By: Dan Dankert
As I was watching League of Legends this past weekend I expected to see a lot more of Fiora than I did, so I looked for a series where Fiora was actually played and it won so I decided to do my VOD review on the Dignitas-Team Liquid series. In game one Ssumday blind picked the Fiora into Lourlo, which may because he is that confident on the pick or because he knows that mechanically Lourlo is leagues away from him. Either way his performance was masterful and fun to watch. That being said, I think the dominance that he demonstrated on the pick, and the dominance that Looper demonstrated on Jayce begs the question “What is the top lane meta?”
I think the top lane meta is really unique in the sense that there isn’t really this clear tier list. For example when I think about support Thresh, and Karma seem to be clear S tier champions with Lulu, Bard, and Rakan seemingly being A tier, and so on. I might go so far to say that Thresh is the only S tier champion and by a wide margin, but alas I will defer to the apparent tier list that is present internationally. But the top lane doesn’t really have that standardized tier list. There are champions like Kennen that are very popular but don’t always pop off like they are supposed to. There are other champions that have creeped into the meta for God know why. I think Jarvan 4 is a good example of that. The top lane doesn’t really have an S tier champion outside of maybe Galio. The result is an A tier that is littered with 10 or more champions that can be plugged into team compositions to fill gaps or to pursue certain strategies.
The other reason I like to analyze this matchup is because right now the standings are all over the place. Currently there are 4 teams that are 3-1 including: Dignitas, Immortals, Counter Logic Gaming, and Team Envy. That’s right, 40% of the teams in the league are currently tied for first and none of them are named TSM or Cloud 9. Dignitas was 3-0 going into this series against 0-3 Team Liquid, but what ensued is a clear example of how some of these top ranked teams aren’t really that great. The drafting that team Dignitas showed was horrendous, and the play from their bot lane was infuriating. This should have been a clean 2-0 for Dignitas, and at the very worst it should have been a strong 2-1 for team Dignitas. But time and time again the coaching staff, and the team shot themselves in the foot. Let’s dive into the draft of game 1.
Dignitas Team Liquid
Ban 1) Leblanc Ban 1) Zac
Ban 2) Xayah Ban 2) Lee Sin
Ban 3) Galio Ban 3) Kennen
The Leblanc and Zac bans were 100% expected. I didn’t find fault in the Xayah ban though I didn’t think she was ban worthy, that being said I didn’t really see much Xayah last weekend outside of Xayah + Rakan lanes that are unique and I guess this could have been an attempt to quell that, though I think Rakan is the better ban if you are just banning one so that people don’t play both. I will get into why I think the Xayah ban was there as we move into games 2 and 3.
The Kennen ban was smart as it denied that pick from Ssumday and it denied the flex picking with ADC and Top that Cloud 9 did. The Lee Sin ban from Liquid I thought was misplaced. I think Elise as a rule is stronger, and I have seen multiple times over the past several weeks where Olaf gets the better end of the matchup against Lee Sin.
Pick 1) Elise Pick 1) Gragas
Pick 2) Ashe Pick 2) Karma
Pick 3) Fiora Pick 3) Rengar
Why Rengar? Why Ashe? Why Fiora? I had so many questions. I will take them one at a time though. So you banned Lee Sin, that’s great, you give up Elise, that’s okay too. Buy why run for the Rengar? The obvious 3rd pick was your ADC. If you are really sold on Rengar, there is a good chance that it’s not getting banned in that second rotation of picks. There will likely be at least one mid ban, and at the worst you will have one jungle ban, presumably Olaf, so either way you have the option of playing the Rengar if you are that dead set on playing him.
The Ashe pick by Dignitas was confusing for me. I don’t think Ashe is even high A tier, and with Caitlyn and Varus on the table why not run one of those? Those are both S tier and unstoppable, but the Ashe is so mediocre and it had little impact on the series.
I won’t say much about the Fiora pick, I have a feeling that Dignitas assumed that it would be banned if it made it to the second ban phase. Though I think grabbing their support was the better pick in most instances, I will give them a pass this once.
Ban 4) Ahri Ban 4) Thresh
Ban 5) Syndra Ban 5) Zyra
I love banning Ahri in this scenario, it allows you almost complete freedom as to which of the most powerful mid champions that they want. For example, if I were coaching, I would almost always ban Ahri here and pick Orianna, with this draft staring me. Orianna is safe and lethal. With Ahri off the table, she has no bad matchups and she can play perfectly in a 1-4 or a deathball composition. She is also explosive around baron, dragon, and rift herald. I also love the thresh ban, though I think I replace the Zyra ban with a Lulu ban when Fiora has already been picked. That being said, I think the legendary combo of Ashe and Zyra is enough to make even the most composed of coaches to make poor decisions.
