Back again with our Season 3 World Championship coverage to keep you guys up to date on the games. This past week, the quarterfinals went underway Monday starting with North America’s last hope Cloud 9 versus the EU LCS Champions Fnatic. Then, Russian overlords Gambit Gaming took on the Korean-bye team Najin Black Sword. And on Tuesday, the Gama Bears would have to claw their way out against Piglet and Pooh and the rest of the SK Telecom T1 squad. Finally, the two Chinese squads Royal Club and OMG would be pit in a deathmatch that would gruesomely decide their fate.
If you missed the group stages, be sure to click here to get caught up!
Game 1 would get off to an interesting start with an extremely aggressive invade coming out from Cloud 9 that called for heavy pressure. The invade would force Yellowstar’s flash prior to minions spawning, and would eventually end with a 2-1-1 lane arrangement for Cloud 9. xPeke would end up accruing a small CS lead when Hai recalled early due to a gank attempt from Cyanide, but the game would be consistently in Cloud 9’s favor until approximately 25 minutes in, where Fnatic would finally begin to flex their muscles. Even with Cloud 9 securing 75% of the dragons that spawned, Fnatic would eventually outmaneuver the North American team with superior rotations, finally feeding off Cloud 9’s indecisiveness and pushing mid to take both the interior tower and the inhibitor tower, ending with seizing their inhibitor. This turned the game to Fnatic’s favor, and after a strong final team fight, Cloud 9 would fall to Fnatic at the 33 minute mark.
The second game in this best of three would pit Hai’s Fizz against xPeke’s Twisted Fate, a match up heavily in Fizz’s favor. Fizz would abuse this from the beginning, picking up first blood on xPeke before zoning him from creeps. sOAZ would also suffer heavily in the top lane, being forced to recall very early before Cloud 9 took the top turret at the 3:32 mark. Following that extremely early turret push, Cloud 9 would push their gold lead and their momentum to the max, nearly taking inner turret in the top lane and bullying both sOAZ and Puszu for the entirety of the game. LemonNation would even build three Negatron Cloaks to counter xPeke’s attempted picks, and Cloud 9 would eventually roll to victory behind Balls’ world class Rumble and Hai’s Fizz. This game ended at the 39 minute mark.
Game 3 started with a bang – well, two bangs to be precise – when Fnatic’s Cyanide picked up a double kill prior to minion spawn, and started off jungling with a Madred’s Razor. The game slowly snowballed from there, with Yellowstar’s Leona becoming a complete and utter monster, eventually helping both Puszu and xPeke create picks from all around the map to increase their lead. Fnatic’s real strength in this game was their roaming support that was able to help nearly every lane pick up kills. Combine this with Fnatic’s brush control and superior vision denial, Fnatic would steamroll this game in what many considered a stomp of Cloud 9, at one point being 18-0 in kills. Fnatic proved that their playstyle is extremely strong and this game, rounded out their 2-1 victory over Cloud 9 at the 28 minute mark.
Figuring out Fnatic
Fnatic’s brush control is second to none, and they proved that in every single one of their games. Featuring the famed “Fnatic brush” in all three games, Fnatic showed their ability to create picks and abuse low vision control by sitting in bushes and creating strong ambushes. This theme was very prevalent in the third game, where LemonNation was consistently picked off and killed by Fnatic’s roaming “Kill Squad”, so to speak.
Fnatic also ran compositions with either global ultimates or teleports (sometimes both) in all three games against Cloud 9. Game 1 had teleport on both sOAZ’s Lissandra and xPeke’s Kassadin. Game 2 xPeke on Twisted Fate, and Game 3 had Teleport on xPeke’s Kassadin and sOAZ’s Stand United on Shen. Their ability to have global map presence in every single one of their games makes incorrect positioning a huge issue for teams playing against Fnatic, as anyone caught out or seen by wards can create a pick for Fnatic.
The last theme, and arguably one of the weirder ones, was Cloud 9’s seemingly disrespect towards Fnatic and their strengths. LemonNation built Mana Manipulator on his support two games in a row and banned the same three champions in every single game, even going so far as to let xPeke have Kassadin in 2 of his games against them. Also, they were generally indecisive and sluggish in their rotations and decison-making, a rarity compared to the Cloud 9 that played in North America. This was especially evident in the first game, where C9 was seemingly ahead before letting Fnatic push in and take their inhibitor after sitting top for too long. This was inconsistent for Cloud 9, and definitely out of the ordinary.
