The Five Faces of ALTERNATE: An Analysis on Team Composition and Variety
5-0. Alternate Attax can't get a better start to the LCS, even if they tried. After being criticised as being just a bunch of "solo queue superstars" months before, they have since proven their worth as a cohesive unit, and in an explosive manner. From the "3K Elo Shockwave" done at the Summer Promotion, besting the Giants in an intense game 5, to destroying every opponent they faced in the first week of the LCS. The team has shown tremedous amounts of improvement between the qualifiers and Week 1, and went toe-to-toe with both their fellow rookies and long time veterans.
One of the most noticable changes for Alternate is their team composition. As some people have noticed, Alternate didn't seem to stick to one game plan and just rolled with it. In fact, five different strategies were used in each of the five games. This demonstrated the amount of planning they have done against their opponents, as they seem to become a different team with every succeeding game they've had. This made them difficult to predict during the picks and bans phase, which was essentially more than 50% of a team's success. What was the thought process behind all this? And how were they executed while maintaining such consistency?
For this feature, we are going to take a closer inspection on Alternate's team comps, and try to analyze why this very flexible approach they have might just be their ticket to the playoffs, possibly even the World Finals:
Game 1: Outsmarting the Genuises
The bans by EG were based on either ATN's past games or their comfort champs. This came at a cost of Kerp getting Shen, who is a very sought-after pick. ATN's bans, on the other hand, were power bans for Froggen with the exception of Nautilus, which was to remove one heavy-cc jungler that Snoopeh prefers. As a result, EG forms a team comp that has great engage potential from every single member. With the Anivia and Ryze picks, you'd know that they can take this to the late game, especially when Jarvan IV and Varus' wave clear helps Froggen stall the game long enough to get it to that point.
For this opponent, ATN formed a team that not only can pass through EG's stall tactics, but can scale with them in case the game goes for more than an hour. Thus, they made a PROTECT THE VAYNE comp. At first, it looks similar to the Spring Spilt CLG tactic of everybody supporting their AD carry, especially with the Nunu and Nami picks. But their version adds Lissandra, which is different from the usual AP mage this comp gets. She is a mid-range burst caster, akin to Ryze, with the exception of one thing: Glacial Path. Because of this skill, ATN suddenly has a powerful, long range initiation tool that can engage from so many angles.
ATN managed to get the engagements they want, thanks to their strong mechanics, which were vital to the success of this team comp. Lissandra's Frozen Tombs had to be spot on, so that EG would be forced to fight in ATN's terms. Nami's Tidal Wave acted as both secondary long range initiation, and as a counter-initiate when they get caught out of position. Together, the kit of these two champions effectively shut down any form of stall EG could muster. The amount of peel that ATN also formed an impassable barrier for Creaton's Vayne to hide behind, as not even Snoopeh's Jarvan IV was able to get into her. The additional burst from the Ice Witch made her too hard to ignore as well, thus making a Catch-22 situation which gave them one successful teamfight after the other, and eventually the win.
Game 2: Taming the Dogs
In this game, the bans by ATN were crucial in making this particular team comp work. LD's bans again took out three player's comfort champs, trying to force them into picks that they expected. LD stole Araneae's Nunu, thinking it might force him to get Lee Sin, and would fall right into their trap. Their team comp consisted a lot of AoE damage with Karthus and Kennen, with Nami and Nunu backing them up and at the same time supporting Caitlyn, who is on cleanup duty.
However, the Nunu pick would work against them, when suddenly Araneae chose Hecarim, which was a champion he wasn't shown using even during the Summer Promotion. After the automatic Shen pickup, they mixed things up even more by getting Varus and Fiddlesticks, two champions with great burst potential and tons of crowd control. Topping it off was the 3K Elo Orianna, and together it formed a SPLITPUSH comp, a variation of Spring Champion Fnatic's strategy. What made this lineup deadly for this playstyle though was two things: The fact that even Jree had good AoE damage and can engage over walls; and that Araneae chose a damaging teamfight champion.
Even with Kerp being 3v1'd in top lane and Araneae got his initial buff stolen, ATN remained good composure pulling off a brilliant counter with a 3v1 gank at bot lane, which got them First Blood. As the game progressed, the Hecarim and Fiddlesticks pick came to the spotlight. ATN was able to put so much pressure in one lane with just four of them because of the level of threat these champions could bring, and that's not counting Forellenlord's Orianna. It forced the entirety of LD to fend them off one lane, allowing Shen to level and farm freely in another. The damage and initiation range of Onslaught of Shadows coupled with Crowstorm and Command: shockwave allowed ATN to take down multiple targets, even when they are under turrets. This two-pronged attack slowly overwhelmed the other rookie team, until their Nexus was finally destroyed.
Game 3: Time to Troll(pool)!
SK took a lot of notes on ATN's last two games, and it showed right from the get go. Those three bans completely shut down a lot of teamfight and initiation potential ATN had in their previous games, and the Nunu steal sealed the deal for any strong counter jungling. Though Twisted Fate was left open for Forellenlord, SK didn't seem to mind, as they went for a Wombo Combo team of Malpite, Sona, and Kennen.
