The Vulcun vs. Velocity match at the end of Week 6 day 2 was one of the largest upsets of the split by any team. Vulcun, the 2nd place team and one of the most feared in the NA LCS for their strong Picks and Bans phase, were defeated by Velocity eSports: a team not only in last place, but with a newly established lineup. So how does a team with the worst record in the NA LCS defeat a team that only seems beatable by the likes of Cloud 9? Follow me, and we’ll attempt to see if we can make some sense out of it.
Picks and Bans
Firstly, Vulcun has one of the strongest Picks and Ban phases out of anyone in the NA LCS: so much so, that their recent featurette established that as being the reason that their opponents fear them. Moreover, Vulcun’s clever strategies can be derived by looking at just who they banned out; so let’s take a look.
Rumble: It’s rumored that Vileroze has a limited champion pool and, according to his stats over on lolesports.com, he’s played Kayle 6 times, Rumble 2 times and, including this game, Shen twice. Out of his 6 games played on Kayle, they’ve come out with two victories. It’s most probable that Vulcun banned out Rumble in hopes of forcing Vileroze onto Kayle, who has a rough lane match-up against Yorick, or Shen who also has a painful time against the Gravedigger. By banning out Rumble, Vulcun attempted to secure an easy top lane victory by taking advantage of Vileroze’s new position and champion pool. This strategy was ultimately effective, but it didn’t snowball the game as hard as expected for Vulcun (more on this later).
Nunu & Evelynn: These were both targeted bans at Nk inc. Evelynn much more so than Nunu, as Nk inc debuted his Diamondprox burn build in their victory over Curse at MLG Anaheim. Although he had a KDA of 1.4 in that game, his presence on Evelynn kept Curse scared and playing cautiously throughout the game. Even Nyjacky and Saint noted that it’s difficult to play aggressively with an Evelynn on the field. Not to mention that Evelynn is a gold trap: when playing against an Evelynn, in order to avoid countless deaths, you have to spend more money on pink wards. Moreover, Vulcun was utilizing Zuna’s Kogmaw rather than his Tristana, and Evelynn never wants to be up close and personal with Kogmaw . Also, Vulcun was assuming that Vileroze was either going to pick Kayle or Shen, and the newly minted Shevlynn (Shen+Evelynn) combo, debuted in the OGN, is something that nobody wants to deal with, as having your back line initiated on by an invisible ninja is a nightmare. On the other hand, Nunu was banned for several interesting reasons. Firstly, Nunu is Nunu and is incredibly annoying to deal with in the new jungle. Secondly, although Vulcun dominated Cloud 9 in the early game of last week’s match-up, Nunu ultimately became a problem for Vulcun and their team comp. This is due in part to Nunu’s ridiculous zoning capabilities, an annoyance that Yorick, Zac, or Thresh wouldn’t appreciate dealing with.
Now let’s take a look at VES’ Bans:
Elise: One of Xmithie’s most played Champions, now only rivaled by Zac, and proir to this game it was his most played champion. Chances are it would’ve continued to be if it wasn’t banned out by VES. With a 66% win rate on Elise, It’s apparent that Velocity was paying attention to the numbers and wisely decided not to give the spider to Xmithie. Although not crippling Xmithie’s champion pool by any means, it does ensure that he won’t be on his most played champion (at the time).
Ryze: Mancloud is one of the most Terrifying Ryze players in the NA LCS and currently sits at the top of the charts in GPM and Kills. In fact, Mancloud has a 100% win rate in the LCS with Ryze: he’s been allowed to play 3 games with him and Vulcun won all 3 of them. He rocks a 4.8 KDA and 415 GPM with the Rogue Mage: allowing Mancloud to have Ryze at this point in the season is almost like giving away a win. This ban protects the mid lane for Ecco and gives him his best chance against Mancloud, by at least depriving him of one of his more successful and frequently played champions.
Sona: Another targeted and intelligent ban on the side of Velocity. If anyone knows anything about BloodWater, it’s that he loves to play Sona, and not only does he love to play her but he plays he quiet well. The stats most definitely back up this ban as well, as Vulcun has won 6 out of the 8 games that BloodWater has played Sona. On top of that, BloodWater sports a ridiculous KDA of 10 on Sona and has the 3rd highest average KDA in the LCS.
Interestingly enough, the bans tell a tale of two strategies: Vulcun’s revolved more around pigeonholing Vileroze in champion select so that they could place him against a lane bully and effectively guarantee that Sid would come out ahead, where Velocity’s revolved more around taking away some of Vulcun’s more dangerous options. Initially, both strategies proved to be effective, but in the end it would be more about what Vulcun didn’t ban in champion select.
What Slipped Through the Cracks?
