Hello! Time for a quick League of Legends World Championships [official site] catchup after the weekend. Obviously there will be spoilers so this is your chance to stop reading if you don't want to know who made it through the semifinals yet.
Still here? Then let's proceed:
First up was Origen versus SKT – the weaker of the two European sides against the dominant Korean team.
Game one was Origen's best performance. Starting with the pick and ban phase, a big problem at the moment is that the blue side gets first pick, so if you leave danger champions in the mix – characters who are strong and hard to counter – they'll just get snapped up. There are two who get banned out in pretty much every game as a result (Gangplank and Mordekaiser) but others have emerged as worries during the quarter-finals such as the catfish Tahm Kench and the little mage Lulu. There are also only two top tier picks still in the competition for the jungle role, so if you ban the stronger one (Elise) you now risk giving the blue team the remaining top tier jungler.
Origen did something interesting here, committing to getting rid of both the top tier junglers and trusting SKT would ban out the Mordekaiser and Gangplank which they did along with Tahm Kench. Origen removed Lulu last. The result was that SKT still got a bunch of comfort picks – Fiora for their top laner, Marin, and Azir for their mid, Easyhoon (who had swapped in for Faker for the first two games) – but Origen knew they couldn't just ban SKT out of the game and thus it looked like they were going with counter-picks to try and stymie their opponents.
Origen spent the start of the game making good calls and taking advantage of opportunities. It's probably best exemplified by the fact they were able to take down an unwarded Baron (i.e. SKT couldn't see what was happening as they didn't have vision wards in the area) at 23 minutes. But you can add in another stat as well – Origen were the first team to take down a second tier turret against SKT. That's both a point about how strong SKT have been so far and a point about Origen's accomplishments relative to the other SKT opponents.
It wasn't enough, though, and despite showing SKT to be fallible (they definitely are and their play isn't flawless, just dominant and with better execution), Origen couldn't beat SKT. The Korean side kept their composure, their team composition scaled well into the later game (i.e. their team lineup didn't have a drop off in power as the game went longer), vision around the Baron increased after that initial sneaky play and prevented a repeat performance, and some itemisation choices, combined with Marin's Fiora nibbling at other lanes helped SKT claw back that victory.
Neither of the remaining games matched that first one in terms of the performances Origen turned in. They felt like a team on tilt and at various points you'd just watch their players trickle into a fight, getting picked off one by one in their determination to pull a kill or an objective out of a multideath situation rather than disengaging and regrouping. As a result the final score came in at 3-0 and SKT continued their undefeated run through the tournament.
Much as I'd say Origen did challenge SKT at the start of the series, I'd also say it didn't feel like SKT were forced to reveal much of anything about backup plans or pocket picks. But as a team who only formed this year Origen did phenomenally to get to the semi-finals from the Challenger league. I really hope they stay as a unit because I want to see what they accomplish next time around.
On Sunday the second EU vs South Korea matchup took place in the form of Fnatic against KOO Tigers. I'd say most people expected a Fnatic victory, myself included. The variation seemed more in terms of the number of games it would take the EU top seed to achieve their win.
Unfortunately for the EU spectators at the Brussels venue the matches paid no heed to the predicted narrative and KOO took the semi-final 3-0.
I'll go into a little more detail in a moment but to give you an idea of how the games played out in spirit, it felt roughly as follows:
Fnatic were going to a dinner party. Their nemesis, KOO Tigers, would also be at that dinner party. Fnatic had spent all week rehearsing withering put-downs and the perfect responses to insults – working to reverse engineer instances of l'esprit d'escalier so as to ACTUALLY have those ripostes in their arsenal, ready to fling out to devastating effect.
They arrived at the dinner party, shrugged off their stole and headed for the dining room, all fabulousness and pre-planned caustic retorts. But after a promising soup course performance, they proceeded to overreact to perceived slights and picked fruitless arguments before having to leave on account of KOO dominating conversations and, uh, destroying Fnatic's coffee pot? LOOK THIS METAPHOR GOT OUT OF HAND.
The point I'm getting at is that Fnatic made enough mistakes which KOO could punish that they lost their early lead. From then on Fnatic often seemed really eager to engage but without the discipline to ensure they were picking the right battles. Maybe I should have just said that instead. Fnatic's semi-final trajectory actually ended up similar to Origen's, particularly in terms of the edge of desperation which crept into their play after a promising start was shut down.
They had some great moments in the second game, actually – they had lost all but one tower in their base, two inhibitors had respawned but the third was still down and thus the bottom lane was being pressured by minions. Fnatic headed to the Baron pit and forced KOO to pause their Baron attempt, moved in and started one of their own, scoring the Baron buff and escaping with one kill on either team. The buff helped save their base as well as aiding Fnatic with some extra map pressure and objectives (you can watch from the 52 minute mark on the YouTube clip below, 36 minutes on the in-game clock). There was no margin for error though and a disastrous fight around the Baron pit took out four of Fnatic, leaving KOO free to pulverise the remains of the base.
I don't want to talk about game 3.
Side note: If you've been keeping up with the champions being played, you might have been a little surprised to see a character called Zac suddenly appearing as a jungler for KOO. He hadn't been played at all at Worlds this time around but the bouncy Flubber-esque champ did a lot of work for the Tigers. His Elastic Slingshot ability let him dash to a target location doing damage and knocking nearby enemies into the air while his ultimate, Let's Bounce! deals damage and has a knock back effect as well as a slow. Controlled by KOO's Hojin, Zac brought disruption, initiation and utility to their fights.
And so it's a Korea vs Korea final as Riot decamp to Berlin. I'm now wondering how much pressure KOO can apply to SKT. I've underestimated them during this tournament so I'm not going to make predictions (yet). I'm just hoping to see them force SKT out of their comfort zone. Maybe the knockout stages will see their first 5v5? Or maybe SKT will get an undefeated run and become the first organisation to hoist the Summoner's Cup for a second time.