Spring upset, Summer Thriller, Winter Domination - 3 Years of Champions Finals.
Korea's Premier League of Legends' Tournament.
With all the excitement around IEM San Jose, what has been happening in Korea right now has been somewhat overlooked. All this week the fresh new line-ups of Korea's major organisations have been fighting it out in the new OGN pre-season league. This is the start of the biggest overhaul Korean LoL has ever seen and it will mark the last of the major regions (NA, EU, CN, KR) to transition from a tournament based circuit to a bi-annual league. While there are obviously very clear advantages to the league format it will never truly match the excitement that Champions has given us over 3 years - over all 8 finals there have been 7 unique winners and 10 unique finalists, each of which established themselves as legends, kings of the world. To be an OGN champion is to win under immense pressure at the peak level of competition, carrying a great deal of significance in Korea as the community has a tendency to withhold respect until you win a title. This article will cover the context and story-lines of the finals, following the players' journey to fame and glory or to soul-crumbling defeat, detailing the ultimate conclusions to the highest level tournament LoL e-sports has ever seen.
Spring 2012 - The Inaugural Final that Started a Dynasty.
From left to right: RapidStar, Locodoco, Woong, MadLife, CloudTemplar
Top - Woong
Jungle - CloudTemplar
Mid - RapidStar
ADC - Locodoco
Support - MadLife
How they reached the final:
MiG Frost were already the shining stars of Korean LoL before Champions even began; having crushed rivals Najin Emfire and American juggernauts Counter Logic Gaming in the OGN Invitational tournament, Frost were the team to beat coming into the first season. Frost had recently recruited a B-team, MiG Blaze, to help them practice for the OGN Invitational. The rumoured strategy was to have Blaze mimic the playstlye of opponents Frost were to face, allowing Frost to develop counter-strategies without giving away information about themselves. This proved lethal at the Invitational and set Frost up for success in this coming tournament.
Frost were immediately drawn into a pathetic group, with the only real talent coming from MKZs mid laner MidKing, who was known for playing on NA before the Korean servers were launched. Regardless, Frost swept the group and were to face their first real challenge in Najin Emfire - a team that, up until the Invitational, appeared to have had their number domestically. Splitting 1-1 the set went to blind pick, where star top laners from each side (Woong and MakNooN) both locked in Olaf. Woong would go on to crush the matchup and completely embarrass MakNooN, solidifying him as an elite top laner and sending Frost to face Xenics Storm in the semi-finals.
Xenics Storm were the surprise factor this tournament. Choking out CLG with an impressive siege composition in the group stages and sweeping MKZ in the Ro8, Storm were no pushover and drew the series 2-2. In Game 5, star bottom lane SBS and Impact constantly pressured MadLife and Locodoco, and by 28 minutes Frost had conceded 7 towers, 7 kills and were 4k down in gold. With the enemy on their doorstep, a clutch Crescendo from MadLife secured them a crucial teamfight, leading to a baron and then the game. Frost were shaken but not stirred and came roaring into the final hungry to be crowned the undisputed kings of Korean LoL.
From left to right: Cpt Jack, Lustboy, Helios, Ambition, Reapered
Top - Reapered
Jungle - Helios
Mid - Ambition
ADC - Cpt Jack
Support - Lustboy
How they reached the final:
A relatively new team to Korean LoL, featuring NA server talent Reapered (then known as FantasyStar) and Ambition as well as rising star Cpt Jack, Blaze were considered weaker than their sister team Frost coming in to the tournament, purely on the basis that they had yet to prove themselves in a high pressure setting. Although they were drawn in a group with EU legends Fnatic, it was not a round-robin, so Blaze quietly beat both StarTale and Team Hunters to advance to the Ro8 untested.
This would all change as Blaze would fight against CLG in the Ro8, now seemingly the gatekeepers to success in Korean LoL. This was CLG with a monster line-up: extraordinary carry potential coming out of star jungler Saintvicious with the flawless laners of Doublelift and Chauster saw them emerge 2-1 from groups. A key Urgot pick from Cpt Jack in game 1 and consistent pressure from Helios helped shut down CLG's bottom lane while Reapered hard carried on Riven from the top lane, ending the game 7/0/1. In game 2, over-aggression from Hotshot and Saint allowed Blaze to hold on until 20 mins, where a teamfight near dragon secured them baron and the game with a dominating performance from Cpt Jack. Blaze had utterly destroyed western legends CLG in a brutal 2-0 stomp.
Up next in the Ro4 was a promising Team OP, featuring another NA server veteran in Lilac, ex frost member Cornsalad, and ADC talent Paragon. OP had swept the groups beating Najin Emfire and had 2-0'd Fnatic, Season 1 World Champions and European veterens, in the quarterfinals. Not strong enough however, as even though OP won game 2, Blaze fought back hard in game 3, where a perfectly executed towerdive onto Cornsalad's top lane Ahri, and a crazy Graves performance from Cpt Jack allowed Vladimir and Ryze to scale into the late-game and win teamfights. Game 4 and a brutal extended teamfight at OP's blue saw the sustained healing and magic damage of Lustboy's Soraka prevail, and after further explosive 5v5s, the red hot furnace that was Blaze roared into the final.
MiG Blaze 3-0 MiG Frost
If you were an analyst trying to predict the outcome of this final it would have been a tough call. Both teams had crushed group stages, both teams had wiped the floor with highly touted teams in the quarters and both had shown streaks of brilliance in the semi-finals. Blaze had come in peak form, with Cpt Jack and Reapered showing devastating displays of dominance. However Frost had a consistent history in Korean LoL, they could be relied on to perform in a high pressure situation. With Storm taking down OP in the 3rd place match, maybe Frost only winning 3-2 in the semis was a sign of Storms strength and not Frost weakness. Regardless of the result, MiG's gamble of creating sister teams for rigorous and structured practice at a time when the scene was in its infancy had paid off - Blaze and Frost were trailblazers that had set a precedent for the structure of Korean LoL for the next 7 seasons of Champions.
