Game Point: Match Analysis
TSM vs. Epik Winner’s Finals Game One:
|Bans: Rammus, Zilean, Yorick||Bans: Alistar, Kassadin, Gragas|
Solomid contented themselves with a long laning game in an attempt to play to Chaox’s strengths as a dominant farmer and maximize their split-pushing potential. When Epik grouped up and attempted to force teamfights in mid-game, TSM played superb defense and entrenched themselves at towers while Rainman’s Teemo pushed relentlessly. By the 40 minute mark, TSM held a commanding 6-1 tower advantage and a solid lead in global gold. Unfortunately, low damage output in late game proved too big of a hurdle for TSM to overcome and, once more, they could not close a game that they looked poised to win.
Reginald stood as the one factor holding SoloMid back, as losing his lane and failing to farm sunk his LeBlanc. TheOddOne played an inspiring Skarner, demonstrating a prudence in initiation that DanDinh could learn from. A solid flash/ultimate combo by the scorpion in middle lane yielded a teamfight victory and a turret kill for TSM, and gave them a large lead. Rainman’s ability to sneak through the jungle, plant traps and utilize creep waves to eliminate towers propped up SoloMid as Akali got fed and LeBlanc collapsed.
Coming off of strong play in the semifinal round, Epik continued in the same vein as their match against Dignitas. Slow and steady was their plan and, by God, they stuck to it. Epik’s incredible ability to adapt shone through again as Salce picked up TEN health potions to start the game in order to lane against Reginald’s LeBlanc, allowing him to easily reach level six, the point where Swain’s sustain takes flight. Once more, Epik experienced difficulties holding onto their towers in spite of keeping up in early-game laning. In a game with few kills, they must be more reactive to split-pushes or they will allow the gold differential to grow and grow. The only reason they didn’t lose this game was because Epik shut down LeBlanc and prevented her from securing early kills.
Salce takes the cake for playing smart against a bursty Reginald LeBlanc that, combined with good timing from Dyrus’ jungle Udyr, managed to keep TSM’s middle lane farm and kill count well below his own. As Swain, Salce altered his build from the Dignitas games by adding a spirit visage for additional sustain against an assassin-centric TSM lineup. DanDinh farmed up nicely as Graves, but was absentee in teamfights until the end of the game, thereby finishing fewer kills and stacking more assists than ideal. Westrice burned brightest as a terrifying Akali, assassinating TSM left and right, seeming to always be on top of a fight in exactly the way DanDinh wasn’t.
LeBlanc. A traditional AP carry or a chance to zone/kill middle lane would almost certainly have put TSM up 1-0, especially with the massive tower gold advantage they held in spite of Reginald’s failings. Salce showed his incredible dominance and makes a serious case for tournament MVP; I’m not sure anyone will be able to stop him in Providence. Unfortunately, SoloMid couldn’t quite execute on their strategy, thanks to Epik’s intelligence in picks and willingness to adapt.
TSM vs. Epik Winner’s Finals Game Two:
|Bans: Rammus, Akali, Soraka||Bans: Graves, Zilean, Kassadin|
TSM ratcheted up their strategy from their previous encounter with Epik by picking champions that maximized their late-game potential. It worked like a charm. Nasus ran amok with a brutal Siphoning Strike as SoloMid locked Epik into another low-kill, lane-focused grind. TSM’s coordination was the story here, as keen map awareness allowed them to unravel Epik’s game plan. Nasus teleports, Karthus ultimates and excellent dragon/Baron control steamrolled Epik. At one critical juncture, SoloMid’s tight teamwork allowed them to kill Baron, destroy three turrets, demolish an inhibitor and finish off dragon within a couple of minutes. It’s hard to lose with that level of foresight and team communication.
Rainman’s Nasus sealed the deal for TSM by not only becoming a terrifying late-game threat to Epik’s carries, but by split-pushing his way into a global gold advantage. Chaox was let off his chain and farmed up a storm, creating a Tristana even more deadly past 30 minutes than he was early in the lane against Westrice. Reginald maintained excellent positioning in team fights, maximizing his AoE and picking off runners with superior map awareness and timing. This was the TSM we know and love, and they faced few problems chalking up a win.
