ggChronicle continues our “Twelve Days of eSports” series with a comprehensive profile of the Taipei Assassins. Every day between now and the World Finals, we will release one article highlighting each of the teams going to Los Angeles. Don’t forget to check back daily for our new content, and be sure to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
|The Full Line-Up|
The Taipei Assassins started as amateur team For the Win back in 2011, with team captain Mistake, Stanley and Colalin as the core players. NexABC, A8000 and former Counter Logic team member Lilballz rounded out the team. Together, they started out strong by steamrolling the Taiwanese League of Legends scene, placing first out of 150 teams at the 2011 Garena G1 eSports tournament and qualifying for the 2011 World Cyber Games.
While they weren’t able to make it past the group stages at the international level, their impressive performance then saw them acquired by Garena for the Garena Premier League in 2012. Prior to the official April 7, 2012 inception of the Taipei Assassins, A8000 had left the team to pursue higher education in the US, and Colalin as well as NexABC were made substitutes as the team acquired Bebeisadog and Hong Kong player Toyz.
Both Bebe and Toyz, the new AD and AP carries respectively, were high-profile amateurs on the Garena circuit, having played a few tournaments together but were not as yet officially part of any team. Their inclusion in the TPA on April 22nd nonetheless proved strong enough to dominate the GPL, holding first place for months at a time and fending off even the Singapore Sentinels, their closest rivals in the GPL and an occasional source of losses.
They had a claim to fame when they triumphed over China’s famous World Elite at the Stars War 7 tournament, prompting former TSM AD Carry Locodoco, then of MiG Frost and most recently of the disbanded Startale team, to assert that TPA was one of the top teams in the world.
I think TPA is very strong and the same for World Elite. We scrim both teams a lot and they give us more trouble than any other Korean teams. I think alongside Blaze and Frost, TPA and WE are one of the best Asian teams. — Locodoco
Human After All
Then, team Manila Aguilas, known as the Eagles to the English community, tossed them off those lofty heights. It was TPA’s first defeat, and the results had visibly crushed them. Though they managed to snag Baron at the tail-end of the game, the early pressure piled onto them by the Eagles had forced a chink in TPA’s nigh-impenetrable defenses, and revealed a key weakness to the inclusion of “official” substitutes in a team line-up. Mainly, because they were substitutes, they had a much poorer grasp of the pressures an official game would put on them compared to that of scrimmages.
The game against the Eagles was their first GPL game after winning a narrow 2-1 set against World Elite for the Stars War 7 championship. Both Mistake and Lilballz were off the roster, presumably to rest after their travels, with Colalin taking support, NexABC filling in for mid lane, and Toyz taking over as jungler. There’s no kinder way to put it: they fed. By the end of the game, Manila’s Graves had racked up a solid ten kills, and MLE Kaigu’s Kassadin had thrashed the fur off Ahri’s tails.
As of the present, the Manila Eagles are now the second-lowest ranked team in the Garena Premier League, holding a meager nine games over the winless and perpetually blundering Bangkok Titans. The Manila Miracle — and Taipei’s nightmare — was never repeated, and only the co-dominant Singapore Sentinels were ever able to take another game off of the Assassins in the GPL.
It was not, however, their only close shave. Their blood was in the warm Pacific waters now, and their psychological advantage as the untouchable rulers of the SEA was shattered that day. They would find themselves bruised again as the rest of the Premier League saw their chance to take the title. Even the Titans, unerringly awful as they are, suddenly figured out how to win lanes against TPA, and gave the Taiwanese team a nasty shock as they dominated an August 25th game until near the end.
Of course, as that was a Bangkok Titans game, they then proceeded to throw the game out of orbit as top laner BKT Med ignored three team fights in a row to farm in a nearby lane while his teammates lost 4v5.
