Samstag, 9. Februar 2013

LCS: SK Gaming vs. Fnatic

SK Gaming versus Fnatic

The moment is finally here: Season 3 of League of Legends has officially begun and what a season it shall be. Taking the right steps to promote League of Legends and e-sports in general, Riot's efforts towards turning competitive gaming into a weekly action-packed sensation, is nothing short of commendable.

Offering players and teams an annual salary, along with a fixed cash-prize at the end of the league: Riot have practically turned League of Legends into a regular sport. Even gathering interest from major sports news network, ESPN; there should be little doubt that Season 3 will change the way we think of competitive gaming and its competitors.
Competing across four days, every week, the Spring season is underway. We have already seen the first half of the NA teams in action and on Saturday, we will see the first of the top teams in the EU.

And what better way to start than with two of the biggest names in the EU scene: SK Gaming and Fnatic RC.

SK Gaming

Whether or not you have been actively following League of Legends - if you have followed e-sports within the last 10 years, there's a good chance you will have heard of SK Gaming. Creating one of the first e-sports communities, SK Gaming have been around since 1997 and so, perhaps quite reasonably, in 2010 they created their first League of Legends division.

The original roster probably consists of a lot of names you may have never heard of but they secured 2nd place for themselves in the 2010 World Cyber Games. Shortly afterwards, they acquired the roster of former Team Dimegio which included, most importantly, Araneae, nRated, Wickd and Ocelote.
Looking at the roster changes for SK Gaming, there aren't a lot of top EU players that haven't been rotated through this stable:
Across 2011 / 2012, players like: Snoopeh, Youngbuck, MoMa and Dedrayon, would all make appearances within the SK Gaming squad.
In early 2012 though, they would finally settle on Kev1n, one of the strongest top laners in the EU.

Still, the most iconic member of SK Gaming and also one of the biggest crowd pleasers: Ocelote, is arguably the reason why SK Gaming holds such a cherished status in the League of Legends scene.
Emotions and passion holds strong in the SK Gaming squad and Ocelote is definitely not afraid of showing that side of himself.
Known particularly in recent times for his joyous outbursts during the Cologne Regionals in Season 2, after defeating powerhouse - Ocelote retains a balanced edge between stoic precision and a passionate embrace of the game and his team.

After rotating out both YellowStar and Araneae, SK Gaming are hard in training adjusting to their new AD Carry; CandyPanda and their new jungler: hyrqBot. While CandyPanda has played for SK Gaming in the past and in some of their latest tournaments: Season 3 offers new challenges that requires a whole new set of preparations.
SK Gaming may enter Season 3 as a bit of a dark horse... but their fans will always make sure they look and feel like the best team in EU.


Fnatic may be considered one of the most rigid and reliable teams in the EU. Entering the League of Legends scene in 2011, their original roster consisted of: WetDream, xPeke, Lamia, Shushei, Cyanide, Mellisan and MagicFingers.
Two of those names are STILL on the roster and if it wasn't for Lamia's perhaps, surprising, retirement - He would probably have still been there too.

Proving themselves to be a strong team, right off the bat - They went on to win Riot's Season 1 Championship. No small feat.
After sOAZ joined in June, last year and nRated followed shortly after in August, the squad was pretty set and comfortable with their current roster. Unfortunately, due to Lamias departure - they were forced to look for a replacement carry.
In the period without Lamia, they only attended three majour tournaments, with mixed results. Fnatic looked off their game and you had to wonder: Would they come back from this?

Then, in November, Rekkles joined the team. It's not often a single player has such a massive impact on a team but they could simply not stop beating teams with their new AD Carry. Plowing their way through Dreamhack 2012, they beat in the finale to place first. Facing a cavalcade of skilled players at the IPL 5, they finished in second place - losing only to Team World Elite.
They beat Azubu Blaze, they beat they were looking unstoppable.