Since the long laning phase worked well for Epik in game one, they settled in for another low-kill, large-farm haul. Nhat Nguyen’s selection of Janna to support Westrice’s Vayne lacked sustain against an aggressive, early-burst TSM lane of Tristana and Sona showed a lack of foresight. By level six, Westrice had been zoned out of contention and fallen to Chaox’s aggressive playstyle. Epik presented no solution to Tristana and allowed Chaox to accumulate a staggering amount of farm. The same story could be told of Dyrus’ lane, as Nasus was left alone to empower Siphoning Strike and CS for far too long while simultaneously manhandling Yorick.
Salce played his most uninspiring game so far as Xerath, though that’s not saying much given his stellar play thus far at MLG Providence. Nhat displayed middling play as Janna, seemingly held back by a rather ineffective pick rather than poor in-game decision making. DanDinh’s Skarner lacked the presence and aggressive initiations of TSM’s scorpion in game one, and his attempt to use a less tanky build didn’t work out in Epik’s favor.
Epik learned a couple valuable lessons from this one: Chaox must be controlled and you can’t let Rainman sit in lane. All the strategy in the world can’t overcome a powerful late-game team composition if you haven’t succeeded in slowing them down in some way. Epik again lost too many towers and, with Reginald playing a better late-game AP champ, there was literally nowhere for DanDinh’s crew to hide.
TSM vs. Epik Winner’s Finals Game Three:
|Bans: Rammus, Akali, Soraka||Bans: Kassadin, Nasus, Graves|
For the second game in a row Epik chose not to ban Alistar, and I found myself wondering why SoloMid neglected to add the cow to their line-up. The success of Chaox and Xpecial’s aggression in the previous game seemed to point to an obvious Tristana and Alistar selection, but they repeated their prior picks instead. With Epik running Taric, however, Alistar would have balanced out the stun and protected Chaox better. TSM’s picks demonstrated a lack of foresight for Epik’s strategy, as they chose not to select any champions with a silence or stun to counter the double revive of Zilean and Yorick. By the time late game rolled around, an inability to kill Vayne in spite of good teamwork and coordination was SoloMid’s undoing.
TheOddOne’s jungling as Skarner seemed less inspired than his great initiations in game one of the series, and he bungled the early gank that left him, Chaox and Xpecial down for the count with nothing to show for it. Chaox couldn’t help getting put away by a determined Epik squad, but TSM’s tanks could have focused a little more on protecting their valuable AD carry. Reginald’s Karthus lost dominance compared to the previous game, though his ultimate loses its impact when Zilean is on the opposing team.
It seems that you can’t outsmart Epik for long, as they cleaned up their act and seemingly stripped SoloMid of their arsenal. With Nhat switching it up to Taric, the synergy with Westrice’s Vayne overcame the Tristana/Sona combination that TSM fielded once again. The intelligence of this counterpick became obvious in a brutal bottom lane gank that saw Chaox, Xpecial and TheOddOne fall with no losses from Epik, followed by a quick dragon for EG. Epik refused to give Chaox any breaks, bearing down on him like a missile in every team fight and refusing to allow him time to auto-attack with Rapid Shot. No one will be forgetting the clutch Yorick/Zilean revives on Westrice anytime soon, as TSM struggled to stop Vayne from melting them with true damage.
The obvious props go to Westrice for masterful positioning as Vayne, but Salce’s babysitting with Zilean truly turned this into a win. DanDinh deserves a trophy for his gorgeous late game flash and stun onto Chaox, which allowed them to eliminate TSM’s primary threat before a devastating push into SoloMid’s base. Nhat came through with excellent initiating stuns as Taric, resulting in remarkably successful ganks.
Epik’s creative picks and amazing ability to adapt allows them to quickly learn from the loss in game two. EG seems to have a limitless well of strategies to draw from, and their talent for quickly identifying the reasons behind their losses changed the way they approached the final game. TSM needs to go back to the drawing board and pick more carefully if they want to continue staying competitive at the top ranks, because they can’t win on solid split-pushes and great coordination alone.
About the Author (Author Profile)Christopher "MonteCristo" Mykles covers the League of Legends eSports scene as an editorialist, interviewer, video analyst, caster, and tournament producer. He hails from the Warcraft 3 scene, where he coached/managed Verge Gaming and served as one of the principal English-language casters. In what little spare time he has, he enjoys practicing Muay Thai, reading, and savoring the best beer and cocktails.
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