Game 1 started off with Blaze on the aggressive as they stormed into CloudTemplar's blue, with Helios securing it and setting CT's Amumu behind. With Blaze's duo lane running top, Frost then sent Locodoco and MadLife bot lane to avoid the Graves and Lulu combo from Blaze. With each team's duo taking a tower within seconds of each other, the lanes were then swapped again, putting each team once more in a 2v1, except this time Blaze were able to kill Woong's level 5 Yorick as soon as Cpt Jack struck 6. Meanwhile, Ambition on Ryze (now a signature champion for him this tournament) solo killed RapidStar's Ahri in lane after getting the better of a trade. Taking dragon and the bottom turret, Blaze pulled ahead but Frost did not waver however, trading top tower and stealing away Helios' blue. An explosive teamfight in Mid went down to the wire as Reapered's Wukong landed a fantastic ultimate which allowed Ambition and Cpt Jack to get off critical AOE damage, securing kills on Madlife's Sona and CloudTemplar's Amumu, leaving the remaining Frost members low. With Blaze taking mid tower, Frost answered with a dragon but they were severely crippled and Blaze pushed bottom lane all the way to an Inhibitor, picking off CloudTemplar in the process. They then killed Locodoco and CloudTemplar again at Baron, taking it and then storming down mid. Despite landing a 4-man Curse of the Sad Mummy, CloudTemplar's boys were demolished in the subsequent teamfight, losing 4 kills to 2. Now having taken 2 Inhibitor's, Blaze closed out game 1 by securing 4 more kills and the Nexus.
Blaze before game 1. From left to right: Cpt Jack, Lustboy, Reapered, Helios, Ambition
Blaze went on the aggressive again in game 2, invading Frost's bottom-side tri-brush and forcing a flash from Locodoco. They then sent Cpt Jack and Lustboy to take the enemy red, while Helios and Ambition secured blue. Frost answered by stealing Blaze's red in return however and the lanes returned to standard. Kills went to each side for the early game until Frost managed to pick up dragon. Marching on, Frost chained the Varus, Rumble and Morgana ultimates at Blaze's blue buff, scattering their opponents, killing Ambition, Helios and Lustboy. Reapered was having none of that as he went on to solo kill Woong, trading flashes and becoming huge on Jax. When dragon spawned, Blaze fought back: as Frost dived on to Helios, they split up in the process, leaving RapidStar's Morgana to fall to the damage of Ambition's Ryze. The remaining players engaged in a nail-biting skirmish as Woong was caught out of position and succumbed to the unstoppable train that was Blaze, leaving Reapered freedom to wreak havoc. He was on fire as he jumped from CloudTemplar to MadLife, ripping through him before falling to Locodoco's Varus attacks. Cpt Jack went on the aggressive, quickly despatching Loco while CloudTemplar won a duel with Ambition and both players fled the battle battered and bruised. CloudTemplar attempted to take the dragon on his way out but didn't have the HP to solo it, so was forced to run away as Cpt Jack secured mid tower after backing. This chaos marked the beginnings of a Blaze comeback. All players revived, Blaze baited at dragon and stormed through the following teamfight, leaving only RapidStar alive. Securing the dragon they marched down mid, stealing red as Reapered pressured bottom. After much back and forth, a siege at bot lead Reapered to charge into Frost, securing two kills for Cpt Jack, netting the tower. As Blaze marched on, they killed Locodoco and Woong to secure the inhibitor. Frost held on for dear life as they snuck a baron, but Blaze would not be stopped as they dove into mid, taking 4 more kills in exchange for Reapered as they stormed on to end the game.
Blaze and Frost fight at dragon, Game 2
Game 3 started how it always had, with Blaze invading and Ambition picking up Madlife at level 1. In lane, Reapered breathed fire as he picked off Woong's Olaf with the help of Helios, which snowballed him to go on to get a second kill all by himself. Getting too aggressive, Reapered died to the top inner turret but Blaze dove bottom, securing 3 kills. Frost counter engaged as Woong had run down, able to pick up Lustboy's Janna and Ambition's Ryze in return. Blaze picked up towers, eventually diving Frost under the top inner turret with unrelenting aggression, securing 5 kills for 1. CloudTemplar went for the all-or nothing dive in middle, but Lustboy landed a phenomenal tornado, forcing Jarvan to burn flash as Blaze brutally counter-engaged, scoring an ace as RapidStar took down the immobile Ashe of Cpt Jack. Fueled by their unrelenting blood-lust, Blaze marched on with their monstrous lead to secure 3 more kills and sweep the series.
Blaze after defeating Frost in the final. From left to right: Reapered, Ambition, Helios, Cpt Jack, Lustboy
Summer 2012 - Frost Put Western Hopes on Ice.
From left to right: MadLife, Woong, CloudTemplar, RapidStar, Shy
Top - Shy
Jungle - CloudTemplar
Mid - RapidStar
ADC - Woong
Support - MadLife
How they reached the final:
Following their embarrassment in Spring, Frost decided to remove ADC Locodoco and move Woong down to the bottom to lane with MadLife. They then recruited rookie top laner Shy and were soon sponsored by German media group, Azubu, along with Blaze.
Placed in a seemingly easy group, they actually conceded their first match to the promising ameteur team RoMg containing the players ChuChu (later known as Acorn) and Nyang (later known as Heart). Frost would not be deterred however, and easily despatched rivals Najin Sword and USA tourists Team Dignitas to reach the Ro8 2-1.
In the quarter-finals they were to repeat what Blaze had done last season - destroy CLG.NA in the quarter-finals 2-0, who had returned with a new line-up of star top laner Voyboy and moved HotshotGG to the jungle. Next up was Azubu Blaze, the team that had slaughtered them in the spring final. This time Frost were out for revenge against their sister team, going even in the series taking game 1 and 3. As the series went to blind pick for game 5, Frost showed a taste of what was to come as they displayed dominance in this game-mode with a deadly dive composition of Malphite, Nocturne, Alistar and Diana. This Frost was cleaner, crisper and ready for the final in tremendous form.
From left to right: Froggen, Yellowpete, Snoopeh, Krepo, Wickd
Top - Wickd
Jungle - Snoopeh
Mid - Froggen
ADC - Yellowpete
Support - Krepo
How they reached the final:
Besides Russian kings Moscow 5, CLG.EU was the only foreign team able to legitimately compete with Korea's elite. Online monsters in their home region of Europe, CLG.EU came into the group stages after a jaw-dropping victory over M5 in the Dreamhack Summer final - their first major offline victory against a team that up until that point were undefeated in an offline best-of series. CLG.EU tore through groups, going 3-0 vs sister team CLG.NA and Korean sides MVP Blue and IM in a single day.
