“It’s Like A Storybook Ending” – Jatt On SKT v EDG League Of Legends MSI Finale

This picture is intended to be spoiler-free. One of the teams wins.

The grand final of the League of Legends [official site] Mid-Season Invitational meant time for the matchup we’d been forecasting from the start: SK Telecom T1 versus Edward Gaming.

But far from playing out a foregone conclusion the best-of-5 turned into a nailbiting finale, complete with pocket strategies, huge teamfights and a Faker with his hands on LeBlanc. Shoutcaster Josh “Jatt” Leesman was on hand to discuss *that* result:

From the start of MSI Korean team SKT were being touted as favourites to win. They scored a clean sweep of victories in the group stage, but the semifinal games the previous day against Fnatic had shown SKT weren’t above having their feathers ruffled. Ultimately SKT were able to deal with the European side’s sometimes-chaotic aggression and won the match.

But the finals brought them up against Edward Gaming’s aggression and some smart picks and bans. SKT couldn’t hold their ground and, after what Jatt called a “tremendous series”, it was Edward Gaming, not SKT, sporting shiny new medals at the winners’ press conference.

“What was really interesting about [MSI] was the group stage didn’t really seem to matter for EDG, neither did their semifinal,” observes Jatt. “They were able to bring out a lot of new things in the final since they had such an easy time in the group stage, only losing to SKT and 3-0ing AHQ [in the semifinals]. Right from the get-go they could go to their best picks which is probably one of the reasons why they were able to overcome the perceived superiority of SKT – we hadn’t actually seen the best of EDG’s champions.”

The superiority had come under scrutiny the previous day – and indeed in the group stage – when SKT butted heads with Fnatic. I ask whether by being forced into a full best-of-5 SKT had been put at a disadvantage. It might, though, have given the team a little bit of a helping hand.

“Something Deficio and I were talking about a lot is how the Chinese team EDG, as well as Fnatic and AHQ, all had a somewhat similar playstyle in which they would really try and pressure the early and mid game and were all about teamfights,” says Jatt. “Whereas SKT has been playing a more controlled style of game where they kind of farm for late game and also control objectives.

“SKT had 5 games of practice against Fnatic playing that style whereas EDG had three games playing against someone that wasn’t even like SKT. SKT was completely unique in their playstyle so it actually could have been considered a bit of a detriment to EDG that SKT had so much practice against Fnatic and got that much new experience since no teams in Korea really play like the teams in this tournament did.”

We move on to more specific champion talk. We’ll get to the LeBlanc and the Evelynn situation in a moment but first let’s go with Orianna. Neither team could make the Lady of Clockwork… work.

“I don’t think she was a weird pick it’s just she never had a good enough laning phase to snowball,” is Jatt’s verdict. “The Orianna is an interesting one because we saw it in the LPL [that’s the Chinese LoL pro league] finals as something EDG had to overcome and it’s really strong if you get a few kills.

“If you can not fall behind and your tanks get enough resistances then the shield from the Orianna combined with her damage creates a teamfighting monster. But the Oriannas fell behind in lane, partially because Orianna doesn’t have much laning presence when compared to the other champions that were being picked.”

Watching eSports is not for the faint hearted. Or the overly emotional. I have previously cried over eSports wins.

Nunu was another pick slightly off the beaten trail. “We haven’t seen a ton of him,” nods Jatt. “In Korea SKT was one of the few teams that played him, Clearlove was also one of the few junglers that plays him. He’s what I like to call a control jungler.

“You have ganking junglers like Rek’Sai, even Gragas is a good ganking jungler, but Nunu’s not a great ganking jungler and he doesn’t have amazing late game scaling. So why would you ever pick Nunu? That doesn’t make any sense. But a lot of it has to do with his control of the enemy jungle. He’s not necessarily ganking lanes but he is preventing the enemy jungler from doing so.

“As soon as Nunu gets a foothold on the game he can go into the enemy jungle and control it with wards. He sets the pace of the game. That’s unsuccessful if Nunu dies early because then he’s too weak to go in there and set the pace but if he gets strong enough you can really get a lot of map control and enable your lanes because you’re shutting down the jungler.”

Okay, so let’s look at that final game. Faker has a 100% success record with LeBlanc in competitive play and there he was in game 5 with a LeBlanc locked in. In the arena the crowd were utterly delighted. But EDG would be sending a Morgana to face her. Then another roar went up as EDG locked in their last pick: an Evelynn for Clearlove.

“It’s like a storybook ending because every time Faker’s played Leblanc in competitive play he’s won,” says Jatt. “But he usually will only play it in favourable situations. That’s why he’s undefeated on the champion. Last time he played it was in the semi-finals in Korea against CJ Entus. In Korea the fifth game is blind pick so there’s no bans and you can’t see who the other team’s playing. LeBlanc wins the majority of lane matchups so it’s a pretty safe blind pick and can snowball games. In Korea [Faker] got a bunch of kills early and took over the map. Obviously in this situation Pawn had something ready for him: Morgana.

