"It's Like A Storybook Ending" - Jatt On SKT v EDG League Of Legends MSI Finale
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."
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.
"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?
"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."