Back from a disappointing loss to M5 at ECC Poland, CLG.EU came into the quarter-finals bitter, as they cruelly swept Chinese powerhouse World Elite 2-0, making sure to ban away Twisted Fate extraordinaire Misaya's favoutite champion in both games. Meeting them in the Ro4 were Korean madmen Najin Sword. Recently split away from the main roster, MakNooN now had a shiny new line-up specifically built around him and was out for a chance to prove himself, having lost to Frost in the OGN Invitational, the Champions Spring quarter-final and once more in the summer groups. Having beaten everyone else and sweeping StarTale, Najin came into game 1 on the aggressive, securing a monstrous early lead. CLG.EU played out their classic stall style however and managed to ace Sword in a crucial fight, taking game 1. Game 2 was a wash until a crucial fight at mid gave them an ace and an uncontested baron, ultimately going up 2-0 in the series. Najin fought back hard, taking game 3 but showing what would be the crux of the final, Froggens' Diana finished off Sword, launching CLG.EU into the final of one of the most competitive tournaments of the year.
Azubu Frost 3-2 CLG.EU
With Frost overcoming sister team Blaze in the semi's and CLG.EU going the furthest any western team could have dreamed of, everything was on the line at this final. The victors would establish a legacy that would go down in the annals of LoL history as one of the best teams ever, the losers could only stare blankly into the abyss of their computer screens, left to wonder what could have been.
Snoopeh and CloudTemplar carry the trophy whilst handing out high five's
Game 1 saw CLG.EU get all of their favourite picks - Yellowpete's patented Kog'Maw paired with Krepo's Soraka was a classic - allowing them to passively sustain and farm up to the lategame. Maokai and Irelia were signature champions for Snoopeh and Wickd respectively and Froggen was on his ace in the hole - Diana. Pressure from Snoopeh got Wickd off to a blistering start, killing Shy twice in lane. At a pivotal moment CT and Shy killed Wickd, while RapidStar roamed bottom and together with Woong and MadLife they went on the aggressive. Froggen and Snoopeh leapt into action, slaughtering Frost's bottom lane and leaving RapidStar low such that CLG.EU could take dragon. Another kill onto Shy and CLG.EU were in pole position as Froggen made a crazy play at his wraiths, jumping back and forth with flash and his ultmate. The dragon soon spawned again and CLG.EU were ready to push their lead, with Froggen assassinating Woong while the others traded Snoopeh for CloudTemplar, allowing CLG.EU to take blue and the dragon. Again and again Frost lost kills all around the map, with CLG.EU winning a further explosive fight at dragon 4 kills for 2. This lead proved insurmountable as they forced baron and a surrender from Frost.
Wickd stuns RapidStar from the brush in Game 2
Game 2 started with Frost on the aggressive as they invaded CLG.EU's top tribrush, catching out Wickd's Irelia. The next 20 mins were back and forth, with the score splitting even at 2-2 until a key teamfight at mid went heavily in CLG.EU's favour, thanks to insane damage from Froggen's Karthus ultimate. Later, Frost attempted to siege bottom with poke from Jayce and Corki but incredible positioning from Wickd allowed him to emerge from the brush to get off a crucial Equilibrium Strike onto RapidStar, setting in motion a chaotic fight as CLG.EU chased down Frost, trading 4 for 3 in the end thanks to some good play from MadLife and CloudTemplar. Eventually, CLG.EU managed to secure baron and tear through Frost, killing Shy, RapidStar and CloudTemplar with only Wickd falling. This blew the game wide open as CLG.EU methodically took mid and bottom inhibitors then proceeded to siege top, diving onto Frost and bringing them 1 game away from becoming champions.
RapidStar's Karthus play was vital in this series.
Game 3 started off differently than the previous two games, as both teams sent their duo lanes to top lane. A good gank from Snoopeh gave CLG.EU First Blood onto MadLife's Lux, but smart rotational play gave Frost the first dragon of the game uncontested. The game stayed neck-and-neck as Frost took another dragon while CLG.EU answered with mid tower showcasing their ability to be particular in which objectives they contested and be sure to choose favourable fights. A sloppy engage from CloudTemplar's Maokai pushed CLG ahead winning the fight 3 to 1, but when it came time to contest baron Wickd's Vladimir got caught completely out of position, baiting the rest of CLG.EU to pile into the jaws of Frost, getting aced and returning only 2 kills. Now empowered with baron Frost could not be stopped as they ran CLG down mid, acing them a second time and clawing their way back in the series.
MadLife's incredible predictive hook onto Froggen in Game 4
After conceding a game, CLG.EU were eagar to close out the series to avoid the dreaded blind pick - a keystone of OGN tournaments but not seen in the west, giving Frost an inherent advantage. Taking control right away, CLG.EU invaded the enemy red buff, killing CloudTemplar and taking the red. Not letting up and after securing key lane kills they turned their attention to dragon, taking it at 9 minutes. Frost then bitterly fought back: a great roam on top from MadLife and Woong allowed Shy's Vladimir to kill both Snoopeh and Wickd for a double kill. Later, a skirmish gave Shy another kill and the dragon and after this Frost never let up, going 2 for 2 in a fight in mid but managing to take the tower. Frost then fully kicked into gear, sneaking the baron and using that advantage to choke out CLG.EU with the ridiculous waveclear from RapidStar's Anivia - taking both the bot and top inhibitors. This game saw MadLife truly ascend into God status as his Blitzcrank made plays left and right, the most impressive featured an unbelievable read onto Froggen - thinking one step ahead, MadLife beautifully predicted the timing and direction in which Ahri would ult, grabbing the hapless Dane as Frost blew him apart and took the series to game 5 and blind pick.
MadLife's Alistar completely zones Froggen from the fight in game 5, rendering him unable to deal damage.
