How EU All-Stars can measure up to the rest
It should come as no surprise that the Asian teams are coming out as the favorites in All-Stars. After all, we've seen their roots of domination stretching back to the days of DotA and Starcraft for as long as we remember and often times, they never set foot off of that throne. Regrettably, we have not seen a large amount of international play due to the nature of LCS. What we have though is several regions free of clear leaders scrimming harder and harder due to other teams coming to a more comparable level of skill variance with the head hanchos.
Let's not forget that even before this, the playing field wasn't as atrociously imbalanced as some would suggest it was. If we take a look back to last summer, Evil Geniuses (then known as "Counter Logic Gaming EU") clawed their way through the entire summer season of OGN to meet CJ FROST (then known as "Azubu Frost") in the grand finals, almost 3-0ing the prestigious Korean quintuplet, but dropping the final 3 games of the set.
Let's also not forget the events dating back to IEM Katowice, where Gambit Gaming nearly dropped out of group stages and stayed in due to tiebreaker, only to take the whole thing home by pulling out an astonishing 2-0 victory against both CJ Frost and CJ Blaze, an unprecedented accomplishment for sure. We can also look back to Season 2 World Championship where CLG EU won a grueling set against World Elite to take 3rd/4th alongside Moscow 5. So we have the evidence that it can be done, what does the team need to work on?
As with any competition, you must adapt based on your opponents and the playstyle of Europeans obviously varies to some extent from Koreans. Though from an average onlooker watching the European LCS on a regular basis, the spetacles within the 5v5's have been nothing short of awesome. However, this is actually an area that Korea triumphs in when it comes to the late game. What Europe will really be looking for is the small skirmishes rather than the full-blown 5v5 teamfights.
The Koreans have the discpline and mechanics required to coordinate and stack AoE with the utmost efficiency and will usually come out on top of a stalemate. However, their general playstyle with the focal point on a quick tower push leading into a quick move into another lane to siege even more towers does leave them vulnerable to engages that would favor EU in which, particularly Gambit Gaming, thrive off of.
As the video above exemplifies, Europeans, especially Gambit Gaming, are adept at soft-countering the Korean playstyle which involves a high amount of mobility to complement their aggressive tower sieging ways. When the split occurs, the European All-Star team must punish it with mandatory pre-emptive procedures, countering with anticipatory attacks where they wait and study their foes' movements catching them off rather than holding off through attrition.
What this then means is that even though one could argue that sOAZ is a stronger top laner than Darien, he still must fall back and adhere to a playstyle that is compatible with Gambit Gaming's overall strategy. While sOAZ is a strong duelist and brings an insurmountable variety of viable champions within his roster, he will need to serve as a distraction capable of soaking damage and garnering a lot of attention. Doing so allows for the intentional gravitation of other parts of the map navigating to top to stop the "feeding" Darien, allowing Gambit Gaming to predict the subtle shifts lane rotation and counter it with a punishing blow within a favorable skirmish.
The changes in top lane play is by far the biggest shift in play that needs to be made as the jungle and mid interaction will be very much the same for the most part. Alex Ich and Diamondprox are no strangers in finding ways to synergize with one another with Diamondprox utilizing perhaps the best mind in the jungling scene to date as well as Alex's hardly falleable calculations on when to engage and make things work to snowball his lane. Outside of the occassional strange item build substituted for more standard play, EdWard and Yellowpete will play very much the same, with Edward shouting "Shoo!" at the opposition while Yellowpete farms in piece and lets Alex Ich and Diamondprox take over the show as per usual.
Psychological and Playstyle Changes
Of course what's often overlooked in any high level competition is the stress and fatigue that can come from extensive hours of playing and other things that still makes these professional gamers human. Anyone and everyone is vulnerable and the European All-Star team is no exception. With having only one member of Gambit Gaming on the All-Star team who can digest fluent English, the communication issues may haunt them.
However, the issue becomes largely irrelevant with enough practice if you really think about it. Part of powerful team synergy is the knowledge to do things by issuing either simple commands or simply feeling your fellow teammates, and that's very largely what's going to happen with the EU All-Stars. The only stylistic differences needed to be made for their ideal playstyle against the Koreans in their first match is adjusting sOAZ's play in the top lane while the rest can pretty much do a standard Gambit Gaming and European skirmish meta. Point being the team should really relax and do what the majority of the team is comfortable with.
With that said, Alex and Diamondprox really do need to be careful about their play against Ambition and InSec. While Diamondprox may be miles ahead of junglers in his own realm of play, InSec can and has dissected him before at MLG. InSec has the knowledge of Diamondprox but also extremely strong mechanics to follow up with. This is not to say that they should alter their mechanics by a large margin, but should also take caution with InSec likely capable of knowing what Diamondprox is up to a little more than he is comfortable with.
Against the Koreans, it's important that Europe maintains a calm composure going into the game knowing that, logically, they are fully capable as eviidenced my prior events that they can take out the asian teams. While sOAZ may not be as accustomed to bringing the Koreans to their knees as Yellowpete, EdWard, Alex Ich, and Diamondprox are, the team has shown Korea the bitter taste of defeat and celebrated the sweet taste of victory themselves.
The team is going to have to avoid saving strategies for later and come out and surprise Korea with all they've got in game one -- they will not win the psychological and emotional battle of attrition as, at the very least, the members of Gambit are vulnerable to the frustrations of defeat and Koreans do a whole lot of research. The second Korea angers Europe, it's probably downhill from there.
Let's Recap with a list
- Avoid full blown 5v5's, confront the Asians on comfortable terms in skirmishes by predicting movement.
- sOAZ should embrace Darien's playstyle rather than his dueling playstyle in the best interest of the composition.
- Bottom shouldn't deviate from the standard Gambit Gaming play. Yellowpete benefits off a support like Edward -- abuse it.
- Alex and Diamond should be cautious against Ambition and InSec, who have similar levels of decision making.
- Keep a calm composure, you've brought the Asians down in several examples before.
- Do not play the war of attrition and wait to bring things out. Do it in game one. The Koreans have studied you.
- Adding to the reason above, most of Gambit have a temper. DO NOT Lose Game 1 and save strategies.
- There will be some language barrier, but the team must feel each other. It should be an irrelevant disadvantage.
As stated, Europe definitely has what it takes to take down Korea. In fact, Edward famously tweeted that they had done well in their prior practice. Gambit Gaming is typically a team that does well due to raw synergy and individual skill and therefore have an advantage against other teams that come ill-prepared, especially while replacing (arguably) their weakest components. However, will that hurt their synergy or will sOAZ and Yellowpete manage to mesh well with the team and adapt to an unnatural playstyle?
Being that Yellowpete is not too different from Genja and sOAZ boasts possibly the most flexibility of any top laner in the western world, it would be no surprise to see it work even better than Gambit Gaming as a whole, which gives them a very good chance against defeating the other Asian giants and coming out on top. They may not be the favorites, but it's far from unlikely for them to get crushed and, ultimately, they cannot be ruled out.