Team Vitality's control playstyle: the 1-3-1
Team Vitality's control
Vitality is currently arguably the best team in Europe and they are using a very unique approach to the game. After rewatching a lot of their games this season I noticed a very interesting pattern, the 1-3-1.
In Europe most games are played as the 4-1 team-fighting strategy. Simply players pick strong champions for team-fights which have a lot of AoE damage and crowd control. Usually they also scale very well for the late game. Some examples are Malphite, Nautilus, Viktor, Gragas and Alistar. The toplaner with teleport will push a side-lane while the rest of his team pushes another lane. Vitality however mastered the 1-3-1. Unlike other teams their goal is not necessarily to pick for team-fighting.
When a team plays the 1-3-1, it has to follow a few crucial rules. The first rule is that split-pushing champions must have tools to run away. It's rarely possible to perfectly ward both side-lanes so one of the split-pushers might find himself in a tricky situation. He has to have the kit to escape the aggression. He also needs to not fear and bait the gankers. It's really hard to play against 2 good split-pushers because it takes a lot of resources(players and time) to kill even one of them. This means that if you over-commit to kill a split-pusher the second one or the 3 players in the midlane will get an objective. Some of the champions used by Cabochard, Nukeduck and Hjarnän to splitpush in the 1-3-1 have been Quinn, Fiora, Corki, Ahri, Zilean and Lulu.
The second rule is concerning the 3 players that are around the midlane. They need a carry with wave-clear to not get completely overwhelmed by the 4 enemy players. Their support or their jungler needs to have a disengaging ability and a saving ability. They can hence prevent themselves from randomly dying during the 3 vs 4 ARAM. As long as they can keep their ground their 1-3-1 setup will create a lot of pressure elsewhere on the map. Some of the champions used for this task have been Lee Sin, Bard, Thresh and Tahm Kench while Hjarnän is usually the carry in the middle playing Corki.
The third rule is to know how to create picks. By playing this comp by the book, the split-pushers will create an opportunity to get deep-wards in the enemy jungle after pushing their minions and destroying towers. The team will then be able to find picks in the enemy jungle. This is why Vitality played champions like Bard, Nidalee Zilean, Quinn and Tahm Kench. These champions allow the team to move quickly and get picks once the side-waves are pushed in.
This style of play is based around the mid-game. In the current meta many mid-game champions are really powerful, the death timers are long and towers are weak. This is why this controlled style will prevail, teams that want to fight too much are playing with fire. That's why I personally expect Immortals to start losing more games in NA and the Unicorns of Love to remain around the fourth place in EU.
Team Vitality's unique approach to the game also explains why their games don't have a lot of kills. They will never contest objectives before having a significant gold lead because they know their comps aren't made to 5v5. They will instead farm and set vision for picks until they find some. It's always nice to see teams using new strategies and win games without having the standard and safest team-fighting approach. I'm sure they aren't done surprising us so i'm looking forward for their next games and especially for playoffs.