Thursday, May 15, 2014

Waking up for Paris, by Seth Oakley

This past week saw the 2014 League of Legends All Star Tournament. The top teams from the regions of North America, Europe, Korea, China, and Southeast Asia all converged on Paris, France, for a 4 day tournament and All Star Event. There were 2 rounds of group stages, a day of semi finals, and a day of finals. Each team played each other team once in the group stage, then the top 4 teams faced off in single elimination in the semis, followed by the remaining two facing off in a best of 3 for the finals. The teams for the regions were as follows: Cloud 9 (C9), representing North America, invited after their last minute pull into first at the end of the Spring Split; Fnatic (FNC), representing the Western European servers, and the leaders of the EU Spring Split after a really tough early Season 4; SK Telecom T1 K (SKT), from Korea and the Season 3 world champions; OMG (OMG), the top performing team from China; and the Azubu Taipei Assassins, the premier team from the GPL Southeast Asia league.

The tournament went nearly as expected, with only a few upsets. Fnatic was the fan favorite to beat OMG for the kick off game, though that could have been home field high hopes. Those hopes were dashed against the rocks when OMG beat them. It may have been the same over optimism of the hosting Europeans who predicted that FNC would beat Cloud 9 in the group stage, but again, FNC lost and went home on day one and a 0 in the win category, as did the Assassins. SKT won all their games, and OMG beat C9.

Day 2 proceeded much the same. Fnatic was able to beat TPA and secure a spot in the Semis, C9 had a good showing against OMG, and SKT won all their games. Taipei’s Assassins were not able to beat anyone, so they were knocked out. The semi finals started out with a comeback from OMG. San, the team's AD Carry, absolutely dominated as a marksman, going 14 and 1 in two games and carried his team to shut out the round in 2 games. SKT won both their games, knocking out Fnatic. The finals were much the same, SKT swept the best of 5 series by taking the first 3 games away from OMG. Game 2 had Faker, SKT's mid-laner, playing Twisted Fate, a somewhat unorthodox pick in the North American and European meta. PoohManDu, SKT's support player, brought out Zilean, another strange sight, but they made it work in an early win.

But that was just the normal tournament. The real entertainment was the the set of games that began each day: the All Star Events. There were 4 events, one for each day, played by the All Star players elected by the fans online the months before. Named “Ice” and “Fire” for the blue and red side respectively, the teams were composed of one player from each region playing in their position (theoretically). Team Ice had Archie of the Saigon Jokers from Southeast Asia; MadLife of CJ Entus, from Korea; Cool of OMG, from China, as the replacement for Caomei; Doublelift of CLG, from North America; and Froggen of Alliance, from Europe. Team Fire included QTV, also of the Saigon Jokers from Southeast Asia; WeiXiao, of the Chinese team World Elite; Shy, also in CJ Entus, from Korea; Bjergsen, of the American team Team Solo Mid; and finally Diamond, a member of Gambit, from Europe, and the only Jungler.

The first event was URF Mode. Urf was a champion made up by riot as an April Fool’s Day prank a few years ago. The Manatee Champion can still be seen around the league, in the Fisherman Fizz skin, and in a Warwick skin, literally: Warwick killed Urf and is wearing him. URF Mode was this year's April Fool’s Day release, but this time URF stands for Ultra Rapid Fire mode. All champions get buffs to help them play faster. Abilities cost no mana or energy, there's 80% cooldown reduction on Abilities, Activated Items, and Summoner Spells, 25% Tenacity, +60 Movement speed, 100% increased attack speed for ranged champions, +25% critical strike damage for ranged champions, and 5 times the gold income. This makes the game INSANELY fast, and racks up the kill count to astronomical levels. Players also got 35% resistance against dinosaurs, whatever that means. This advantage was called the “Awesome Buff of Awesomely Awesome Buffing.” Fans voted that both teams should have to use Ezreal, and so they did.

The game was great. It started out like the shit show you would expect when you take the top players in the world, the players with the best accuracy, the quickest reflexes, the best strategies, the sharpest tactics, no common language, and give them 10 champions with no restraints or inhibitions. On Team Ice, we had Evelyn, Jayce, Lulu, Urgot, and Ezreal. Team Fire ran Karma, Ezreal, Lulu, Blitzcrank and Taric. Notice how 8 of the ten players have skill shots? Yeah, it was a spam fest. Shy’s Blitzcrank had incredible shields that made him the tank of the match. Lulus on both sides shot glitter lances in every direction. Ezreal danced all over the place, jumping into and out of fights while shooting the entire time. Everyone took teleport and flash as their summoner spells, except Archie, who ran teleport and smite, and no one is really sure why. There were no junglers, so both teams ran 2-1-2 lanes. The man of the match was Bjergsen on Ezreal, who ended the game with 24 kills, 3 deaths, 8 assists, a Deathcap, Gunblade, Rageblade, Lichbane, and Nullrod at 15 minutes. Fire was camping out in front of Ice’s fountain waiting for them to spawn so Blitzcrank could grab them and the rest of the team could pile on. This game was a clear signal to Ice to get their act in order and practice. Doublelift and MadLife took this to heart and reportedly spent the rest of the day in dual queue, practicing their bot lane mechanics. As North America’s favorite Marksman and China’s favorite Support, they did not want to disappoint again.