With the Thresh, Lee Sin, and Ezreal pickups by ATN, they were going for a SKIRMISH comp, utilizing the mobility of their champions and their high single-target damage. The unique element arrived upon the final pick, which was for Kerp. One would usually get a bruiser or a peeler as their fifth man, whose role is to hold off the opponent long enough for his teammates to pick off one enemy at a time. Instead, Vladimir was chosen. This meant that instead of crowd control, more damage is added to the team, but this time, is more AoE.
This tactic and their great position proved to be a perfect counter for the Wombo Combo. Araneae and Forellenlord were simply everywhere, going for a gank in one place, followed by another somewhere else. This forced SK to move around a pack, losing a lot of lane farm to ensure survivability. It didn't always go ATN's way though, and 5v5 teamfights did occur. That's when Kerp stole the spotlight. Since he is a huge AoE damage threat, Ocelote and Kevin had to engage on him. Vladimir reacts with two simple things: Sanguine Pool and Zhonya's Hourglass. Not only did these gave the Crimson Reaper a long invulnerability time, but it allowed him to continue dealing a world of hurt to the enemy while dodging all the cc SK threw at him. His healing abilities made him last even longer, and Hemoplague amplified the already high single-target burst potential his teammates had. With the Wombo Combo ineffective, ATN took the win, and Araneae even got his bloody revenge.
Game 4: Bedtime for the Ninjas
The Ninjas in Pajamas are great at teamfight coordination, thus the Shen ban prevents ATN from splitpushing like they did previously. ATN took out three of Bjergsen's top picks, forcing him to choose a less comfortable champion. By the end of champion select, NiP went for a potent teamfighting lineup that could simply lock down and decimate their opponent. On paper, the only way ATN could have a shot of taking down such as brutal lineup is if they somehow get ahead in gold early on in the game.
That's what they exactly did, with a KOREAN OBJECTIVE-FOCUSED comp that puts a lot of emphasis on map and objecive control. Jayce and Lissandra both had excellent wave clearing abilities, which allowed them to push up the lane and roam. Araneae's Lee Sin allowed for some good early ganks that greatly help whichever lane he's on get ahead in the laning phase. The Nami pick to lane with Ezreal was a great addition, as it kept her carry safe and sustained, while at the same time providing disengages and chase with Tidal Wave and Aqua Prison.
While NiP tried their best to brawl with their opponent, ATN focused on playing the map first. This meant taking dragons and towers as fast as possible. Using precise rotation and map movement, they were able to take down all the outer turrets before NiP did. By dominating the objective game, they were able to gain a lot of global gold, which immediately gave them a huge advantage in terms of map control and itemization. By the time mid and late game arrived, they were so ahead in their builds that even Malphite, NiP’s tankiest champion, could be taken down with ease. ATN never let go of their lead and methodically tore apart NiP’s base, layer by layer, with Bjergsen and the gang powerless to stop them.
Game 5: How They Met Their Makers
MYM loves to be very mobile, as signified by Czaru’s “Teleport on anyone” method of playing mid. As such, they banned ATN champions that have this mobility. Their plan of attack is to create picks and and gain a lead by racking up kills. With a most of them having wall jumps, this is a very effective strategy and could easily catch their opponents off guard. ATN’s bans, shutting down Kubon and Mokatte’s picks didn’t seem to be enough, even giving up Twisted Fate for MYM.
The solution? Fight ganks with ganks. This is their first lineup with Thresh and Hecarim together, signaling the makings of a CHINESE-STYLE FREIGHT TRAIN, popularized by OMG. While the standard setup calls for Graves and his AD burst, ATN made some tweaks to this build by taking Lissandra, who by this time has been very effective under the Elo Lord’s hands. The Ice Witch serves as a good substitute for the Outlaw, which allowed Creaton to pick up his favored Vayne. With this choice, they can scale all the way to the late game without any worry of falling off.
Even so, MYM looked to be ATN’s toughest match for the week, as both of them struggled to get a definite lead over the other. Around the mid game point, however, is where ATN’s gank squad is at it best. With towers down, ATN grouped up and roamed around the map, destroying any isolated target they saw. The choice of Lissandra over Graves allowed Vayne to continue farming, only joining the fight when kills are assured. While the mobile MYM put up a good fight, ATN’s map control, spanning all the way towards their opponent’s jungle, choked the Polish team out of their options. With the tempo of the game right in ATN’s hands, they secured their 5th straight win and swept the Superweek.
After all has been said and done, another aspect that’s important to remember is how they managed to stay on top of their game, even with five unique playstyles. An interview with , Araneae answers that question, saying that they use champions that they like, and then build around them. Shown in their play, they seem to have no trouble using whatever champion they pick, however uncommon their choices may be. This balance of comfort and competitiveness is ALTERNATE’s winning formula, and one that may bring all the way to the top.
It’ll be interesting to see what new strategies the once-dubbed “solo queue superstars” have in store for us.