The first of the League of Legends World Championships [official site] semi-finalists have been decided after the European team, Origen, took on the LMS's Flash Wolves in the opening quarter-final at London's Wembley Arena.
Spoilers await after the jump!
Origen knocked Flash Wolves out of the competition after four games of a best-of-five series.
"I feel really, really happy," said Origen's founder and mid-laner Enrique "xPeke" Cedeño Martínez when I interviewed him after the game. "Making it to the semi-final is crazy for the team on our first year!"
Origen took victories in the first two games of the series, dropped the third and came back in the fourth. xPeke played a champion called Anivia in the first two games of the series, dropped it in the third and picked it up again in the fourth. I asked xPeke to talk a little about Anivia's role in the game, but first I'll just explain a little about her:
Riot explain her as "a mystical embodiment of ice magic" who keeps watch over one of the realms of LoL lore. I think of her as a big icy bird. Her main points in terms of abilities are that she can throw out ice orbs to stun enemies, put down walls of ice (which can block enemies rushing in to attack or stop them being able to escape) and make blizzards appear which deal damage in an area as well as slowing the enemy down (the latter is her ultimate ability). If she dies she changes into an egg. If the defenceless and immobile egg survives for 6 seconds she gets reborn with whatever egg-health was left.
"We knew [Flash Wolves'] top laner didn't play the best champions against her. He only had melees or tanks or bruisers which are all really bad against Anivia because they get stunned, they get walled, ultimated - even the slow is really annoying." To give an example, a melee character has to get in close to do damage but the wall can prove fatal for them, stopping them from running away if the fight starts to go against them. It can also stop them from getting in close in the first place, acting as a giant wall of "NOPE", or you can use it to separate them from their teammates for a pick-off kill.
Shoutcaster Trevor 'Quickshot' Henry added that the Anivia pick also forced Flash Wolves into a situation where they had to decide whether the champion was enough of a threat for them to use one of their bans on. You only get three bans so choosing how to spend them is a big deal. "It forces the other team to go 'Is Anivia worth banning to put xPeke on something else or do we let him have it and play around it?'"
So why on earth would you change that formula in game three?
xPeke tells me that Origen though Orianna would do a similar job but would be better against the Caitlyn Flash Wolves had decided to play. Caitlyn's a ranged character so Origen's thinking was that she would be far less inconvenienced by walls, and that blizzards and stuns wouldn't be able to reach her. Instead Orianna has this ball that she can send out and activate to deal damage thus being able to deal with Caitlyn's range. It did not work out so well.
For the final game Caitlyn was still picked by Flash Wolves but the ice bird returned. Origen also picked up Morgana - a support who had been giving them a lot of trouble in the previous game when Flash Wolves played her. That combination plus Flash Wolves' decision to draft a champion called Irelia sealed their victory. As Quickshot points out, for the lineup to work Irelia had to come online (that is to say, become effective) early on but Origen just shut her down. Once Flash Wolves had missed their window it was just a case of Origen playing down the clock and not taking daft risks until their own window opened in the late game.
Origen have - in terms of EU LCS narratives, at least - been considered in the shadow of fellow European team Fnatic, whose current lineup includes two of xPeke's former teammates. I ask whether he feels Worlds has allowed them to be considered as a contender in their own right yet or whether there's still the spectre of Fnatic and their EU dominance.
"Before playoffs people thought Fnatic were the only team in with a chance because everyone lost to them. Then we went to the finals [the grand finals of the summer split] and almost took the series - everyone started giving us more credit." And now? "I feel like people actually give us the recognition of being a good team."
Origen will go on to face either the Korean favourites SKT or Taiwan's ahq e-Sports Club. They'd prefer to face ahq. As xPeke puts it: "We would have more room to actually play our game against them. SKT would punish these mistakes we make in these games a lot more." Quickshot agreed - "[Origen and ahq] have similar strengths and similar weaknesses, against SKT they're a bit more outmatched.
"But," he adds, "if any team were to come up against SKT and be able to switch off who they're playing against this is one of the better teams to do that. They won't go 'ohmygodohmygodohmygod' and freeze. They'll be able to deliver an Origen-level performance."
To find out who Origen will be playing you can watch SKT vs ahq today (Friday 16 October) at 5pm BST. Or wait for me to write about it.