Playing against Counter Logic Gaming must be incredibly frustrating, because they’ve polished their strategy so well. Especially when that strategy is to simply stall, stall, stall until you have an advantage, probably the most annoying of all possible tactics.
If CLG doesn’t have a positional advantage or power advantage they’ll simply hold at their towers and distract the enemy in any way they can. There’s a reason Dan Dinh said “CLG doesn’t need to teamfight.” The primal half of my brain just wants them to get on with a fight already, but the intellectual half is just admiring the tactical nature of it all.
It is no coincidence that CLG used a myriad of slippery champions like Corki, Vayne, Shyvana, Nidalee, Olaf, and Shen. All these champions could push side lanes aggressively and had escape mechanisms to get away when necessary. If CLG wanted to stall they could push out the side lanes with these champs to distract the enemy, a tactic they used frequently. All these escape mechanisms also meant CLG can disengage easily from any fight.
No champion complimented this strategy more than Anivia, though. When faced with a siege at a tower, Anivia’s Glacial Storm could easily clear away the minion waves, often leaving their opponent’s unwilling to go in and fully tank the tower. Her ice wall is also one of the most powerful tools in the game at creating a positional advantage in a fight or disengaging with the enemy. If CLG didn’t want to fight all they had to do was throw up a wall and back off.
CLG has, in the past, been defined by their poking team comps and they used poking strategies in Las Vegas when appropriate. The two strategies philosophies are essentially the same, delay until we have an advantage, its just that poke comps take a more active role in gaining that edge.
With such a solid plan Counter Logic Gaming moved through the tournament and IPL4 became a contest to see who could come up with the most appropriate counter strategies:
- against All authority tried to force initiations with both Nocturne and Twisted Fate on the same team, and this might’ve worked but they simply got outplayed in some of the team fights
- Dignitas succeeded once by resurrecting the old heal team comp, which wins with an abundance of summoner Heals, shields, and ability heals. This team doesn’t care about being poked and can pretty easily dive towers, since they have so much sustain and resistances. CLG didn’t have an answer for it, so in the second series against Dignitas they just banned two key champions (mid Soraka and top AP Lulu) of the team comp and forced Dignitas to play their game, which they could not do.
- v8 eSports wanted to play a protect the Kog’Maw comp, which was used elsewhere in the tournament to a lot of success. However the whole point of protect the Kog’Maw is to have a strong team fight, and CLG appropriately didn’t fight until they had the advantage.
- Team SoloMid may have lost the first series but they tried different initiating strategies. Their second game had heavy single target CC from Urgot, Ryze, Taric, and Dr. Mundo, in an attempt to hold down one of CLG’s members, however they lost that game.
And then Chaox picked Ashe. Early in the tournament CLG was banning Ashe against aAa, because Ashe is such a great answer to CLG’s strategy. Suddenly those champions pushing the side lanes couldn’t escape from as much and those Enchanted Crystal Arrows being fired at the right places guaranteed initiations.
Counter Logic Gaming had a clear plan entering these games and it showed. Even when they were down in gold or kills it often looked like they had control of the game. What amazes me more than CLG’s discipline and strategy though is that after losing to it twice, Team SoloMid was able to pull together and find just the right piece to fight the strategy and win.
Notes on the meta:
- Dignitas may have single-handedly revived the heal comp, which was a very old team compositions (2010 old!) that relied on shields and heals to outlive the enemy’s burst and then kill them. The lineup for Dignitas’ two wins against CLG was: Lulu Top Lane (AP/cooldown based, not on-hit), Soraka Mid, Dr. Mundo Jungle, Kog’Maw AD Carry, Taric/Janna Support. They also ran multiple Summoner Heals.
Maximizing your team and your heals is important to the team comp, so typically heavy resistance and aura items are bought.
Armor and magic resist make every heal and every shield worth more, so as much resistances as possible are incorporated into the builds.
Aura items are most effective with a full team, and since the heal comp is good at preventing deaths, auras help the team greatly. Dignitas built items like Will of the Ancients (twice), Aegis of the Legion, Soul Shroud (not seen anywhere else in recent tournaments as far as I know), and Frozen Heart.
The heal comp may only amount to a niche counter to CLG’s strategies, but the fact that CLG had no answer to it, save bans, hints that it is powerful when used correctly.
