The Long Winding Road to WCG 2013:
Back in OGN Spring 2013, many considered CJ Entus Blaze to be absolutely unstoppable with their unprecedented thirteen game winning streak in the regular Spring season and playoffs leading up to the Grand Finals against the underdog MVP Ozone. However, the great Goliath falls to young David and Blaze found themselves in a terrible slump as a team with a very disappointing OGN Summer season and playoff performance with an even more atrocious performance in NLB Summer and the Season 3 Korean qualifiers.
However, the cards have been shuffled once again with CJ Entus Blaze going through radical roster changes picking up DayDream formerly from Xenics Storm as the starting jungler and Emperor from the tryouts as the starting AD Carry for CJ Entus Blaze while promoting Lustboy to becoming the captain for the team. With the new fire lit aflame, CJ Entus Blaze entered the Korean World Cyber Games 2013 Qualifiers looking to regain their status as a top team in Korea. CJ Blaze finish 2nd in their group dropping a single game to CJ Frost leaving them to have to to compete in the Wildcard Bracket where they knocked out the KT Rolster Bullets and Xenics Storm to secure a spot in the Korean WCG Qualifier playoff bracket. When playoffs rolled around, Blaze demonstrated the power of their new roster and that Fire Type beats Steel Type in their convincing victories over both Najin Black Sword and Najin White Shield in the quarterfinals and semifinals respectively with every member of Blaze stepping up their play significantly since the last time they played competitively. With their sound 2-0 victories over both Najin teams, CJ Entus Blaze goes on to face Samsung Galaxy Blue who upset the reigning Season 3 World Champions SK Telecom T1 with a 2-0 victory of their own in the Grand Finals of the Korean WCG Qualifier.
Korean WCG Qualifier Grand Finals Recap:
|Blue’s Bans:||Blue’s Picks:|
|Blaze’s Bans:||Blaze’s Picks:|
Blue will ban out two of Ambition’s strong mid lane champions along with Lustboy’s Thresh in order to deny him one of his stronger supports. Blaze will respond with three bans all directed at PawN with the Zed, Fizz, and Nidalee bans. PawN is known as one the first Korean pro players to bring out Fizz before everyone else and showed how scary his AP Nidalee is when he kills Faker’s Orianna 3 times in lane 1v1.
Blue will take Corki away from Emperor who has been an absolute monster on that champion while Blaze gets DayDream’s signature jungle Aatrox as well as bringing out the early Annie support which leads to Blue taking Elise and Shen for themselves and away from Flame. Blaze will take Gragas and Ezreal with leads to Blue responding with Zyra as the support and a Riven mid lane for PawN to play against Ambition’s Gragas. Finally, Blaze will finish off picks and bans with a Jax pick for Flame to help deal with the Shen split push.
Samsung Blue got the first blood onto Ambition in the mid lane (where have we seen this before…) and then they began a snowball with a crucial gank bottom lane getting a 3 for 0 in their favor. The members of Samsung Blue chose very interesting build paths that maximizes their damage and power spikes in the stages of the game while sacrificing tankiness. Spirit, the jungler for Samsung Blue, went for a really interesting Elise build with Doran Blade start + Sorcerer’s Shoes + Kindlegem to maximize Elise’s early/mid game damage as much as possible and even buys Homeguard upgrade and an Oracle’s Elixir before even buying a Spirit Stone to finish the Ancient Golem and Aegis of the Legion. PawN’s Riven mid lane pick also does a very interesting build where he went Brutalizer + Boots of Mobility + Pickaxe + Black Cleaver + Last Whisper + Hexdrinker into Maw of Malmortius + Distortion boot upgrade focusing on clearing waves, bullying Ambition who is playing a melee champion, picking people off in the mid/late game with Riven’s high burst damage, and be the main source of initiation .
After a fantastic laning phase, Samsung Blue snowballs the entire game out of control constantly getting picks on the Blaze members allowing for multiple dragons to go to Blue’s favor. Despite not having the most reliable initiation, Blue was able to get really good team fights to nullify the support Annie’s AOE stun and allowing Cheonju’s Shen to get crucial Taunt + Flash combos onto the Blaze members. Even though Blaze did what they could to delay the game to allow Flame’s Jax to get farmed up, Blue was unrelenting in their snowballing and finished a really clean 30 minute victory over CJ Entus Blaze in Game 1.
|Blue’s Bans:||Blue’s Picks:|
|Blaze’s Bans:||Blaze’s Picks:|
Blaze will ban out Fizz and Orianna directed at PawN once again and they will also get rid of Spirit’s Elise that caused a lot of trouble for them in the previous game. Blue in response will interestingly ban out Ahri and Zed for Ambition despite Ambition not really known for his Zed play and the Nidalee ban away from Flame who is a very strong top lane Nidalee player.
