The Nuances of Phoenix1’s pick and ban phase against Team Liquid

The first game between Phoenix1 and Team Liquid was practically over in the pick and ban stage.

In Phoenix1’s first game against Team Liquid, Rami “Inori” Charagh was allowed to play Rengar for the second time in the 2017 Spring Split. The ensuing result was a massacre, as Inori ended up 9/0/7 and sealed the win for P1 in just 31 minutes. This game was lost in the pick and ban phase, where Team Liquid let Rengar through for Inori to play. It was more than that, though, as P1’s coach Kim “Fly” Sang-chul played the entire draft to perfection.

First Phase Bans

In this game, P1 started on the blue side and had the first pick in the draft, while Liquid was on the red side and had the next rotation of picks. It is important to note that blue side generally has the advantage in the first phase bans. The red side is forced to ban power picks, but the blue side has more freedom in banning out specific roles, or signature champions of certain players.

P1 Blue Side Bans      Liquid Red Side Bans

Rek’Sai, Elise, Olaf         LeBlanc, Camille, Cassiopeia

In the first phase, there are clear goals for each team. P1 is attempting to make Kim “Reignover” Yeu-jin uncomfortable by banning out three junglers. This is a strategy that was used by Team SoloMid when they defeated Liquid just a day earlier. While Reignover is not as strong on Lee Sin or Kha’Zix, there should not be a situation where P1 can comfortably ban three junglers in the first phase, as this leaves a lot of A-tier picks available, such as Ryze and Jayce. On the other hand, Liquid decided to ban LeBlanc and Camille, who are standard bans on red side. This is when Liquid make their biggest mistake. On their last ban, they decided to ban Cassiopeia instead of Rengar. Liquid’s plan was to (I assume) let Rengar through and respond with two A-tier champions. Keep in mind that LeBlanc, Camille, and Rengar are the three most powerful champions in the current meta, and are 100 percent picked or banned, so Liquid must have done this on purpose. The Cassiopeia ban also foreshadowed the Ryze pick by Liquid, as Ryze is the strongest mid laner (other than LeBlanc), and is only really countered by Cassiopeia. As a result, Liquid’s goal was to trade an S-tier champion in Rengar for two very strong picks, one of which was Ryze.

First Phase Picks

P1 Blue Side Picks         Liquid Red Side Picks

Rengar, Varus, Corki        Maokai, Ryze, Kha’Zix

As a result of these bans, P1 grabbed Rengar with the first pick of the draft, the obvious choice. In response, Liquid picked Maokai and Ryze. Maokai is the strongest top lane tank in the meta, and as stated above, Ryze is the strongest mid laner available after the bans. Coach Fly then decided to pick Varus and Corki in response.

These two picks are what decided the pick and ban phase, and they are the reason that P1 won the draft phase. The Varus pick caused Liquid’s first two picks to be risky. Because P1 picked an AD carry, Liquid was forced to either pick and AD carry or a jungler for their third pick, as the jungle pool available was already very small from the first three bans from P1. As a result, if Liquid did not pick a jungler here, and picked an AD carry instead, it is very likely that P1 would have banned Lee Sin and Kha’Zix in the second ban phase, effectively pinching the jungle pool. On the other hand, if Liquid did pick a jungler, which they did in Kha’Zix, P1 was then allowed to ban two AD carries in the second phase, which caused Liquid to have to pick a weaker AD carry. This Varus pick was such a smart move by Fly, because it forced Liquid into making a decision where they would end up with a suboptimal pick no matter what. In the end, Liquid decided to go for Kha’Zix, as the jungle pool had already been diminished.

The Corki pick was also a really strong pick in response to Ryze. Corki’s role in the game is not to win the lane, but rather survive it and buy Trinity Force (Triforce). This allows him to have a really strong mid game spike. Ryze, on the other hand, is supposed to scale up, and his mid game is not nearly as strong as Corki’s, as he has to stack his Tear of the Goddess, as well as his Rod of Ages. Because Corki has a mid game power spike, this synergizes very well with Rengar. As soon as Corki reaches his Triforce timing, the two essentially have a free entry into the enemy jungle, and can scout the enemy jungler and set up deep wards. The midlane pressure from Corki helps Rengar flourish and win the game by the mid game.

Second Phase Bans

P1 Blue Side Bans        Liquid Red Side Bans

Ashe, Ezreal                    Jayce, Fiora

Because they picked an AD carry in the last phase, P1 immediately attempted to limit the AD carry pool by banning Ashe and Ezreal, whereas Liquid banned out the top lane carry champions of Jayce and Fiora. Personally, I think the Jayce and Fiora bans were mistakes, as having a tank would have suited P1’s composition better. Having another champion dive the backline along with Rengar is way more potent than a poking Jayce, or a split-pushing Fiora. In P1’s case, banning Ashe is to deny the power of hawkshot. Ashe is somewhat of a soft counter to Rengar, as while she is an immobile champion, hawkshot can scout Rengar out, and prevent him from diving the backline. The Ezreal ban was to not allow a high mobility AD carry to be in the game, who can potentially escape the Rengar, or survive long enough for the team to back him up.

Second Phase Picks

P1 Blue Side Picks        Liquid Red Side Picks

Shen, Miss Fortune          Zyra, Caitlyn

After the second phase bans, Liquid had the first pick and they locked in Zyra. Zyra is an all around strong support, as she is strong in lane and has the ability to gain map control and vision through the power of her plants. Moreover, she is also a decent defensive pick, as she has a snare and her ultimate is a giant knockup. 

In response, P1 picked Shen and Miss Fortune. The Shen pick is also a very good pick to make, as he is able to act as a dive buddy with Rengar. But what separates Shen from other tank picks like Nautilus or Poppy is his ultimate. If Shen uses his ultimate on Rengar while he is invisible, the dive potential of this combination is very strong. This is similar to the old Evelynn and Shen compositions of old, dubbed the “submarine.” The Miss Fortune pick serves as a counter to Zyra in lane, as her passive allows her to kill the plants much more quickly than other supports can.

In the end, Liquid had to pick an AD carry as their last pick. They ultimately opt for Caitlyn instead of Jhin, as her long range, traps, and 90 caliber net give her a higher chance of survival. Caitlyn is also strong in lane, as she is able to abuse her range advantage, and this can create a winning lane for Liquid. Unfortunately, picking Caitlyn along with Ryze means that the team’s power spike is going to be very late in the game, as Caitlyn needs three items in order to be strong.

This draft was very interesting to dissect, as P1 was able to capitalize on the mistakes that Liquid made in the draft. By letting Rengar through, not picking an AD carry at the right time, and being unable to solidify a mid game spike that could match P1’s, Liquid dug themselves into a hole, and P1 was able to dominate the game by abusing their mid game spike of Corki, Rengar and Varus. This resulted in a relatively quick game, where Rengar was the star of the show and had the rift completely under his control.

Could Liquid have played the draft any differently and entered the game with a stronger team composition? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below, or tweet us @GAMURScom.