“Faker wants to go back to this [LeBlanc] pick because everything’s on the line and it wins the majority of lane matchups. And to put Pawn on a champion like Morgana who’s not a high mechanic assassin type champion – Pawn is a high mechanic player – is almost like a dare. ‘Yeah, I’m going to pick LeBlanc. Sure, pick Morgana – you’re not going to beat me with it…’ It’s hard for skill expression on a champion like Morgana, but he did it really well.”

As for Evelynn?

“The Eve pick was just unique. He called it a pocket pick – it’s a super deep pocket pick. It’s something that’s just been unexplored by a lot of players nowadays. One thing Eve’s good at shutting down is people that want to be really aggressive early on in lane. It’s because, since Evelynn’s invisible the majority of the time if she’s walking around and not attacking something, all your normal warding strategies change. You have to ward on top of camps, you have to buy more pink wards, and also, since EDG ended up roaming a lot with the Alistar it almost put an overwhelming ward burden on SKT.

“First off they wanted to put the different wards to spot Evelynn but when they put wards in those places they’re missing the wards for Alistar. Then Meiko ended up getting off a ton of successful ganks on top of that.”

Jatt also points out that Evelynn always wants to be entering fights from the flank, taking advantage of that invisibility to get access to the other team’s back line. That’s something we saw a couple of times in fights by the dragon.

I took about half of this confetti cannon to the face.

“That [worked] well with the Maokai who could teleport in. In previous games the Maokai had been really effective, then [SKT] brought a lot of peel and were getting better at running away from the Maokai so you add even more things to stop them running away.”

Faker ended the game with 4 kills, 2 deaths, 3 assists and a no-longer perfect record. For comparison, Pawn’s Morgana ended the night on 7/2/15. Faker is a phenomenal mid – the kind of player who gets put on a pedestal as the best in the world. He gets referred to as “God”, for goodness sake. I ask Jatt what he thinks the impact of this LeBlanc loss will be.

“I think Faker will be okay,” he says. “One tweet I saw, and I’m not even a big wresting fan but it was funny, someone said this is like watching The Undertaker lose at Wrestlemania all over again! The most powerful person comes in in the most epic of situations, picks their best champ and doesn’t win.

“The aura of invulnerability that Faker had created has been damaged. It’s no longer the undefeated LeBlanc. Even if it had been damaged before because he didn’t even make it to Worlds in season 4 and because he didn’t even play in the LCK finals – but it was still there because he had never lost LeBlanc. Now it’s gone and there’s no getting it back.”

Lastly I ask about the pro scene more generally – does he think Edward Gaming’s win, or indeed anything we’ve seen the MSI, have significant implications for the rest of the 2015 pro season?

This picture is just really cute

“I do think the fact that a Korean team didn’t win will obviously add a lot of excitement,” he answers, “but there will always be that aura. One really interesting thing is the culture of eSports in Korea creates so many amazing players.

“There was a mass exodus of Korean players at the start of the year to China. China was a lot stronger because of the Korean players but the infrastructure still exists in Korea to make great players. For instance, LCK: the play at the start of the split was much worse than the play at the end of the split and that infrastructure is in the midst of rebuilding.

“Depending on how many players they lose again in the middle of the year to China – if that happens – I think will determine their strength at Worlds. Even with this loss, because they develop and foster so much talent they’re going to have more time before Worlds and still probably end up being the favourites.”

17 Comments

  1. Daniel Klein says:

    Thank you for doing these, Philippa! Really solid interviews.

    Faker will be okay, but I think the impact of MSI can’t be understated. Gods bleed. We know this now. And oh my, Fnatic with a returned Rekkles? I may be suffering from an overabundance of hype, but I think Europe stands a chance this year at World’s, especially considering it’ll be on our home soil.

    • Antomadness says:

      Yeah, keep ’em coming.

      FWIW I don’t think Rekkles will make a huge difference as it stands, the meta doesn’t seem to promote superstar ADCs, and his more farm-heavy, late game style doesn’t seem like it’d synergise well with Huni’s up and at them approach.

      • boredandstupid says:

        Yep. Don’t think I’ve every posted before, (in spite of reading the site for years), but wanted to this time . I’ve been watching the MSI, and really appreciate the coverage. <3

  2. Static says:

    I read most of the Dota and LoL coverage on this site, I still can’t parse most of the jargon and find it continually annoying that this is the case. American football, basketball, baseball, football (soccer), rugby, Star Craft, Counter Strike etc, all of these I can readily understand and pick up rather easily what’s going on, even if I don’t understand every bit of jargon. But LoL and Dota… I still don’t understand how these games expect to become more popular than they already are given the density of the knowledge required to understand and follow what’s going on in them. The article sure makes it sound exciting, but I don’t understand anything in the article other than one team picked good characters that were strong for them and another team picked good characters to counter them. The ins and outs of the mechanics are something that seem impenetrable to an outsider who doesn’t want to spend many hours learning the minor details of the game that pertain to a tiny subset of the characters (apparently Evelynn changes how the opposite team must play in order to counter? But this doesn’t apply to most heroes only this one? And this one isn’t played often enough that this is a major part of the meta and hence normal? What’s a “pink” ward? Who’s LeBlanc? Other than someone Faker is renowned for playing?).