Blaze will snatch the crucial Corki pick for Emperor but then Blue will respond by taking away Shen and Aatrox, two signature champions of both Flame and DayDream leaving Blaze to pick up Lee Sin for the jungle and Kassadin for Ambition in the mid lane. Blue will take their duo lane of Thresh + Ezreal leaving Blaze to grab Renekton for Flame to respond to the Shen split push and the Zyra to compliment Blaze’s heavy damage composition with Corki in the lane and then add Kassadin to burst down caught Blue members tangled in the Zyra plants. To round out picks and bans, Blue will pick up mid lane Riven once again to counter the melee mid laners Ambition has brought out so far as well as bring out a lot of early game bullying power against Kassadin’s incredibly weak early game who will be forced to farm with Null Spheres instead of auto attacking.
Ambition once again burns Flash early due to an unusual jungle path that Spirit took by taking Blaze’s blue buff and then coming in for a lvl 2 gank onto a slightly overextended Kassadin in the mid lane which once again forces DayDream to babysit the Kassadin. Even so, Ambition still gives first blood to PawN once again getting to close to the tower without Flash allowing PawN to get first blood in a 1v2 situation. Meanwhile in the top lane, Emperor and Lustboy have been aggressively pushing which allowed Spirit to come for a gank to get a kill onto Lustboy. All of these movements made by Blue forced DayDream onto damage control in all of his lanes and play a more reactive style of jungling instead of dictating the pace of the game and making the plays himself. Spirit on the other hand went for two Doran Blades, Boots of Mobility, and an Oracle’s Elixir before 10 minutes which is similar to Bengi’s jungling build.
When the duo lanes swapped from top to bottom lane, Blue obtains dragon control giving an early 3K gold lead. Blaze however will make a couple aggressive plays in the bottom lane to counter the rotations Blue were making and were able to equalize the gold with a dragon of their own. Despite Ambition giving up first blood, he has kept up the farm and PawN interestingly will buy a Spirit Visage after getting a Brutalizer and Boots of Mobility to survive Kassadin’s burst damage despite sacrificing early damage.
With double Boots of Mobility on the side of Samsung Blue, Blaze knew that they can’t completely match Blue toe-to-toe in the lane rotations and will always be one step behind in lane rotations so they instead forced 5v5 teamfights with Flame being the main front line on Renekton going full health and armor against an essentially double AD composition from Blue allowing Blaze to start racking up some kills onto Ambition’s Kassadin. After a series of picks, Ambition gets huge with multiple kills allowing him to complete his Seraph’s Embrace and Zhonya’s Hourglass becoming an unstoppable monster for Blue. After Blaze aces Blue in a 4v5 teamfight with Ambition getting three kills making him 5/1/4, Samsung Blue is forced to surrender due to the very small chance of beating Blaze in the late game who has a superior late game composition and by surrendering Blue could re-focus themselves for Game 3 to try getting another early game snowball again instead of mentally collapsing in an inevitable defeat in Game 2 with Ambition’s Kassadin getting huge.
|Blue’s Bans:||Blue’s Picks:|
|Blaze’s Bans:||Blaze’s Picks:|
Game 3′s bans are exactly the same as Game 1′s bans with Blue denying two mid laners from Ambition and Lustboy’s Thresh as well. Blaze will also take out three mid laners for PawN to play in the Zed, Fizz, and Nidalee bans.
Corki will be first picked once again by Blue but that allows Blaze to take Flame’s signature Shen and an Elise for DayDream which denies that jungler away from Spirit while also fitting DayDream’s early aggressive style of jungling. Blue will respond by picking Cheonju’s signature Rumble and will also grab Zyra as well for the duo lane and the AOE presence in early dragon attempts and mid/late game team fights. Blaze responds with some AOE of their own with Orianna for Ambition and the support Annie for Lustboy. Blue rounds out their picks with even more AOE with Jarvan IV and Lissandra for even more dragon control, additional lockdown, and damage for a huge AOE wombo-combo. Blaze will finish off picks by grabbing Caitlyn for Emperor in order to shove lanes quickly and pressure in a 2v1 situation with Annie as well as looking to wave clear to help prevent the imminent tower dives that Blue will be doing to try and gain an early advantage over Blaze.
