The final of League of Legends' Mid Season Invitational saw Counter Logic Gaming represent North America (a milestone in Riot tournament progession for the region) against South Korea's SK Telecom T1. But would LoL wunderkind Lee 'Faker' Sang-hyeok get to complete his trophy collection with an MSI win or would CLG be able to best the SKT squad and take home the prize for the NA LCS? I'll save the spoilers for after the jump in case you're waiting on the rebroadcast!
CLG and SKT headed onto the rift for game one and the North American side looked confident from the start. Kan 'Blank' Sun-gu was caught jungling on the blue team's side and was shooed away by CLG but Zaqueri 'Aphromoo' Black pursued the spider queen further, ending up well in his opponent's jungle and apparently concentrating on making Blank's life miserable.
But then CLG top laner Darshan 'Darshan' Upadhyaya gave up first blood and Faker bolstered the SKT kill sheet with kills on Jake 'Xmithie' Puchero and Aphromoo, the latter having definitely outstayed his welcome. But despite the kills SKT only had a tiny gold advantage.
CLG got themselves on the board with a kill on Lee 'Duke' Ho-seong just after the seven minute mark but as they did so SKT took down a dragon. And so it went. SKT were getting all up in CLG's jungle (technical term) and had a couple of dragons to their name but the gold difference was still negligible - CLG were even a touch ahead - and the North American squad had taken the tower advantage.
A third dragon fell to the Korean side, adding to their stack of buffs and inching them closer to the all-important fifth. SKT seemed to start to pull away - a 2k gold lead plus a team fight mid which only resulted in one death but had that sense of power barreling down a lane. Shortly afterwards Aphromoo was taken out as members of SKT absolutely piled on him.
But CLG weren't writing this game off. They managed to pull back a handful of kills including Wolf and then Bang, the support and ADC duo, either side of a quick go at Baron. But the big chance came with an ambush. CLG jumped Faker and Wolf in the river then headed up to the Baron pit for another attempt. Blank was lurking but CLG also made short work of him then back to the pit. All Duke could do was hover nearby as CLG claimed the buff,
A dragon went CLG's way too and the gold difference was back to practically nothing. At this point the phrase "turn around" came into my head and then "bright eyes" and now it's hours later and I STILL have Total Eclipse Of The Heart as an earworm. Anyway, yes. A potential turnaround, then.
Unfortunately the next bit of the song is "every now and then I fall apart". CLG didn't exactly fall apart but they were hoping to set something up on the bottom lane as the two sides faced off under the CLG second tier turret. Most of CLG were facing into SKT but Darshan was wrapping round behind to put his champion, Poppy, in amongst the Korean back line. It doesn't work out, though. The fight was a bloody one and, although it also cost SKT some players, it was CLG who got teamwiped. The comeback would have to wait.
CLG - 0, SKT - 1
Game two was... a rematch of sorts as each team fielded the exact same draft as in game one. Was it going to be the case that North America's side would be able to execute their plan more successfully this time around, or would SKT use this as an opportunity to easily put their previous game's learnings into action?
At first things look promising. Trevor 'Stixxay' Hayes punishes a greedy gank and gets first blood on Faker (Faker was going in to try and kill mid laner Choi 'Huhi' Jae-hyun but the attempt had left him out of position). It felt like SKT weren't getting as much done as CLG in the early game but the players on either side were making some mistakes as well as some risky decisions. A bad dive here, a chase attempt there...
CLG are ahead by about 3k gold, as well as leading on kills and towers, oh and doing things like mashing Faker into a wall and killing him. But the objective trades start to slip into SKT's favour. That doesn't mean SKT was playing flawlessly though *cough*Duke-flashing-into-a-wall-and-winding-up-dead*cough*.
A convergance onto SKT goes badly, despite Faker's flash spell being down, the lose another dragon to the Korean team, Huhi gets killed again and CLG find themselves at a gold disadvantage. The game is slipping away from them. A team fight in the mid lane has tanky top-laner, Duke comes round behind CLG as the rest of SKT kites them from the front. It works out well for the Korean team and CLG's base is soon under siege from multiple lanes.
At this point my notes just read "Oh dear". I'm a fan of full best-of-5s when it comes to grand finals so I'll admit I'd been hoping for a different result from the draft this time. CLG don't feel out of it yet - they're giving SKT grief and making them work for their victories - but with two games in the bag, SKT just need one more to take home the trophy (and complete Faker's collection of wins at Riot tournaments).
CLG - 0, SKT - 2
Champion select bans out several of the previous two games' roster of characters so we'll be seeing something new. Fortunately for SKT fans the "something new" was also something familiar in that Faker picked up Ryze, a champion he's undefeated on this tournament. CLG counter with Cassiopeia - she's a poison-y champ who's good against Ryze and generally out-ranges him.
The game starts out with some nice plays by CLG with Darshan getting first blood on Duke after the latter's flash was unavailable for him to get out of trouble. The North American side start to pressure the second SKT turret on top lane but SKT are there and collapse in on CLG. Kindred's ultimate keeps them safe for a little while but ultimately Stixxay and Huhi go down.
The game starts to snowball for SKT. They are ahead on pretty much every metric and force CLG to defend, trying to claw back some vision of the map in order to try to make some plays without getting obliterated.
The snowball is getting snowballier and no-one from CLG has a... hairdryer? Flamethrower? Snowball repellant spray? It occurs to me that I don't have a clue what the real life counter to a snowball actually is. I mean I counter it by going indoors, or not going to cold places, but given CLG are in a cold place and, like, the snowball will push over their home if they don't do something about it I feel like there should be a tool or an object I could reference to make this analogy work.
I have just spent far too long trying to find out if there are any avalanche combat strategies for mountainous regions to try to rescue this analogy but it seems like the measures they take for avalanches are largely preventative. Also avalanches are more than snowballs. Maybe warm weather? "SKT's snowball is getting snowballier and no-one from CLG brought several days of warm weather to thaw out the compacted snow"?
I am so jetlagged.
ANYWAY. You get the idea. CLG are still getting a few kills but SKT are so far ahead. They ace the North American side and pick up a Baron. For a moment it looks like SKT have overextended, trying to get a kill on Darshan on the bottom lane but some bodyblocking from teammates keeps Faker from being brought down and CLG get aced again.
SKT have a 12k gold lead by this point and four dragons in the bag (I guess they have a dragon bag SHUT UP I AM TIRED). But despite that they still can't just take down the top lane base tower and walk on in. When they try to fight over it in order to break the base open Faker gets a double kill but so does Stixxay and the attempt fails.
Thing is, SKT just need one more dragon for that all-important Aspect of the Dragon buff (it doubles the previous buffs and adds a damaging burn to enemies when you attack them). One is about to spawn, but Baron will come up a little earlier.
In the end they get both monsters and thus both buffsbuffs. CLG can't withstand the onslaught and it's over for North America, while SKT have a new trophy to find a home for and confetti to pick out of their hair.
CLG - 0, SKT - 3
Oh, and in case you're picturing Faker doing some (apocryphal) Alexander The Great sobbing that there are no more tournaments to conquer, he seems fine: "What’s past is past, but there are going to be more tournaments and I want to take them all." In fact, there's a Worlds to qualify for and conquer in October...