This was a really interesting day because both matches were pretty big tossups. I really wanted Cloud 9 and Sword to win, but obviously my initial hopes for North America were dashed after Game 2. I’ll go more in depth on the reads I had during the first series later, but it was incredibly disappointing to see the skill disparity between Fnatic and North America’s top seeded team.
Sword versus Gambit was a big tossup as well. Instead of talking about exactly what happened during the game, which I feel is redundant considering everyone who’s readng this blog has most likely already watched the games, I’ll try to focus more on win conditions and the strategy behind each team’s win or loss.
Fnatic vs C9 Game 1
This game was a huge mismatch snowballed early by C9’s disappointing lvl 1. They 4-man invaded blue through wards and didn’t expect Fnatic to react properly with 5. This is all made worse by the team comp mismatch that C9 had to begin with.
Fnatic’s comp was double AP assassins with TP, which shuts down any sidelane aggression that C9 might try to put with Shen + Elise 4man dives on the duo lane. They rely on the AoE disruption/CC that Zyra + Lissandra + Jarvan bring, while Corki provides steady damage and Kassadin cleans up. There’s not a lot of weaknesses to this comp except the fact that lategame, they are incredibly magic-damage heavy. Easy to itemize against mid/late, but still difficult to outscale considering Kassadin is one of the best lategame APs in the game. Fnatic was really looking for xPeke and sOAZ to get strong enough to instantly blow up Gragas an Ashe when they eventually fell behind due to C9’s superior map rotations
Despite C9 pulling ahead and winning fights early in the game, a 3k gold lead doesn’t translate in a win for them this game because of how carefully they have to play vs Fnatic’s comp. Any misstep is an instant death for anyone, which makes it dangerous to ward aggressively or push your leads without taking a tremendous amount of time. Sieging towers is also very hard against Lissandra/Corki/Zyra, who can infinitely wave-clear. Ashe is not good against massive AoE CC, Gragas is useless against Kassadin in lane and in teamfights, and Shen has nobody to taunt unless he can predict Kassadin’s Riftwalk.
Now that we’ve established that the game is an uphill battle for C9, their midgame misstep by LemonNation that ultimately resulted in 4 people getting picked off and Fnatic coming back into the game sealed the game. You can never give momentum to an assassin like Kassadin, he is a time bomb that can never afford to reach a certain point of the game lest he become an unkillable annoying assassin.
C9 had smart early lane rotations and use of Shen to secure them kills and Dragons, but they were outcomped and it seemed like their lanes were not only weak, but stuck in the same champions that Fnatic could easily predict. Minus Hai’s Gragas, I’m 100% sure than Fnatic could read every lane and predict correctly what they would play given the situation. Balls on Shen, the signature Ashe/Zyra with Elise jungle combo, everything was so easy to predict and shut down. I was very disappointed that they didn’t change anything up and were outmatched in all 3 lanes.
Fnatic vs C9 Game 2
I don’t want to spend too much time on this game because the strategic value of this one wasn’t very hard to notice. C9 ran a comp similar to Fnatic’s in Game 1. A disruptive AoE AP with Rumble top, assassin mid with Fizz, and utility in Thresh/Varus with Nocturne supporting the solo laners in exploding the enemy backline.
All Fnatic had to do was not pick TF, and Corki buy early MR, and Fnatic would have stomped this game. The game was essentially unwinnable for Fnatic if C9 had played correctly from the start, though. C9 won the tower race, got the first dragon, and first-blooded TF as Fizz.
Fizz, like Kassadin, is unstoppable once he gets ahead. Hai wisely built an early Hourglass to make sure that he could disrupt and outplay the big threat on Fnatic – xPeke. Peke ended up having really critical ports that caught C9 offguard and bought Fnatic a lot of time and could have potentially turned the game around, but TF is useless against Rumble/Fizz/Nocturne without Hourglass. Because xPeke chose to go Lich Bane -> Twin Shadows, and Puszu didn’t get a single MR item until he 5 items, the backline of Fnatic was too easy to outplay and coordinate blowups on. Fnatic only split even and did well in teamfights because of the MASSIVE DISPARITY IN SKILL.
I cannot stress enough how much Fnatic outplayed C9 during fights and small skirmishes. Their players are incredibly clutch when it matters, and know how to dance around in teamfights with low HP while still doing damage. This is what made me lose hope for C9 during Game 3 – becaue Fnatic was only really losing this game because of poor picks, TF’s massive disrespect of Fizz, and horrible building.
How else is a 2-threat comp with Twin Shadows TF and no-MR Corki vs Rumble/Fizz with Nocturne Varus utility staying in this game so long?