The second day started off with Hexakill. Hexakill was new game mode produced by Riot a few months ago. It includes a sixth champion, but otherwise changes nothing about the game balance. General consensus is was that global buffs and AoE attacks are stronger, scaling champions are weaker (since resources need to be spread more thinly) and direct burst champions are not as impactful. Both teams brought in another player: Ice picked up the captain of China’s World Elite, Misaya, and Toyz of Southeast Asia came out of retirement to join Fire as their sixth member. The usual Top, Jungle, Mid, Marksman, Support meta was modified a bit to compensate this sixth player. Both teams played Top, Gank Jungle, Support Jungle, Mid, Marksman, Support, and made a entertaining game out of it. Ice chose Irelia, Lucian, Thresh, Lee Sin, Pantheon and Kassadin. Fire took Elise, Lee Sin, Jayce, Lucien, Alistar, and Orianna. I wouldn’t be doing my job if it didn’t try to make a pun with Alistar in an All Star game, but nothing is coming to me. (Too bad, you really needed to beef up this section - Ed) Throw me a comment if you find a good one. Both teams used the mobility of Lee Sin to put up wards and support the other lanes. Cool was much better at it, finishing 3-1-12 to Bjergsen’s 1-6-4. Doublelift and MadLife clearly got on the same page as Doublelift went 7-0-7 with 285 minion kills in a 32 minute game. Toys had a few really sad Hourglass moments on Orianna, and never was able to pull off the “Cow Ball” combo everyone was hoping to see from him and QTV. Ice won and picked up momentum to move into Day 3.

The third day was called Pick 10, when fans were able to vote for the team that they wanted to see played by each team. The teams were a little strange, but these are All Star players, so they made it work. Ice put Froggen on Anivia, Doublelift on Vayne, MadLife on Thresh, Cool on Lee Sin, and Archie on Lucien. The fans, in their infinite wisdom, handed Ice two Marksman champs, so they put one in the top lane. Fire got Lee Sin for Diamond, Zed for Bjergsen, Thresh for Shy, Lucien for WeiXiao, and Ezreal for QTV. They did the same thing, and put the extra Marksman of Ezreal in the top lane. The Zed/Anivia matchup was assumed to go to Zed, but Froggen was able to pull it out of the Fire in time: he took teleport and used his passive ability to go into an egg form. From there, he could teleport to safety away from Zed and survive to recall. He used this combo a second time in a real moment of telepathic coordination with Cool. Froggen teleported out of the river into the red side lower tri-bush, and then Cool dragonkicked Bjergsen into his waiting arms. Er, wings. Whatever. They pushed that fight into the inhibitor that wound up winning them the game, since minions stormed the nexus soon thereafter and took down two nexus towers. He ended the game at 11-0-14 and wrote a book about it, getting the full 20 stacks in his Soulstealer.

 Day 4 had lane match ups. There were 3 games of 1vs1 and a 2vs2 game as well. First was Archie vs Varus and Shy vs Quinn. Someone had convinced the crowd to cheer for every minion killed, so there was a lot of unexplained noise. It added to the energy, so it was good. Votes came in 88% in Shy’s favor, and it was not wrong. Shy went for an early bush dive that backfired and he burned both summoner spells trying to escape. He came back two levels behind, but quickly recovered, leveled up, and pushed Archie back. Going full aggro, he chased down Archie and killed him with a series of crossbow bolts.

The second match was a Lee Sin vs Lee Sin match between Cool and QTV. Cool took an early CS lead and zoned out QTV. A couple of quick resource steals and some uncommitted dives, and Cool was up 8 CS by the time he backed. Stretching his lead to about 15 minions,  Cool backed again for a Brutalizer. QTV could read the writing on the wall, went in for a last attempt for kill but didn’t have the damage. Cool chased him back to his turret and killed him.

The 2vs2 match was Doublelift and MadLife against Diamond and Bjergsen. This traditional bot lane duo of Varus and Kennen did not know how to deal with the stun lock combo team of Brand and Annie. At least Ice brought winter skins for both champs. An early 3 second stun from Annie and Brand took Varus down low, but Kennen was able to counter engage and take out Annie. Even when he was low, Doublelift pushed in to finish off Diamond, but got a pillar of fire for his efforts. He dropped and Kennen went in for a tower dive, but decided to abort after he popped Barrier to escape. A few minutes later, Annie stunned Varus, and both she and Brand jumped on Kennen. Both teams committed to the fight, and it ended with Brand walking away with a sliver of health and Kennen in a small furry pile on the ground. As close as it was going to come.

The final match was Froggen on Yasuo and WeiXiao on Jarvin IV. Froggen spent an unnecessary amount of time ice skating around the Frozen Abyss, charging up Yasuo, while WeiXiao threw a few flags and took a minor CS lead. Overall, WeiXiao went for a sustain game, picking up potions instead of the typical Double Doran’s start favored by most players. After a brutal trade that looked like both players were just hitting each other and hoping the minion kills would bump them up to level 6, Froggen finally landed his ultimate and pushed WeiXiao all way back behind his turret. J4 recalled, and Yasuo went for the tower kill, dodging a flag toss just as he finished it off.

Seth Oakley is an educator and Returned Peace Corps Volunteer who lives in Daly City, CA. He loves costuming, analog gaming and role playing games. He got this job in a bar after making poor life choices and has to work through 96 more articles before Mike will give him his soul back. 

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