Xmeik's Wednesday Long Read: Hai's Pathing at IEM and a Discussion on Macro Strategy
Becoming the first player to play three different roles professionally in international competition, Cloud 9’s fabled captain and shot caller Hai took to the rift for the first time in the support role at the recent IEM Cologne tournament. The competition, one of the first competitive tournaments after the major rift herald and minion changes, ended up being a bit of a success for Hai, putting many doubters of his mechanics to rest with impressive Flash-Pulverize combinations during his two Alistar games.
However, as anyone who understood the true brilliance of Samsung White would know, there’s more to the game than pure mechanics as a support. In these shortened games that we are now seeing--due to the increased ambient gold available to players--early vision control has become more crucial to a team’s success than ever before. Champions such as Lee Sin, Nidalee, and Kindred are dominating the jungle because of two key traits: (1) their dueling power, which makes opponents want to avoid them; (2) mobility. The trinket wards that Rush places as Nidalee in the first minute of both games 2 and 3 in Cloud 9’s set against H2K demonstrates this fact. Rush’s Nidalee is able to help Cloud 9 secure both aggressive and defensive level 1 vision in a patch that many thought would be difficult to do due to games beginning 15 seconds earlier.
To return to Hai, we all hopefully know how Mata set the golden standard for support vision control in Season 4 on Samsung White, and if you didn’t know that, you should probably watch some of Samsung White’s games before doing anything else. Hai may have proven that he’s nailed his mechanics in this early “pop quiz” grading of his support play. This was Cloud 9’s first competition with a new roster, so plenty could change, but based off of what we’ve seen thus far, where does Hai currently stand in terms of vision control, and what could be improved?
To assess Cloud 9’s usage of Hai, we’re going to look at his pathing up until his first back after the 10:00 mark. In two games, Hai is placed in a 2v2 lane and accordingly has less opportunity to roam and aggressively obtain vision, but on the whole, the games of IEM showcase that Cloud 9 could still to make a few adjustments with their new support and overall early game macro play before the season begins. With IEM being a valuable learning opportunity for Cloud 9 with their new roster and the preseason changes, we can map Hai's support pathing and draw some basic generalizations about his knowledge of the role and the macro play that Cloud 9 and other teams should be using when Season 6 begins.
In game 1, Hai is able to maneuver around the map easily due to the 3v0 nature of the lane swap that Cloud 9 and H2K opt into. However, the freedom that Hai has is underused and not properly utilized in conjunction with Rush’s movements.
First, despite the ease that Hai has in his ability to roam and secure deep vision, we see him heavily delaying his purchase of a Sightstone when it should realistically be one of his first purchases. With better allocation of gold, Hai could have purchased his Sightstone by the time his peach route began (Fig. 1). Moving through both sides of the river, Hai could have attained much more control over the map. Additionally, after the initial 3v0, we never see Hai communicate with Rush to obtain and secure deep vision in the H2K jungle. In fact, Hai does not enter the H2K jungle once in the first ten minutes.
Second, we see a macro level error that Cloud 9 makes with Hai in regards to his pathing and vision prioritization. A professional game should never last long enough for the 5th dragon to become a win condition like we saw in Season 5. Until the respawn time on dragon is decreased, the ambient gold changes are reversed, or dragon is reworked again, there is no reason to prioritize it over Rift Herald. Furthermore, dragon should never be used in an exchange of objectives. Because of the ambient gold mentioned earlier, games are now ending at much earlier times due to the acceleration of item construction. As a result, the priority on dragon has decreased exponentially. The classic dragon for turret trade that we’ve seen for so long is no longer worth making. Picking up the cold hard cash from turrets is significantly more powerful than the dragon buff.
Additionally, the “balancing” of objectives across the map by adding Rift Herald gives teams nearly no rational reason to prioritize the dragon. Rift Herald’s buff grants the user 10% increased damage from all sources and a baron-buff type aura that grants minions 40% increased attack speed and cannon minions an additional 100 attack range. Now, because no defensive statistics are granted to the minions, one can reason that the buff is more powerful the earlier it is taken. The ability to clear those enhanced minion waves will increase exponentially when players are able to purchase items because, defensively, there’s no difference between the enhanced minions and a normal wave. Therefore, the earlier the game is, the higher the priority should be placed on Rift Herald.
Going back to Fig. 1, we can see that Hai never really makes any distinct motion to Rift Herald in its most impactful point of time in the game. He never wards the objective, never clears opposing vision around it, and spends nearly no time on the top side of the map compared to the time he spends on the bottom side. On top of that, with the freedom to move around where he pleases, Hai chooses to spend more of his time on the bottom half of the map than the top. This could also be contributed to Cloud 9’s lane assignments, as Hai is needed more on the bottom half of the map, but then we’re looking at a larger macro error from Cloud 9 in not committing their stronger members to the upper half of the map.
In game 2, we see Hai stuck in a 2v2 on the bottom half of the map. Once again on Alistar, Hai prioritizes the melee support item upgrade over his Sightstone on his first back and only picks it up after the first ten minutes have expired.
While there’s admittedly not a whole lot that we can conclude about Hai’s roaming choices due to the matched lanes, there are some key macro takeaways that we can learn from Cloud 9’s lane assignments. First, I can understand matching the Tristana lane early. The fast push strategy has become incredibly potent, and denying that tactic from H2K by matching the lanes is a solid macro move.
However, after Ryu on LeBlanc forces Hai and Sneaky to back around 7:20, Cloud 9 could have sent both of their duo lane members to the top lane with support from Rush to join Balls and trade turrets. At this point in time, the four Cloud 9 members would be able to quickly rotate and capture the Rift Herald and lay siege to the middle lane. In a natural transgression of objectives conveniently all located by one another, Cloud 9 would be able to pick up a turret, the Rift Herald, and use its buff to force Ryu’s LeBlanc into a wave-clearing mode.