Things like these are not meant to last though, it seems, as the bad news arrived: Rekkles could not join Fnatic in Season 3 due to being underage. Even though Rekkles now has a place in the Fnatic Academy squad - Fnatic were once again without an AD Carry and forced to look for someone else.
The spot would eventually go to SK Gaming's former AD Carry: YellowStar. The question everyone were asking was: Can he live up to the expectations?
Rekkles left a huge impression on the team and everyone else before he left and surely, whoever followed him, would have all eyes set on him to perform equally as well. Thankfully, with Fnatic's mild-mannered nature and seemingly the ability to make anyone feel welcome: YellowStar has so far slowly worked towards creating a name for himself within his new team.


How does SK Gaming beat someone who consistently provides winning results? The Best-of-1 format should work pretty well for SK Gaming, as their match against in Cologne proved: They can produce very creative tactics that can surprise even the most seasoned team.
Mechanically, Fnatic are solid enough to withstand any "traditional" play and their win against Azubu Blaze is a testament to this. It may be better suited for SK Gaming to mentally outwit Fnatic, especially within their own jungle. Throw Cyanide off his game and allow Ocelote and Kev1n to run their games in their own lanes.
Most importantly, the bottom lane for SK Gaming needs to be aware of all of YellowStar's flaws. As he played for SK Gaming for an extended period of time, they should be aware of what his shortcomings are and they have to abuse those in order to get a grip on the bottom lane.

Fnatic previously hitched their wagon behind Rekkles a lot, while he was playing for them. They can't rely on YellowStar to do the same and that's why xPeke and sOAZ have to carry as best as they can. On paper, that should be fine as they are some of the top players in the world but they are also up against very strong counter-parts. Both Ocelote and Kev1n are capable of challenging anyone.
Emotions may run high but SK Gaming have to ensure that does not go against them if they fall behind. They should be aware of how strong Fnatic will be in the early game and make sure they have tactics to keep them in the game if they were to fall behind early on. 

Dienstag, 29. Januar 2013

OGN: NaJin Sword vs. Azubu Frost - Finale

OGN: Champions Winter, is currently in its third iteration, following the success of Champions: Spring and Champions: Summer.

Originally sponsored by the German media group, Azubu: The "Champions" tournament decided the Korean circuit points for the season 2 World Championship. Both Azubu teams (Frost and Blaze; formerly under the organization "MiG), have yet to fail to reach the playoffs. The first tournament was won by Blaze and the second by Frost - perhaps fitting for two of the top teams in the world.

The third installment of this top star tournament features a new sponsor (Olympus Korea) but OnGameNet are still the event organizers, as they rightly should be. Working hard to ensure that Korean League of Legends is accessible well outside of Korea, they've exclusively hired two, English-speaking casters - MonteCristo and DoA - to cover all the matches in English, as well as
offering a free streaming service to all viewers.

After three months, group stages and play-offs and 42 matches: Twelve teams have been reduced to two and today we will take a closer look at these teams:

Grand Finale : Azubu Frost vs NaJin Sword

NaJin Sword

Gaining true international fame after qualifying for Season 2 World Championship, displaying a dominant presence in the group stage but ultimately departing in the quarter-finales after a loss to Taipei Assassins; NaJin Sword won the hearts and minds of a great deal of viewers.

One particular team member stood at the forefront of this: MakNooN. With his precise mechanical skill, his fool-hardy aggression and his unparallelled charisma, MakNooN presented his team as one of the big contenders in the League of Legends scene. And calling it HIS team, is not far from the truth.
NaJin Sword's roster history is slightly complicated: Originally created as the second team under the NaJin Organization, NaJin Sword's conceptual phase began with MakNooN after he was knocked out of Champions: Spring. Currently, at the time, he was playing for NaJin's original team, which was named: "NaJin e-mFire". MakNooN, with the guidance and help of his organization, left the team after they were knocked out to search for new recruits which would help him Najin's second League of Legends team.

Due to MakNoon's creative and particularly unique playstyle in the top lane - The NaJin organization gave him free reigns to find players that would entirely suit HIS playstyle. Building a team around himself, that could handle his relentlessly aggressive playstyle, the soon-to-be NaJin Sword would not go through many changes before fixating itself on the team we know today.
Literally plucking players from the high-end elo ranks, none of the current NaJin Sword players had ever played for a professional organization before; with one exception: "Mulroc" or "ReSet" as he is now know.