The Syndra ban here for me was weird. Syndra doesn’t really hurt them. I personally love the Orianna into Syndra matchup, you can survive Syndra’s oppressive laning phase well, and you transition into the mid and late game much better than Syndra does. What I would have done is either ban Caitlyn, Varus, or Ekko. In terms of the ADC ban, I would just get rid of whoever I thought would give me a harder matchup, probably Caitlyn, but Varus is ban worthy as well. I think the Karma pick gives Caitlyn the edge in my opinion. Ekko is mainly so that you can split push more effectively, and since you have Karma, Gragas, and whichever ADC you pick to wave clear you can pretty easily 1-4 or even 1-3-1 with Rengar in another lane if he gets ahead early.
Pick 4) Orianna Pick 4) Caitlyn
Pick 5) Lulu Pick 5) Taliyah
All of these picks are what I would have done outside of the Taliyah pick. That being said I have no objection to Taliyah, I just don’t find it very high tier, but they made it work exceptionally well in game 2.
Ultimately I think Dignitas won the draft, though both sides made ample mistakes. The Rengar pick really sticks out as a sore thumb considering the pick itself and where it was picked. I think grabbing your ADC of choice made a lot more sense there. I think that played a huge role in why they eventually would go on to losing this game.
Shrimp really dominated the early game. He made a nice play bot lane to get first blood but ends up stepping on a trap which leads to the worst case scenario, Reignover showing up and turning things around, giving Team Liquid a slight advantage getting 2 kills for 1, though that one kill was first blood. Shrimp then made a nice play at Reignover’s krugs and ended up killing Reignover. Stopping Reignover from really getting online provided Ssumday some extra time to work on getting farther ahead over Lourlo. Something that would come to pass. By 10 minutes Ssumday had a 25 cs lead on Lourlo and had complete control on the 1v1. At this point it wasn’t if the Fiora would take over the game, but rather, how long until the Fiora takes over the game.
The real theme of the mid game for me was the sacrifices Dignitas made as a team to rocket Ssumday ahead. Dignitas make it a priority to get Rift Herald and summon it top lane almost immediately so that Ssumday can crack open the top side of the map and unleash more devastation with his split push carry. Ssumday then basically has control of both team’s top side jungle throughout this portion of the game as he continued to get bigger and bigger.
The late game was really all about the Fiora getting huge and a few dumb mistakes by Team Liquid lead to a cool win before 35 minutes.
Team Liquid Dignitas
Ban 1) Kennen Ban 1) Zac
Ban 2) Fiora Ban 2) Xayah
Ban 3) Lee Sin Ban 3) Galio
I think the Team Liquid bans here were quite good, though I think I would replace Leblanc with Lee Sin.
Okay, so here it goes. I think the reason the Xayah ban was used here had nothing to do with the Xayah + Rakan pairing that is so strong. Xayah’s ult makes her immediately untargetable for a short period of time. It’s perfect for dodging Ashe arrows. If you are dead set on playing Ashe, and picking her early, you don’t want your opponent to have that option. So they continued to buy into the Ashe pick even though it’s not a high tier pick AND it cost them a ban every game to make sure that the easy counter wasn’t on the table.
Pick 1) Elise Pick 1) Gragas
Pick 2) Cait Pick 2) Ashe
Pick 3) Karma Pick 3) Zyra
These three picks from Liquid were perfect. Nothing I would have done different at all. 100%, 10 out of 10 perfect. Dignitas on the other hand… I just don’t understand it. First of all, did anyone even think that the Gragas was going to Ssumday? I sure didn’t buy that. The correct play here was grabbing Caitlyn and Karma. It would have given them the upper hand in the phase instead of immediately falling behind. But I am not even going to criticize that as much as I am going to criticize the Zyra pick.
Why aren’t you picking Thresh here? He is by far the strongest support in the game and he gives your team so much more threat in lane. Karma is a traditional counter to Zyra, but Thresh is a great counter to Karma. So instead of choosing a counter, you decide to opt into a bad matchup. I think the draft for Dignitas and even the game for Dignitas was lost here. You can’t come back from the hole you dug yourself. You didn’t get Ssumday onto a carry champion, and your bot lane has an abysmal matchup.
