Minions Have Spawned

a League of Legends analysis blog

Bracing the Onslaught: ROX vs SKT, Spring Playoffs 2016

“The best defense is a good offense,” sums up this series for SKT. They toyed with the Tigers, often dangling a chicken wing by a thread only to twirl it out of ROX’s reach. SKT had only set the pace in Game 1 where they executed the game plan we knew were going to. Games 3 and 4 on the other hand, were a wash and repeat—make the Tigers invest, then disengage and find openings in that brief period where key spells are on CD or where terrain is favorable while keeping up vision control fiercely.

springplayoffs_game1_graph

springplayoffs_game1_map

Game 1 – Typical perfect game by SKT
(source: lolesports.com)

Full disclosure beforehand: I’m leaving out Game 2 from this review because Ekko was let loose by SKT on red side. They chose to ban Kindred instead of the undisputed no. 1 OP and could not deal with him even with Faker on Azir. Giving away the OP to a top-tier team is never a great idea. SKT adhered to this rule against KT but slipped up and paid the price.

That said, ROX learnt from KT that Maokai and/or Sivir make terrible presents to give, and consistently banned them out. After allowing Zilean loose to Faker in Game 1, they also decided they did not want to deal with too much living and not enough dying. On SKT’s end, they deleted Nidalee and Ryze every match and subsequently the cancerous Ekko.

So then the biggest question is: Why did SKT drop all 4 games to ROX this season, yet managed to overcome them in the Finals? How does one win 3 full games against the no. 1 seed that only 2 teams have inconsistently beaten the last 4 months? This is not anywhere near Tigers pulling an IMT running 3 ADCs. This is SKT attempting to climb Everest from Camp IV after finally reaching base camp  halfway through Spring.

Here’s how SKT treaded across Tiger territory—and came out alive:

  1. Picks & bans

TEAM COMPOSITION: SKT reveals a lot in their first picks. Save for powerpicks, last year’s Worlds was all about the jungle for bengi. This year, it varies between grabbing one for Blank or giving Duke a slab of meat.

Poppy first pick was a smart, smart move. Any other pick wouldn’t have been wise because she served too many effective purposes of:
a) Denying Smeb a tanky + carry top laner
b) Substituting for Maokai
c) Working her into SKT’s split push comp
d) Taking the pick rather than wasting it over other priority bans and
e) Generally preventing her from going into enemy hands who can decisively can turn fights around with Keeper’s Verdict.

springplayoffs_poppy

Duke’s performance on Poppy
(source: lolesports.com)

In the regular season SKT was pretty much fed up of her ult which was too disruptive to their controlled teamfights. Each time they struggled against her, a ban would ensue the next game. Conversely, SKT has not been one to use Nautilus as Smeb did. Game 4 with ROX back on blue side, the Tigers finally got their hands on 1st pick Poppy because SKT wisely took out the Time-winder and ROX further grabbed Trundle to deny SKT a top-tier response.

springplayoffs_pickban_lastgame

That’s when the armadillo was deployed.

Ok.

Look at it from SKT’s POV: The way they play in this tanky-top meta is not that different from last year’s bouts. Go through the list of Maokai replacements—they’ll need someone to amuse the enemy’s backline, split push, and as a bonus be fast enough to join teamfights with the team’s teleport disadvantage as Faker runs cleanse against Liss mid. The cherry on top? Who needs dashes when you can just roll into Poppy. Rammus even forces Liss to use her CC on him because ROX didn’t have many other ways to stop the spinning.

springplayoffs_rammus_entertainment

“I’ve seen a lot of things, but this… this is a first.”

The champion SKT did let through was Lissandra, who they didn’t really want to deal with in regular season either. IEM revealed a Vel’Koz and Bard pick against her, and since this Final, Faker has added Cass into the mix so it appears that SKT has found ways to maneuver around her.

Otherwise, life was pretty standard. Lucian or Ezreal for Bang, Alistar or Tahm Kench for Wolf—a perfect champ in the dis/re-engagement flows.

  1. Vision control & disengaging/re-engaging

What do you do when you know there’s a bunch of Tigers waiting to pounce and mull you to death? According to SKT, expect their threats, side-step their blows, curb their aggression, take hits, then retaliate inch by inch. Teamfights in this series were markedly longer and quite intentionally so.

While SKT set the tone in Game 1, the Tigers naturally adapted and never allowed them to attack freely again. One of the biggest mistakes in the regular season was SKT forcing plays that not only ROX but KT too capitalized on.

Instead of making the first move, SKT planned for the aggression. They expected the teleports from ROX, and before they made plays they made sure they knew where Peanut was. Faker also placed more pressure mid to draw attention. In this instance when Peanut showed his face in lane, Blank sized the opportunity to gank Smeb in standard fashion, then pushed the lead further by denying blue as Peanut was forced to stay at bot to collect the crashing wave.

“A careless step…then teeth!”

Besides pressure from Faker, SKT stepped up in vision to keep tabs on the battle ward. Watch the river—it is littered with SKT wards top to bottom so that any invade will be spotted and sometimes, punished.

SKT also embarked on active warding to place deeper wards. It was amusing to see Tahm Kench’s level 1 stack threat similar to Braum in Game 1.

