While Twisted Fate has seen play prior to patch 4.5—Jin Air’s Song “Fly” Young-jun drew bans in LoL Masters, while other NACS teams have played him as well—the Card Master’s tricks were brought to the forefront in high-profile matches in both LCS and OGN this past week. Counter Logic Gaming’s Austin “Link” Shin played him in his LCS Spring semifinals match versus Team SoloMid, while SK Telecom T1 K and Samsung Galaxy Blue did the same in their OGN quarterfinals matches. Just yesterday, Hai “Hai” Lam played TF for Cloud 9 in the deciding match, also against Team SoloMid.
For the Koreans specifically, Twisted Fate has come a long way since his fall from overpowered grace in Season 3, where he had mandatory red-side ban status in Champions Spring and Summer. Despite his nerfs following these tournaments, TF retained much of his utility and strong map presence through the use of his ultimate, Destiny. Season 4’s metagame, rife with lane swaps and 4-versus-0 mirrored tower pushes, opened the map even more, allowing more space for him to operate and be successful. With patch 4.5 coming into effect during Champions Spring 2014 quarterfinals, fate has dealt the right cards for Twisted Fate’s return, namely through two of the best mid-laners in Korea: SKT’s Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok and Samsung’s Bae “dade’ Eo-jin.
One of the more admirable things about Twisted Fate in today’s metagame is that his build path is highly flexible based on the needs of the team. Due to the importance of his ultimate and its considerably long cooldown, items that provide ability power and cooldown reduction are put in higher priority. The trinity of CDR Ability Power items, Athene’s Unholy Grail, Deathfire Grasp, and Morellonomicon, all provide a variety of effects that can be built based on the needs of the game, but all share a same component item in Fiendish Codex, which is often the first item that a TF will obtain on their first purchase of the game.
Athene’s provides magic resistance and mana regeneration, an excellent choice for a playstyle involving high sustain, allowing for more time spent on the rift and exerting map presence while having reasonable resistances from the enemy mage. Deathfire Grasp is a highly-aggressive item whose burst damage offered by its active ability makes Destiny ganks even more potent. Morellonomicon has great synergy with Twisted Fate’s area effect damage caused by Wild Cards and Red Card, providing the potential to apply Grievous Wounds. Additionally, its relatively low item cost makes it an excellent item to buy in order to hit CDR spikes sooner in the game, as Twisted Fate’s playstyle relies heavily on reading the flow of the game and making the most of Destiny when it becomes available.
A carryover item from the old days of TF, Zhonya’s Hourglass is still an important item to build to follow-up the first CDR item that a Twisted Fate obtains. It is completed second, as its active ability provides a nice power spike for mid-game teamfights, and gives a great amount of protection when Destiny is used to initiate or to follow-up on an initiate. Against physical damage mid-laners, building Seeker’s Armguard is a safe first purchase for the matchup, while still allowing other build paths to open up for the mid-game.
Unlike Zhonya’s Hourglass, the core item status of Lich Bane has not carried over well due nerfs in recent patches; however, it still remains an interesting option for a split-pushing Twisted Fate build. It no longer does the same amount of damage that it used to, but it still provides a considerable punch for taking down turrets across the map.
The goal of using Twisted Fate is to exert a considerable amount of map control and global pressure by using Destiny to move around great distances, initiating ganks and securing objectives. Towards the end of the early game/laning phase, TF looks to make an important initial play with Destiny to set up an early kill or two, allowing his team to take an objective and snowball the game. In the metagame from patch 4.5 specifically, TF is a flexible pick who operates well following a top/bottom tower trade, as more of the map is opened up for him.
Twisted Fate works particularly well in teams that eschew global presence on their top lane champion for a more aggressive lane matchup. Instead of relying on Shen’s Stand United, or using teleport on Shyvana or Trundle, having Destiny available in the mid lane allows the gank to occur on either side lane, preventing the opposing mid-laner from responding other than taking their own middle tower. However, if the TF team’s top laner does carry teleport, they can instantly appear at mid to respond to the resulting push.
The other farm-dependant roles on the team, whether it is AD carry or top, can serve as the carries for the team when Twisted Fate sets up kills for them, or can support a TF by forming their own sieging group while he split-pushes separately. He offers incredible teamfight utility through the use of Gold Cards and the combination of Destiny with Zhonya’s Hourglass to initiate, or by staying in the back lines doing area damage with Wild Cards and offering defensive crowd control for his AD carry. In 4.5, the buff to Twisted Fate’s ability to hold on to his Pick a Card has allowed him to be more flexible in teamfights, resulting in better decision-making and utility.
Case Study: Faker vs Samsung Galaxy Ozone
Faker is the first player to feature Twisted Fate after patch 4.5, during the first quarterfinal series between SKT T1 K and Samsung Ozone at OGN Champions Spring 2014. Touted as the world’s best mid-laner, the Card Master offers a lot of potential for the playmaking style that Faker is best known for, but he ends up using this champion in more of a support role, much like the Lulu picks that he has heavily favoured thus far in Season 4.