- Maw of Malmortius saw some play, shifting some of the power away from AP Top Laners and towards bruiser Top Laners. Many Top Laners that wanted magic resist but didn’t want to buy the large amount of attack speed from Wit’s End are seeing a surge in play.
- The AD Carry of the tournament was Kog’Maw. A couple months ago it seemed like Kog’Maw was about to catch fire, but then Graves came out. Now it seems like Kog’Maw is back as nearly every team was running protect the Kog’Maw comps if they could. However out of the 19 games played, Kog’Maw had a 58 percent win percentage, so he was only good, not completely dominant.
- The bump in Nocturne players might be because of the prevalence of Kog’Maw and his ability to run through Kog’Maw’s tank wall with ease. Or maybe people just wanted to play Nocturne again. Darkness is just such a fun ultimate that I can’t blame them.
- Speaking of Kog’Maws, many of them were going for Phantom Dancers instead of heavy damage items first, which is more than just because Kog’Maw gets a good amount of damage from his Bio-Arcane Barrage. It offers two other big advantages:
Firstly, a huge boost in attack speed while still laning makes it easier to switch between harassing the enemy and getting last hits, and a skilled player can better juggle between the two better with more attacks per second.
Secondly, Kog’Maws want to harass in lane when they turn on their Bio-Arcane Barrage and a smart opponent will likely try and back up when it’s turned on. Phantom Dancer allows Kog’Maws to get more attacks in and chase a retreating opponent easier when he turns it on.
- The Summoner Heal nerf might’ve been just the right amount, as it was taken sometimes, but lots of other Summoner spells were taken as well. Ignite is another emerging option, especially if you’re running a kill support like Leona.
- Champions who have a strong amount of sustain and tankiness for jungling remain difficult to balance if they can also play a strong top lane. Olaf, Lee Sin, and Udyr were all heavily present. Udyr received the most bans of the tournament, so he was only there in spirit.
Notes on the stories:
- I talked a lot about Counter Logic Gaming, but this was really Team SoloMid’s tournament. Shortly after TSM moved into their gaming house they got their first major win at MLG Providence. The talk at the time was how much they were committed professional gamers and would be an unstoppable team because of that strong commitment.
But there have been bumps in the road, like a poor showing at Hanover, their inability to finally get over the Moscow 5 hurdle, and the alleged increasingly hostile environment between teammates. But they’ve responded and adapted, bringing in Dyrus and a coach. They were the first team in North America with a gaming house and now they’re one of the first with an official coach.
TSM takes this game seriously and adapt when they have to, and even though that won’t mean success every time, they can certainly be dominant when everything turns on. They won the ggClassic last week and have conquered IPL4 now as well.
- MonoManiac eSports (also known as Mono eSports) was the newcomer to the scene this tournament and they had quite the showing across IPL4. They had to beat Moscow 5 just to get here, although they did it with a ping advantage on NA servers. After getting to Las Vegas they lost the first round, but then had wins over against All authority and Curse.
And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention possibly the largest gold deficit ever overcome for a win in a tournament game. Down by 15,000 gold at the peak Mono manages to capitalize off of one bad Nocturne ultimate from crumbzz and plow down towers from that momentum to win the game. But before that they were able to hold off Curse while facing a huge gold disadvantage for around 20 min., which was probably more impressive than their capitalizing on crumbzz being caught in the end.
- Exhaust should really be a different color than Flash because you can’t tell the difference between the two with the small icons in spectator mode. I’m going to say orange because then it could only be potentially confused with Promote with its reddish-orange, but it’s Promote so there won’t really be a problem.
- Unfortunate showings from against All authority and EpiK, the first two teams to get knocked out, and two teams that had some hype going in.
EpiK’s new lineup may undergo some growing pains, as new players always take some time to get used to each other. aAa may have suffered from jet lag or simply been unsure against the North American teams. Or, most likely, EpiK and aAa may have just had some bad games.
- League of Legends eSports is growing with every major tournament, and the primary growth at IPL4 was in the noise department. Casters couldn’t hear each other at times and even HotShotGG said that that his team could not understand each other at times. Excitement over these games is, at times, reaching the levels of “deafening roar” and “defiant chanting,” which means observing fans are actually interfering with the game itself being played. We’re so close to being a real sport now.