Before game 5 even began Frost completely outmanoeuvred CLG.EU in the blind picks. Predicting a Diana pick from Frost, Froggen went for the mirror matchup to snowball against RapidStar instead of playing it safe and choosing his signature Anivia. Frost's experience in blind pick shone through as RapidStar chose Karthus and MadLife locked in Alistar to counter the narrow all-in playstyle of Froggens Diana. If CLG.EU weren't demoralised enough, Snoopeh had his heart broken and his dreams crushed as a brilliant ward from MadLife allowed Woong to snipe away Snoopeh's red and set Frost ahead. In a hopeful moment, Yellowpete managed to secure First Blood, despite Woong's red buff advantage, but fell in the process. A kill onto Wickd in the top lane allowed Frost to steal away blue, but CLG quickly answered with a dragon. The unstoppable machine of Frost kicked into action however, catching out CLG's bottom lane as Yellowpete went for a risky blue steal, as well as getting kills on Froggen and Wickd in a short space of time. On a murderous rampage Frost continued to dominate in game 5, trading 3 towers and only giving up a dragon. At the 21st minute Frost charged toward CLG.EU at a choke-point in the entrance to baron, with RapidStar's Karthus, CT's Shen and Shy's Jax brawling the tankline of Krepo, Wickd and Snoopeh while MadLife did a perfect Gandalf impression, preventing Froggen from passing through him and dealing any damage. Scoring 3 kills CLG.EU looked to have turned things around, but the monster Requiem damage from RapidStar helped secure 4 kills for Frost. Again CLG and Frost fought at baron, with MadLife doing even more to prevent Froggen from getting to his carries, leading to a terrible fight for the European side. Mere minutes later, again at baron, RapidStar managed to live with a sliver of health while the team took down Snoopeh, Yellowpete and Krepo. This was not enough for MadLife as he ran toplane, flashed over the golem wall to find Froggen recalling in a brush, knocking him up and tossing him around until Shy came in for the execute on Jax. Frost had CLG.EU's head in the guillotine and with impressive play from Shy, Frost secured back to back aces onto Froggen's men and finished off the series and the championship.
Frost after their win over CLG.EU. From left to right: Shy, Woong, CloudTemplar, RapidStar, MadLife
Winter 2012-2013 - MakNooN's Revenge.
From left to right: MadLife, Woong, RapidStar, Shy, CloudTemplar
Top - Shy
Jungle - CloudTemplar
Mid - RapidStar
ADC - Woong
Support - MadLife
How they reached the final:
Frost came into Champions Winter as kings of the world, having tore through the Season 2 World Championship, sweeping NA's best, TSM, 2-0 in the Ro8 and once again overcoming CLG.EU 2-1 in the semi-final. Heavy favourites going into the final, Frost fell to Taiwanase TPA 3-1 in one of the most shocking upsets in history. Frost stumbled in the group stages of Champions Winter, splitting 1-1 with KTA, Incredible Miracle and OP and 2-0ing MVP White and Najin Shield, ending a seemingly much weaker group with only an adequate 7-3 record. Splitting 1-1 with KTB in the interleague match gave Woong's men much to smile about however, as these ex-StarTale players had caught on fire in Group B, going undefeated 10-0. Azubu Frost emerged from Group A in 1st place, and in the quarter-final were met by CJ Entus, who had been absolutely crushed in Group B by every other team that had advanced, as well as losing to 2-0 to Najin Shield in the interleague match and stumbling into the Ro8 with a 4-8 record.
The series started off as expected, with Frost crushing games 1 and 2 to take match-point. CJ Entus fought back, taking game 3 by storm as they took down the Korean legends methodically, staying even in kills but ending the game having taken 10 towers and conceding 0. Game 4 also saw CJ Entus with a monstrous tower lead, ending the game 11-1 in that regard, but this time completely dominated Frost in kills, with rising star mid-laner dade going ballistic on midlane Lee Sin ending 9/0/5. Game 5 was an absolute blood bath, with Frost scraping through to the semi-final in a 30-38 kill game lasting 53 minutes. In the semi-final, Frost had to face Blaze again, who had also struggled in the Ro8 with new top-laner Flame, winning 3-2 over IM.
Due to a new format for Champions, Frost had to beat Blaze in 2 consecutive best-of 5s, or otherwise be forced to play a sudden death decider. In the first set Frost were up 2-1 and about to finish off their sister team having taken all 3 inhibitors and up 10k in gold. Cpt Jack then performed a masterclass in teamfight positioning as a blood-boiled Caitlyn, and Blaze viciously came back, forcing a game 5. But it was not to be, as Frost proved to be at their best in blind pick, securing Blitzcrank and Miss Fortune - 2 staple champions for MadLife and Woong. In the second set, Blaze where the ones who found themselves up 2-1, but yet again Frost managed to grab Blitz and MF in game 4 and 5 - closing out this grueling series in blind pick. If you were to face Azubu Frost in a best of 5, whatever you do, don't let it go to blind pick.
Before the the final however they went off to Kattowice, Poland for the IEM Global Challenge. Joined by Blaze they swept groups and came into the semi-final confident. In a phenomenal display of aggression featuring a creative armour-shred composition of Xin Zhao and Renekton, Gambit Gaming (formerly M5) brutally swept Frost and sent them back to Korea with only a 3-4th finish as they limped into the Champions Final in February.
Top - MakNooN
Jungle - watch
Mid - SSONG
ADC - PraY
Support - Cain
How they reached the final:
Throughout 2012, MakNooN must have been getting increasingly filled with bitter envy. Falling to Frost in the first match of the OGN Invitational a year prior, and then again in the Ro8 in Champions Spring, Najin's top lane prodigy had become a laughing stock in Korean LoL. Seperating from the main Najin roster to form Najin Sword, a team built specifically around him, MakNooN's men went all the way to the semi-final of Champions Summer, only to be beaten 3-1 by CLG.EU, a team that seemed to have an answer to their relentless aggression.
In a remarkable turn of events, Sword managed to dominate Korean Regionals, running the gauntlet all the way from 4th seed, they destroyed IM and Xenics Storm before pulling a massive upset over Blaze and qualifying for the Season 2 World Championship. In LA they swept groups, getting revenge on CLG.EU, but unfortunately Sword were the first to meet TPA in the quarter-final - a team who had completely caught on fire and swept them 2-0. Having to watch Azubu Frost go all the way to the final before falling, MakNooN was hungry for revenge.
The group stages were difficult for Sword, getting 2-0'd by Blaze and KTB they had to settle for 3rd in the group. One interesting match was when they crushed CJ Entus 2-0 with MakNooN stlying on the poor LongPanda, pioneering a new strategy known as "dirty farming" where he would farm the wave between 2 enemy turrets, creating a ridiculous amount of pressure top. After a win over OP in the interleague match, Sword went into the Ro8 with a record of 7-5. 2 weeks later and ablaze with blistering form, Najin Sword destroyed MVP White 3-0 in the quarter-final, sending them flying into the semi-final where they found KTB waiting. These ex-StarTale boys had been on a rampage going 10-0 in group B and beating KTA in a 3-1 teamkill. Those hoping for a close series were left dissappointed as Sword ripped apart KTBs dreams, slaughtering them 3-1 in the first set and then sweeping 3-0 in the second set with MakNooN showing outstanding versatility - hard carrying on Kha'Zix and Rumble in addition to some solid Shen play. Najin had pioneered a revolutionairy aggressive playstyle known as "Do Dive", with jungler watch being a master of pressuring top - remarked by fans as MakNooN's third Summoner Spell as he, together with the rest of Najin Sword, leapt into the final looking strong.
