The Taiwanese team entered the tournament in a group favorable for their survival, but few expected them to advance as they did: by topping it.
They managed to do so on the back of a 3-0 sweep today, and that was largely due to the efforts of mid laner Huang “Maple” Yi-tang. Flash Wolves played him on LeBlanc in two key matches against Counter Logic Gaming and KOO Tigers, their primary rivals in the group, and Maple delivered with the assassin, putting up 5/1/10 and 12/1/8 KDA lines respectively.
At the end of today’s games, four different regions—Korea, Taiwan, North America, and Europe—top each of the four groups at Worlds.
Those numbers almost understate Maple’s impact, especially in the game against KOO Tigers, where he absolutely terrorized the Korean side posting a whopping 934 DPM.
That’s all according to plan, Haung said: “KOO Tigers, we thought we had a chance to beat them because we have a better mid/jungle combination than them.”
During the League of Legends Master Series (LMS), Huang is the most feared mid lane player in his region. The Flash Wolves topped the LMS during the regular season by heavily featuring Maple and that jungle combination with Hung “Karsa” Hau-Hsuan, another mechanically elite star. But on the international stage Maple has been overshadowed by ahq eSports Club’s Liu “westdoor” Shu-Wei. Today’s performance was the first step in changing that.
During the first week of Worlds, Flash Wolves seemed to forget their mid-lane-centric style, instead opting for strategies more heavily featuring top laner Chou “Steak” Lu-Hsi on juggernauts like Darius. Today, they returned to their bread and butter, with magnificent results. Maple and company have now booked their ticket to London.
The team expected to advance to the quarterfinals, but they weren’t sure they’d be able to do it against tough KOO Tigers team and a Counter Logic Gaming squad that impressed them during the leadup to the event. Huang was surprised the Americans performed so poorly today after a “pretty good” first week.
In fact, the team that gave Flash Wolves the most trouble was Brazilian side paiN Gaming. The wildcard team beat them in week one and nearly did it a second time today, building a lead and coming within a few attacks of breaking Flash Wolves’ nexus before the Taiwanese team capitalized on a few mistakes to come back.
The Brazilian side also troubled some of the other teams in the group, even beating Counter Logic Gaming today after the Americans had already been eliminated. That isn’t just because teams like Flash Wolves underperformed, Haung said, though he admitted they made “a lot of mistakes.”
“I think [paiN] have some good individual players and they actually have a really good strategy for lane swapping so I think they are a pretty good team as well,” Huang said.
If there’s any takeaway from the World Championship so far, it’s that the strength of every region worldwide is increasing, even the wildcards. No longer can we expect Korean teams like KOO Tigers to simply stomp the competition on the World Stage. At the end of today’s games, four different regions—Korea, Taiwan, North America, and Europe—top each of the four groups at Worlds. That’s an unprecedented level of parity in League of Legends.
“I think for this World Championship, each region is very close to each other,” Huang said. “In the past few worlds it has been Korean and Chinese teams with a lot higher chance to win, but this time around everyone is close to each other. I think especially the European teams are a lot stronger and they have a lot that we can learn from their strategy.”
With a major patch released between Worlds and the last professional competition, the Worlds meta is still new and quickly developing, an open canvas for teams to write their own strategic music. Some teams, like Cloud9 and paiN Gaming, are using advantageous early game lane swaps to build leads and perhaps cover up some of the mechanical weaknesses in their lineup. But Huang is particularly impressed with the European teams like Fnatic and specifically Origen, who have demonstrated the playbook on how best to use two teleports in the current meta.
“We can see that Origen especially have a really good understanding of the current meta and that’s why they have been doing very good so far in this World Championships,” he said.
“The one team we don’t want to play against early on is Origen. They have been good on the stage and we have been scrimming them and they look strong there too,” he said. “I feel like most teams from Asia have a hard time to play against Origen when they scrim.”
Of course, perhaps Huang is assuming they won’t run into SK Telecom T1. It’s unlikely the Flash Wolves will face the Korean titan in the quarterfinals thanks to the Taiwanese team topping their group. But even as a top seed, there are plenty of tough potential opponents, even SK Telecom T1, if they falter against EDward Gaming this week. Or Origen, who, despite leading their group at the moment, could easily fall to a lower position similar to Counter Logic Gaming.
Huang would rather face an Asian team like KT Rolster, because he feels they have a “similar understanding of the meta and strategy right now.” Then the game can come down to mechanics, individual play, and teamwork, and as the yoe Flash Wolves showed today against KOO Tigers, they are not lacking in any of those categories.
The Flash Wolves won’t be summoned to the rift again until, at the earliest, a week from today. That means they can sit back and prepare over the next seven days, watching their foes duke it out as they soak in and analyze the quickly developing Worlds meta.
Entering the event, few knew exactly what to make of the Taiwanese team. The region has had an up-and-down year on the big stage, but after Flash Wolves’ performance today, it looks like they’re ready to take the next step. It’s not hard to imagine Flash Wolves reaching the semifinals or even further, if the cards fall right and they continue to receive great player from their stars like Maple himself.
Josh Raven contributed to this report.
Photo via Riot Games/Flickr