By: Dan Dankert
I went into week one thinking Cloud 9 and TSM were the best two teams in the league, and by a wide margin. As Week 1 wraps up we have 4 teams that find themselves at 2-0, none of those teams are named Cloud 9 or TSM. In fact the top three teams from last split: Cloud 9, TSM, and P1 are a combined 1-5 after week 1.
This for me begs the following question: “Is the league getting stronger or are the top teams getting weaker?” I don’t think there is an easy way of answering this, but I want to take a closer look at the IMT-TSM series which I think will, in a lot of ways, demonstrate how it’s a mixture of the mid-tier teams playing very well, and the top tier teams not playing up to their highest potential. Let’s jump into game one.
*Disclaimer: I didn’t know that IMT won this series when I watched the VOD*
Ban 1) Leblanc Ban 1) Zac
Ban 2) Syndra Ban 2) Elise
Ban 3) Kennen Ban 3) Caitlyn
Both the Leblanc and Zac bans are very standard. I would be surprised if either make it out of ban phase early on this year. I absolutely LOVE Immortals bans here. The Syndra ban is necessary when playing against Bjerg, he is one of the best Syndra players in the world, and giving Pobelter a favorable matchup is so important. Kennen is unbelievably strong if let into a capable players hands, and Hauntzer is a capable player, this sets up IMT to grab basically anyone they want top without worrying about going down 30-40 CS in the early game.
TSM bans here seem okay to me. Elise is a respect ban, and I think it’s important. I have been watching some LCK, and it seems that their tier list in the jungle goes as follows: Zac à Elise à Lee sin. It looked like TSM didn’t want to nab Elise right away and would rather ban her than play against her. The Caitlyn ban makes since, she is still really strong while Hurricane helps build headshots.
Pick 1) Shen Pick 1) Ashe
Pick 2) Varus Pick 2) Fiora
Pick 3) Lee Sin Pick 3) Zyra
I have to say, I don’t really understand why Immortals picked Shen first. Part of me thinks that it was a flex pick, that they wanted to see if TSM was going to pick Thresh or Tahm. If they did it could go bot lane, and be used to go mid/top to help the solo lanes with 1v1s. But for some reason with the Zyra and Fiora picks they flexed it top lane. This is 100% speculation but I don’t see a reason why you take Shen first if that isn’t the reason. If it weren’t for Hauntzer misplaying and Immortals spending a lot of time top, Hauntzer gets a huge lead and snowballs TSM to a victory.
That being said I think TSM’s first pick phase was perfect. After seeing the Shen first pick they have to think its top because Shen support isn’t common. Snagging the Fiora gives them a win condition in itself. Fiora is really strong right now and though it isn’t that common in North America it’s very popular in Korea. Grabbing Ashe and Zyra also set their bot lane up without giving away too much information. At this point I think IMT won the first ban phase and TSM won the first pick phase.
Ban 4) Taliyah Ban 4) Karma
Ban 5) Ivern Ban 5) Tahm Kench
I think both teams did pretty well here. If I were TSM I would have banned Karma and Thresh. If I were IMT I would have banned Taliyah and Ahri. Here is why, we should go the ban phase thinking TSM is going to ban Karma or Thresh first because those are the proper two bans to make. If you open with the Ahri ban, it forces TSM to strongly consider an Ahri ban because there isn’t anyone else who can really handle the Orianna with Ahri off the table. It would have guaranteed you either the Orianna pick (which you probably don’t take if Bjerg can counter with Ahri), or the Thresh pick (which I think they should have gone with even after watching Olleh playing an immaculate Bard). That being said the scenario I just presented is extremely advanced and I can’t fault the coach for not getting on my level in the 30 or so seconds he has to think about things between bans.
After watching LCK I know that Olaf is a pretty decent pick into the Lee Sin. That being said I think IMT just wanted to take away whatever they thought was his 4th jungler was which they thought was Ivern. I think they both draw here. That being said I think Thresh really needed banned here by TSM, but they weren’t punished for it.