Najin Sword 3-0 Azubu Frost
Left: AZF MadLife, Right: NJS MaKNooN
Predicting the outcome of this final would be tough as although Sword had caught on fire in the bracket stage, Frost had historically had their number. This was Frost's 3rd consecutive Champions final after all, they were well respected internationally and adored by fans in Korea.
An important focus point in game 1 was the picks and bans, as they tell the story of the series. With Sword banning away both Blitzcrank and Miss Fortune, an underperforming Woong could no longer simply be an ult bot and was forced onto his second favourite: Ezreal. MadLife, unable to hard carry on Blitz, locked in Lulu. The rest of Frost's composition was a homage to their Season 2 glory, with Shy on Irelia and RapidStar on TF. Last pick, CT had the option to pick Maokai to round out a nice pick composition, but instead chose his signature Amumu - a weak early-game jungler that required time to be effective. On the opposite side, Sword's composition was much more modern - with the recent changes to Warmogs, MakNooN and watch picked Renekton and Xin Zhao for an unkillable front line as well as providing stacked % armour shred so that a blood-boiled PraY on Twitch could tear through teamfights. Rounding out the composition was SSONG's Evelyn - a must-ban this tournament as it had dominated everytime it had gone through. With recent nerfs to Eve, Frost had made the mistake of leaving it open, assuming Sword wouldn't pick it, but this was not an issue for SSONG as he instalocked the Widowmaker.
Game 1 saw MakNooN instantly take control as he sauntered past Shy, farming between the towers at level 4. Taking the bait, CloudTemplar ran top, only to find watch leap forth from the top bush and, together with MakNooN, rip him apart as Shy could only look on in horror - knowing that joining in would only get him killed. Dying at mid and again at bottom thanks to great patience from SSONG, CloudTemplar fell far behind early, surrendering his entire top-side jungle to watch and MakNooN. At 9 minutes PraY showed he was a monster laner, double killing MadLife and Woong with impressive mechanics, but RapidStar proceeded to port in and collect an easy 300g. MakNooN's unrelenting pressure continued until Shy finally gave way as SSONG roamed top for the easy dive and the tower, as Frost answered with a dragon. Now with complete control over the top half of the map, Sword pressed on and with PraY up 2 kills and 40cs over Woong he ripped through Frost with Spray and Pray, securing a triple kill and an ace overall for Sword. Another fight at bottom tower saw SSONG go absolutely crazy, flashing after Woong to round out another ace as Najin charged on to take the inhibitor. At mid, another dominating teamfight went 4 for 2 in Sword's favour and MakNooN chased down Woong to end game 1.
PraY and SSONG rip through CT and MadLife in Game 1.
Game 2 saw SSONG's Eve banned away, but the rest of the picks were similar to game 1, with Frost once more forced onto the Ezreal + Lulu bottom lane. The match started slowly until SSONG hit 6 as Twisted Fate when he ulted top and, together with watch and MakNooN, dived onto Shy. Healing with his ultimate and jumping after RapidStar in a flurry, Shy managed to take TF down with him as he died to the fire of MakNooN's Rumble. In a further sequence, PraY and Cain went in on the Frost bottom lane, but a good TP from RapidStar's Ryze as well as the shielding from CloudTemplar's Stand United got Frost another kill as Woong and MadLife limped away with minuscule HP remaining. At 11 minutes MadLife made a huge play in a 2v2 with Sword, Flash-ulting himself and knocking up both champions - allowing them to burst down PraY and take dragon. Later, after getting low in a duel top, MakNooN called watch and SSONG top as they piled onto Shy, killing him instantly through Stand United, meaning CloudTemplar was left stranded and he died too. Althogh answering with mid tower, RapidStar was picked off by SSONG flashing onto him under turret. Fishing for a revenge kill, MadLife launched forward, but PraY was there from the flank to pick him off. Running away his tail between his legs, SSONG died to a decent ult from Woong, bringing the score 4-8 in Najin's favour. Sword continued to take objectives, and in the turning point of the game an unbelievable Zhonya's bait from SSONG allowed Sword to run through Frost in an explosive 5v5 at mid, getting 3 kills for nothing. Biting back, another 5v5 in mid saw MadLife land a breath-taking Wild Growth on CloudTemplar, letting Woong and RapidStar rip through Sword, acing them 5-2. With a nice dragon steal from Woong, Frost started baron thanks to CT drawing away SSONG and PraY, but a great Rumble ult from MakNooN chased them away with PraY picking off CloudTemplar in the process. At a later teamfight near baron, MakNooN forced CloudTemplar to ult MadLife, allowing PraY to rip through Frost unchallenged, netting him a triple kill and mid inhibitor. At 33 minutes the exact same thing happened again, MadLife was forced to ult himself and recieve Stand United, allowing an 11/3/1 PraY to decimate the teamfight 2 for 0. Quickly taking baron, Sword turned to face Frost as SSONG made some absolutely fantastic plays, flashing out of the baron pit and using Zhonya's to save himself from Trueshot Barrage, ending the fight 3 for 2 with baron. At 40 minutes another fight went in Sword's favour, but Frost managed to take advantage of an overstay in their base and drag the game out further. In an jaw-dropping fight in mid, MadLife landed an unthinkable Wild Growth as Sword lost everyone but SSONG as Frost charged down mid, destroying both Nexus turrets and nearly ending the game. But MakNooN came out of the fountain swinging, landing a great Equaliser and, with the rest of Sword, managed to kill Shy and MadLife while bringing Woong and CT low. The remaining members of Frost could only look on in disbelief as Sword charged down mid and finished the game.