In reducing LeBlanc’s effectiveness in conjunction with powerful siege potential from Rush’s Nidalee and Sneaky’s Lucian, Cloud 9 would be able to apply immense pressure onto that mid lane turret that simply would not be able to be cleared unless Forg1ven and Vander left the bottom lane. If they leave and rotate mid, Cloud 9 would have secured the tempo of the game. On the other hand, if they had stayed bot and Cloud 9 exchanges their Tier 2 bot turret for the Tier 1 mid turret--a debatable trade--Cloud 9 would crack open the map and be able to gain much more aggressive vision than H2K would be able to. Additionally, losing a Tier 2 turret on the dragon’s half of the map is not as much of a problem as before due to dragon control losing significance on the current patch.
Regardless, this doesn’t happen. Once again, the move to match the Tristana lane makes sense, and a poor team fight by H2K at 9:40 in a sense justifies the decision. However, Cloud 9 was very lucky in that 4v5 skirmish, and reason should be used to justify lane assignments rather than the result. One could not reasonably predict that H2K would take a terrible team fight there, as H2K is also a newly formed roster without any prior decision making examples to make predictions off of. While it worked for Cloud 9, the safer and more calculated trade would have been to send Hai and Sneaky top.
In game 3, we see Hai and Cloud 9 make much better pathing decisions in the first ten minutes of the game. Matching the Tristana lane, Cloud 9 once again denies the Tristana fast push strategy. Additionally, Hai purchases Sightstone on his first return to his base, helping Cloud 9 gain more control around the top half of the map.
Now, whether or not part of the reasoning behind their duo lane’s assignment to the top lane was influenced by Rift Herald cannot be confirmed, but it is much stronger to have the duo lane on the top side of the map this patch than ever before.
Take a step back and think about the meta as a whole. Why was the duo lane ever assigned to the bottom half of the map in the first place? Early teams wanted to have additional pressure near the early dragon objective. Just because players have been sending the duo lane to the bottom half of the map for the last five seasons does not mean that it is still the correct strategical decision. Personally, I don’t think that any team should be looking to send their duo lane bot in the current meta. The rationale is “put the duo lane by the important objective.” For a very long time, Dragon was this objective. It no longer is. Think about it using a Modus Tollens formal logic argument:
If X, then Y If the duo lane must be assigned bot, then dragon is important.
~Y Dragon is not important.
Therefore, ~X Therefore, the duo lane must not be assigned bot.
Moving on, despite the perfect assignment of the duo lane, we only see Hai able to place one deep ward in the H2K jungle after Cloud 9’s level 1 opening. However, this can be attributed once more to the fact that Hai is placed in a 2v2. Actually, we see Cloud 9 make a nice rotational play with Hai in his one deep ward placement after purchasing Sightstone. In typical Imp-Mata fashion, Sneaky and Hai aggressively push the wave into the turret in order to create pressure and opportunity to leave the lane and place the deep ward. Using the pushed wave, Hai now knows that neither member of the H2K duo lane can leave their turret and roams through river and into the H2K jungle to place a ward by gromp and the blue buff.
Once more, while the exact reasoning behind the decisions made are not clear, Cloud 9 does make all the correct lane assignments in game 3, and Hai does do a good job at understanding when he’s given the opportunity to obtain deep vision when trapped in a 2v2 lane.
To be honest, as I have been relatively coy this whole article, it’s difficult to come out with any major takeaways from this preseason series between two teams with new rosters on a patch that has drastically altered the game. However, since I did task myself with nitpicking, the sense of urgency in obtaining Rift Herald control was seemingly absent from Cloud 9 in games 1 and 2, and we can’t tell if it was present in game 3 even through the lane assignments were those of a team emphasizing the objective. Nevertheless, a large reason behind their lack of emphasis on Rift Herald seemed to be a result of wanting to deny the Tristana fast-push. An understandable concern, it becomes a stylistic choice whether one wants to neutralize an opponent or create one’s own pressure to trade objectives. Would you rather react to your opponent, or force the opponent to react to you? I’d rather have seen Cloud 9 prioritize the Rift Herald and trade aggressively against the Tristana and force Forg1ven to move out of lane and react to Cloud 9’s moves, but I can understand their decision.
As for our storied captain, I thought Hai moved well considering Cloud 9’s greater strategy of denying the fast push. Sightstone would have been a much better earlier purchase in game 1 where Hai was free to roam, but once more, I understand his decision to delay it and take Targon’s Brace in game 2 while locked into the 2v2 lane. For being stuck in a 2v2 lane again in game 3, I really liked Hai’s reaction to use pressure to obtain deep vision by gromp. While this was an early test, I thought that Hai’s overall individual performance was one that was expected, as he was in no way a liability to Cloud 9 and came away with a valuable learning experience.
If you enjoy this content, you can find all former articles here or follow Xmeik on Twitter (@lolXmeik) or on Facebook for updates on future articles. For more of "Xmeik's Wednesday Long Read" series, be sure to check out articles from previous weeks:
December 30th, 2015: Looking Back on 2015 and End of Year Awards
December 23rd, 2015: Fnatic's Counter to the Fast Push
December 9th, 2015: A Look at Power Picks and Bold Predictions
November 18th, 2015: IEM San Jose Power Rankings
November 11th, 2015: Kindred in Competitive Play
November 4th, 2015: SKT vs. KOO and the Anatomy of a Lane Swap
October 29th, 2015: Comparing Marin, Smeb, and Ssumday