Blaze goes for the lane swap sending their duo lane to the top lane. Spirit will interestingly start Doran Blade on his jungle Jarvan IV and is forced to use his Smite when he stole Blaze’s red buff when Emperor and Lustboy came to the area. Having seen Spirit go really low and started Doran Blade, Emperor and Lustboy make a very smart rotation to steal blue buff away from Samsung Blue to hand off the blue buff for DayDream’s Elise screwing Spirit’s start on his jungle Jarvan IV. With the 2v1 lane swap and the pressure from the Annie + Caitlyn lane, Sense is forced to walk up to top lane leaving Deft to 1v1 Flame in the bottom lane to ward up the area and protect the top lane tower from falling early and to keep Cheonju alive in case a three man dive comes in from Blaze onto the vulnerable Rumble.
History repeats itself once again when Spirit goes for a gank onto Ambition which forces his Flash out once again. However, due to the lack of wards in the bottom lane with Sense being forced to go top lane to stop the constant shoving from Blaze’s duo lane, Flame and DayDream went for a very risky two-man early dragon at 5 minutes with Shen and Elise under Blue’s nose. With Blaze securing the incredibly early dragon, that not only gives the team global gold, but will also stop the inevitable 8 minute dragon rotation that Blue will do when all of their champions hit level 6 which nullifies part of Blue’s strategy to gain an early lead onto Blaze.
At 10 minutes, Spirit will go to top lane to try to stop Blaze’s duo lane from pushing so hard but Lustboy and Flame’s Stand United will turn the gank around leading to first blood going to Blaze. Despite bottom tower falling in favor of Blue, DayDream will rotate to top lane for a 3 man dive to get a kill onto Cheonju’s Rumble and take the top lane tower equalizing the towers. Blaze will go take their second dragon while Blue transitions top lane to push. PawN has been corralled into mid lane due to Ambition’s constant shoving on Orianna which eliminated the roam potential of Lissandra.
At the 16 minute mark, Blaze will get a crucial fight where Ambition and Lustboy land both Tibbers and Shockwave to lock down Blue while Cheonju was not there and that gives Blaze the mid lane tower pushing Blaze into a comfortable lead. Blaze’s continued push in the mid lane allowed for Blue to attempt a counter attack in the mid lane but Blaze will disengage but will lose DayDream. Blue moves to go for Dragon, but the Blaze members will return incredibly fast to the dragon pit and will pick off Spirit’s Jarvan IV for a dragon going to Blaze’s favor. At this point, Spirit is incredibly squishy with only two Doran Blades and a Kindlegem while PawN opted to rush a Rabadon’s Death Cap on Lissandra and Cheonju finishing Liandry’s Torment before the Rylai’s Crystal Scepter on his Rumble for maximum damage from his Rumble. Meanwhile on the Blaze side, Emperor will actually rush a Stattik Shiv on Caitlyn in order to help clear waves out to prevent Blue from thinking of diving towers and split pushing on the Caitlyn to earn gold to buy the Infinity Edge for stronger team fight presence.
Samsung Blue will get a very strong engage with Zyra, Jarvan IV, Lissandra, and Rumble getting their ultimates off showing the power of the 5v5 wombo combo that Blue has despite being behind in gold. Due to the AOE ultimates being down, Blaze will take another dragon at 26 minutes. With their ultimates back, Blue will go for a team fight once again but Ambition and Lustboy will respond instantly with Shockwave and Tibbers to take down the slightly split Blue members despite Emperor not being in the fight at all which leads to a Baron for CJ Blaze.
Blaze begins the push after buying a couple Negatron Cloaks respecting the AOE explosion of magic damage that can come from Samsung Blue grabbing two inner towers from Blue and a dragon which puts Blaze at a 12K gold lead over Samsung Blue. Blaze continues the 3-1-1 split push and despite Blue trying to engage, Blaze continually turned fights around and take the first inhibitor. However, Blue will catch out Emperor and DayDream out and Blue goes for a Baron. Lustboy leads the charge with Flame and Ambition following him and with a crucial Tibbers ult onto the Blue members, Blaze will kill off Blue and get Baron Nashor handed to them on a silver platter and with a final push Blaze will take Game 3 and will qualify for the World Cyber Games 2013 as the Korean representative.
Thoughts on Blaze’s potential performance at WCG 2013:
With Blaze taking the Korean spot at the tournament, I anticipate that Blaze will not have much difficulty dealing with the other teams at WCG but their main challenges will be World Elite who is another veteran team looking pretty strong as well as OMG who has historically shown that their meta-shifting aggressive style has shown to be historically a counter to a more split push oriented style that Blaze is known for. It will be very interesting to see how Blaze’s more late-game oriented style will fare against the hyper aggressive playstyle from OMG, but once again it will be a test of which team can execute their strategy at a higher level than the other and I anticipate very exciting games happening at the World Cyber Games this year.