Frost come so close to winning Game 2
To understand the now infamous game 3, one must understand Frost's mentality coming into it. Completely devastated after game 2 and with Sword banning out MF and Blitz as they had been doing all series, getting Eve, Renekton and Xin Zhao in the first few rotations, Frost felt they had to do somethig drastic to get back in the series. Hatching a plan, CloudTemplar wanted to play Lee Sin in order to make early-game plays he had been unable to do on Amumu and Shen. This must have been the cause of some discussion - CloudTemplar had never really shown any proficiency on Lee due to the champion's high mechanical skill cap. As the timer was counting down RapidStar accidently typed "??"(LeeSin) without the space, leaving him out of time to select a champion as he randomed Trundle. "It's OK, atleast it's a jungle champion," CT reassured, but the damage was done and Frost went into the game at a severe disadvantage as PraY got Twitch for a 3rd time. Deciding to go for the early-game play anyway, MadLife on Alistar was given blue while CT took his red and together with Woong, Frost ran towards the enemy red. However Sword had properly warded, and with Trundle not having anywhere near the same early-game strength, PraY easily killed him in the 3v3 skirmish as MadLife and Woong ran mid as they had laneswapped with RapidStar to keep down SSONG's Evelynn. MakNooN continued to stlye on Shy, completely dominating him with dirty farming, even managing to kill CloudTemplar while he was recalling nearby. With a 2 for 1 fight at top and a nice Ambush on to Woong set SSONG and PraY ahead and at a fight at dragon MakNooN was completely unkillable as Renekton, ending the fight 1 for 1 but getting dragon. Caught out of position three times more, Woong was down 0-5 after a pick and 2 teamfights went to Sword. Using Crescent Sweep to perfection, watch dispersed a big teamfight at baron - nullifying the effect of Pillar of Filth as all 3 lanes for Sword (all astoundingly fed) just decimated Frost, getting 4 kills and baron. With a further 2 dominating fights, at top and bot respectively, Sword waltzed into Frost's base and became champions.
In floods of tears, MakNooN embraces watch after winning Champions Winter
Having finally done it MakNooN wept heavy tears of joy as he and his team had finally overcome Frost after a year of heartbreak. For Frost the dynasty was over, the dream was dead. Never again making a final, Frost were rendered obselete and embarrassed as a new age of Korean LoL dawned - Woong and CloudTemplar were simply a relic of Season 2, unable to adapt they had been found wanting this series. Sword would never again reach the finals of Champions but MakNooN can always look back on this day fondly - the day he got his revenge.
Sword celebrate victory. From left to right: Cain, MakNooN, PraY, watch, SSONG
Spring 2013 - The Tragedy of Lee Ho-Jong
CJ Blaze Top Laner: Flame
From left to right: Mata, imp, DanDy, dade, Homme
Top - Homme
Jungle - DanDy
Mid - dade
ADC - imp
Support - Mata
How they reached the final:
The story of MVP Ozone really starts with the acquisition of dade for mid and Mata for support. Showing promise on the old CJ Entus team the previous winter, dade was a playmaker, an AD mid extraodinaire and was to become the second carry for Ozone, nex to imp. Mata came into Champions Spring a total rookie and hadn't really had much prior competitive experience. Coming into Champions Spring, MVP Ozone were expected to be just a middle-of-the-pack team and in groups thats what they seemed to be, winning over KTA but after splitting even in sets vs Sword and MVP Blue, Ozone got absolutely destroyed by CJ Blaze 2-0, giving them a 4-4 record. Up next were rising stars SKT T1 #2 (known as Judgement Day), who had caught on fire in the groups - crushing Blaze in their first match and going 7-1 so far. This was to be the start of the one of the greatest e-sports rivals in history, comparable to Flash v Jaedong in Starcraft: Brood War. The first game was fantastic, showing a dominating performance from imp and dade, Ozone managed to be the only team who had an answer for SKT's dominant laning as they ran through teamfights and went up in the set 1-0. The second game was absolutely hilarious as both teams had advanced from groups, so were free to come out with really interesting picks: Mata tried his luck on support Anivia to put together a nice wall composition with Homme's Jarvan while on the other side bengi and Piglet went double jungle as Elise and Lee with PoohManDu on Ezreal. Ozone dominated in this game aswell, specifically imp who made some of the most crazy Tristana plays ever seen before, surviving a tower dive and reading Impact perfectly.
In the Ro8 they were met by the KT Bullets, a team that had looked extremely promising in winter. Now with former CJ Entus jungler inSec in the lineup and a decent showing in groups they were favoured to win over Ozone. Game 1 of this series was rather remarkable: MVP Ozone were absolutely crushing it in kills - Homme seemed to have shored up his weak laning and was no longer a liability while the rest of the team, especially the bottom duo, were proving themselves to be incredible laners and after that, every teamfight seemed to go Ozone's way. This was no issue for the KT Bullets. Their objective control was absolutely outstanding - sneaking baron again and again, racking up tower after tower, dragon after dragon - Ozone just seemed utterly confused as to how this could have happened, and were forced to surrender. The rest of the series was all Ozone as KTB really slipped up in vision control, allowing the raw mechanical skill of "president imp and his secret service" to win out the next 3 games and go through to the semis.
The Ro4 was a rematch against SKT T1 #2, who had anihilated Najin Shield in the Ro8 and were out to prove that their group stage loss was a fluke and were gunning for a chance to walk the royal road and take the title in their first season. Game 1 was a bloodbath with kills and objectives going to both sides. One matchup to focus on is Faker's Karthus vs dade's Kha'Zix in the early-game as it really showed the difference in their playstyles: Faker just dominated lane, gaining 182 cs at 15 minutes but dade patiently waited and when the right moment arose he pounced, getting kills on Judgement Day through very opportunistic roams and teamfights. The team composition was classic Ozone - with Homme on Shen all he had to do was go even as the rest of Ozone put together a very solid pick composition with Vayne, Zyra, Elise and Kha'Zix and with superior vision control, they took game 1. Game 2 was honestly very weird - Ozone picked Ezreal and Blitzcrank, a combination they had only tried once before in groups and dade picked Orianna, not really his type of champion and he had only played it twice before when he was on CJ and gone 1-1 with it. SKT took the lead and never really let go of it, despite Ozone dragging it out, Faker's Ryze was just too much as he equalised with a final score of 13/2/6. The rest of the series was back to business for Ozone, in game 3 dade showed Faker who the real Ryze in town was going 17/1/6. Imp, his mind unable to cope with even the concept of being carried, put dade in his place in game 4 going 13/1/11 on Caitlyn and bringing Ozone into the finals.