    This is why I’m looking forward to Heroes of the Storm. Hate all you want, but it’s easy to understand what’s going on without needing tens of hours or a manual to explain all the ins and outs.

    But whatever, this is my issue. As I said, still sounds exciting, maybe someday I’ll get around to undertaking the amount of studying required to properly appreciate LoL and DoTa (and dare I say… Smite?). But probably not until after uni…. Anyway, keep writing and I’ll keep reading, maybe I’ll learn by osmosis.

    • Thirdrail says:

      Yeah, they cover all this stuff for people understand it already, and rarely for anyone who doesn’t. If it makes you feel any better, I have played LoL every single day since the beginning of February, often with all my waking hours, and I didn’t understand everything in this article either. All that stuff about peeling and Maokai was baffling.

      There’s a guy at Kotaku who likes to cover League, too, and he just did a really nice “Intro to LoL” article a couple of days ago. You might find that informative. But your basic point is absolutely correct: the coverage on these things can barely even be called “preaching to the choir”. It’s really more like “preaching to people who have a doctorate in choir organization and helped you write your sermon in the first place”.

      • Punning Pundit says:

        I was at the DOTA 2 event this weekend, and I thought “well, I’ve never played DOTA, but surely a knowledge of LoL will make things intelligible, right?” Nope.

        I did eventually corner a friend who plays, and made him explain to me what was going on. That helped a great deal. But the vocabulary was just different enough…

        I do hope that more events do a “noob stream” like VALVe did at the previous worlds.

    • Xocrates says:

      “This is why I’m looking forward to Heroes of the Storm. Hate all you want, but it’s easy to understand what’s going on without needing tens of hours or a manual to explain all the ins and outs.”

      Hum… what? There was not a single one of your complaints that doesn’t apply to HotS. The only things that really makes HotS more understandable that LoL is the removal of focus on creep farming and the smaller number of build paths to each champion. You still need to know all the champions and understand what the various cross map plays are achieving.

      • Static says:

        I disagree, there is no itemization to study and learn, that’s a huge part of it, the major elements of the game come from the map as much as the players.

        Yes, if I want a full understanding you are correct, there is still a lot to learn about HoTS. But as I mentioned about other games and real sports, I can watch a match or read about Hots and enjoy it simply based on the simplicity of understanding the roles of each character and the basic layout of the game. Which is basically where I am at with LoL and DoTa, and hence my attempt to follow along. But with their insane level of itemsation (building, trading, stacking, timing it all etc) I get lost. When it seems to play such a pivotal role in the game it makes me aware that I’m missing something very fundamental about the game, which also requires a lot of study and time to grasp.

        • Xocrates says:

          Quite frankly, the only reason that’s even true is because the casting of the games assumes you’re familiar with the game itself. On the other hand HotS actively hides much of what is going on.

          • Static says:

            And you feel that the level of knowledge required to be “familiar” with both of the aforementioned games is similar? Because it seems to me that one is an order of magnitude larger than the other.

            This isn’t an issue for the hardcore, but for the casuals it’s a big deal.

          • Xocrates says:

            There’s a difference between being familiar enough to follow a game, and familiar enough to play the game.

            LoL has a much higher entrance level to PLAY, but there’s not a huge gap in knowledge requirement for being able to follow a match – The difference is that LoL tends to focus on details while HotS will actively hide many of them, not to mention that LoL had years to solidify its meta, while HotS is not even out yet.

            But the basics are prety similar: Kill stuff to get stronger, destroy enemy towers, destroy enemy “core”, take objectives around the map when they’re available.
            If anything, HotS is worse since the objectives vary per map.

  3. Thirdrail says:

    So, not only is it yet another “no girls allowed” scene, but the “shoutcaster” can’t even use pronouns. Every time he refers to a champion as “it”, instead of “she”, I get roughly eighty percent less likely to ever watch a professional LoL match. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go make up a word of my own. Something to describe the specific form of cringing I’m forced to do when other people make up words like shoutcaster.

    • nepenthes says:

      That’s nice

    • anHorse says:

      “Something to describe the specific form of cringing I’m forced to do when other people make up words like shoutcaster”

      ‘Posturing’ would fit you fine

    • Smoky_the_Bear says:

      If elite level competition equals “no girls allowed” to you then you are probably best finding something else to watch because I’m guessing you won’t be happy until token women are inserted into competition in the name of “equality” whether they are worthy of their place or not.

  4. NelsonMinar says:

    That was a great writeup, thank you. I gather covering pro LoL is a new thing for RPS. If you keep turning in interesting articles like this with some informed source like Jatt, it’s definitely a contribution to the scene.

  5. ssh83 says:

    a 2/5 Korean team did win though. lol. EDG paid a lot of money to lure the mid lane and AD carry of 2014’s #1 team to their organization. I’m just glad Riot put a limit on how many koreans you can import into your team. lol

    That’s not to say EDG didn’t earn their victory. They faced the final boss and took him down with very well planned counter strategy. Faker Le Blanc is not unbeatable, it’s simply no one truly tried since it’s easier to just ban le blanc.