From the start of Game 1, Najin Black Sword attempted to showcase their aggressive roots as PraY and Cain in the 2v1 lane nabbed first blood against Darien in the top lane coupled along with the first tower. The first dragon at 10 minutes went to Gambit and the ensuing fight resulted in a 1 for 1 exchange. The second dragon fight lead to a 2-4 exchange in favor of Gambit with a triple kill onto Alex Ich’s Fizz and a dragon for Gambit as well catapulting them into the lead. Gambit attempted a Baron at 27 minutes but Watch flashed in with Nunu and miraculously stole it for Sword. Gambit was forced to wait out Sword’s Baron buff and then with one tower left, Darien’s dove with a Taunt-Flash combo onto Nagne which allowed Sword clean up a fight for more towers. At 36 minutes, Gambit attempted Baron once again and Voidle sacrificed himself to Sword but in the end, Gambit secured the Baron. While Gambit sieged, Sword attempted to initiate onto Gambit, but Baron buff proved too strong and Gambit won the fight and Game 1 at 42 minutes.
Once again got first blood in the 2v2 lane and open season began for Sword. Meanwhile across the map, Nagne and Watch got multiple kills onto Alex Ich while PraY and Cain continued to ruthlessly kill Gambit’s bottom lane drawing Darien’s Malphite teleports and Diamondprox’s attention. Alex Ich was forced to roam down as well but his efforts were fruitless as Voidle and Genja could not stop the bleeding. Sword’s multiple picks throughout the early/mid game dismantled Gambit’s huge AoE disruption composition and they took an inhibitor at 19 minutes without much reply from Gambit. PraY flanked Gambit via invisible Twitch and with the help of Cain’s masterful Dark Passage, he re-positioned himself while Spraying-and-Praying, completely decimating Gambit and allowing Sword to go for the 3rd inhibitor. After a final last ditch effort from Gambit to force the Koreans off of their tower, Sword with 17K gold, reengaged and absolutely melted Gambit to quickly take Game 2 just before 25 minutes that tied the series 1-1.
At the start of game 3, history repeated itself again with Cain nabbing first blood onto Voidle again in the 2v2 lane and PraY finishing off Genja making it a 2-0 exchange for Sword. Gambit was starting to show signs of desperation as all 5 members dove Sword’s duo lane and jungler under tower. However, Nagne snuck around as Nidalee and nabbed a spear snipe onto Alex Ich just when the dust settled making it a 2 for 2 exchange. In the first dragon fight at 16 minutes, Sword was pulling ahead and started the dragon but the submarine Shen and Evelynn combo came in for the flank and Diamondprox stole dragon for Gambit. However, in the ensuing fight Expession’s Renekton was too much for Gambit and Sword’s reengag resulted in an ace on Gambit. Sword patiently sieged Gambit’s base with spears and Corki rockets flying to take the top inhibitor at 33 minutes. Sword continued the siege into the bottom lane as super minions push from the top lane forcing Genja to defend and leaving the bulk of the team to 4v5. Sword took the bottom inhibitor at 37 minutes and emerged victorious from the ensuing fight. When the top inhibitor respawned while the other two were down, Sword choked Gambit out and finally broke through their defenses once again and push to win the game and quarterfinal series.
Forging the Sword Anew
Despite a shaky game 1, Najin Black Sword came out on top versus the Russian overlords with a pair of convincing wins as Sword’s duo lane of PraY and Cain wrecked every match. It seems in the past most of Najin Sword’s aggression lied in the top lane with MakNoon but swapping Expession into the lineup has created a new team dynamic that favors the current meta of a mid lane and jungle tandem. Since Expession can hold his lane and even drew out a permaban against his Jax, this allows Watch to make plays elsewhere on the map, specifically for Nagne to snowball him ahead. Nagne showed off his champion diversity with an excellent Nidalee pick but we’ll have to see if his repertoire of champions also include the necessary Zed and Fizz for mid lane.
Proving true to his title of the Korean Allstar marksman, PraY coupled along with Cain performed admirably throughout all 3 games of the series. Even during their loss in game 1, the duo commanded so much attention and showed why Twitch is a permanent ban against PraY. Compared to imp from SG Ozone, PraY has kept up to date on the current patch and has included Corki into his champion pool. If Najin Black Sword wish to make it far into the finals, PraY will have to continue to play his best and carry his team into the finals round.
In the first game Royal decided to take advantage of their 2v1 lane by aggressively invading OMG’s blue buff with their signature support Annie. Around 3 minutes in, LoveLin came to the bottom lane to help Jax to hold the tower. The moment they both reached level 3, they all in-ed Annie and Caitlyn picking up first blood for LoveLin. At 8 minutes, GodLike head down to the bottom lane with Lucky and 4 man dove Jax and Lee Sin picking up a kill on Renekton. Immediately following, Royal managed to pick up bottom tower, OMG’s blue buff and Dragon giving them a rather substantial lead. However, later OMG was able to contest the second dragon of the game and even though Royal managed to secure the dragon, OMG picked up 4 kills for free with Cool getting a triple kill on Ahri.