Ban 4) Syndra Ban 4) Leblanc
Ban 5) Jayce Ban 5) Shen
Does Keane not play Leblanc? Liquid knew they wanted Taliyah so they got rid of Syndra which was smart, I also think the Jayce ban was amazing. It completely shut down Ssumday, with Jayce off the table he had no meta carry champions to fall back to, and with the jungle champion pool already pinched, they knew they were going to have either a poor top lane champion or a poor jungle champion.
Pick 4) Taliyah Pick 4) Renekton
Pick 5) Rumble Pick 5) Orianna
Renekton is the best that Dignitas could get here, but it wasn’t that great. It ended up being a wash between the Renekton and the Rumble. If you have the best top laner in the league, you need to manufacture a way for him to get a favorable matchup and carry the game, ESPECIALLY if you are sacrificing your bot lane matchup to try and get it. 100% inexcusable and it cost them this game. Again I don’t like Taliyah but it worked really well for them this game. The Orianna pick was the only pick they made in this game that I agree with for Dignitas.
I’m not actually going to in game analysis of these two games. The champion select made it evident who was going to win so I don’t think it’s at all necessary.
Dignitas Team Liquid
Ban 1) Leblanc Ban 1) Zac
Ban 2) Xayah Ban 2) Kennen
Ban 3) Galio Ban 3) Fiora
Once again Team Liquid go above and beyond to try and shelter Lourlo and once again they are not punished on bit for that. There was no attempt by Dignitas to adapt to the series. Banning Caitlyn over Xayah or Galio makes a lot of sense here. It would have forced Liquid into a really tough choice, do I give them Galio, Zac, Kennen, or Fiora? I think the answer is they give you Galio. That would lead to TL picking Elise and Karma first which would give you Gragas and Ashe. You now have the Galio either going top or mid, either way it’s an S tier champion in the lane and you responded by getting a top tier jungler and the ADC that you really wanted to play.
Pick 1) Elise Pick 1) Gragas
Pick 2) Ashe Pick 2) Caitlyn
Pick 3) Zyra Pick 3) Olaf
The Elise pick makes sense, but why in the world do you select Zyra over Karma or Thresh. Is Cop’s idea of the meta so warped that a low A tier or high B tier support is somehow better for the team than the clear two best champions in the role that are both up? Also, why are they continually opting into Ashe with Varus still on the board? For Team Liquid I think grabbing Karma here was better than the Olaf pick. If Cop would have wised up at all Karma and possibly Thresh would have been banned out.
Ban 4) Taliyah Ban 4) Renekton
Ban 5) Ahri Ban 5) Jayce
This may come as a shock to Cop, but Taliyah was never your problem. This mediocre mid-tier champion is not causing your team to lose game, the matchups you continue to put your bot lane in is the reason your team has 0 hope of winning these games. I think that once again the bans from Team Liquid were spot on. Throwing Ssumday down another two champions on his list was brilliant.
Pick 4) Orianna Pick 4) Karma
Pick 5) Jarvan 4 Pick 5) Syndra
Getting Karma here must have just been like Christmas day, you take a risk and get the Olaf just to have Karma fall to you after the ban phase. What more could Team Liquid have asked for. With his pick of the litter, Goldenglue decided that Syndra was his counter pick of choice. In all honestly I don’t think it mattered what he played, that team was going to win even by that point. Looking at their picks I would say they had 4 S tier champions and 1 high A tier champions (I consider Olaf high A tier only because Reignover is amazing with him) whereas Dignitas left the draft with at best 2 S tier champions and probably only 1 A tier champion, and 2 B tier champions. It was honestly pitiful.
This game was also more or less over by the time the draft was completed but that being said Dignitas also played horrendously at the start of the game giving up a huge lead. If it weren’t for unbelievable wombo combos, and ridiculously poor choices from Dignitas this game would have been over at or around 20 minutes.
It’s unfortunate that I could basically write n Liquids draft as they went, because it was very strong, but I was left continuously dumbfounded by Dignitas’ draft time and time again. I think this game was lost at champion select and the poor play of the Dignitas bot lane only made it even harder to Sssumday to try and carry this series. Ssumday was unreal in this series. He consistently played like how I expected him to last year. I can’t imagine how great Cloud 9 or TSM would look with him on their team. But, despite his heroic performance, he was thwarted by his own coach.
Seeing this series leaves so many question marks for me as the team continues their season. Their wins this series are currently against Flyquest, Team Envy, and TSM. Two of those three teams I consider to be in the lower half of the league and probably not going to playoffs this year, and then the also lost to Team Liquid who I predict will finish last in the league. So all things considering, outside of their upset of TSM, the team hasn’t looked great thus far and is likely a fringe playoff team in my opinion.