An hour into Echo Fox’s promotion series match against Team Liquid Academy Thursday, it looked like Rick Fox’s $1 million investment might be running into a big problem. But despite being blown out in Game 1, Echo Fox rallied to a 3-2 series victory to keep their chances of qualifying for the 2017 NA LCS Spring Season alive. Echo Fox now advances to play Phoenix1 in the next round of the tournament Saturday.
For VODs of the series, click here.
Team Liquid Academy rolled to an easy win in Game 1, showing far superior map movement and team fight play. TLA responded to an early lane advantage for Henrik “Froggen” Hansen by picking up two early kills for Greyson “Goldenglue” Gilmer’s Kassadin. A 5-1 ace followed soon after, and TLA found itself up 9-1 and 5k gold by 20 minutes with a 4/0/5 Kassadin and 3/0/6 Sivir.
But the story of Game 1 was the top laner battle between Colin “Solo” Earnest vs. Jeong-hun “kfo” Park. For those unfamiliar, Solo was kfo’s substitute for multiple games last split, and there was some significant trash talk between the two coming into the game.
NA Hospitality Liquid Solo vs Echo Fox Kfo!! pic.twitter.com/0U4q9tmKzU— Cody Sun (@dT_Massacre) July 30, 2016
Then this happened:
.@LiquidSolo solo kills KFO and the taunt! #NALCS pic.twitter.com/peZS83rGZo— The Rift Herald (@TheRiftHerald) August 4, 2016
Another @LiquidSolo special! #NALCS pic.twitter.com/6RmdeIRnkT— The Rift Herald (@TheRiftHerald) August 4, 2016
So, uh, yeah. TLA won the game 17-3 in 30 minutes, and Solo finished the game 4/0/10.
Game 2 started 4-0 Echo Fox, and Kfo got his revenge early on with a Solo kill.
.@Fox_kfo's revenge! #NALCS pic.twitter.com/w4LeeZUGwX— The Rift Herald (@TheRiftHerald) August 4, 2016
TLA brought the game back close thanks to more excellent Gnar play from Solo, but a team fight 29 minutes in netted Froggen a triple kill and his team a Baron.
A massive fight starts in the jungle with @FroggenLoL getting a triple kill! #NALCS https://t.co/bbpL5PPzFl— lolesports (@lolesports) August 4, 2016
A poor decision by kfo to take a 2 v. 1 ended up with Echo Fox losing a 4v5 fight hard, but a perfect flank from kfo in the next fight gave Echo Fox four kills and the win, 17-14.
kfo took the Gnar away from Solo in Game 3, which started very slowly — it took 19 minutes for the first kill and 20 for the first tower taken. Both went to Echo Fox, as a pair of proactive plays from Anthony “Hard” Barkhovtsev opened up a 3-0, 4k gold lead.
Soon after, it looked like a reverse of the first game. Echo Fox opened up a 10-1 lead by 25 minutes, grabbing consecutive Barons to open up TLA’s base and siege for the win. Echo Fox took the game and the series lead 15-1 in 35 minutes, highlighted by performances by Froggen’s Vladimir (4/0/8) and AD Carry Yuri “Keith” Jew’s Lucian (6/0/6).
In Game 4, Team Liquid Academy basically won the game with smart drafting, baiting Echo Fox into picking Karma, eventually resulting in 1) Echo Fox’s main carry, Froggen, playing Karma, a utility champion and 2) a very advantageous bottom lane for TLA: Twitch-Soraka against Sivir-Trundle. Often times, this series came down to which of the two (one-time) world-class players, Froggen or Gwang-jin “Piglet” Chae could carry their teams, and by putting its star on a low-damage champion, Echo Fox essentially resigned itself to a loss in the game.
TLA opened up this game with a lead after a pair of kills for jungler Galen “Moon” Holgate 14 minutes in, and TLA’s bottom lane followed up with three kills from Piglet, opening up the game with a 5k gold lead 20 minutes in.
.@LiquidPiglett picks up a double kill in the top lane! #NALCS https://t.co/zdiCSFbvmg— lolesports (@lolesports) August 4, 2016
Piglet picked up a quadra kill at 28 minutes as Team Liquid Academy closed it out 16-1, with its star AD Carry at 9/0/3 on Twitch.
Echo Fox made a surprising shift in draft strategy for Game 5. After the ineffective Karma pick for Froggen in Game 4, there was no doubt his pick this game would be more damage-focused. But Echo Fox opted for the unconventional Lux, picking it into Viktor to round out a composition with Gnar, Gragas, Lucian and Karma.
TLA earned the game’s first kill, for Piglet’s Sivir, but Echo Fox responded with a 2-1 trade, picking up kills for kfo and Hard and taking down the game’s first turret.
The Lux picked worked for Echo Fox -- Froggen was able to routinely catch out William “Stunt” Chen’s Soraka at the start of fights, setting up advantageous engages for the rest of his team. One such fight at 27 minutes broke open TLA’s base and took down a Nexus tower.
A fight starts in the mid lane and @echofoxgg get four kills! #NALCS https://t.co/9dagKjs2ix— lolesports (@lolesports) August 5, 2016
Froggen caught out Goldenglue before the next fight, but Team Liquid Academy was able to hold Echo Fox off the base with a miraculous defense. Froggen caught Big next time, and this time Echo Fox was able to pounce for a 4-0 fight, winning the game 13-5 in 38 minutes. Froggen finished 6/1/6 on Lux.
kfo popped back after the game, too.
solo>>kfo so easy— Jeonghun Park (@Fox_kfo) August 5, 2016
this is how u play gnar
useless solo— Jeonghun Park (@Fox_kfo) August 5, 2016
zzzz so funny
who's crying now?
In December 2015, former NBA champion Rick Fox purchased Gravity Gaming’s NA LCS spot for a reported $1 million, naming his new organization Echo Fox. After finishing in seventh in the Spring regular season, safe from the promotion tournament, the team went 1-17 with 16 consecutive losses in the Summer Split and finished in last place. Now the team will have to defeat either Phoenix1 Saturday or the loser of NRG vs. Cloud9 Challenger Sunday to qualify for another LCS split.
If Team Liquid Academy had been able to secure an LCS spot, Team Liquid would have had to sell its spot due to a rule that forbids an ownership group from having multiple teams in the same league. That would have been a cool $1 million value (at least) for Liquid, who would have almost certainly purchased a Challenger spot once again for TLA.