With the fear of complacency instilled by the GPL, the Assassins sobered up and honed their blades yet again, culminating in yet another successful run at the Garena G1. They pushed through another hundred-team gauntlet with competitors from all over Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau, sat there in front of a live audience of over 20,000 and growing, and proceeded to flatten Hong Kong’s CorSair in a virtuoso 2-0 set, showing none of the weaknesses from prior months. It was an anticlimatic final game for such a well-attended event, but it served well as a demonstration of raw power and dominance. Taiwan couldn’t wish for more motivated and skilled representatives on the world stage.
Players and Strategies
Common Picks: Twisted Fate, Karthus, Diana
TPA’s campaign of dominance at the Garena G1 was spearheaded by Toyz’s almighty Karthus. Late into the first game against Corsair, it seemed as if TPA deliberately triggered losing fights every time Requiem was up. They would bait Corsair with low health bars and fleeing backsides, only for Toyz to pick up back-to-back triple kills. As is common for a lot of Asian AP carries, he dual-specializes in champions with global ultimates with a masterful Twisted Fate, blinding both top and bottom lane with flashes of gold the moment he hits level six.
During an early GPL cast, Garena’s Taiwanese staff claimed that he dislikes playing Ahri, which would’ve been a drawback against the many other world-class Karthus players expected to take to the stage. Recently, however, Diana’s become a staple of his repertoire, offering the assassin’s mobility and kill potential he will need to counterplay farm-heavy mid-lane strategies.
Common Picks: Ezreal, Ashe, Sivir
Bebe’s roster of viable AD champions runs almost the entire list of possible ranged carries, but his slipperiness with Ezreal is especially of note. Even the Singapore Sentinels, known for their aggressive laning phase and coordinated play, will often see games totally lost to TPA’s immortal and overfed AD Carry.
When they opt to do lane-swaps, however, Ashe stands in the limelight, with her great range proving a monumental hazard to melee bruisers, and innate gold income offsetting CS lost during even the most frequent lane exchanges. Furthermore, Enchanted Crystal Arrow plays beautifully with TPA’s focus on mid- and late-game team coordination, forcing engagements upon enemies that’d rather lean back and play defensively.
Common Picks: Sona, Zyra, Lulu
The gross majority of Mistake’s support games have been on Sona, where her all-rounder attributes complement anything Bebe opts to run. His aggressive support play will often see him “leading” the team on deaths, but such is the necessary sacrifice by a support to let their AD Carry run rampant.
Mistake’s overarching contribution is incredibly strong, and a vital component of TPA’s teamfight dominance: Sona’s Crescendo is the most obvious example, but all of his champions have tremendous initiation or counter-initiation capabilities. The combination of Lulu’s Wild Growth with Shyvana’s Dragon’s Descent makes for tremendous field presence and control.
Zyra offers a similar advantage: with her seeds acting as primitive wards and a long-range root to disrupt targets, Mistake is able to win brush and river control for the bottom lane. At level six, the enormous radius of effect for Stranglethorns’ knock-up makes it incredibly dangerous to engage TPA in the close confines of the jungle.
Common Picks: Alistar, Maokai, Shyvana
There’s an alternate universe out there where CLG Prime never lost Lilballz, and Riot is forced to redesign Alistar to save North America’s competitive scene. Lilballz was responsible for single-handedly saving one of TPA’s Garena Premier League matches by stomping the Singapore Sentinel’s overeager aggression after the rest of TPA had been quadra killed. You’d never think a cow could move so fast or so surefootedly: jukes and weaves between nexus and inhibitor turrets saw him pick off the Sentinels one by one, putting them all on respawn timers.
In short, he is a scary, scary jungler. His game sense is one of the best in the world.
|Like a Lilballz in a China Shop|
Common Picks: Olaf, Jax, EVERYONE ELSE
What doesn’t Stanley play? The man has been seen running Ezreal, Lulu and even Cassiopeia in top lane. While the latter proved a massive disappointment, he’s nonetheless made a name for himself by running unorthodox or rare champions in his top lane role, taking advantage of superior mechanics and understanding of his opponents’ limitations to deny their lane. TPA’s top lane hipster was playing Hecarim before he was cool.
