League of Legends: IEM Grand Finals

So, I actually ended up taking a day off work and woke up early enough to watch the IEM Grand Final match between Team Solomid (TSM) and Counter-Logic Gaming (CLG).  I have to admit right off the bat that I am a CLG fan.  A friend of mine that I met in-game (thanks Daggrosh)  introduced me to General Wiser‘s youtube channel, and I would like to say I’ve learned quite a bit from watching HotshotGG play (even though I certainly wouldn’t be able to say that I’ve been able to put that learning into practice).

Before the games started, I was worried that CLG would repeat their performance from Dreamhack even though they completely dominated Group B.  I was also afraid that Reginald would end up with yet another reason to be the stout dickweed he’s proven himself to be.  I wish I could find a quote, but I read on the forums that, when asked about the outcome of the IEM tournament, he actually had the gall to say “Anyone can win, except CLG”.  Like what kind of douchebag would say that kind of thing publicly?

Anyway, this is not a blog about Reginald McHomotron.

After the first match, I was disappointed.  TSM came out strong (they always do, I will give them that) and showed why they were able to sweep Group A.  TheRainMan’s Irelia was especially strong and made an amazing initiation on HotshotGG at the dragon late in the game that (I believe) clutched the match for them.  The push that followed would not be repelled.  Chaox’s Kog’maw had blue and was spamming his ulti all day long.

The second match left me in higher spirits, however.  CLG baited TSM into a fight at baron and I believe the match really turned around with HotshotGG’s clutch flash/ult combo with Galio.  As a some-time Galio player myself, it was especially fun to see him in high-ELO action, at his very finest.

During the break between the second and final match, I had a chance to sit on my porcelaine throne and consider what kind of bans I would like to see CLG make.  My reasoning was as follows:  XSpecial with Alistar is just too silly to think about, so he had to get banned.  I also wanted to see Janna get banned, because Reginald was just scary with her in the first match.  And TheOddOne was particularly vicious with Nocturne, so I wanted to see him get banned as well.  But these bans would make Zilean available (which is also something I don’t want to think about, the vulgarity of it causes me to wretch — Reginald is just that good wtih him).  When it finally came time to see the bans/picks, I have to admit, I laughed out loud at HotshotGG’s Eve troll.  I was also relieved to see Nocturne get picked up for SaintVicious, forcing TheOddOne to jungle with Gangplank.

At the start of the match, I was concerned for Salce.  Vlad had no way to whittle down Udyr.  I was also relieved to see Reginald take top with Nidalee vs. HotshotGG’s Cho’Gath.  Sure, Nid is a tough top lane, but Reginald belongs in mid and TheRainMan belongs up top.  The position switch (I honestly believe) is part of what caused TSM’s eventual loss.  It’s clear to anyone that watches that Reginald is the team captain.  From his vantage point in mid, he can organize and rally the team.  Being in top lane, tied up by Cho’Gath’s inexorable push was a detriment to the team’s perforamance in general.

The game went on without first blood for the first 15 minutes, and the first team fight (and subsequent push up mid by TSM) caused my heart to sink in my chest.  Even though the gold and CS was fairly even, the 3-0 score and huge turret advantage put (in my eyes) CLG in a bad place.  But just as quickly, CLG made a great comeback and evened out the score at 4-3 and their own push up the mid-lane.  And that was it.  From that point on, CLG had firm control of the map, lanes and buffs.  As far as I’m concerned, TSM was in a bad place, and it was all but over.  And then the stand-off that caused stopped the hearts of nearly 100,000 fans on the stream.  Bot inhib was down, mid turret and inhib were just taken out and then…  Nothing.  Silence.

Would they give the match to CLG?  Would they remake after a 45-minute nail-biter?  No one knew, and everyone was furious.

I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.  Or rather, not seeing.  CLG, so close to winning the IEM Grand Final, was in position to be stymied by a hiccup in the interwebs.   During those moments I think I started gnawing on my finger flesh, since the nails had already been chewed off.  What was going to happen?  Would CLG be stripped of a clear and undeniable victory?

And then, just as quickly, the stream was live again.  All had been saved and the game was in a similar state (not exactly, but definitely better than the alternative) than it had been when the stream died.  A quick teamfight near baron ensued and a clutch ultimate from Urgot saved the day for CLG.

Well, after all that, I’m happy for CLG and the outcome of the IEM Grand Finals.  A well-deserved and hard-won victory for HotshotGG and his teammates.

