With the Summer Split over, and World's on the horizon, I've been thinking a lot about what the most recent season means for League of Legends, and I'm left with a few thoughts on the game. Mostly, I want to talk about who I think really pulled weight this season. So what's my Allstar team look like?
It's all-too tempting for me to just pick Cloud9 as my Allstar team. They played so cohesively that it's hard to imagine them performing as well with any newcomer. Of course, this is always true of Allstar teams; they won't play as well beacuse they haven't been playing together. But Cloud9 has two qualities which make this a bigger deal. First of all, they have a massively different playstyle than a lot of teams. Second, that playstyle is VERY team oriented, sacrificing ADC gold for top/jungle gold. We are used to seeing teams built around carries, but Cloud9 is really built around their front line, with the theory that a protected back line with less gold does more damage than an unprotected back line with more gold. However, I tried to ignore this factor as much as possible. So without further ado, here is my Allstar team.
WARNING: I give 0 flying fracks about spoilers, so read ahead at your peril; information through PAX is to be found in the following article.
Jungle - Meteos
There really is no question about this. All through Season 2, junglers were about ganks. Their job was one of three things:
- Gank and snowball lanes
- Invade and counter-jungle a jungler to inhibit their ganking ability.
It's too easy to see invading and counter-jungling as being about getting more gold than the enemy jungle, and to do so highly simplifies the choice. Counter-jungling and invading are particularly effective against ganking junglers is effective for several reasons. Obviously, taking gold and levels away from them hurts them, but it also gives you a keen amount of vision into their jungle, cutting the number of ganks they can enact. It's not so much that counter-jungling stops ganks, but that the set up for counter-jungling (warding in their jungle) or invading (pushing lanes and invading as a group) both make ganks unattractive. In the former case, you can see the ganks coming from miles off. In the latter case, your laners spend less time in lanes (where they are gankable) and the enemy laners spend more time pinned under towers (where they can't respond as well to ganks).
But ward coverage became more and more steady for a few reasons:
- Increasing knowledge of the power of wards
- Season 3 nerfs to Oracle's Elixir
- Season 3 itemization changes allowing more early wards
As such, ganking became less central to the game, and it is here that Meteos' methodical strategy shines. If you watch Cloud 9 (or even watch Meteos solo queue), so much of his time is spent just farming. A lane is getting pushed? Gank it. Regardless of the success of the gank, shove with your laner and get tower damage down. A lane is pushing? Walk into it, shove with your laner and get tower damage down. Both laners just killed each other? Walk into lane, shove alone and get tower damage down. Why is this such a strong strategy? One, it gives you early towers, which snowballs into an early lead in both map vision and gold. Two, much as Moscow 5 abused lane pushing to invade, Cloud9 abuses lane pushing to control dragon. Cloud 9 got among the lowest first bloods of the game, but the most towers by 39 (253 to Vulcun's 214), and the most dragons by 8 (68 to TSM's 60). Meteos is careful and consistent, waiting for a moment to aggress, but otherwise just applying pressure by pushing. No jungler could replace him in this. On top of that, while we often talk about champion versatility as this huge strength, Meteos simply plays what he thinks is best, week in and week out, ending 10-0 with Nasus and 8-0 with Zac, with 18/28 games on those champions, while only (it's hard to say 'only' about Meteos) going 7-3 with his other champions. Finally, his methodically play is clearly evident in his stats, as he racked up the fewest deaths (29 deaths in 28 games, barely more than 1 PER GAME!) and the highest KDA (12.66).
Am I a Meteos fanboy? Most definitely. But I'll be the first to say that I'd hardly heard of Cloud9 when the season started, and while I was happy to see them emulating the Korean scene, and quickly labeled them my favorite team because of the lack of ego that showed, the fact that Meteos was able to make so many fans so quickly, without ever making any seriously spectacular plays, is an indication of his skill.
Now onto the positions that will require me to think at all.
Top - Balls/Dyrus
I had an incredibly hard time making this decision, and I'll need to preface it. I am not a TSM fanboy. In fact, I despise TSM. I pulled for Fnatic at Dreamhack Season 1 because I hated the egos on TSM and CLG (but especially the bro culture on TSM). I wasn't even a Fnatic fan, I just didn't want to see TSM or CLG win. When Curse sprung up, I was an immediate fan. Why? They weren't TSM or CLG. I have consistently thought of TSM as everything that is wrong with American eSports, too much ego, too much personality, too much talk and not enough walk. This narrative was finally starting to come true in the LCS, with TSM having steady competition in both the Spring and the Summer. My excitement was palpable; maybe this circus sideshow was coming to an end. And yet here we are, with TSM around another Season, going to World's once again, and even beating one of my favorite teams, Vulcun.
Why is this? I think this is largely to do with Dyrus. The TSM squad has always been hotheaded and impulsive, and replacing TheRainMan with Dyrus has been an extreme boon to them. He has become extremely relaxed over the last year, acting as a stabilizer for an otherwise mercurial team, and has even been complimented by Shy, who played against him at the last Allstars.
And even with all of that, it's hard to leave out Balls. On a team known for spamming out 2 or 3 champions, Balls has 5 champions with 4 or more games (Meteos has 2, LemonNation has 2, Sneaky has 3, Hai has 4, and Balls has 5). With exception of Shen, however, they are all tanky AP Carries. He is extremely instrumental to their strategy, and one could even argue that the strength of each of his champions at level 6 (the only champ he plays who has no game-changing ult is Elise). Despite sharing two of his champions with his teammates (Elise with Meteos and Kennen with Hai), it is the champion only he plays, Rumble, which draws the most bans against C9.