CJ Entus Blaze
Top row from left to right: Flame, Helios, Ambition
Bottom row from left to right: Cpt Jack, Lustboy
Top - Flame
Jungle - Helios
Mid - Ambition
ADC - Cpt Jack
Support - Lustboy
How they reached the final:
So far, Blaze had been the ultimate heartbreak team. Losing to Frost in summer and winter, to Sword in regionals, getting placed in the worst group imaginable at IPL5 with Fnatic and WE (the eventual runner-up and champion respectively) then getting eliminated by M5 in the lower bracket, then getting embarrassed a second time by the Russians at the finals of IEM Kattowice meant that after Flame replaced Reapered post-S2WC, Blaze had yet to win a major LAN vs elite teams with the new line-up (MLG Dallas had Shy subbing for them). In Season 3 this was all to change. Frost were the first to taste defeat at the hands of Blaze's resurgence, losing 3-1 at the IEM Season VII World Championship. Back in Korea, Blaze went down 2-0 to Faker and SKT T1 #2 in their first match - an important moment in Judgement Day's history but a mere speck of dust in the grand tapestry that was Blaze's run in OGN Spring, as after splitting 1-1 with KTA they went undefeated for the rest of group stages.
In the quarter-finals the spinner did not land on worthy opponent for Blaze as they tore apart the turncoat Reapered and his SKT T1 #1 (known as Terminator) just as they had done at IEM. All 3 games were the Blaze show, falling a little in laning phase but with Helios on Lee Sin they were able to have far superior objective control and with Ambition, Flame and Cpt Jack all picking scaling champions it was just a matter of time before they emerged victorious. Game 3 saw an interesting Akali pick from Flame, but it was the same old story as he finished off the sweep with a final score of 10/2/3.
Up next was Frost and in game 1 Blaze continued their dominance - the trio of Elise, Lee Sin and Ahri was able to pick apart members of Frost while Cpt Jack and Lustboy methodically pushed down the towers, and after that it was lights out thanks to Lustboy's Janna being the perfect counter to Frost's "wombo-combo" composition. It would be unjust to talk about game 2 and not mention MadLife. After a key dragon fight went 2 for 1 in Blaze's favour, MadLife made one of the most impressive plays on Thresh in the history of the game: seeing RapidStar land a long range stun on Xerath he flashed over the wall, dropped a lantern while simultaneously perfectly chaining Flay and The Box to allow RapidStar to come in and with an Ace in the Hole from Hermes, Flame could only get on his knees and ask for forgiveness from the vengeful god that was MadLife. This was to be simply the eye of the storm though as Blaze's superior wave control was simply too much for Frost to handle and at the end of the game Flame had 430 cs to Shy's 220, it seemed as if there was nothing you could do to stop Flame from getting farmed. Game 3 was just a total stomp despite Flame and Ambition defaulting to late-game scaling champions in Ryze and Karthus and Blaze rocketed into the finals on a 13 win streak.
MVP Ozone 3-0 CJ Entus Blaze
CJ Blaze Flame: "People are paying to come to the finals so I worry that it'll be boring to watch. As most expect, we will end the finals one-sided"
Coming into the final these teams seemed to be the antithesis of each other in terms of style. On Blaze's side it seemed simple: Flame would pick a scaling top laner that dealt a lot of damage, often Ryze or Kennen and Helios would play Lee Sin whenever it was available otherwise defaulting onto Nasus. Ambition played an Assassin mid - often Kha'Zix or Zed while Cpt Jack and Lustboy would pick long range champions such as Caitlyn, Kog'Maw, Zyra, Lulu or Sona. Blaze had refined their style to perfection as these champions interacted with each other beautifully: Helios' early-game pressure and smart dragon control allowed Blaze to survive the early-game while Cpt Jack and Lustboy just mindlessly shoved down towers. No matter what initial lead teams could get over Blaze they were helpless as once the in-game clock ticked over to 25-30 mins it was only a matter of time before Flame (almost certainly incredibly farmed at this point) would just explode out of the top lane and tear people apart. The coup de grâce of course was Blaze's fantastic ability to control the minion waves and their flawless execution of split-pushing meant once they had control it was impossible to make a comeback - while other teams would just run mid and try to force a fight, Blaze would perpetually force their victims into lose-lose scenarios whereby they had to be in several places at once to avoid losing further towers. On a 13-0 streak it appeared as if there was no concievable way they could lose - Blaze just seemed to have understood how to play the game on a higher plane than everyone else and obviously were the heavy favourites coming into this final.
CJ Blaze ADC Cpt Jack (right) towers over Ozone's ADC imp (left)
The Zeitgeist for MVP Ozone was that they were a team which focused around their star ADC imp, but it was more than that. Homme was terrible in lane, but his role within the team was simple: play a tank, go even and provide utility and peel for the carries in the later stages with champions such as Shen, Renekton and in the final Zac, a newly released champion that was actually extremely overpowered thanks to his innate health regeneration. Dandy, Mata and dade would almost always put together a pick composition with Elise/Jarvan, Ryze and Thresh/Zyra - all of which have ways to lock down and execute a single target quickly. Imp would almost always be on Vayne, more often than not convincing winning lane and going on to dominate teamfights or solo split-push as it was likely no one on the opposing side could beat him in a 1v1. In every single round of the bracket stage they were underdogs and it was no different for the final - in an interview imp had estimated his chances at 20%, Blaze had crushed Ozone in groups after all. But this was a different Ozone - in the time between their win over SKT and the final they had researched, they had prepared and they had studied - Ozone were ready for this final.
A brief point about the pick and ban stages: Twisted Fate was 100% pick/banned so far this tournament so every time a team was on purple side they would be forced to ban it. What was special about the finals is that Jayce was also an highly contested pick due to Flame and dade's performance with the pick meaning it was a must ban for purple side as well. With Blaze being on purple side in games 1 and 3 it really limited their ability to inhibit Ozone's strategy.
Game 1 saw imp and Mata go top to meet Cpt Jack and Lustboy to force the 2v2. Under normal circumstances this would allow Flame to destroy Homme, but the Zac pick and the fact Flame took Teleport on Diana meant that Homme could simply sustain through lane phase and not get snowballed on. DanDy and dade were monsters in the early-game, creating kills everywhere allowing them to win a fight 3 for 2 and take dragon. DanDy then went on a rampage on Elise, killing Ambition in mid then running bottom, proceeding to dive Cpt Jack and Lustboy under turret - baiting out Requiem and Teleport but getting away safely. The score was now 11-2 with Ozone having a 5k gold lead at 17 minutes and the domination did not stop there as imp went crazy in the next fight at Blaze's red, falling but getting the ace and Baron. At this point no one could 1v1 dade as he split-pushed top while an unkillable Homme jumped into the middle of Blaze, getting 3 more kills and forcing a surrender.
