nami choices to provide enough disengage ability to protect Jinx from C9, and Jinx will scale amazingly into the late-game alongside Lulu and Nami. However, I feel that Lucian would have been the superior choice. Although not scaling quite as hard as the Jinx, Lucian still scales great into the late-game alongside a Lulu (check out this recent game for a demonstration: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jo2f9WjNnck&t=7m49s). With a Lucian pick TSM would still have a major scaling advantage over C9, still have more than enough wave-clear to neutralise siege attempts, but would also have that little bit more mobility and mid game strength to make it even more difficult for C9 to find their necessary engage opportunities.

C9 last-picks Sivir for sneaky. C9 recognise that they must get an advantage through early to mid-game rotations and engages and Sivir with her On The Hunt ultimate is the best ADC to help facilitate that objective.

The final team compositions look like this:

TSM C9
Lulu Maoki
Gragas Sejuani
Ahri Urgot
Jinx Sivir
Nami Braum

 

Verdict

Although C9 ultimately won this game, I don’t feel that they did so because of a compositional advantage. In fact, I feel that C9 were quite fortunate to win. C9 struggled to find a significant advantage until Meteos was able to land a somewhat miraculous Glacial Prison ultimate, catching all 5 members of TSM, winning the team fight and allowing C9 to secure the Baron.

Even after losing the team fight and lost Baron, I still think TSM had a great chance to win. They were less than 10% behind on gold and very close to a 3rd large item on both Bjergsen and Turtle. If they hadn’t have made the large rotational misplay of giving up an uncontested inhibitor and turret in the mid-lane I think they had good opportunity to out-scale C9, win the next big team fight, and go on to win the game.

I’m going to declare this pick and ban phase a draw.

 

Game 2

Let’s join the pick and ban phase 9 picks in:

  C9 (Blue side) TSM (Red side)
Bans            Thresh                   Rumble
  Janna Hecarim
  Urgot

Nautilus

 

  C9 TSM
Picks Gragas  
    Sion
    Sejuani
  Corki  
  Maoki  
    Kalista
    Kennen
  Lucian  
  Morgana  

 

Cloud 9 has just picked up Lucian for Sneaky and Morgana for LemonNation. The Lucian pick means that C9 will be running a double AD composition alongside the Corki. With limited magic damage from a Maoki late-game, and Corki’s rockets also dealing decreasingly little magic damage into the late-game, and against the tanky TSM Sion and Sejuani picks who can stack armour, C9 put themselves at risk once again of being out-scaled.

Sion has good wave-clear under turret for a top-lane champion, and Kalista, with Turtle’s normal Runaan’s Hurricane build has respectable wave-clear too. If TSM last-picks something like an Ahri or Xerath for Bjergsen, TSM’s total wave-clear will be enough to neutralise C9 siege attempts. Therefore, the same as in game 1, C9 are at risk of facing a TSM team that can both out-scale them and neutralise their siege – so, again, they must ensure that they have enough play-making and hard-engage capabilities to seize an advantage through rotational plays and picking fights around objectives.

For these reasons I disagree with the choice to pick a Morgana for LemonNation. Yes she can sometimes land Dark Bindings out the fog of war, but against a team as organised as TSM, landing a dark binding onto a priority target is rather optimistic. Instead I would have rather seen LemonNation go back to the Annie pick, a champion he has found success with earlier in the season, and use the flash Tibbers potential to seek rotational catches much more aggressively.

Bjergsen finalises the draft phase by picking up AP Kog’Maw for the mid-lane This a champion that we’ve seen used successfully in Europe, but not so much in North America and not a champion previously picked by Bjergsen. I feel that the AP Kog’Maw is an excellent choice of last pick. It can farm the lane out quite safely against Hai’s Corki, provide excellent wave-clear to thwart a siege attempt from C9, and scale amazingly into the late-game, sitting safely behind an incredibly tanky front-line whilst spewing out tremendous damage.