Since the development of the 1v2 meta, however, Stanley has regressed to more common and safer top laners – much to the woe of his opponents. If they thought his harass-heavy, on-hit Lulu was annoying, his Olaf is even more dangerous. He’ll gladly take pressure from the enemy jungler, wasting the enemy team’s time as he escapes again and again, letting Lilballz work his magic in bottom lane.
TPA’s teamwork is legendary. Their first claim to fame with Western fans was an early GPL game with Toyz on Morgana: the team’s follow-through on his Flash into Soul Shackles with Zhonya’s activation was absolutely perfect. From Two teams standing at near-full health, less than half-dozen seconds later, only one team is left standing. Their champion selections, especially their jungler and support, are meant to maximize team fight control and disruption: it’s rare to not see them with both a strong initiator and counter-initiator, winning fights even against teams with better gear and gold.
More often than not, however, the enemy doesn’t get to keep their gold and gear advantages. Bebe shows his strength in his mechanical execution, and TPA’s overall farming capabilities are top-notch. They’re happy enough playing the long game, chipping away to build small early advantages until the first big head-on collision.
Of course, all of that mid-game virtuosity and focus comes at a price: TPA often blunders during the laning phase, and even the much-maligned Bangkok Titans have come perilously close to taking games from them off a snowballed First Blood. The only reason why they even won that one was because of BKT Med throwing fight after fight.
Given TPA’s great recovery game, this might not seem like such a big deal, but the current metagame trend is towards shorter and shorter laning phases. The low-resource meta proselyted by Korean teams is punishing towards early mistakes and leaves little room to transition into defensive farming.
The Taipei Assassins have never dropped a game against their fellow SEA representatives in the Saigon Jokers. Only the Singapore Sentinels put up anything resembling consistently strong results against the Taiwanese team, occasionally swapping around the #1 and #2 slots in the Garena Premier League.
TPA must avoid their previous mistakes — they’ve underestimated fellow GPL teams before, and paid dearly for it. The Singapore Sentinels used to be able to make a similar claim of a perfect record against the Saigon Jokers, but were edged out in a best-of-three set during the SEA Regionals held in Vietnam. The Saigon team has much to prove as they enter the world stage, the first of which is that they’re just as worthy to be in Santa Monica in October as their peers and rivals in the TPA.
World Elite is in a similar position of having something to prove against TPA, especially after that nerve-wracking final set at Stars War 7, both coming out of their brackets without having dropped a map prior to the finals. Game one was an incredibly close affair, with both teams trading map control back and forth all the way to the end. TPA lost both nexus turrets before finally pulling out ahead in one team fight, dooming World Elite. Game two went solidly in World Elite’s favor, but game three saw both teams struggle on even footing yet again, until the tide broke in TPA’s favor, crowning them the victors.
Nationalistic pride is at stake, should the two cross sabers again. Given the patriotic fervor in China over their recent property disputes, it’s impossible to avoid the implications of a possible World Elite vs Taipei Assassins conflict – China already has two perfectly good representatives with WE and Invictus Gaming, and Taiwan is officially just an upstart province.
TPA will probably find its best matches against European and American rivals, as their tendency towards high-resource games plays favorably towards the Assassins’ strengths. As the EU/NA regions are heavily favored to take the top prizes of the event, TPA’s chances scale accordingly.
The looming spectacle of the Korean low-resource and laneswitch metagame is therefore doubly dangerous against TPA. They’ve been bled and bruised badly before by less consistent teams, lacking a favorable performance record against early aggression, as opposed to being the aggressor. Their weeklong boot camp with CLG.EU may have taught them a few tricks about defending against such tactics, but CLG.EU isn’t exactly known for their snappy executions either.
|Research and Development|
About the Author (Author Profile)James "Obscurica" Chen is stuck in the tropics, oozing out as much sweat as words as he covers the Asiatic sphere of League of Legends play.
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