In a strange turn of events, Twisted Fate wasn’t banned in this game, which most assuredly means that he was picked faster than most of us can lock a Yellow Card. Twisted Fate is easily becoming one of the most banned, if not the most banned, champion in all of League of Legends. He’s been at 100% pick and ban rate in almost every region and had a 100% pick and ban rate in last week’s day 2 of the NA LCS. To begin with, Vulcun allowed Twisted Fate to make it through the Picks and Bans phase in order to implement their strategy of banning out Vileroze and making sure that Nk inc didn’t get to utilize Evelynn or Nunu. However, not banning out Twisted Fate may very well have been Vulcun’s biggest mistake. Whether or not Vulcun was aware that Ecco was a proficient Twisted Fate player can only be speculated upon, but Vulcun and their organization are smart people and chances are that not only did they know about it, but they planned on it. With that said, Vulcun must not have deemed Ecco’s Twisted Fate to be enough of a threat to constitute banning him and this is where things went kind of awry. Twisted Fate posed a problem to Vulcun’s team composition, as they were looking to kite and poke with Kogmaw and Ezreal, yet Twisted Fate’s ability to hard engage whenever and wherever he wants is the bane of any poke composition’s existence.
Furthermore, Ecco appeared to be keenly aware of this, as he built TF to maximize his ability to catch members of Vulcun out of position. He did so by investing in Lich Bane, Twin Shadows, and Boots of Swiftness: all items that increased his movement speed, making him even more painful to escape and allowing him another 2.5 second slow in the form of Twin Shadows’ active. Ecco wasn’t only building for maximum pick off potential but he also took the correct summoner spells for it. Taking barrier allows him to Gate into the middle of team fights and gives him early survivability pre-Zhonya’s Hourglass and once completed makes him even harder to kill in team fights. This allows him to spam as many Yellow, Red, and Blue cards as possible in order to set up numerous kills for him and his teammates. This is essentially just what Ecco’s Twisted Fate did in one of the most important team fights of the game. At 11:35 into the game, he almost single-handedly routed Vulcun, coming out not only with First Blood but with an unofficial Quadra kill, as he chased down 3 members and killed Zuna under tower. On top of that, it allowed Nk inc to secure Velocity’s second Dragon of the game and give them a near 4k gold lead 12:51 into the game. Moreover, Twisted Fate’s backbreaking passive (soon to be changed by Riot) was netting Velocity a gold lead even when the game was close. This forced Vulcun to be aggressive in order to maintain stability or secure a gold lead over Velocity. Ecco’s play-making might be just what Velocity needs, as he surprised not only Vulcun this weekend, but most of NA. The chances of him getting Twisted Fate after this game are slim to none.
Ironically, Vulcun purposely placed Vileroze onto Shen after his somewhat painful performance vs. CLG. In that game, Vileroze was bullied in lane to the point where it took him nearly half of the game to become relevant again, and this game was somewhat similar in nature. 10 minutes into the game Vulcun had bullied Vileroze to the point of only having a Doran’s Shield, a Rejuvenation Bead, and basic boots. On top of that, he had 100 less gold than his support, was 2 levels behind his lane opponent, and didn’t get Stand United until 10 minutes into the game. Vulcun’s strategy was appearing to work just as they’d planned, and the time they spent focusing on Vileroze essentially kept him out of the early game. Lucky for Vileroze, he was Shen and was able to become relevant once again off of the back of Stand United. Several perfectly timed ults with Twisted Fate and MapleStreet allowed Vileroze to earn the precious kill and assist money he needed to become relevant in the mid-game, and eventually surpass his lane opponent. In a strange turn of events, Shen went from one of the lowest gold totals in the game, to having 5 assists and 119 CS, to Sid’s 0 assists and 104 CS 21:54 into the game. This allowed Vileroze to achieve Shen’s split-pushing form and choke out the map with the help of his, and Ecco’s, global ultimates. In the same vein as Ecco, Vileroze seemed to be inspired by the spirit of Meteos and, although heavily bullied and forced out of lane, Vileroze ended the game with a score of 3/0/14. After an almost identical performance to the one vs. CLG, although Vileroze hasn’t played the prettiest games, he’s been able to lead his team to two much needed victories and, after his second one on Shen, it might be time to start forcing him onto other champions.
But what does it all mean?
Vulcun has, arguably, one of the best Pick/Ban phases in all of NA, but in their game against Velocity their strategy seemed to falter as they allowed too many global ultimates onto the field. This is possibly because Vulcun didn’t perceive Velocity’s TF to be a threat that they couldn’t handle, nor would anyone question Mancloud’s ability to shut down his opposing mid-laner. That ended up being what Ecco used to exploit Vulcun’s inability to disengage with their double AD comp. The other was a setup and part of Vulcun’s strategy to shutdown Vileroze: and although he was bullied out of the early game, the assists he acquired through Stand United and Ecco’s kills allowed him to claw his way back into the game. Eventually, he reached critical mass and becoming the split-pushing Shen that we all know and love. Ultimately, the two champions that Vulcun allowed Velocity to have (Twisted Fate and Shen) should have been the very champions they banned out in team select. Not only did Ecco have one of his best performances of the split, eventually, so did Vileroze. Ironically, Vulcun’s well-planned out strategies that tend to easily secure them wins was what led to Velocity claiming a surprising upset win over the 2nd place powerhouse in the NA LCS.