Last weekend, the finals of the OCE Winter Regional were held on stage at Supanova Perth. It was an intensely contested set of matches; rightly so, given that the winter champion will represent the Oceanic region at Riot’s International Wildcard qualifier.
Semi-Final 1 (BO3): Immunity (2) v Nv (0)
The first semi-final was a rematch of the Autumn grand final in more ways than one. Nv showed promise, both individually and as a team, but were constantly playing from the back foot against Immunity. An impeccably executed gank from Spookz gave the reigning champions an early lead in game one and Immunity pressed the advantage with their distinctive brand of mid-game aggression.
Mattress gave Nv’s fans something to cheer about when he stole Baron with a well-timed Braum ultimate, but it wasn’t enough to stop Immunity from pushing to victory in the thirty-second minute with a 17k gold lead. Support Ziggs has become one of the more common eccentric picks in OCE tournaments but, in game one, Rosey showed that it can complement a siege comp rather nicely.
Game two played out in a similar fashion. Although Nv managed to avoid being outpushed for most of the game, Immunity’s rotations and teamfighting were simply too well exected. FirstMate’s Jinx was admirably played but, despite astute positioning, could do little against the immense zoning power of Swiffer’s Anivia.
Semi-Final 2 (BO3): Curse (0) v Avant Garde Ascension (2)
Ascension were out of the gates at a cracking pace in game one against a Curse lineup that was one man down. Carbon showed that Jarvan is still a strong jungle pick and ensured that he was everywhere he needed to be to counter Chelby’s early Lee Sin ganks. Ascension snowballed their individual lane leads and took the win in game one.
In game two, Curse looked like an entirely different team. They pressured all three lanes well and orchestrated a perfect dragon fight, which turned into a significant gold lead by the twenty-minute mark.
Curse pushed hard through mid-lane to take an early inhibitor, but Ascension dug their heels in and refused to give up further objectives. The game dragged out to fifty minutes, and with both teams essentially at full builds, they squared off under Curse’s bottom inhibitor turret for one last teamfight. By this stage, any attempt to kill Minky’s Trundle was a futile endeavour and ChuChuZ’ Nidalee spears were dealing an ungodly amount of damage. A brutal Morgana ult from Gymnast set up an easy fight for Ascension – and after running over the top of their opponents, they finally did what Curse could not, and closed out the game.
It was a heartbreaking match for Curse. Even though substitute mid laner Mazui played an admirable Orianna in both games, Keane’s unrivaled whole-map presence was sorely missed. One can’t help but think that both games may have gone differently were it not for his absence.
Winter Regional Grand Final (BO5): Immunity (2) v Avant Garde Ascension (3)
Although the experience of playing on stage in front of a live crowd was nothing new for Immunity, it was undoubtedly a novelty for Ascension. This was a series they’d worked towards indefatigably and they certainly made the most of it by stretching it to the very last minute; they walked into battle wearing their new sponsor tags and did not disappoint.
Game one was a tense affair. Ascension kept Irelia away from Swip3rR and Immunity made a wise decision in banning out Lucian, having seen the destruction that Cardrid was capable of wreaking therewith. Ascension had three lanes that would be extremely dangerous if Carbon could get them snowballing and Immunity were all on champions that they feel comfortable with.
Immunity was predictably aggressive early on, grouping and sieging pre-level six in an attempt to bully Ascension into submission. Ascension simply would not give in, however, and managed to catch immunity off guard with some well-timed rotations. They held the advantage well, and after several favourable skirmishes, were able to take down Immunity’s nexus.
Game two was all about Immunity’s solo lanes. Top lane was another Jax v Shyvana matchup but this time Swip3rR was able to keep a lid on Minky’s Jax, pushing hard and roaming incisively. Swiffer was able to pick up some early kills and snowball this time around, unlike the previous game where he was left somewhat starved of gold.
The two showed how dangerous it can be to give the Autumn champions a lead in lane, and Ascension were unable to hold off against the shapeshifting mid and top laners, bringing the series to one game apiece.
Immunity were hitting their stride by game three. There were some unusual picks on the blue side – Tryndamere for Swip3rR, Ezreal for Raydere and Anivia for Swiffer – but they knew exactly what they were doing with them. The reigning champions timed their rotations perfectly and caught Ascension off guard to secure an early lead. Spookz was busier than a one-armed bricklayer in Baghdad, and the reward for his efforts was a gold lead of almost ten thousand by twenty-two minutes. Ascension didn’t have an answer and the game was over.
Things looked grim for Ascension coming into game four. Immunity were up 2-1 and seemed to be playing better with every minute that went by in-game. Ascension were unperturbed however, despite the fact that Swip3rR was able to get his hands on Irelia and Swiffer locked in the Nidalee that had been so problematic for Ascension in game two. ChuChuZ took the opportunity to show off his Zed mechanics and Immunity consistently underestimated his ability to delete one of their number from a skirmish. Cardrid played a fearsome Corki and, combined with some well-timed Crescendos from Gymnast, were able to burst Immunity’s relatively squishy team composition. Ascension snapped up every objective they could and took the series to a 2-2 deadlock before the final game.
Game five was the fulcrum that everything rested on. Although both teams put on laudable performances, one had to show that they deserved to represent the region at the season four wildcard tournament. Immunity tried everything they could to gain an advantage but Ascension responded to every gank, invade and rotation that was thrown at them. In contrast to the four prior games, neither team was willing to give up kills.
Immunity appeared to cripple themselves with pacificity, however. Their early aggression had failed to net them any advantage and, through mid-game, they were seemingly at a loose end. Ascension took this opportunity and dictated the pace of play. This resulted in them leading comfortably in turrets, gold and kills after thirty minutes. Immunity made a slight reprisal and managed to pull themselves back into the game but Ascension were hungry. The first place finish that had eluded them for so long was within their grasp and Immunity were left looking a little bit stunned when Ascension started chasing them through their own jungle. The chasing didn’t stop and Ascension laid down the gauntlet; Immunity had no choice but to stand and fight under their tower at forty-five minutes.
Ascension massacred the Autumn regional champions and, as soon as the last surviving member of Immunity, Swiffer, went down next to his bottom inhibitor, Ascension erupted in celebration. They had done the impossible and beaten Immunity on stage at an Australian event.
A New Era
There were a thousand stories written on the faces of the Immunity squad after losing to Ascension in the grand final. The prospect of not being the team to represent Australia at the wildcard tournament seemingly evaded iM until their nexus went down at the end of the fifth match. Raydere’s expression – a combination of shock, realization, and grief – heralded the death of a great Australian eSports dynasty. The monopoly is over, the statues are falling, and Immunity must adapt or perish.
Another noteworthy point of discussion raised over the course of the Winter Regional was the production quality of OCE events. The camera work on the main stream was unfortunate, to say the least, and many important skirmishes were missed by the spectators. This would be forgivable if the producers simply used replays to cover the missed gameplay but, as it happened, coverage of a number of crucial moments was likewise lost. There were also problems with audio levels between matches and during interviews, which reasonably leads one to conclude that the OCE production team is still finding their way.
The author would like to congratulate Avant Garde Ascension and wishes them the very best in the lead-up to the wildcard tournament. Replays of the playoff matches are available from the Riot Games Oceania YouTube channel.