This is how the final draft looks:

C9 TSM
Maoki Sion
Gragas Sejuani
Corki Kog'Maw
Lucian Kalista
Morgana Kennen

 

Verdict

I consider TSM to have won this pick and ban phase and in quite a dominant fashion. Barring big misplays from TSM, or crazy early level shenanigans, C9 lacks a realistic way to win the game. TSM will out scale them hard with the AP Kog’Maw and super-tanky frontline, and C9 can neither siege in the mid-game nor expect to find many ambush opportunities with a composition lacking in hard-engage.

 

Game 3

Let’s join the pick and ban phase 5 picks in.

  TSM (Blue side) C9 (Red side)
Bans           
Rumble Thresh
  Vladimir Hecarim
  Nautilus   Janna

 

  TSM C9
Picks Urgot      
    Sion
    Gragas
  Corki  
  Maoki  


By selecting both Urgot and Corki in the first 2 rounds of picks TSM gives themselves a lot of mid-game poke potential. However, picking these champions early in the draft gives C9 time to respond and ensure that they have enough wave-clear to neutralise a ‘group up and poke’ strategy from TSM. What’s more important about these two picks is that it secures a powerful lane-bully champion for Bjergsen – the player with highest skill advantage over his laning opponent – whilst simultaneously denying Hai the response of picking Corki – perhaps his favourite safe farming champion.

Here’s how the pick phase progressed:

 

  TSM C9
Picks 
Urgot  
    Sion
    Gragas
  Corki  
  Maoki  
    Sivir
    Braum
  Kennen  
  Sejuani  
    Lulu

 

C9 had the choice at this stage to opt for a composition that would out-scale TSM’s double AD team and could have picked a late-scaling ADC such as Jinx or Kog’Maw. However, Sneaky hasn’t played such champions in the Spring season and they instead opt for the Sivir, perhaps better suiting C9’s strength of great shot-calling and rotational pays. Identifying both Urgot and Corki’s great strength in the mid-game the Braum seems like a good choice of support to give C9 the necessary team fighting boost to avoid being run over at this stage of the game.

TSM respond by picking the somewhat predictable Sejuani for Santorin and the support Kennen for Lustboy offering TSM additional engage potential.

With limited options in his pool that can survive a laning phase against Bjergsen’s Urgot, Hai ultimately decides to play Lulu. I don’t necessarily consider this a terrible choice of champion for the situation – Lulu provides great wave-clear against TSM’s poke comp and Lulu’s shields are very helpful against Urgot’s Acid Hunters – but I’m unconvinced that this is a good choice of champion for Hai specifically. Hai hasn’t previously played Lulu in the spring split and hasn’t recent competitive experience on the champion despite really needing to play something he’s very comfortable on against Bjergsen’s formidable Urgot pressure.

I wonder if perhaps a Lissandra pick may have been better for Hai. Lissandra is a champion that Hai has played previously in the season and has won 3 out of 4 games on. I also think that a Lissandra pick would give C9 greater magic damage over time and superior late-game scaling than the Lulu, as well as offering play-making hard-engage potential. I don’t have a top-level understanding of the matchup, but I would imagine that Lissandra would also have a reasonable chance of farming out the lane against an Urgot relatively evenly.

Here’s how the teams look at the end of the draft:

TSM C9
Maoki Sion
Sejuani Gragas
Urgot Lulu
Corki Sivir
Kennen Braum

 

Verdict

I don’t feel that either team established a significant compositional advantage over the other. Both teams have a decent amount of play-making potential in the mid-game and neither team is set to significantly out-scale the other. TSM have somewhat better control around neutral objects with the poke coming out of Urgot and Corki, whereas C9 have somewhat better siege potential without great wave-clear potential from TSM other than from Corki. Overall, both compositions have a good chance to win.

However, TSM were able to pressure Hai onto Lulu, an uncomfortable champion for him and one he was ultimately unable to perform well on (final KDA: 0/5/2), and because of this I consider the 3rd game pick and ban phase a victory for TSM.