Pick 4) Bard Pick 4) Olaf
Pick 5) Ahri Pick 5) Galio
Olaf pick is pretty telegraphed here in my opinion. I don’t like the bard pick, but I do think it caught TSM off guard which in some respects could be worth a lot more than I am giving it credit for. The Ahri pick made a lot of sense to me, it doesn’t have any hard counters, and it’s something Pobelter can make plays with and it wave clears well. The Galio pick was outstanding. I was expecting Bjerg to play Ekko or Cassiopeia here even with less than idea matchups because Ekko opens up a very strong 1-3-1 and Cass really rounds out a 4-1. Then after the Galio lock in I recognized the unbelievable interaction.
Olaf engages using ragnarok and ghost and runs straight through the team to dive onto the IMT carries, as he gets to the back lines and IMT tries to kitd backwards you have Galio ult. Worst case scenario you are at least catching the IMT front line in the Galio ult and it then it allows the Zyra ultimate to be thrown out and Ashe can use her arrow as she pleases. I never saw a good utilization of this by TSM all game which was very disappointing.
Ultimately I think TSM wins the draft pretty handily, their team comp is really strong and I think IMT really botched the last part of the draft. In my notes I wrote down some takeaways from the draft as they were loading into the game and I have wrote down the following quote, “Shen first pick boggles my mind.” To be honest I still don’t understand it.
I think the first 10 minutes really served as a microcosm of the game. At 3 minutes Xmithie turns excellent pathing into an early gank top which slowed down the Fiora, that being said if Flame would have gotten the kill there I the lane goes farther in Shen’s direction and he can hold onto his advantage longer. That being said Shen still had a nice CS lead and had an assist so he was able to stay ahead of the Fiora. Also, Doublelift missed a decently easy arrow right before the 10 minute mark, which symbolizes to me that TSM just wasn’t as crisp as they needed to be to execute the comp that they had.
I think that Immortals consistently used every part of their kit well. Olleh was able to roam and make plays on Bard, using the magical journey very efficiently, I also thought that in professional play, Lee Sin often has a hard time using his early game pressure and mobility to impact the game, but I think Xmithie did this exceptionally. Both of these players had huge plays throughout the mid game. Also, Pobelter was able to farm and scale throughout the mid game as he was more or less just trying to survive against Bjerg in lane. Ashe didn’t make much of an impact all game long.
Fiora didn’t really come online until the late game, which really shouldn’t have been the case, but the strong early game by Flame and Xmithie delayed the Fiora until the late game. That being said TSM didn’t really utilize it as well as they should have. They should have let Fiora split while they had one of the most insane 4 man team fights someone could have right now in this meta.
The key to the late game came in the hands of Pobelter and Bard. Correct usage of charms and Bard ults really swung the game in their favor pretty consistently. Pobelter was able to hit just the most savage of charms on opposing carries consistently. Pobelter lived up the 200 IQ meme this game as he repeatedly out thought his opponent, forcing mistakes out of the TSM players. Olleh also used his ult to force non-linear fights where it was harder for the TSM team composition to be utilized to its full potential.
There were a couple times where Immortals made mistakes. For example at one point Xmithie kicked a taunting Galio into his three of his teammates. It was definitely a mistake, but when I watched the replay, I would have assumed that Galio would stop his taunting when he was kicked, making Bjerg a much easier target to delete. It might have just been a mistake due to the recent changes to Galio. This really let TSM back into the game and it almost evened the gold differential.
Ultimately Olleh was able to catch Doublelift in his ultimate, and that enabled Immortals to snatch back the game and beat a very good late game team in TSM.
Ban 1) Leblanc Ban 1) Zac
Ban 2) Shen Ban 2) Tahm Kench
Ban 3) Kennen Ban 3) Taliyah
I would say both teams did an average job with their banning phase. Nothing really stood out to me here.
Pick 1) Caitlyn Pick 1) Varus
Pick 2) Lee Sin Pick 2) Renekton
Pick 3) Lulu Pick 3) Syndra
Caitlyn and Lulu was a great pickup, I think it’s one of the most oppressive lanes in the game right now and I think giving Doublelift a champion he can hard carry on was intelligent. The Lee Sin pick was puzzling to me because Elise was still on the table, but Sven is known for his Lee Sin play so it’s not that big of a shocker. The Syndra was the best pick here. They took it knowing that they had 2 bans to help protect it from obvious counters.