Mulroc's time with NaJin Sword is a contentious one and his attitude eventually caused him to lose the jungling spot to "Watch" - which probably MakNooN and many others are quite grateful for.

After changing their original support player to today's "Cain", the NaJin Sword team has remained rigid as a roster and continued to strive towards becoming one of the top League of Legends teams in the world.
The NaJin organization eventually hired  former Starcraft Brood War progamer "Reach" to coach both teams (Sword & Shield), a decision that was hugely popular among Korean fans as Reach is quite a bit of a legend over there.
His impact has been tremendously noted, as the young and inexperienced players of Sword have grown into the fearsome competitors they are today. 

Azubu Frost

If you have heard of Frost, there's a good chance you have heard of Blaze and Vice Versa. The two Azubu teams have made such an impact on the professional scene of League of Legends, that there are few other teams in the world which can claim such notoriety.
Known for always scrimming with each other, the two teams have unwittingly become "rivales", as they most of the time end up playing each other in various tournaments. This year, it's different. This year, Blaze are already out but Frost have made it to the OGN: Champions finale for the third time, in as many tournaments.
They have a 100% Grand Finale attendance for this event.

Created as the first out of the two teams, Frost was originally named Maximum Impact Gaming before being picked up by the Azubu group.
Blaze was created not long afterwards and very little has changed since then.
After losing the grand finale of OGN: Spring to their counterparts, Azubu, the teams original AD Carry: LocoDoco, announced his departure. To replace the loss of their former carry, Frost signed Shy to play in the top lane. The captain and former top laner: Woong, moved to bot as the new AD Carry and has remained there since and is now considered one of the best AD Carries in the world.

This natural ability to adapt to new situations, is what has kept Azubu Frost running as arguably the number one team in the world for the past year, contending only with Tapei Assassins and Azubu Blaze. Not quite matching the mechanical skill of Azubu Blaze, Frost keeps their gameplay at the top level by introducing intelligent plays, creative team compositions and a steady stream of communication via their captain: Woong.
Arriving at their third OGN finale in a row, they finished top of their group and scraped past a difficult semi-finale against Azubu Blaze.

Known to be a highly efficient and clinical team, they don't show quite the level of emotions that other Korean teams do.
Will their stoic display of clinical efficiency be enough to beat NaJin Sword? If anyone can do it: It's Azubu Frost.

Head-to-head, what needs to be done?

NaJin Sword managed to get themselves out of a rut they had been in recently: Their champion selections and team compositions were predictable and lacked creativity. During the play-off stages, these things changed drastically and it's now virtually impossible to out-ban or out-pick Najin Sword entirely. Azubu Frost must simply make sure they play with a team composition that focuses less on gimmicks and more on traditional, stabilized play for what is most likely going to be a series of extended matches.
Shy has to put a lid on MakNooN and must deny him his favourite champions, such as Kha'zix. Still, even with three bans - MakNoon's champion pool is large enough to handle most things thrown at him in the top lane. The bottom line for Shy, is that he can't make any mistakes. As difficult as that sounds, MakNooN takes great advantage of any mistakes committed in the top lane and will capitalize on them. For Shy to win his lane, he has to use MakNoon's aggressive playstyle against him by forcing him to commit to situations he can't win.

The bottom lane will most likely be decided by ganks, rather than individual skill. These carries and supports are so competent at what they do, that there will be very few mistakes to capitalize on. Don't be surprised to see Twisted Fate coming out of RapidStar for level-6 ganks in bot lane.

The two junglers are very evenly matched in skill but what Cloud Templar lacks in mechanical skill, he makes up for in intelligent ganks and counter-ganks. Watch is a slightly better team-fighter and with a mid-to-late-game jungle pick, he can introduce a slightly higher threat when it gets to that stage.

Ssong has grown an immense amount since his first tournament, roughly 8 months ago. Placing as one of the top 5 mid laners in Korea, at the moment, Ssong will benefit most from simply playing his game in mid lane as he is most likely to come out as the victor in that match-up. Rapid Star should pick a roaming mid laner and focus on securing kills in the other lanes, allowing the rest of his team to snowball into the lead.