The North American League of Legends Championship Finals (NA LCS) that went down this past weekend at Madison Square Garden was a mostly epic affair. There was one major exception: the actual finals match that took place on Sunday night.
Playing in the standard best of 5 playoff format, Counter-Logic Gaming (CLG) dominated its first three games against Team SoloMid (TSM), making the weekend's deciding match a far more efficient affair than the EU LCS finals that immediately preceded it, and even the competition for third place that occurred the day before at Madison Square Garden.
Watching the games from the arena, fan disappointment with how quickly and cleanly CLG stomped their opponents into the ground was palpable. As I walked out of the stadium after the final match, I overheard two young men — both wearing large plush hats for different League of Legends champions — ranting about how anticlimactic the game was. "I feel like I have blue balls for a better matchup!" One of them sighed. The other chuckled.
He wasn't incorrect in his assessment. If you look back at the beginning of each match, TSM was all but destined to lose the games last night.
Every match in the LCS begins with a standard pick and ban phase, during which each team gets to select three champions that neither team can play with (the ban part) and then choose the characters they are going to take into the game (the pick). This is where TSM made its fateful errors. In each of the three games, they chose to put WildTurtle on Kog'Maw, a big bug-like monster in League who shoots long-range barfing attacks at his enemies:
WildTurtle is TSM's "attack damage carry," or ADC. This is a specific position in League of Legends that normally plays on the bottom lane of the game's map and spends the early portion of a match farming enemy minion and champion kills with the help of a support ally. They do this to level up quickly so by mid and late-game the ADC can stand around the outskirts of team fights, hammering away at enemy champions with as much attack damage as possible.
Kog'Maw is perfectly adept as an ADC champion. The problem was that TSM didn't do much of anything to build around him. His most powerful assets are his very long-ranged barfing attacks, of which he has several. The bug's main weakness, meanwhile, is that he has no easy way to escape if someone gets in close enough to start dealing damage. This which means that an ideal team comp would help support Kog by keeping enemies at a safe distance.
TSM went with WildTurtle on Kog'Maw in all three games last night. Each time, they failed to select enough corresponding champions that would help protect him so that he could maximise his barf damage potential. That meant that even when Kog'Maw actually started doing serious damage, he didn't end up surviving long enough to have a great enough impact on the match at hand.
The relative weakness of TSM's team comps is illustrated well in a hype-worthy moment from game two, when DoubleLift — CLG's ADC player — managed to land a pentakill against TSM:
Nautilus, the giant metallic dude who looks sort of like a Big Daddy from BioShock, manages to knock up three people on CLG early in this clip. Turtle, who's playing as Kog'Maw, even scores three kills in the follow up. But none of this is enough to stop DoubleLift and his surviving support teammate from taking out their entire team.