Thanks for a great show, to both TSM and the rest of the teams that competed.

-V.

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League of Legends: Mastery before adaptability

In the game League of Legends, there are more than 75 different champions to choose from and each fills a role typical of the traditional archetypical trinity of role-playing games.  There are healers, tanks, dps’ers, rogues, warriors and wizards of all sorts.  The common belief that all players should learn and be able to use any of those types of champs effectively is widely accepted as the norm.  And for ranked play, this is certainly very true.  Focusing specifically on a single champ can leave you high and dry in ranked play if your favorite happens to get banned.  The most popular way to avoid this, of course, is to learn many different champs filling all the different roles.  This helps players not only adapt to their team’s needs in any given circumstance, but also broadens a players understanding of the game as a whole.

With that said, however, normal (unranked) play is a whole different ballgame.  Normal play is determined by what is called a “Blind pick” (as opposed to the Ban/Open Pick one experiences in matches where ELO is on the line).  What that means, in essence, is that every player on a particular team is free to choose whichever champ they feel like playing.  Only occasionally do players actually have any real concern for team composition or necessary roles.  For example, I’ve found myself in countless games without a tank, or even in the worst cases, without any real team-fight initiators at all.  But this discussion is not about team composition.

This discussion is about champion mastery versus player adaptability in normal, unranked games and why I believe champion mastery far outweighs the importance of being able to play several different champions and/or roles in those situations.

I believe the school of thought that states that players should learn a number of champions does not apply here.

In my own experience, I can say with confidence that I have mastered one champion.  Out of all the characters available, I’ve learned as much as I possibly can with Sona in the confines of unranked play.  I say this, because I’ve played hundreds of games with her and have faced nearly every possible matchup.  I’ve played Sona against a Sona.  I’ve played Sona against Xin Zhao.  I’ve played Sona against every other champion out there, with the exception of Vayne (who was only just released earlier this week).  I know how Sona stacks up in terms of range, durability and mobility.  I feel confident that I can approach any game with Sona and win with very few deaths (0-2) and a very high number of assists (often more than 20).

So what does that say about me as a player?  Nothing, other than the fact that I am consistent with Sona.  Otherwise, I know nothing, and that’s why I only play unranked games.

The reason I say this is because of my recent experience with Vayne.  When I enter the fields of justice with Vayne, I feel as though I have started from scratch, and must re-learn the game anew.  With Sona, I feel confident being aggressive against a champion like Irelia because I know that I will not only be able to outmaneouver her, but I have a very distinct range advantage and a superior form of healing.   Alternatively, with Sona, I know to maintain safe distance from champions like Taric or Sion.  The ranged stun those champions have can put Sona in a very bad situation.

With Vayne, on the other hand, there is definite danger aggressing Irelia.  Irelia’s Bladesurge has approximately the same range as Vayne’s auto-attack.  Moving into that range puts Vayne in jeopardy due to her fragile nature and Irelia’s high burst damage.  Add to that Irelia’s ability to heal with Hiten Style, and Vayne is simply out-matched.  For me, this lesson was hard-won.

But that just brings the point home all the more dramatically.  In order to be as consistent with Vayne as I am with Sona, I’ll need to relearn all the possible match-ups against her.  Not only that, but Vayne has an entirely different style of play.  As a support champion, Sona requires very little gold and needs to be close to the action in order to be effective.  Her healing, speed boost and even her ultimate all have a range that requires her to be on the heels of her carries and tanks (albiet at a slight distance and safely behind those she supports).  Vayne, however, is an assassin type.  She requires a great amount of gold and a strong initiator ahead of her.  Sona can initiate team fights with her ultimate.  Vayne is effectively useless until someone else has committed to a fight.  Only at that time can Vayne truly bring her weapons to bear, behind the scenes, and seek and destroy that enemy support or ranged carry.

Sure, I’ll be able to fill a few different roles by playing with Sona, Nasus, Vayne and Galio, but will I be consistent?

I believe taking the time and making the effort to master a single champion at a time is the best foot forward in the direction of success in League of Legends.  Yes, being able to play several different champions and roles makes a player more versatile, but focusing on a single champion at a time allows a player to become consistent.

If one were to become serious about competitive play (or “going pro”) one should very seriously consider spending the time it takes to learn several different champs, certainly.  But I highly recommend doing so one character at a time while maintaining good practice with those champions who are already mastered.