Lessons learned from NA regionals
When a big regional event rolls around, the results usually give a fairly broad image of what a competitive scene looks like. The winning team is top three in that region, the runners-up are probably there too, while the top four can be anywhere, really. A lucky day, a performance of a life time or one missed spell can skew things. On top of that, there’s always personal opinion, which means that picking the number one team in a well-developed scene can be pretty difficult.
But at PAX this past weekend, none of that really happened. Team SoloMid crushed all-comers and, apart from one blip against an improving Curse side, the games didn’t really look that close. It was a dominant performance that left no iota of doubt about who the top team in North America is. Their mechanics are on par with any team’s, but the real difference between them and the other American teams was decision making. In the grand final, for example, they perfectly out-picked Dignitas’ “cheesy” poke setup. Skarner was basically the perfect pick to counter their entire strategy, as his ultimate is guaranteed to force a fight – completely nullifying the long range, passive style that Dignitas wanted to play.
When the season two finals finally roll around, TSM is definitely the American team most likely to do well. I don’t think I’d be totally comfortable saying they’re the only NA team capable of doing well, but they’re just so far ahead of the rest that it might be true. Certainly, Dignitas and CLG will have to take some big strides before the finals.
I don’t want to insinuate that LoL players are easily swayed by shiny new skins, but I’m pretty sure Ezreal became the pick du jour when Pulsefire was released. Not that he’s a bad champion, but he suddenly became the most played carry, even at high levels. Post-PAX, it seems that Ezreal’s reign is finally over. Personally, I never thought he should be picked that much anyway, but the rightful heir to his throne is definitely Corki. I think a lot of people already felt this way, but PAX was his coronation. Even RIOT agrees, according to the recent nerfs, but I still think Corki will be tier one for the best players in the world.
We saw a lot more variation at PAX than we have in the cavalcade of recent tournaments. Instead of the same old Corki vs Ezreal that we’re used to, we got to see some great Graves play and even the rarely-seen late game power of Kog’maw. Seriously, when you get into a 40 minute game, who would you rather have on your team than the freakish worm guy? Of course, the return of poke teams even meant that we saw Caitlyn and her ridiculous range. I would be quite surprised if we saw her in a “normal game,” but the variety of carries played definitely added to the overall enjoyment of the tournament.
Until recently, if you saw your soloqueue team-mate take teleport in any lane except top, you’d probably fear for your Elo. But CLG has proved that it’s definitely viable: few things are scarier than a Sivir teleporting to attack your undefended base towers. Throw in a promote on your support, and CLG has almost found a way to win games without ever fighting head-on. Almost. They made it work sometimes, but clearly it’s not very consistent. Still, NA regionals did show us that you can switch things up a bit. Not just in terms of summoner spells, but also lanes. Lane swapping is becoming more and more common, and although carry/support bottom continues to be standard, at the highest level the game is definitely evolving.
The Koreans have shown Western teams the power of pushing down a fasttower with a 2v1 lane and it has quickly caught on. If you can successfully take an early tower, it puts you in a big lead and allows you to swap lanes back to normal, stopping your opponents doing the same thing. This is a really fascinating time for League of Legends and it makes me so excited for the season two finals.
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