In the GPL Spring 2014 season, TPA become the first team in the history of the GPL to finish undefeated with a record of 10-0, something that even the world champion season 2 TPA squad couldn’t accomplish. While critics attributed this to their weaker group, the Assassins answered by taking a back-to-back GPL Championship over what many considered to be the favorites in AHQ eSports Club who went 9-1 in their group.
While nearly every other team is coming into All-Stars either in a slump or with questionable roster changes, TPA has only positives. SKT K has been in a major slump, barely even making it past groups in Champions and losing to CJ Frost in the NLB semifinals. Cloud 9 has looked incredibly strong but had to substitute Hai last minute due to health issues. OMG, while looking very strong in the LPL still has issues mid-late game and is going to be playing with Cool who hasn’t scene professional play for quite a while.
Conversely, TPA has taken former TPS jungler Winds and added him to their starting roster. While this too is a recent roster change that takes time to adjust, this in theory shores up their glaring lack of early game jungle pressure from DinTer in the past few seasons. And it’s not as if this is a completely new player. Winds knows all these players and their tendencies and scrims against them regularly. I doubt you would find anyone willing to say that even in the short term this was a downgrade. The Azubu organization is clearly making a strong bid for getting TPA equipped for international competition.
Chen “Achie” Chen-Chi – Top
Achie, now a veteran of the scene, is one of the most consistent top laners in the GPL and boasts one of the more successful showings of top laners who played off-meta picks in the Spring 2014 season. He played 7 different champions over the course of 10 games and added 4 more unique picks to that during the bracket stage (playoffs). The only blemishes were perhaps some mechanically shaky performances on his debuted Lee Sin which he later corrected in the bracket stage. Achie seems to be a player who can play almost anything and put up a solid showing.
Achie has shown he heavily favors picking Jax into almost anything if it’s open. Though we don’t have many recent Jax games, if you go back just 1 season Achie favored Jax almost every game. You can be sure it will be heavily contested in picks and bans. Don’t expect teams to waste more than one ban on Achie unless it’s an adjustment mid series. Achie cannot be banned out and has too many champions he can play to the same level for that to be an effective strategy.
Chen “Winds” Peng-Nien – Jungle
Winds will be playing his first series with TPA while coming from sister team Taipei Snipers. While TPA were overall the stronger team in the mid-late game, DinTer often would not do anything (or worse do something negative) in the first 15 minutes of the game. Winds made a name for himself as a highly aggressive, high-pressure early game jungler. He has favored picks like Khazix and Lee Sin where he almost always lives in mid lane and in the enemy jungle creating early game advantages for his team.
His biggest strength on TPS when they made it to the finals of the last season was when he would create advantages mid lane and translate that to the rest of the map by getting wards in the enemy jungle and roaming with his mid laner. Strangely, in his last series with TPS, he played only Nocturne and Wukong and had very little impact on these weak pre-6 junglers. For Winds to find success, we will most likely see him revert to his strong early game bullies.
Chen “Morning” Kuan-Ting – Mid
Morning will perhaps be the most interesting player to keep an eye on at All-Stars. Though he’s heavily favored safer casters in mid lane, even bringing out a pocket Syndra in the GPL Spring finals, he’s shown in the past he’s perfectly capable of playing assassins. Many would say that Morning, though being a dominant mid laner was somewhat held back by DinTer’s often lackluster early game. Consequently his champion pool often consisted of casters who could safely lane and waveclear until teamfights.
If Winds is providing high pressure in the jungle and on lanes in the early game, it may free up Morning to show off some of his laning prowess we received a glimpse of in the bracket stage with his Syndra or even older comfort picks like Zed. If there’s one thing we learned from watching IEM Katowice, it’s that Morning can take a lead and absolutely dominate with it when given the opportunity. Though the one game in particular was where Gambit’s Alex Ich picked into a bad matchup, imagine what Morning could do if he could count on his jungler?
Cheng “Bebe” Bo-Wei – AD Carry
Bebe lead the GPL in kills at 166 and like most top level marksman can essentially perform on any carry. While he heavily preferred the earlier meta picks of Lucian and Sivir in the regular season, he has shown versatility playing completely switched styles of picks like Draven, Twitch and Kog’maw all to notable success. In the past, Bebe has typically defaulted to Ezreal in his biggest moments, but I think beyond picking Sivir, which is usually banned against TPA, you can’t really predict what he’s going to favor in a particular game.
Bebe is the team’s most experienced veteran and the team’s shot-caller in a team that has almost exclusively played for lategame in the past. Expect perfect teamfight positioning to keep him alive until the very end of teamfights and for Bebe to come up huge in the highest pressure situations. His LAN experience is second to none in the entire region and the higher pressure the situation, the more clutch he performs. His lategame decision making has led TPA to two GPL championships in a row in grueling best of fives.
Li “Jay” Chieh – Support
Jay is a consistent support who always plays the 3-4 strongest picks inside the meta. Where he played only Annie, Thresh and Leona inside the regular season, he played only Morgana, Karma and Thresh in the bracket stage. The absence of Leona and Annie was mostly due to Leona bans as well as Annie falling slightly down the support viability list due to nerfs.
Jay had absolutely stellar performances on Leona throughout the course of the whole season and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him on it again. Jay is an integral part of a bot lane which almost always wins lane or at worst goes even. His initiations are well timed and there are few games where you can point to crucial mistakes and even fewer where his mistakes led to disadvantages for his team.
TPA is now theoretically a team with little to no weaknesses. Their largest flaw previously was their complete lack of an early game with DinTer having little to no impact on the map until teamfights. They could not have found a more polar opposite than Winds, who excels at playing strong early game junglers and dominating the map. If Winds can bring that style of play and get his teammates used to playing that style as well, I don’t see any team that TPA can’t beat. It is however fairly difficult to change the way a team’s played for years in such a short time.
One notable hit TPA took to picks and bans was the Gragas rework, as both Achie and Morning heavily favored and had dominating performances on this champion. I’m interested to see what Morning will default to after Lulu and Ziggs now that his new jungler has probably opened up his champion pool a little bit more. He will also be up against some of the best mechanical mid laners in the world in Faker and Cool. Xpeke and Link are also nothing to scoff at. If Morning performs well, he proves that he’s on the same level as the best mids in the world.