Throughout the mid game OMG was able to get ahead in kill count but Royal was still technically ahead due to their tower lead, dragons and CS. At 20 minutes OMG aggressively dove the bot lane picking up 3 kills and 2 towers turning the gold lead and control of the game in their favor. Despite being down in gold, Royal pushed mid and forced a team fight. Due to Uzi’s amazing Cleanse mechanics and teamfighting positioning, Royal managed to win the fight trading 2 for 3 and taking the mid tower. At 28 minutes Royal saw Jax split pushing the bottom lane and decided to take Baron. Royal manages to secure Baron along with 3 kills and a dragon while Jax took out Royal’s bottom inhibitor. Responding correctly, Royal pushed the bottom lane with the baron buff against the super minions and tower dove OMG. Tabe managed to land an amazing flash Tibbers resulting in a 1 for 4 trade for Royal and game 1 resulted with a win for Royals.
Game 2 started with Royal Club being able to pick up Zed, Rumble and Uzi’s signature champion, Vayne. OMG invaded Royal’s blue side to place deep wards while Royal set up a defensive level 1. Similar to the first game around 4 minutes, Tabe gave up another kill to GoGoing while LoveLin took down Uzi before dying to him resulting in a favorable trade for OMG. At 8 minutes GoDLike landed a beautiful Equalizer on top of 3 people in the top lane and Whi1tezZ showed up to clean house for a double kill on Zed. The two teams clashed at Dragon at 11 minutes with Tabe landing a 3 man Crescendo. Royal traded 2 for 3 with Uzi picking up a double kill on Vayne and the dragon afterwards as well.
At 16 minutes the gold was exactly even between the two teams but Uzi and Wh1tezZ had finished their Blade Of The Ruined Kings while Ahri haven’t completed her Deathfire’s Grasp resulting in a huge item advantage for Royal. They pushed mid as 5 and initiated with Equalizer while Tabe landed another 3 man Crescendo locking up both Ahri and Varus, letting Royal completely dominate the fight. Uzi managed to pick up a triple kill while taking down the mid tower and Baron. After securing Baron, they ran down mid and tower dove the inner tower to pick up a kill on Cool’s Ahri and continued to pick up the mid inhibitor. After rotating to the top lane, they overcommitt and inappropriately dove the inner tower giving up 2 free kills to OMG. OMG managed to catch Royal Club near Baron and chased them with Stand United on Ahri hoping to quickly end the fight, but Uzi showed up behind the team and took out OMG one by one, surviving with a sliver of health. Royal aces OMG and continued to push mid ending the series 2-0.
Royal Club with the Stronger Hand
The first game between the two teams was neck to neck throughout most of the game but it was Royal’s decision to take on Baron while Jax split-pushed and then to push that same lane in that won them the game. During the second game, OMG faltered and allowed Royal to pick up signature champions Zed and Vayne. Royal was able to win every team fight in the mid game and appropriately fed almost every kill to Uzi and Wh1tezZ. Royal was able to feed their “puppy” quickly and take control of the game without much resistance.
After a perplexing champion drafting phase where the Bears banned out Aatrox against SKT T1, the Koreans started the game with deep wards at the Bears red and a standard lane set up. Gama Bears showed early aggression that translated into a small CS lead for their bot lane, but costed this teamwide decision cost Steak an early death and a 20 CS deficit as Bengi ganked him twice in 10 minutes.With the first two turrets of the game (top-mid outer) going to SKT T1, the Bears stayed in the game by securing the first Dragon of the game and by winning a 4v4 engagement in the bot lane resulting in a 3 for 2 trade with a double kill (and shutdown bonus on Bengi) for Maple. Around 25 minutes in, SKT T1 cleared all vision around the Baron pit and faked a Baron attempt not once, but twice. The second time around Faker blew up Winds and SKT T1 traded 4 for 1 with only Bengi going down. With a 9k gold lead, 5-2 in turrets and 15-8 kill advantage, The Telecom team won a fight at mid, trading 4 for 0 and securing their push down the mid lane inhibitor for the win ending the first game of the series at 33 min.
At the start of game 2, it was a yet again passive level one start, with both teams taking relatively defensive positions and avoiding level 1 skirmishes. Early, both junglers positioned themselves to gank the bot lane but with Bengi’s Lee Sin beat out Wind’ss Elise as PoohManDu engaged with a Thresh hook onto Varus and SKT T1 came out ahead with a 3 for 0 exchange, granting Piglet’s Ezreal a double kill and double buffs at level 3. SKT continued their laning phase dominance by getting kills on all around the three lanes. Systematically SKT kept rolling with their strategy, applying pressure all around the map capitalizing on the pick potential of Ahri and Lee Sin coupled along with Shen’s teleport. After grabbing multiple kills (from 2 to 4 kills in small skirmishes) all over the map repeatedly, they snowballed their lead with turrets and dragons while denying farm as hard as they possibly could. SKT used and extended their advantage so well that they were able to achieve a 14k gold lead, a 5 to nil advantage in turrets, and 15-3 kill lead by the early 20 minute mark. After baiting Barons to lure the Bears into a trap, SKT aced them and decided to push down the exposed middle inhibitor in the Bears’ base. After winning the last teamfight of the series with a perfect ace, they destroyed Gamania’s Nexus at 27 min.