Ban 4) Thresh Ban 4) Ahri
Ban 5) Olaf Ban 5) Fizz
Does TSM know something I don’t? Why didn’t they ban Elise? Instead they ban Thresh and Olaf. I really like the Thresh ban. Thresh is incredibly powerful and everyone in the LCS has thousands of hours on the best playmaking support in the game. Ahri and Fizz bans were necessary to protect Pobelter, and I think they were the same bans I would have gone with. That being said, I think I would very much think about banning Ekko instead of Ahri. If TSM pick both Fiora and Ekko in their second draft phase IMT would have been very susceptible to a 1-3-1 composition.
Pick 4) Galio Pick 4) Karma
Pick 5) Rumble Pick 5) Gragas
Karma helps to combat the Lulu and I prefer to have a karma on my team than a Lulu after the Lulu nerfs. I still don’t understand the Gragas selection above Elise, but it must be a matter of personal preference. I don’t like the combination of picks here on the side of TSM. If you take the Rumble why not grab the Orianna? She has a good matchup against the Syndra and she has so much team fight potential. It’s also one of Bjerg’s most played champions. On the flip side of that coin, if you take Galio why not take Jarvan 4? J4 isn’t a horrible matchup into Renekton and he can set up some insane grant entrances with his cataclysm (a.k.a. cataclysmic entrance).
I think both teams came out of the draft with decent teams. I would give a slight edge to TSM but ultimately because they had some oppressive lanes. That being said both teams had the tools to win the game leaving champion select. I was really locked into the Renekton vs. Rumble matchup with doran’s shield being the new starting item.
TSM had early CS leads in all lanes which was not surprising really (outside of top). The game was accerated when TSM 5 man ganked bot lane and almost blew the game wide open before 10 minutes into the game. They would have been able to do so if it weren’t for the really good wave clear of IMT. Instead the game was busted open by a Flame teleport bottom lane. The fight lead to multiple kills bottom lane, first turret going over to IMT, and a reversal in the gold lead.
TSM would stabilize and bring the gold back to almost equal because there was just so much power in those lanes. Flame continued to outplay Hauntzer in almost every aspect of the game. There was a lot of unique trading in the game from this point on. Immortals at one point elected to trade two towers for infernal drake. They then were able to get baron after winning a huge team fight at 26 minutes. Only a few minutes later they contested a TSM infernal drake attempt sacrificing Xmithie as he stole the drag with only a few ticks of health left. After all is said and done IMT find themselves with a 4.5k gold lead after their baron power play. Soon after baron wares off IMT dominates a team fight and runs it mid for the victory.
I think he played amazingly. He definitely consistently outplayed Hauntzer and he went a long way in helping immortals taking the series.
Probably my player of the series. I thought he did a great job controlling objectives. I would also say that his attention in both the top and bottom lanes helped his team considerably. To cap it off his Lee Sin was on point in game one.
His Ahri was immaculate and his Syndra wasn’t bad either. I think playing into Galio helped him to make it through laning phase and he was able provide more to the team fights than Bjerg was.
Cody Sun- B
I wouldn’t say he played amazing, but I also wouldn’t say he played poorly. I think a B is a respectable rating.
He played incredibly well in the first game but didn’t play outstanding in the second game. His Bard looked otherworldly just like the champion.
He was outclassed and there wasn’t much he could do about it.
I don’t think his Olaf was effective at all. His Lee Sin was pretty good, but not as impactful as they needed him to be.
I think Bjerg played well. That being said I expect much more from the best player in the North American LCS.
Didn’t impact the game whatsoever.
Ulting Doublelift in the last team fight might have saved him and changed the fight, but most likely it wouldn’t have. For the majority of the series he did his job well.
I’m not leaving this series thinking that IMT is a better team than TSM but I do think they played significantly better than I expected them too and TSM played considerably worse than I expect them too. It seems like the mid-tier teams are peaking while a lot of the top tier teams are not living up to expectations. We will have to see as the season goes on just how good this iteration of Immortals are and if they can live up to the days of Huni and Reignover.