Competitive Edge is a recurring column here at ggChronicle where yours truly, bonaphyde,
will take a look at a high-level match of note and break down strategy, tactics, and execution.
“With skillful positioning, defeat or victory is apparent to everyone well in advance of any confrontation.”
- Sun Tzu, The Art of War
Welcome to the first edition of Competitive Edge. In this recurring column, I will be taking a look at a select high-level tournament game with the purpose of analyzing elements of both teams’ strategy. This will include bans, picks, timings, tactics, and mentalities. Through this column I hope that newcomers to the League of Legends scene, as well as seasoned players with perhaps less competitive viewing experience, will learn a little more about what goes on in the course of a match. The pace of the game sometimes forces commentary that is focused more on the what and where, rather than the why and how. This ex post facto analysis will delve a little deeper, into ideas that perhaps were glossed over in the rush of the moment.
Right from the start, Moscow Five made their strategy quite well-known. It was another rendition of the well-treaded “protect the Kog” setup that we’d seen popularized by European teams circa Dreamhack. The basic idea is this: Kog’Maw is a ranged champion with extremely high damage and very fragile defenses. One of the glassiest of glass cannons in this game, in fact. The beauty of it is, though, that when he activates his W he has monstrous range – 710 range to be precise. If you can put enough beefy guys between the enemy and your Kog, preferably with multiple layers of displacement or crowd control effects, then he’ll be able to sit back and shred them down without issue. The Galio pick was only natural then, given his ability to lock down the entire enemy team for 2 seconds. Shyvana’s dragon form would allow her to displace any aggressors, and Lee Sin’s ultimate could peel anyone who managed to get past. Finally, Taric’s stun provided the last line of defense if somehow TSM broke through the first three layers.
SoloMid actually had the right idea in countering their play. If Kog’Maw was going to stay nestled behind a wall of meat, they would need to go in and pluck him out. Who better to do so than Skarner, whose ultimate is one of the greatest single-target disables in the game? In fact, SoloMid’s entire strategy was predicated on disabling the meat wall so that they could assassinate Kog’Maw. Cassiopeia and Sona would provide Area-of-Effect (AoE) stuns, allowing Skarner to slip in and grab Kog’Maw. Irelia and Graves would immediately jump him and obliterate him, at which point Moscow Five’s only legitimate carry is gone and TSM retains both of theirs. From that point the fight would quickly roll into TSM’s favor, owing to the high damage output of Graves and Cassiopeia.
Because of the sheer power of the AoE ultimates on both sides, team fights would be decided swiftly, by whichever team had marginally superior positioning. I’d like to say that Moscow Five’s aggressive resource control (buffs, dragon) was not relevant to this, but it allowed them to pull ahead while pushing TSM back. Both teams actually played quite safe, and by the time the first major team fight rolled around Moscow Five was only carrying a 1-kill lead and 800 gold. However, positioning won the day in the Battle of the Second Dragon, as Skarner desperately dove in to secure the dragon and initiate. He managed the first, but not the second. In addition, Kog’Maw was so far back that neither Sona’s nor Cassiopeia’s ultimates touched him, and he literally had 100% damage uptime in the team fight. The meat wall of Shyvana, Lee Sin, and Galio proved too tough to break through, and in the end TSM traded four deaths for dragon. The Battle of the First Baron went equally poorly for TSM, as they lost Skarner and nearly lost Irelia in Galio’s ultimate before anyone was even ready. TSM actually went 3-3 overall in the fight, but lost Baron and both their carries. The Battle of the Bottom Inner Tower was perhaps TSM’s best shot, but a mis-click by Skarner resulted in Taric being blown up instead of Kog’Maw. Galio’s ultimate, followed by Shyvana’s dragon form and constant shredding by Kog, resulted in an ace for Moscow Five and the set.
Moscow Five put their strategy out there right away, and TSM decided to roll the dice with an AoE disable + single-target assassination strategy that required precise positioning. Unfortunately they couldn’t get said positioning and it cost them the game.