 

Game 4

Let’s join the pick and ban phase 7 picks in:

 

  C9 (Blue side)  
TSM (Red side)
Bans            
Thresh   Rumble
  Urgot Hecarim
  Gragas Sejuani

 

  C9 TSM
Picks Nautilus  
    Maoki
    Vi
  Zac  
  Sivir   
    Kalista
    Kennen

 

At this point of the draft both teams have clearly picked up a lot of hard-engage and catch potential. With the Kalista Kennen lock-in TSM secure themselves a very powerful 2v2 lane, especially against the Sivir who somewhat struggles vs the Kalista. TSM also have a lot of 2v1 pressure with the Kalista Kennen lane whilst having a capable 1v2 laner in Maoki. With Bjergsen yet to counter-pick Hai in the mid-lane, TSM’s composition so far is in a great position to pull-ahead in the laning phase and snowball their advantage into an insurmountable lead with their powerful Vi and Kennen hard-engage options.

To avoid this TSM snowball, Cloud 9 must pick a mid and top-laner who can get through the laning phase at least close to even.

Let’s see what Cloud 9 pick next:

  C9 TSM
Picks 
Nautilus  
    Maoki     
    Vi
  Zac  
  Sivir  
    Kalista
    Kennen
  Zed  
  Vladimir  

 

Being arguably Hai’s best champion Zed seems like a good choice for the mid-lane. It has an at least decent laning phase into most matchups, and the counter-pick Urgot option has been banned out. Zed can also follow-up well on ‘On the hunt’ empowered Nautilus and Zac engages and offer some of the best split-push pressure in the mid-game.

However, given that Zed is an AD champion, unless Cloud 9 is willing to scale very poorly into the late-game – with a triple AD composition vs a Maoki and Vi who can stack armour – they must pick an AP champion for balls. With Rumble banned and Maoki taken away by Dyrus this leaves Lissandra and Lulu as the only AP champions that Balls has previously played in the season.

Balls ends up picking Vladimir, a champion he’s likely had recent success with in scrims to warrant the bans from TSM in previous games. I wonder if he may have been slightly baited into this pick by the enticing ability of Vladimir to pool through a Vi ult, but regardless of the reason it was selected, I strongly disagree with this choice

As discussed above, the real danger of TSM’s composition is that they pull significantly ahead in the laning phase and then snowball this lead into an insurmountable lead with their hard-engage capabilities. Vladimir is one of worst champions to prevent this happening. If Cloud 9 seek the standard 1v1 and 2v2 lanes, their duo lane risks getting bullied by the Kalista Kennen lane, and in the top lane Vladimir will also get out-laned vs Maoki, at least for the first portion of the game. If the lanes are swapped the situation is even worse. Vladimir will be almost guaranteed to fall much further behind in the 1v2 lane than Maoki, and without much gold will be largely insignificant for a long stretch of the game.

I wonder if Balls should have instead picked Lissandra and seeked the 1v2 lane-swap. Being able to 1v2 a lot better than Vladimir, Lissandra would give Cloud 9 a better chance to escape the laning-phase without a large deficit than the Vladimir pick and, combined with their other picks, would give C9 huge catch and play-making potential in the mid-game. Alternatively, maybe Hai should have resisted the Zed pick, picked the Lissandra pick for himself in the mid-lane, and opened up the choice to pick AD top-laners for Balls.

With C9 picking Vladimir, TSM make a very sensible choice and pick Cho’Gath as a lane-bully for Bjergsen to further maximise their chance of a quick early-game snowball victory.

Here’s how the final draft looks:

C9 TSM
Vladimir Maoki
Zac Vi
Zed Cho’Gath
Sivir Kalista
Nautilus Kennen

 

Verdict

If C9 are able to avoid an early-game deficit they have a lot of rotational tools available with the strong double split-push potential from both Zed and Vladimir. C9 are also set to out-scale TSM if the game hits the late-game. However, TSM have a very considerable early game advantage – 3 winning lanes and plenty of hard-engage and catch potential to snowball advantages into much larger ones. For this reason I consider the pick and ban phase of game 4 to be a victory for TSM.

TSM did indeed win game 4 off of an early-game snowball and in doing so win the series 3:1.

 

Conclusion

I feel that TSM overall outperformed C9 in the pick and ban phases. In 3 out of 4 games TSM selected significantly superior drafts to C9 and set themselves up to win before even loading onto Summoner’s Rift. With the upcoming MSI let's see how TSM continue to perform in the pick and ban phase.

Shares
Next Article