It was a big week for competitive League of Legends. The return of the normal schedule brought with it a huge slate of games, and some fairly interesting results. More importantly though, we got some much needed clarity on the top teams in a few regions.
EU and NA both have their long awaited coronation for the kings of the regions this week with both G2 and Cloud9 beating still opposition to prove their worth at the top of the table.
Meanwhile in the LCK, we have a new best team in the world in KT Rolster. For four weeks now it has looked like KT was testing themselves for weak points, absentmindedly wondering what style might suit them best. That is, until they faced their toughest opponent, World Championship runner up Samsung Galaxy. That series KT went from great to stunning, looking nearly flawless against a team that is easily top five in the world.
And to think, it came the same week that SK Telecom, KT’s chief rival and former holder of the number one in the world position, lost their first series of the year:
Huni’s next challenge
Let’s start where we should. Full credit to the Afreeca Freecs for pulling off 2017’s most shocking and impressive upset so far. Honestly, the gap between the top two teams -- SK Telecom and KT Rolster -- and the rest of the world seemed a little further than the distance from the earth to the sun over the first four weeks of the season, but the Freecs showed us that may not be the case.
In the process of bring SKT back down to earth, Afreeca also raised some interesting questions about SKT’s newest top laner Hoon-heo “Huni” Seong. Through the first four weeks, it would be a bit of an overstatement to call Huni perfect, but only a bit. After all, he still has the best KDA of any top laner in the LCK, and at 8.9 it’s a little over double that of anyone else in the league. But for the first time so far this split we saw Huni shaken.
In game one Huni struggled to find his footing despite doing the most damage on his team by quite a bit. With Huni being the only member able to do damage, SK Telecom looked out of sorts, unsure of what they could do to regain a place in the game as Afreeca simply blew past them and onto the Nexus. In game two, it was clear that Afreeca seized onto the possible lapse in Huni’s focus and he became their primary target, dying three times in the first eight minutes, and never finding a way back into the game.
Over the course of the year he spent in North America, there were always been two huge questions surrounding Huni: 1. Can he play tanks, and 2. Does he have the mental toughness to come back from difficult situations? So far in his time with SK Telecom he has proven the answer to the first question to be a resounding yes, but we hadn’t seen him really tested mentally at all this season. Now that we have, it seems he isn’t quite there yet.
That isn’t to say he won’t get there, though. Huni has already surprised us this season with his ability to grow as a player. He picked up an entire play style over the course of a short off-season. So, while at this moment he may not quite be there, I wouldn’t bet on that being the case by the end of the season
North America’s Baron problem
There is an old North American LCS proverb that goes like this “Never take Baron against Cloud9.” Apparently, this week each and every team in the league forgot this proverb, because not only did they try to take Baron, but they did it so badly that it cost more than a few of them their games.
Let’s start at the beginning of the week. In the first game of week 4, Team Liquid -- currently tied for 8th place -- were beating Cloud9 -- alone at first place -- fairly handily. Until, of course, they decided to do Baron with 5 members of Cloud9 alive. And what happens? Sneaky somehow miraculously -- Nami moved to dodge the skillshot -- stole Baron with an ability that does roughly 400 damage. For some context, Reignover’s Smite, had he used it, would have done 900 damage. So Cloud9 have Baron, and despite ending the game behind 3k gold to Team Liquid, they won.
Next, we have the end of the week, with FlyQuest as the offenders. Once again, they start to take Baron with all five members of Cloud9 alive and things don’t work out for them in the long run. The good news FlyQuest got the Baron ( A note to Junglers: please use Smite, it does a lot of damage to Baron), the bad news is, they lost four members immediately after and ended up losing the game before the only Baron buff they kept had even expired. Yet again, Baron helps Cloud9 win a game while they were losing in gold.
What’s worse, FlyQuest did almost the exact same thing with the Elder Dragon -- I know it isn’t exactly the same but it may as well be -- in game three of that same series. They fell behind early, then halted their own comeback by attempting to take the game’s strongest neutral buff with five Cloud9 members up. Needless to say, Cloud9 found this incredibly fortunate and, with the help of the Elder Dragon, killed three members of FlyQuest and re-took control of the game.
There are some weeks where the lessons to be learned about the league’s best team are few and far between. This isn’t one of those weeks. This week’s lesson is as old as Cloud9 and hasn’t never stopped being true: Never take Baron against Cloud9. Or at the very least, make sure they aren’t all five still alive first.
Speaking of FlyQuest vs Cloud9, did you know Riot could rewind games??? I sure as hell didn’t. On the one hand I am more glad to be pleasantly surprised with Riot’s new technology, on the other; when were they going to tell us about this? I mean, if we didn’t pause here, it could have been months before we knew they could do this. What else could they be hiding?!?
In all seriousness though, I assume this tech came with the addition of replays which probably store a little more state-of-game data than Riot originally let on. This is pretty exciting news for a few reasons. The first and most obvious is that it doesn’t have to be the end of the world if a team wants a remake. It’s a short -- okay not that short -- process that seems about as painless as any bug-squishing solution could be. With every competitive game being played with the threat of technical difficulties always ominously looming overhead, it’s great to see Riot taking steps to minimize the damage of the bugs they can’t catch. This is probably the most important and substantive step forward on this issue in the last four years, and that means a lot for pro play.
But this is exciting for another reason too. Namely, the idea of teams, at some point in the future, being able to pick up LCS games from certain points in the replay and continue them as real games. This would allow teams to specially prepare for specific situations and better apply the things they learned from their games. That isn’t to say that Riot will create this feature, but it at least means it is a possibility. For now though, I am more than happy to settle for simpler remakes, and far fewer game ruining bugs.