Bang and Wolf denied PraY farm, XP, burns summoner spells but more importantly it allowed Wolf to  walk out of lane in the 2v1, leaving Lucian to safely farm while dropping an early deep ward which later spots Peanut.

springplayoffs_wolfTKward

It’s not every day you see SKT as a team prioritize vision to this extent. They certainly made it a point and the numbers show both in terms of ward distribution per player, and overall numbers. Learning a thing or two from bengi, Blank stepped up to the plate and placed more wards than Peanut every single match.

Know where Peanut is, and half the game is won.

Team/ No. of wards Game 1

Game 2 Game 3 Game 4
SKT 100 151 132 215
ROX 85 152 128 232

Total no. of wards placed by each team in the Finals

Jungler/No. of wards Game 1 Game 2 Game 3 Game 4
SKT Blank 29 44 32 51
ROX Peanut 10 34 9 48

Comparison of no. of wards placed by the junglers in the Finals
(Source: lolesports.com)

Relatively speaking, dealing with a single jungler is easier compared to a massive 2-TP advantage. Playing at possibly the highest tier in the world, SKT drafted and out-played a 2-TP advantage ROX Tigers. Now that is massive.

How?

Vision control for one, was the key factor. Where Peanut is, is likely where TP-ganks will occur. Sweeping wards to prevent flanks likewise helped. For two, Faker deliberately joined parties much earlier. For three, Duke’s TP timings have improved drastically, matching 1 for 1.

This scene at bot brought back bad memories. SKT, like every other team in the LCK, died here to ROX many times in the regular season thanks to their teleport plays. When ROX’s 2 teleports start channeling you’d think SKT is a dead sandwich, yet they came out tops because they knew where Peanut was beforehand so both Blank and Faker were already on high alert, hovering around river.

The micro from every member here was crystal. Watch carefully how Faker lined up Vel’Koz’s spells from the side to completely stop Lissandra diving into his team with Glacial Path. If he didn’t pull that off, the outcome of the team fight would have been drastically different. Blank’s previous gank mid had also burnt Kuro’s flash, muting Lissandra’s engage.

Even when SKT’s only teleport was down, it was a combination of their vision control, team composition, late-game power spike, team fight control and the one call for Duke not to recall despite the low HP and top-wave pushing into base.

Everything pointed to ROX’s advantage here: They had vision control around Baron, Kuro’s TP was up, they were full health and decidedly could do Baron. Almost everything. Despite even making it a 4v5 temporarily (or 3.5v5 even with Duke’s HP), SKT positioned themselves so well to gain the upper hand, hugging the far end of the river.

springplayoffs_baron1

They had enough deep vision and they didn’t even bother challenging or even attempt to steal Baron because a) it would split the team up and allow ROX to pick someone off more easily and b) SKT already had a brilliant plan in mind.

springplayoffs_baron2

At the beginning, Blank specifically flashed Poppy’s ult just to get into this very position. Despite knocking Alistar away, Lamb’s Respite prevents immediate death, and gives Wolf enough time to walk back. It’s so artful what SKT did next:

Why make Blank stand next to a wall to create a downsized Lamb’s Respite? Because the leftover area is precisely the width of Cassiopeia’s ult.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is the first time we’ve witnessed such a combo since Kindred’s release last year and I cannot stop going on about how beautiful it is. Trust SKT to create and pull-off something like that.

A combination of ROX clumping up with Liss leading the all-in with the intention to reap the benefits of Respite, Faker’s clutch 4-man Petrifying Gaze, tons of DoT + burst and the fact that Cass, blue Ez and Kindred are late-game sealed the deal. After surviving ROX’s mid-game power-spike, this was the one battle SKT was looking for. What a way to end the Playoffs!

From here, the no. 2 seed from last year’s MSI is now heading back for revenge against China in China without jet lag.  Will we see the same type of compositions and strategies as they deployed in the LCK? Not entirely. Expect similar shenanigans as with IEM:

They will run the assassin mid.
They will still ban at least 1 jungler during P/B phase and unlike this series, go back a bit more to first-picking the jungle.
They will shuffle priorities where certain powerpicks disallowed in LCK, SKT will let go in favour of targeted bans.
They will change it up in some ways (think Wolf’s Bard at IEM which never revived back in Korea) but also stick to the usual (Sivir-Maokai, Alistar) if opponents let it up or when facing stronger teams.

May the challenger win again!

 

Note from the author: First off if you’re reading this it means you’ve consumed this post (and perhaps more). Thank you so much all your support and for seeing me through this LCK Spring 2016. Do hit me up on Twitter if you wanna talk about more about the content, LCK, LoL or anything really. I enjoy being part of the LoL community. Most importantly, I am so sorry that I won’t be able to cover the 1st week of MSI as I’ll be on a break. I’ll be back in week 2, so expect a round up post on SKT during the group stage and more on-the-dot posts during the playoffs. Thank you once again for your support! –Tania

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This entry was posted on April 28, 2016 by in teamfight, vision and tagged , , , , , , .
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© Tania Mae & Minions Have Spawned, [2016]. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to [Tania Mae] and [Minions Have Spawned] with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
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