Fnatic vs C9 Game 3
Lost game at lvl 1, with C9’s only saving grace the fact that Vlad will become a monster if he just plays passive and splits lane even until 15-20 minutes. The 2 early kills on Lee means that Hai will never be able to play balls deep and deny Kassadin, especially since nobody in NA has experience against a TP Kass of xPeke’s skill level.
C9’s bot lane is their weakest lane, and they had a lot of trouble against Leona + Varus, as I expected. LemonNation dying once is all that they needed to continue to push their lead and allow Leona to scale into the mid/lategame where she is strongest.
Because all 3 of Fnatc’s lanes were left to their own devices, and Vlad was killed early and constantly shut down in his attempts to create pressure, the fact that Fnatic is simply more skilled was all they needed to win. xPeke became an unkillable monster just like Kassadin should, and slowly they picked apart C9 and everyone got fed. Nobody in NA has experience against a good Leona or a good Kassadin, and these were really the big play makers for Fnatic this game. All in all, it was a really boring stomp to watch. I fully expected the same thing to happen whether or not Fnatic deserves to advance because of how clean and versatile they look, and I fully expect them to make it to the finals if this is how they’re going to play.
Gambit v NaJin Black Sword Game 1
Before I go into this, this series was brutal to watch because both teams played really not up to par. I was really disappointed in Sword, who I expected to be much better, aggressive, and coordinated. Instead, I saw CLG-esque level team comps and the pace of the game was incredibly slow.
But the first game was essentially decided when Gambit 2v1’ed against Pray and killed Nagne.
Fizz getting a free kill like that, and then constant Dragons flowing in for Gambit afterwards, this game was a textbook win. The things to note out of this game for me was the fact that Nagne looked absolutely awful, and wasn’t CSing well at all either. Pray and Cain aren’t useful in 2v1 and don’t play 2v1s particularly well, preferring to go for damage on Shen intead of winning the tower race. Especially on Twitch, who has a 6 second poison after it’s over, which prevents him for attacking tower for 6 seconds after his last auto on Shen.
Expession played solid all series and this game was no expection, he just couldn’t carry how far behind Nagne was, and how useless Nunu was as a pick.
Gambit vs NaJin Black Sword Game 2
Alex Ich dying twice midlane to a weaker mid player, Nagne, swung this game really hard. It was a combination of overconfidence from Game 1 and the fact that Watch pulled off some really smart ganks on mid while Alex was overextended. That, and coupled with the fact that Expession destroyed Darien, while Pray did the same to Genja made it a really easy match for Sword. It was really not a close game considering all 3 of Gambit’s lanes lost, they lost every fight at Dragon because of the lane disadvantage, and just lost control of the game.
What is really unimpressive about this game is how Genja chose to splitpush while his team lost the base, and ended the game with Triforce as his only item. Gambit just had a really terrible game this time around, considering their picks were decent vs Sword’s comp.
Gambit vs NaJin Black Sword Game 3
At the analyst desk off camera, we were constantly trying to figure out why Sword picked Nunu this game. The answer was really just that Sword randomly likes Nunu, and I expect this to be their downfall. Nunu made absolutely no sense this game, and actually did next to nothing except for securing objectives a little easier than other champions such as Lee Sin. I really don’t agree with a double steroid comp for Pray’s Twitch when the enemy team shows a Gragas pick, but I’ll just try to focus more on why Sword won this game.
Pray and Cain, as expected, mirrored Genja and Voidle. They drew a lot more pressure from the enemy mid and jungle than did Gambit’s bot lane, and ended up pulling their team ahead at the cost of getting dove and camped a fair amount. Expession actually crushed Darien, which I’m surprised the shout casters didn’t emphasize too much during the game. He was ahead by 50 CS or more throughout the game, and solo took Shen’s tower when Darien ported bot.
Because of how much pressure Renekton was able to put on the map, and how he constantly and smartly annoyed Diamond’s jungle, Pray was able to run free after a certain point. Winning the initial Dragon fights, Sword’s team is really annoying to deal with considering Genja doesn’t like to build correctly on Kog.
I strongly feel that if Kog had gone Blade of the Ruined King into PD instead of Triforce first, he would have killed Renekton and Nunu in a matter of seconds. However, Genja’s awful Triforce build made it impossible to kill Sword’s insanely ahead Renekton. Even though Kog is a tank killer, he really couldn’t stop Renekton from being an unkillable brick wall that does massive AoE damage.
I think Sword took the game a little slower than I expect from a team their level, but I think a lot of their slow and careful play is due to tournament jitters. They have 2 new members that have never been on the Worlds stage before. I see they Pray-centric strategy and random Nunu picks as their downfall against SKT, however. They don’t seem to be as coordinated, aggressive, or versatile as I expected.