Professional players very rarely deviate from the meta. Indeed, professional players set the meta for the very reason that they play the same team composition or the same champions on a regular basis. Naturally, when a game pops up where professional players have switched it up a little bit, it’s usually bound for a modicum of fame.
When we have these games where professional players deviate from the norm by a significant margin, they appear in the form of games like Gambit versus Fnatic during the 7th week of the European LCS, games so absolutely bizarre that it exploded everywhere on the Internet. Players, casters, and fans were all talking about Gambit and Fnatic’s picks, and everyone wanted to know why. Why did Yellowstar and Soaz swap spots? Why did Diamondprox jungle Karma?
Gambit’s first pick ended up being Sona. This came as no surprise to anyone as Voidle’s favorite support champion is Sona, consistently playing very solid with her, as evidenced by his double kill early on. Following that, Fnatic decided to go with Shen and Varus for their first two picks. The first pick came as a bit of a surprise for loyal Fnatic fans because anyone who follows Soaz knows his dislike of Shen. However, the Varus pick was nothing out of the ordinary; Puszu had a 75% win ratio on the champion at the start of the Gambit game and knew how to play the champion extremely well.
After the first round picks for both sides, the game got a little interesting. Karma and Ashe were the next two pick ups for Gambit, and this surprised everyone. Karma had never been picked before in the EU LCS, and when it was revealed that her debut would be in the jungle, everyone was taken back. Deficio shed some light on the pick later, explaining that Diamond had been practicing jungle Karma in solo queue, and then briefly outlining her strengths and Gambit’s goals with the champion. Karma is one of the best jungle duelists in the game, and with her root, slow, and speed boost for allies, she makes an extremely accomplished ganker as well. This wasn’t shown very well in the game, especially after Diamond was picked off going for his red buff, but Karma has the potential of a strong jungler. Deficio explained that playing her in the jungle would give Gambit the ability to kite Fnatic for long distances before Flash-Crescendo allowed them to dive all in, but the strategy did not work out as well as they’d hoped. The Ashe pick for Genja was supposed to help this overarching goal with her irritating slow and strong kiting ability, but we never got the chance to see the plan in action.
Fnatic’s second round picks were a little more tame, locking Blitzcrank and Aatrox in. Blitzcrank isn’t something we normally see Yellowstar on, especially with his recent switch to support, but that doesn’t mean it’s out of the question. As for Aatrox, it was the first time we had seen Cyanide on Aatrox, but his play did not indicate that he was unfamiliar with the champion.
Gambit’s third and final round of picks ended with them locking in Evelynn and Kayle. Both Deman and Joe were convinced that Evelynn would go to Diamond, Karma would end up in the mid lane, and Darien would take Kayle, but it ended up working out much different. Both of these picks are familiar for Gambit Gaming, and so it was no surprise that they were locked in. The real surprise ended up being who used them.
Fnatic’s final round of picks ended with Lissandra being locked in. Lissandra has an extremely strong kit, offering long range engage, soft crowd control, an on-demand stun or Zhonya’s, and an AoE snare. She was one of the most ideal picks when it came to dealing with Gambit’s team, which was centered around kiting, and her strong engage allowed Fnatic to pick up kills on Gambit all game, whether in the jungle or in lane.
Unconventional Swaps and Picks
Swapping lanes into a 2v1 lane is nothing new; swapping your support player with your top player is. The casters were just as flabbergasted as I was when it turned out that Soaz, the top laner for Fnatic, had grabbed Blitzcrank. Not only had he grabbed Blitzcrank, but he was going to support with him.
And support he did. Snagging first blood on Karma as she attempted to get her red, Soaz managed to secure Gambit’s blue buff for himself and went on to be a terror in lane. He finished the game with a very respectable score of 3/2/16, a 9.5 KDA, and at one point was even on a killing spree. Missing what seemed to be only one or two hooks, Soaz consistently set himself up to make plays with Madlife-like precision. Soaz was voted the best top laner in the European region, and went on to show that he was the best top laner in the world during the 1v1 tournament at All-Stars. Perhaps when voting rolls around again, we should vote him for the support position?
Swapping with Soaz was Yellowstar, who took Shen into the top lane against Gambit’s duo of Voidle and Genja. His play was solid, starting with a double kill and ending with him being a nearly unkillable brick wall. He played Shen extremely well, landing taunt after taunt, and split pushing to his heart’s content. He ended the game with a score of 5/1/13 and a KDA of 18, a score many would be proud of, especially those who played support on a rare basis.
Gambit’s picks seemed to do them a little less good than they had hoped. Jungle Karma got off to a weak start, losing her blue buff at level two after a brilliant flash-grab from Soaz. This set Diamond behind by a considerable margin, and his damage and utility seemed to only decrease from there. Diamond ended the game with a positive, albeit sloppy score, of 0/6/7 with a KDA of 1.67. With Diamond pretty much out of the picture, the other lanes had to fend for themselves with little to no jungle support.
When Darien loaded into the game on Evelynn, both Deman and Joe were surprised. Both of the casters stated that they had never seen Darien on Evelynn, and when he was thrown into a 1v2 lane, this became evident. Darien seemed generally uncomfortable playing the champion, and his score of 2/7/2 with a KDA of .57 left me with the same impression. His play left a lot to be desired, and his score reflected that. This pick surprised me almost as much as the Karma pick, though Evelynn’s ability to kite before turning and all-inning with her ultimate left her a strong pick for Gambit.
Following the game against Fnatic, Gambit repeated the jungle Karma pick to great effect against Team Alternate, with Diamond going 3/1/14 and ending the game with a KDA of 17. His play in the next game was extremely solid, with strong ganks, strong team fighting, and excellent utility and escape. With the second game going much better, I would not be surprised to see more jungle Karma as we progress through these last few weeks. Diamond will, without a doubt, refine his play and improve his Karma, and as he improves with her, I think we’ll see more of her.
As for Fnatic, their Soaz/Yellowstar swap sounds like a very niche strategy when Deficio described it, and while it may come out again at some point, I believe it will be a very rare event. Does it work? Yes, or so it would seem, but I do not know if they can manage to get as lucky against every opponent as they did against Gambit. With that said, only time will tell.