Runners-Up - Nientosoh/Sycho Sid
Nientosoh is a strong top laner, but suffers from playing just too many champions. On champions he has played more than 2 games with, he is 11-8. On the remaining champions, he is 2-8. I think this is, in part, due to his change from ADC on Team MRN. I hope to see him adjust to CLG and find his champ pool better next season.
Sycho Sid is probably even stronger a top laner than Nientosoh, but suffers from the same problem; he is 15-5 with champions he has played more than 2 games with, and 5-3 with his remaining champions.
This is actually a common problem for top laners (Dyrus is 14-10 with champs with 2+ games, and 0-4 on the rest). Of course, Balls does not have this problem, but there are only 2 such champions, and he is 1-0 with both of them.
Mid - Mandatorycloud
It's hard to argue with a record-breaking 167 kills. Mancloud is the backbone of Vulcun, and is comfortable on a number of champions. He also makes the most GPM of any player, at 397.5. He is known for making extremely aggressive and intelligent plays, and always having an impact, regardless of the champion or the start. Remember than 'more than 4 games' number I trotted around about Cloud9? Well Mancloud has exactly one champion he has picked 4 times or more, Zed. He has played 12 champions, and there appears to be little correlation between the number of games he has played with a champion and how well he does with them (in fact, with Zed aside, he appears to play slightly better on the rarer champions, but that's probably just noise in the data):
4 games played: 3-1
3 games played: 10-5
2 games played: 4-2
1 game played: 3-0
Honorable Mention - Hai
Do I really need to ramble about how another Cloud9 player is really good? Hai's Zed is stupidly good and stuff. I dunno, Cloud9 OP?
I originally had a confused train of thought. I meant to comment on players who had disappointing seasons, but I scrapped that, except somehow, just subsumed it under 'Honorable Mention'. i guess I'll leave it in, but this note here will explain why the section doesn't exist for other positions.
Disappointing - Nyjacky/Scarra
Scarra has great game knowledge, but his play has not improved as much as other players', and as a result, Dignitas has maintained mediocre showings.
Nyjacky showed great promise as an AP Carry last season, and came across as an AP Carry saddled with a number of team problems (the least of which were the adjustment period to a new bot lane synergy). But Curse finds itself once again in a somewhat disappointing position. Who will they blame this time? It can't be Elementz :p. Nyjacky has underperformed, not to mention sticking to rather old-school champions.
ADC - Sneaky/Zuna
While everybody else was playing Ezreal (41), Caitlyn (30), Draven (30), Twitch (26), Vayne (23), Sneaky played 11 of the 18 Ashe games. And while the other Ashe players went a combined 3-4, he went 11-0. He also demonstrated versatility by playing Jayce ADC once, and seemed to stutter only when playing Ezreal and Vayne.
Zuna, on the other hand, took to long-ranged carries, relying less on peel, and more on the sheer terror that Mancloud induced in teams. His Tristana play (7-2) stands in stark contrast to the rest of NA LCS (3-6), his Caitlyn was incredibly strong (6-1), and he even managed to borrow some pages out of Sneaky's book with a 2-1 Ashe showing. It's hard to say how well his style would work without the strong lead of Mancloud, but I think it's safe to say he would continue to play reasonably well.
Honorable Mention - Wild Turtle
Wild Turtle did great for TSM, but I can't help but bemoan his lack of versatility. After all, after he left Cloud9, they took off, and I can't help but wonder if picking up a more versatile ADC (like Sneaky) contributed to that. There's a reputation to each role; ADCs overvalue themselves, APCs play too aggressively, top laners are alone too often, and so on. Cloud9's strategy forces the ADC to sit second fiddle, and perhaps that simply isn't possible for Wild Turtle?
Support - LemonNation/Bloodwater
Is it any wonder that I picked supports from the same teams as my ADC picks? It's so hard to separate a bot lane simply because each of their actions are so interdependent. Would Sneaky's Ashe be so strong without the strong poke and disengage LemonNation's Zyra brings? It's hard to say, but all 3 of Cloud9's losses have LemonNation on a champion who isn't Zyra or Thresh. Would Zuna survive the laning phase without Bloodwater's heavy lane-strength supports? It's again hard to say, but the one game BloodWater picked a weaker laning support (Janna), his team lost.
LemonNation played Thresh largely with Draven, for aggressive plays, and the Draven pick was largely abandoned after his changes, so let's focus on Zyra for now. Zyra is the glue of the Ashe Zyra lane. Without Zyra, Ashe is a low mobility champion who brings basically an ult. With Zyra, Ashe is protected in the early game by extremely strong CC (a multi-target root and an AoE slow). Zyra also synergizes with Ashe's long-range poke, setting her up for easy distance volleys. Finally, Zyra/Ashe have a devastating level 6 combo that can allow a ganking mid or jungle to make their way past wards while the enemy bot lane is chain-CC'd (or they can simply pick a squishy target off on their own).
Bloodwater, on the other hand, played SO much Sona (going 10-2 when the rest of NA LCS went 17-20), and essentially buffered the transition of Zuna's ADCs into the late game, nullifying their early weaknesses. Zyra can act similarly, allowing for a high level of disengage. He also blanketed the map in vision, allowing his ADC to farm safely, and allowing Mancloud to freely make plays in the laning phase.
So it looks like I'd be running Cloud 9 plus ManCloud, given a choice, or perhaps Vulcun plus Meteos and either Balls or Dyrus. Maybe I am a fanboy.
What do you think? Who really pulled their weight this year and how/why?
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