In spite of the interesting goings on in OGN Masters as well as the seemingly endless barrage of games supplied by both the North American and European LCS, it has felt like an eternity since the conclusion of Champions Winter 2014. As Doa and MonteCristo put it, it’s as though as followers of the Korean scene have experienced a sort of Champions withdrawal. With the 2014 Spring fully kicked off with the first day of matches between the SK Telecom teams, as well as CJ Entus Frost and Midas FIO, it certainly feels great to not only be able to watch some high quality Korean League of Legends play, but to write about it as well. The groups have been set, and it seems like the road to the finals of Champions Spring 2014 will go through SKT T1 K once more, but don’t discount the capabilities of their sister team, T1 K, and a few other re-emerging upstarts like Samsung Galaxy Ozone and CJ Entus Frost.
Still Dominating: SKT T1 K vs SKT T1 S Set 1
A cursory glance at the boxscore of the opening match of Champions Spring 2014 would suggest that the game was a stomp in the hands of the OGN Winter 2014 Champions, but the set itself was actually well-played from both sides. An amazing 6-man skirmish at the 9-minute mark determined which team composition could impose their game plan, and with SKT T1 Piglet’s Vayne coming out with a kill and two assists, T1 K’s split-push strategy effectively won out.
The action developed at bottom lane with H0R0’s Lee Sin and Bengi’s Evelynn hiding out behind their respective bottom-lane duos, and the action started immediately as Casper hit level 6 with Thresh. Casper flashed in for a flay, but T1 S’s Bang, anticipating the level 6 play with his Sivir, activated Spellshield to absorb the flay, with On the Hunt to run away from Vayne’s Final Hour. T1 S’s Wolf responded with Grasping Roots and Stranglethorns onto Thresh, allowing Boomerang Blade and Sonic Wave to kill him from range. Agony’s Embrace on Lee Sin and Sivir provided just enough slow for Vayne to kite both champions around with the help of Blessing of the Lizard Elder from Evelynn. Piglet escaped with less than 200 health and enough gold from the skirmish and two towers taken prior to buy an early Blade of the Ruined King.
Much credit could have been given to Piglet for his amazing Vayne mechanics, but good guy Casper took all of the important sources of burst damage (Boomerang Blade and Sonic Wave) that would have otherwise been used to kill Piglet instead. Because of an incorrect call from T1 K’s side, they lost out on decisive gold that could have went to Sivir instead of Vayne, and the rest of the match would have been dictated by hard pushes onto T1K’s turrets, instead of an unstoppable Vayne with a 10-minute Blade.
Trundling Along: SKT T1 K vs SKT T1 S Set 2
The second game between the two SKT teams featured a rare loss from the Season 3 World Champions, as well as a fantastic display of the top-lane matchup between Trundle and Shyvana, piloted by Impact and MaRin, respectively. Trundle, normally a problematic champion to teamfight against with Shyvana, was handled flawlessly by T1 S, who employed a number of key strategies to limit his effectiveness in decisive teamfights.
1. Rely on kiting and late-game damage. SKT T1 K bet on a strong mid-game with Lulu, Sivir, and Pantheon, to back up the havoc that Impact provided with his teleporting. Successful teamfights were initiated tightly by Bengi’s Grand Skyfalls, but the early damage from Sivir and Lulu were sufficient to take teamfights for early objectives such as top outer tower and Dragon. However, with Lulu falling off late because of Faker’s blasé recklessness throughout the midgame and Sivir’s lack of scaling, MaRin excellently dove with Shyvana in the deciding teamfight, keeping them at bay long enough for Trundle to go down when he responded with equal aggression onto SKT T1 S’s carries.
2. Maximize Shyvana’s tank effectiveness with items that have unstealable actives and passives. While Trundle’s Subjugate stole Shyvana’s armor and magic resist during teamfights, it was the defensive utility from Banshee’s Veil and Thornmail that allowed her to withstand the initial offense from Lulu and Sivir, while the synergy between the Randuin’s Omen active and constant area damage from Sunfire Cape softened up SKT T1 K’s back line enough for Ziggs and Lucian to clean up.
3. Position Shyvana as far away as possible from T1 S’s carries. This is perhaps the most important key, as one of the teamfights was decided by Trundle’s failure to Subjugate Shyvana in a timely manner. This forced a Wild Growth onto Trundle when he approached the enemy team, which was not nearly enough for him to survive, leading to T1 S taking a bottom inner turret.
The game was even for the first 20-25 minutes, but costly errors on SKT T1 K’s side prevented their compositionally stronger mid-game from securing a victory. MaRin played a flawless Shyvana, and should have been MVP instead of Wolf on Annie.
Shy on Shy: CJ Entus Frost vs Midas FIO Set 1
It was almost as if Shy had taken offense to MaRin’s MVP snub in the previous game. CJ Frost’s veteran top-laner followed up with his own brand of brilliance on the Half-Dragon. In Frost’s first match against FIO, Shy exhibited a high level of intelligent map movement with Shyvana in concert with his team’s on-the-fly strategy following an early attempted double tower trade (which seems to be the norm now in Korea, despite the season 4 tower nerfs).
In this game, both early dives were anticipated and avoided, leading to eventual concession of mirrored outer turrets, and for Frost, the inner turret as well. Shy’s Shyvana, however, managed to safely clear enough minions from the initial push to barely prevent his inner tower from falling. The early recall from Frost’s 3-man unit allowed Midas FIO to freeze the minion wave deep into their own jungle, denying empty lane farm to the Shyvana. With excellent ward coverage and strategic across the map and FIO’s upper jungle, Shy managed to safely farm deep into FIO territory, securing a blue buff steal and enabling mid pressure from the rest of Frost.
Midas FIO failed to address the loss of vision in their jungle following the blue steal, and overcompensated with a number of pink wards to cover. Frost responded brilliantly by pressuring other parts of the map, where towers had not yet fallen. Shy managed to get the requisite farm to become virtually unkillable on Shyvana, which sealed the rest of the game in Frost’s favor, despite a few lax missteps from Coco’s Kha’Zix.
MadLeo: CJ Entus Frost vs Midas FIO Set 2
Throughout Leona’s (continued) reign of dominance amongst support champions in Season 4, Madlife had yet found an opportunity to play her. By the bracket stage of Champions Winter 2013/2014, when the Season 4 support metagame had finally rounded out, he had settled onto his comfort Thresh and Blitzcrank picks against Mata’s Leona in the quarterfinals against Samsung Galaxy Ozone in the three games that his team subsequently lost. With Champions Spring underway and a revamped roster, MadLeo finally arrived against Midas FIO in the second set, and he was met with intriguing success.
His displayed a combination of excellent calculation and playmaking in a notable exchange in the bottom lane while partnered up with Space’s Sivir. With FIO’s bottom lane pushed back to turret, Madlife simply walked up to Lactea’s Lucian and stunned with a Shield of Daybreak, drawing the turret aggro long enough for Sivir to clean up. Eclipse and Flash onto a fleeing ANNA on Annie allowed Sivir to secure a double kill.
What mades this particular sequence especially Madlife-like (Madlike?) is the incredible timing with the Eclipse, activating the Eclipse early enough to tank the initial turret hit, and timing its detonation perfectly with Flash to not only slow Annie, but also bring her low enough for an auto-attack from Space to proc Sunlight for the kill.
A 4-man Solar Flare later in the game may have been the most flashy play from one of the best support players in Korea, but it was this particular play that stood out the most and displayed Madlife’s newfound prowess with one of the strongest support champions in the game. The rest of the world beware; MadLeo has entered the fray!