The Company Not Just Calling on Faker
Perhaps the scariest part about SK Telecom T1’s performance was that each player was firing on all cylinders and not just Faker. Although he grabs most of the spotlight for his solo kills in lane and deleting enemy supports off the map, Impact, Bengi, and the 100-acre lane all pulled their weight to dominate both games against the Bears. However, we have to expect that from here on out that future teams facing SK T1 will have better drafting phases than the Gama Bears and will not be allowed to play so many of their comfort champions at a time. And as hard as PoohManDu choked out the Bears’ vision, other teams will not roll over so easily and will contest that part of SK T1’s game. But if Faker and crew can keep on playing crisply as they have been since the latter half of the group stages, it’ll be difficult for any team to stop them.
With both Fnatic and Royal Club coming off convincing victories in the quarterfinals, this has the potential to be the most explosive semifinals of the tournament.
Going into this matchup, the most contested picks between these two teams will surely be for the mid lane. xPeke and Wh1tezZ both have basically the same champion pool consisting of Ahri, Zed, Fizz and even Kassadin. If any of these champions manages to get through pick/ban phase, they will surely get first picked and wreak havoc with it. Since xPeke tends to perform better on comfort assassin picks than Wh1tezZ who also plays AP mages to great success, Royal Club would be wise not to let one of those coveted picks filter through.
As far as playstyle goes, Royal Club plays an hyper aggressive early game in both kills and objective control while having some of the best teamfight coordinations during full 5v5 engagements in this tournament. Fnatic needs to pick lanes that are in their favor in the early game and take fast towers for an early lead with smart use of their teleports. Fnatic does not have to teamfight Royal if they don’t feel confident enough to. If any team can avoid full engagements and play guerrilla warfare, it’s Fnatic.
For Royal Club, the child prodigy Uzi will be the player to watch for as Doublelift said, no matter how the game goes Uzi never has a bad game. Will Fnatic’s duo lane be able to survive Uzi or Tabe? Or will Royal force a 2v1 mid lane against xPeke with their signature Annie support for buff control? And for Fnatic, the man to watch is of course SexPeke! Will he be able to slay the monster that is Royal?
After seeing Fnatic’s dominating run in Group B and Royal Club’s 2-0 sweep against OMG it’s hard to predict who will win. Both teams shows potential to take the Summoner’s Cup but in the end Royal Club might edge over Fnatic and end up facing the Koreans in the finals.
After Najin Black Sword’s shaky Worlds debut, they calmed their nerves and played a terrific couple of games to close out their series against Gambit meanwhile SK Telecom T1 ate Steak and the rest of the Bears alive. In this Korea vs Korea matchup, they’ll be fighting for the chance to represent their home region in the grand finals.
Aside from mid lane assassins that have dominated the group stages and semifinals so far, look for a top lane and some duo lane picks to be contested. In the top lane, both Expession and Impact will be contending over the Renekton pick. As we saw in the quarterfinals, once the crocodile picks up 3 defensive core items, he’s just an immovable object who can kill carries at the same time, all while having an incredibly solid early game. Also, if not put in a 2v1 scenario, Expession will finally have the opportunity to flex out his muscles against a top tier player like Impact and see if he can perform as well if not better than MakNoon did during his tenture on Sword. For our marksmen, Caitlyn will be a hot pick since she’s so key to both fast push and double AD compositions which both teams are capable of running. Not to mention, both Piglet and PraY can both handle her with finesse.
Of course with any SKT game, the lane to watch will be mid. Besides a misstep at level 1 during an early group stage game, Faker has been looking nigh unstoppable as the unkillable demon-king. With relatively little experience on the tournament stage, Nagne will have his hands full handling Faker and might require Watch to spend more time than usual roaming around the center of the map. However, Nagne was brought onto to Sword as the “assassin specialist” in comparison to SSONG, so the duel at mid might be closer than we think.
Although Najin Black Sword did not look as aggressive, deadly, or coordinated as spectators expected them to be in the quarterfinals, they might still just be warming up. However, if they want to have any chance at making it to the finals stage, they’ll have to do dive SKT since the latter has been one of the scariest teams in Worlds so far. Barring significant signs of improvement from Sword, SKT should come out ontop of their regional brethren.
Be sure to catch the first semifinals matchup Friday September 27 when SK Telecom T1 takes on Najin Black Sword at 8PM PST. Be there or be Longpanda.