MaRin and Cloud9 hot, China and Darius not at the third day of Worlds
The third day of the biggest League of Legends event of the year has come to a close, but not without its surprises.
The day of upsets started off with a bang, as SK Telecom T1 took revenge on the team that beat them at the Midseason Invitational in May as they toppled China’s EDward Gaming. Then fellow Korean squad KT Rolster absolutely crushed one of the favorites in LGD Gaming. European sweethearts Origen followed with a win over North America's beloved Team SoloMid.
But the final two games of the day were the big surprises.
With so many upsets and unpredictable results, the event is keeping fans on the edge of their seats. Whether or not the chaos continues or if the matches will realign with analysts’ predictions, we’re not sure. But here’s what looked good today, and here’s what didn’t.
Jang "MaRin" Gyeong-Hwan
The SK Telecom top laner had a lot of expectations to fill this year after replacing Season 3 World Champion Jung "Impact" Eon-yeong. Not only was his performance as a player critical in a metagame that increasingly features top lane talent, he also moved into the role of shotcalling for his team. While MaRin’s performance in the Spring and Summer seasons were exemplary, his play at the Midseason Invitational was far from perfect.
And coming into Worlds, the top laner was a point of debate for many. Some analysts claimed he was one of the best player in the World at his position, while others ranked his peers—the likes Kim "Ssumday" Chan-ho and Song "Smeb" Kyung-ho—far higher.
But MaRin showed what he can do today. On the back of one of his old signatures Renekton he nearly single-handedly led SK Telecom T1 to a victory over its newfound rival EDward Gaming, posting a 10/0/6 KDA with the creative counter to the popular pick Darius.
Before the event, it was uncertain as to how KT Rolster would fare. The team is infamous for a history of choking when it matters most. But now led by two rising stars, top laner Ssumday and support Lee "Piccaboo" Jong-Beom, fans—like commentator Christopher “MonteCristo” Mykles—were hopeful that the second place Korean team would finally live up to their potential.
Today, as it took on tournament favorite LGD Gaming, KT Rolster showed just how dominating they can be. The team convincingly punished its opponent’s mistakes after putting together a draft that exploited LGD Gaming's composition. Their bottom lane shut down 2014 World Champion Gu "imp" Seung-bin and China's top support Chen "Pyl" Bo while Ssumday played a ferocious Malphite, exploiting an AD heavy draft with the tank champion.
Entering the tournament LGD Gaming looked like the trendy pick to contend for a World Championship, but KT Rolster is quickly building momentum as a hip new challenger.
The team now holds a firm tie for first place with European squad Origen—who it faces tomorrow morning for the second day of the game.
After barely surviving a wretched season, Cloud9 recovered to qualify for Worlds with a miracle run through the regional qualifier. Traditionally America's best hop on the World stage, fans weren't ready to believe they could be that team again, especially after they were placed in a tough group featuring European juggernauts Fnatic, Taiwan's best ahq e-Sports Club, and China's dangerous Invictus Gaming.
Today, it faced the latter in what many believed would be an Invictus Gaming victory. But Cloud9 had different plans. While the Chinese team worked to abuse the American's supposed weakness, top laner An “Balls” Le, the American team proved resilient, playing a scrappy game that forced Invictus Gaming to dance to their tune. Cloud9 marksman Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi, in particular, controlled the game by tower pushing with strong AD carry champion Tristana. Backed by some amazing team fighting with Azir by mid laner Nicolaj "Incarnation" Jensen, who is finally emerging as a star, Cloud9 took home the win and earned sole possession of first place in their group.
It was a winding road to get here, but just like at past World events, you can't bet against Cloud9.
With recent changes in Riot Games’ 5.16 patch for League of Legends, the "juggernaut" meta was introduced. Top laners Darius and Garen and reworked bot lane carry Mordekaiser and jungler Skarner received significant buffs. Most of these champions are now easily more able to stick to their opponents, while being tanky and delivering a good amount of damage.
Darius has seen a high amount of bans or play this week at Worlds, but without much success. Teams seem to have figured out how to counter the deadly carry.
Today only Cloud9 managed to win with Darius out of four games where he was picked. Teams were able to counter Darius by not giving him opportunities to get a lead or by exploiting his lack of mobility, making him a lemon in late game team fights. SK Telecom T1 top laner MaRin showed that Renekton is a solid counterpick, while Origen kept him bogged down with Anivia's slows and Kalista's movement.
Overall Darius is 6-5 at the tournament and banned out in many of the games where he wasn't picked, but even in his wins his impact was often minimal. Teams would do well to swap their picks, or at least place lower priority on what was thought to be a dangerous top laner.
In many ways 2015 is the year of China in League of Legends. The region made headlines by signing away many of Korea's top talents in the offseason, and it produced results on the Summoner's Rift when EDward Gaming beat SK Telecom T1 at the Midseason Invitational and ascended the throne as the best team in the world at the time.
But at Worlds, the Chinese teams have disappointed in all three days of action.
Today China's top seed LGD Gaming were blown out by KT Rolster after a horrendous draft, showing that their loss to Origen was no fluke. These two losses show a worrying trend for the team which most analysts from Korea and China thought would be a top three contender for the Summoner’s Cup.
The only Chinese team with a win so far also lost today as EDward Gaming fell to the team it beat in the MSI finals, SK Telecom T1. Top laner Shek "AmazingJ" Wai Ho was punished hard by MaRin after the team made a risky call for a dragon, showing that perhaps EDward Gaming has an exploitable weakness with their MSI top laner Tong "Koro1" Yang sidelined due to injury.
Invictus Gaming completed a trilogy of failure for China today. The team was unable to handle American side Cloud9 in a scrappy game featuring multiple teamfights, which is usually in China's wheelhouse. Bot lane Ge "Kid" Yan and Liu "Kitties" Hong-Jun continued to be an exploitable weakness as Cloud9’s Sneaky and Daerak “LemonNation” Hart made their life a living hell.
With another three losses, China's performance at Worlds is a living nightmare. The nation is a collective 2-5 with EDward Gaming scoring the only two wins, but even those were against relatively weak foes compared to the rest of the field. It's still quite possible that LGD Gaming and Invictus Gaming survive their struggles, but they will quickly find the holes they've dug themselves too deep to scale if they continue their poor play.
Team SoloMid was drafted into the hardest group of the tournament, and few liked their chances after an uninspiring season of play. And after two matches, uninspiring is exactly the word to describe their play, despite flashes that the American side may have found a way past their struggles.
After decent, if passive, early games against both KT Rolster and Origen, an array of mid-game mistakes and poor positioning showed the American's haven't fixed issues that have plagued them for months.
In many ways the team seems consigned to lose unless mid laner Søren "Bjergsen" Bjerg pulls off some individual brilliance, but even he seems prone to key mistakes during team fights at times.
Against Origen today, they placed Marcus “Dyrus” Hill on top lane carry Darius and failed to give him a lead to snowball. Origen picked a late game scaling composition with Enrique "xPeke" Cedeño Martínez’s Anivia and Paul “sOAZ” Boyer’s Lulu and essentially waited to scale up and win the game, preying on some Team SoloMid mistakes.
The Americans will take on LGD Gaming tomorrow, who seem to be in a bit of a slump. It's quite possibly their last chance to turn things around and show some life. But the way they're playing, it seems like Team SoloMid's been dead for months.
Photo via Riot Games/Flickr