Homme after game 1
In game 2 after having Vayne banned and Thresh taken, Ozone's bottom lane proved their worth as they destroyed Cpt Jack and Lustboy anyway - imp getting a double kill on Caitlyn and a 20 cs lead in the first 5 minutes. DanDy meanwhile was a counter-ganking king, seemingly always in the right place at the right time - his Lee Sin put a stop to every single move Blaze tried to do in the early-game; the most important was a counter-gank bottom which allowed dade's Zed to come in and pick up an easy kill and start snowballing. Strategically Blaze refused to adapt, instead sacrificing even more early-game power by building 3 tears on Flame's Ryze, Ambition's Kha'Zix and Cpt Jack's Ezreal. Blaze managed to hold on however, as continued poke from Ambition and Cpt Jack allowed them to convincingly win a fight 4-1 at dragon with all the kills going on to Cpt Jack. It was not enough however as Blaze simply did not have the combat stats or the right champions to be able to compete with Ozone's mid-game power and after an extended chase onto Flame, Ozone ripped apart their enemies, with imp solo killing Cpt Jack while the others secured 3 more kills after diving between the turrets. After taking away Blaze's blue, Mata fumbled a Crowstorm allowing Blaze to sieze the initiative and win the fight. Ozone, knowing it was only a matter of time before Blaze's scaling would become insurmountable, ferociously fought back at dragon as Homme completely zoned Ambition and Cpt Jack, winning the fight 4-1 and securing dragon. Hungry for blood, dade made a huge play; in a 1v2 duel he completely sidestepped Helios' Zac then showed unbelievable awareness by using living shadow over the golem wall to finish off Ambition and escape. Meanwhile the rest of Ozone dove Flame again and again after winning another fight at red, bringing his score to 0/6/4. At 30 minutes a pick onto Cpt Jack allowed Ozone to take Baron and after that there was nothing Blaze could do as imp was 11/3/10 and no one could duel dade. Ozone easily took the bot and mid inhibitors then won one last teamfight at bot to go up 2-0 in the series.
Dade outplays Ambition and Helios
Another game and another Zed pick from dade. Desperate to find a way to make their split-pushing work Flame tried his luck on Vladimir and Cpt Jack stole away Vayne. Sending Flame mid and Ambition top with Kha'Zix into a 1v2, Blaze got the advantage of the laneswap as Flame pulled 50cs ahead of Homme while Ambition only fell behind around 10. A nice gank from DanDy's Evelynn relieved the pressure on dade though, getting a double kill bot and setting off the dade train for the third time. An unbelievable hook from Mata's Thresh at wolves gave dade another double kill, as Ozone stormed into the lead, securing a second dragon. Hope for Blaze came when 2v2 was going sour for Flame and Helios but the rest of Blaze avenged their deaths killing all of Ozone but dade, who had taken bot turret. Still with his monstrous lead though, dade was a monster as he slaughtered Ambition in an instant at mid, while the rest of Ozone came charging in and a fantastic flay and hook from Mata won a fight 4 for 0 and got Ozone an inhib. After that an 8-0 dade was unstoppable but it was Mata that dealt the finishing blow with a breath-taking Death Sentence to initate the fight, then an astounding 2 man flay followed by a beautiful Box to lock down all members of Blaze getting one last ace to end the series of a life-time for Ozone and shock the world by sweeping 3-0.
Blaze after their devastating loss. From left to right: Ambition, Helios, Flame, Lustboy, Cpt Jack
Ozone elated after their upset win. From left to right: DanDy, dade, Homme, imp, Mata
Summer 2013 - The Best Series in League of Legends History.
From left to right: bengi, Piglet, PoohManDu, Faker, Impact
Top - Impact
Jungle - bengi
Mid - Faker
ADC - Piglet
Support - PoohManDu
How they reached the final:
SKT T1 started out as a group of talented solo queue players, most notably mid-laner Faker who had rocketed up to #1 on the solo queue ladder in such a short space of time that the community was questioning if the account was a pro-player's smurf. With the addition of veteran player Impact, who had switched to top laner after playing support for Xenics Storm, SKT T1 were a scary, scary team brimming with pitch perfect individual talent and crisp, dominating laning ability. They burst on to the scene in their first tournament in Champions Spring, 2-0ing the legendary CJ Blaze and going all the way to the semi-finals, losing to MVP Ozone, the one and only team who had been able to deal with them in a best-of-five.
In Champions Summer they destroyed groups, going undefeated 6-0, with the most notable game being vs MVP Blue where Faker continued to show why he was the most dominant mid-laner the world has ever seen, scoring a mind-numbingly large GPM of 492. Then in the Ro4 they ripped apart their former teammates the Jin Air Falcons 3-0 to put them into a semi-final grudge match against MVP Ozone, a trial by fire for Faker and his SKT as he now had to defeat their biggest rivals, who had beaten them in their last 2 encounters and had just beatean the Falcons in groups and CTU in the Ro8.
The first game looked exactly like their last encounter, with dade going crazy on Zed to set SKT back a game. Game 2 and dade was on another of his signature champions, Twisted Fate and showed another strong opening, but an amazing teamfight from SKT saw Piglet totally zone out imp from the fight with a beautiful condemn against the wall, allowing SKT to win the fight 5-0 and come back to take game 2. Game 3 was a glorious display of SKT's versatility as they ran a double ADC composition with Faker on mid-lane Ezreal, allowing them to constantly push down towers until a fantastic Crescendo from PoohManDu won them the deciding teamfight and put them up 2-1 in the series. Just like in game 2 of their match in spring, MVP Ozone picked Ezreal and Orianna in the following game, champions which neither imp nor dade had shown particularly strong performances on. Despite DanDy and Mata spending a humongous amount of gold on pink wards, SKT won a key teamfight at dragon to set them 5k gold ahead and it was downhill from there for last seasons champions as SKT closed out the series in dominating fashion to finally get a win over MVP Ozone and go into the final, eyes filled with tears of joy.
What really changed about SKT was how much bengi and Piglet refined their playstyles to compliment the flawless play of Faker. These 2 players had really stepped up their game this season: bengi had found his niche on pick cham