One noticeable aspect of his champion choice is in his summoner spells. He uses Exhaust, which serves as a control spell against diving champions like Shyvana, who look to eliminate back-line targets like Faker’s AD carry and secondary playmaker, Chae “Piglet” Gwang-jin. In this game, Faker opts for the Morellonomicon as his first item, knowing in advance that he’s deferring a considerable amount of kill gold to Piglet. It’s a cheap source of CDR and AP that will allow Faker to rush his secondary items much sooner.
He sets up a nice gank in the bottom lane here against Ozone’s Jinx/Thresh pair. Piglet’s Twitch comes in with an Ambush alongside Annie’s Flash-Tibbers. Faker provides ample damage and crowd control to allow Twitch to secure all the kills en route to a 6/0/2 KDA within the first twenty-two minutes of the game. What’s important here is that SK Telecom sets up vision control in the river prior to this play; because Samsung Ozone does not know where Twisted Fate is during this point of the game, they cannot afford to split themselves up, even if it’s to move through their own warded jungle, as the threat of a global teleport and a stealthed rat can come in at any time.
Ozone eventually adjusts and stays together throughout the rest of the game. Faker doesn’t make any Destiny teleport plays here, but uses the Gate portion of his ultimate to get vision on the other team despite having limited ward control. Thanks to Zhonya’s hourglass, Faker makes an aggressive move on Ozone’s high-priority targets, Jinx and Orianna, activating his hourglass to evade Orianna’s Shockwave. He returns to his own team’s back line, where Shyvana is already causing problems for Twitch and Annie. The low cooldown of Faker’s Gold Card in conjunction with Annie’s stuns provide a considerable amount of peel for Twitch in teamfights.
Faker’s incredible teamfighting sense allows him to both make an offensive impact and provide defensive support for Piglet, who is the most important target on his team. Piglet ends up with a 12/1/5 KDA at the end of the game, as well as an MVP, but Faker’s supportive playstyle with Twisted Fate allows for that to happen.
Case Study: dade vs CJ Entus Frost
Where Faker has embraced a more playmaking support role on his team in Season 4, dade has embraced the hard carry aspect of his game in his new position as the mid-laner for the up-and-coming Samsung Galaxy Blue. While he is prone to inconsistency and questionable play, he more than makes up for it with stunning games in which he carries with a given champion. He exemplifies this feat with his Twisted Fate play versus CJ Frost in the second quarterfinal match of Champions Spring.
What sets dade’s Twisted Fate apart from Faker’s is a more individually-oriented playstyle in which he carries the entire team on his back. He does this with more selfish items such as Athene’s Unholy Grail, which allows him to stay in lane longer and farm, and Distortion-enchanted Sorcerer’s Shoes. The buff to the Distortion enchantment benefits dade greatly, as it directly affects both his signature summoner spells, Ghost and Flash. The added mobility makes his Destiny plays even more inescapable.
Dade pushes the cooldowns for his ultimate to the limit, netting himself double-kill after double-kill throughout the mid-game. After he makes his first play against Frost’s bot lane, he picks up an early Athene’s, which allows for his third Destiny into CJ Frost’s jungle to occur even sooner than anticipated. He completes Distortion before Zhonya’s, which allows him even more mobility to stun a fleeing target such as Shyvana in this play below:
What’s even more impressive here is that not only does dade manage to stun and kill the Shyvana, but his Wild Cards are angled so perfectly that they manage to hit both Ziggs and Lucian.
The new Distortion and re-tuned Pick a Card has allowed dade to return to his roots on TF from days past, but due to the map being more open in Season 4, dade once again is able to shine with this new champion, and will surely draw bans.
The Bell of Fate Tolls
While the new-look Twisted Fate has already made splashes in the professional scene around the world, there shouldn’t be any worry that a return to the 100% pick/ban status will be in store for the Card Master. He can now be counterplayed in lane, and is likely to be pitted against other champions in today’s metagame who excel at clearing waves and pushing to towers in order to punish Destiny. Champions like Orianna and Lulu can pin TF to his tower, which is what Ozone did to Faker in his own game. He couldn’t use Destiny as often as he wanted, and this delayed Faker from snowballing the game.
Transcendent talent like dade aside, Twisted Fate plays a more supportive role now than before, with nerfs to Lich Bane and his own abilities. He’s no longer a global must-ban, but will definitely be worth considering against players like dade. He fits in very well in the 4.5 metagame because of the opportunities to make plays after the lane swap, and he has a good matchup against the popular and highly effective Nidalee, who gets easily pushed back to her tower by repeated Wild Cards.
His kit, by design, has a high ceiling for effectiveness, which makes him a nuisance to tune for both the professional scene and in lower-level solo-queue. Balancing him is a tricky thing, but the wide variety of build paths and playstyles offered for Twisted Fate players is a very pleasant indicator of his viability in-game. Faker and dade’s success with different playstyles and builds bodes well for the Card Master’s fate at all levels of League of Legends play.