Friday, October 5, 2012

A Full Mug of Mead, League of Legends Bonus #4: Day 2 of the World Championships

So far, the Season 2 World Championships for League of Legends have been all about break-out stars. From the resurgence of Irelia, to the overpowering Stand United ultimate wielder Shen, to Ezrael's ubiquitous role in literally every game so far, certain stars have shone brighter than others. Perhaps none brighter than the international presence that has completely taken over the tournament. With Team Solo Mid's shocking ouster by upstarts Azubu Frost, there are no American teams left competing for the $1,000,000 first prize.

There's a lot to cover, so let's get right to it:

Match #1: M5 versus IG

Because this was probably the least eventful match of the day, and certainly lacked the drama of the later sets, I want to use this section to go over how the trends I identified in yesterday's games played out during Day 2.

Irelia continues to be a popular pick, highlighted by her domination of TSM during the pivotal Game 2 of that match, but she was not nearly as prevalent as she was yesterday. Jayce overtook her in popularity today and appearances by Olaf as well as others suggest that the metagame may not have been shaken up as much as I wanted to believe when everyone and their pet monkey decided to draft the Will of the Blades during pool play.

Game 2 of TSM vs Azubu Frost was also the first game of the tournament without Shen in either Jungle or Top Lane. And Ryze seems to be growing in popularity as the electric magician pops up in more and more mid lanes. Of course, as I mentioned earlier, Ezrael reared his blond mop top again to go a perfect 18/18 so far in the World Championships.

As far as the Moscow Five against Invictus Gaming match, M5 demonstrated their superiority early and often, with Champion picks that ranged from fairly standard (Darien with Olaf) to extremely trollish (Alex Ich playing Evelynn and Zilean as the AP Carry, which should have been presented with accompanying "Do not try this at home" disclaimers).

Moscow Five won in 2 games.

Match #2: NJS vs TA

In a showdown between two teams that were not entirely expected to be as strong as they were coming into the tournament, the Taipei Assassins made the usually sharp Najin Sword look like a dull knock-off version being peddled in a back alley somewhere.

Taipei took Game 1 with a super aggressive team composition and a fed Orianna that led to a massively devastating Command: Shockwave near the middle Inner Turret. A quick nine second Baron Nashor slaying gave the Assassins a chance to initiate a second consecutive team fight that ended with a premature surrender only moments later.

Game 2 was when Taipei pulled off the upset with a combination of powerful ultimates, perfect initiations, and overall superior coordination. Fantastically executed Rocket Grabs from Blitzcrank teamed up with Anivia's Crystallize and Skarner's Impale to isolate and assassinate NJS' champions and evaporate Najin Sword's hope for a trip to the Semi-finals.

Match #3: AF vs TSM

The build-up to this match was intense, with Azubu Frost the surprise representatives for the team when Blaze went out of the qualifying tournament. Considering the rather aggressive beat-downs delivered by Taipei and Moscow Five earlier, however, everyone was expecting Team Solo Mid to smash the upstart Asian delegation and move on to face either CLG.EU or WE.

An ill-timed Baron attempt doomed TSM in Game 1 when Frost was able to take out two base turrets and an inhibitor during the exchange. Purple buff for a constant stream of minions? Azubu was more than willing to made that trade.

Solid defense from TSM dragged the first game out, but the unending creep pressure forced an uncontested Baron for AF, which led to the final push.

Throughout the game, AF Shy had been able to dominate Dyrus with the versatile Jayce against TSM's popular Darius pick. In the hugely important Solo Top lane, TSM was overwhelmed through early ganks and TheOddOne's patented Shyvana jungle was unable to pick up the slack.

Sona/Ezrael were evenly matched with Blitzcrank and Miss Fortune for most of the game, but Blitz showed off how powerful he can be in the late game, clearing minion waves with his ultimate and snatching TSM's helpless champions en route to grabbing the first game victory.

All of which only set up the climactic Game 2, where TSM would be fighting with their backs against the wall, facing elimination and the loss of a shot at one of the largest prize pools in eSports history.

The lanes settled into somewhat uncommon shifts (read here for more on the trend) with Vladimir on Azubu Frost's side facing Karthus in Mid, AF Irelia against TSM Graves and Blitzcrank Top, AF Taric/Ezrael against TSM Jayce in the bot lane, and AF Skarner battling TSM Maokai in the jungle.

The Team Solo Mid picks seemed designed to take away the champions Frost had used to win the first game, and at the start, it seemed to be working. A blue buff steal by TSM led to the entire AF team attempting to gank TSM's own Ancient Golem, but Solo Mid was able to turn it into First Blood and a remarkable 5:48 turret explosion.

Game 2 appeared to be snowballing in TSM's favor when the five minute turret led to a seven minute Dragon and a prolonged laning phase that saw TSM race out to a 2K gold lead.

Yet, Azubu Frost showed the same kind of dominating coordination that took them to 3-0 in their group when a big team fight broke out at the fourteen minute mark when TSM attempted to initiate on Taric, but were counterganked hard and lost TheOddOne's Maokai wearing Oracle's Elixir and their ADC, Chaox with Graves.

A successful top lane gank at 17:00 minutes turned into a massive team fight near the blue Wraith camp, the end result of which was an even 2 for 2 trade, leaving the score 6 to 6 with neither team owning much of an advantage save for the extra turrets TSM had brought down.

Frost kept up the aggression, scoring an isolation kill in bottom lane a minute later that led to a time out.

When play resumed, a number of posturing moves and feints culminated in a team fight in mid lane around 21:00. Massive damage bursts turned into a 4 to 1 rout in favor of Azubu Frost that allowed them to burn through an uncontested Baron while TheOddOne's Maokai could only toss saplings into the pit and watch as TSM's strong start began to limp away.

Frost used the purple buff to smash through three turrets, reclaiming the map awareness advantage, despite losing Vladimir to a timely Requiem from Karthus, a desperate engagement outside of TSM's base ended with the score 13 to 10 in favor of AF, which had clawed its way to a 9K gold lead.

If you looked away at that point, you might have missed the end, as the game's startling conclusion began only moments later, when another miscue by TSM instigated a 5 to 1 ace for Frost, and insured that there would be no American team in the Semi-finals of the Season 2 World Championships.

Day Three Continues Tomorrow -- 

Don't forget to visit WTMCF again to catch up on the last Quarter-final match between CLG.EU and WE as well as a recap of the Semi-final games that will set the stage for the epic conclusion of Season 2 on October 13th.

Until next time, may all your ultimates end in kills and all your matches with victory.

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