Over the course of the year strongest European and North American teams have been participating in offline events, fighting for fame, cash, and Challenger Circuit points. Eight teams from each regional with most points have then been invited to Regional Finals, however it wasn’t a share of a $300,000 prize pool they came for – the teams fought to prove their worthy to qualify for Season 2 World Championship with the largest prize pool in esports history of 2 million dollars, as well as to become the first professional teams to start receiving salary from the game developer company itself. Needless to say, the teams clashed with unseen intensity.
The NA scene have always had then main powerhouses: Team Solomid, Team Dignitas and CLG, which was later renamed into CLG Prime after forming a secondary NA team; and then there was a relatively fresh Team Curse, which quickly became the most expensive team in esports.
The recent tournaments have shown some fresh, yet ambitious and quite scary competitors: TSM Evo, an all-star team; Team Dynamic, the home of famous jungler NintendudeX; mTw.NA (was later picked up by Monomaniac and renamed into mMe Ferus), Orbit Gaming and Team Legion (it’s most famous member is Cruzerthebruzer, world’s best Lee Sin player). Unfortunately for Orbit, they ended up being 9th, and were not invited.
TSM Evo, while having the highest amount of points out of all five, was not really expected to win anything, and the reason for that is the team’s best player, Aphromoo, who carried it numerous times in the past, leaving the team (the official reason was that the team did not practice enough) for mTw.NA a month before the Regionals.
The quarterfinal games brought disappointment for some, but otherwise they went as expected. The underdog teams were showing solid performance, often coming out of early game with an even score, however, as soon as the first teamfights started happening, the lack of coordination they had compared to NA powerhouses became obvious.
Team Legion probably gave the best performance out of all underdog teams, but CLG Prime had something very special up their sleeves: the North American powerhouse spent the last several months living and practicing in South Korea, participating in OGN Champions and learning from the Korean meta. The strategy they chose for the first game caught Legion by surprise, resulting in them getting quickly destroyed on every front.However, Legion managed to adapt remarkably quickly, not letting CLG snowball as fast as they did during the first game, slowly capitalizing on their weaknesses and mistakes, and, to everyone’s surprise, winning the second game with a spectacular base race.
It seemed like CLG underestimated Legion, and did not expect them to learn so quickly, so for the last game they went with a classic team composition. Their plan was to simply outplay Legion on the ground known well both to them and their opponent, and, even though they eventually succeeded, it was a very tough victory.
All in all, this was the tournament’s second best series, and will surely have an impact on solo queue: expect Teleport being picked up more often, as well as Promote on Support, and possibly even an ADC/Support midlane.
As tense as Quarterfinals were, Semifinals is where the fierce action erupted: four North American powerhouses had to fight for three tickets to Season 2 finals, which meant that one of them would no longer be considered a top NA team, would not get a shot at the $2 million prize pool and won’t be receiving financial support from Riot Games – a very tough blow to take for any powerhouse.
TSM versus Curse
The first game brought no surprises: every team went with a composition and strategy they knew best to make sure they give a one hundred percent performance, as none of them wanted to risk. TSM made some classic picks, such as Maokai and Graves, while Curse were using their famous Morgana + Vladimir composition. The game remained remarkably close until late midgame, with both teams making mistakes as well as capitalizing on mistakes of their opponents, and it was then when one unfortunate for Curse teamfight suddenly turned out into rapidly snowballing advantage for TSM. For some reason Curse were finding Reginald’s Ryze a bigger threat than Chaox; they managed to kill him during the next teamfight, but it was Chaox cleaning up the remaining Curse players and ending the game.
The second game was promising to be just as clutch, and it probably would have been, if TSM did not make a fatal mistake of getting caught out of position near Dragon, resulting in 4 kills for 2 for Curse. From this point TSM could no longer have fair exchanges, and Curse knew it: they started aggressively invading TSM’s jungle and forcing objectives, making TSM accept fights they would potentially lose. Curse’s AD Carry player, Cop, also managed to heavily snowball off those fights, quickly pulling ahead of Chaox, which soon became obvious as he made an impressive quadrakill. All of TSM’s attempts to stop Curse from snowballing failed, and even TheOddOne Smite stealing Baron from Curse barely helped their situation.
For the third game Curse decided to step away from their composition, banning Vladimir and letting Reginald pick up Morgana. Nyjacky picked Ahri, creating a very favorable lineup for himself, while Westrice got his hands on Darius – one of his scariest champions.The game was looking solid for Curse, as they were slowly pushing their map presence, but Reginald showed it was his turn to shape the course of the game on Morgana, landing a long range Dark Binding on Nyjacky and initiating with Flash + Ultimate shortly after, bringing his team 2 kills and a Dragon for free.
And just to prove that it wasn’t an accident, he landed another long range Dark Binding a few minutes later, following up with an ultimate and turning the teamfight into a 4 for 1 exchange. At this point all TSM had to do is keeping up the pressure, taking down all 3 inhibitors and finishing the game shortly after.
Dignitas versus CLG Prime
It was clear that CLG would go with their usual composition: what could have worked against a less experienced team like Legion, would surely bring more troubles to CLG than their opponents if their opponents are the titans of NA scene. The game turned out to be incredibly tense, yet at the same time it was being dragged out because none of the teams wanted to make any risky moves, knowing how hard an opponent of their level can snowball off them. It was 35 minutes into the game, 2:1 CLG – Dig score, with only 5k gold difference due to poor Dragon control from CLG, when Dignitas decided they were ready to safely force the Baron. When CLG came to interrupt them, Scarra landed a perfect ultimate on Gragas, splitting Bigfatlp from the rest of the team and picking him up, while Patoy on Nunu stopped the rest of CLG with an amazing ultimate at the cost of his life.
At this point Dignitas just had to clean up the rest of CLG and get a free Baron buff. From then, CLG were screwed: their only frontliner, Shen, had no MR built and was getting wrecked by the insane burst Scarra was pulling off on Gragas, and one of their lategame champions was very far behind on items. CLG still had a farmed Kog’maw, arguably the scariest lategame carry, but CLG’s frontliners were getting melted way too fast to let Doublelift on Kog deal enough damage to Dignitas players.
Game two began with a slight surprise, as Dignitas decided to use the poke composition, which their opponents, CLG, were originally famous for: they picked up AP Nidalee for top lane and Caitlyn for ADC, while keeping Gragas. If you are not familiar with the poke comp – it generally revolves around having three champions with heavy high range poke and ability to disengage, and a jungler with good initiation that would eventually grow into a heavy frontliner. With Dignitas running poke comp and CLG having mostly close range champions, Dig were able to push their map pressure, taking down all outer turrets 20 minutes in. That, combined with a poor Dragon control, made CLG once again fall behind on gold, and followed by a bad Baron call resulted in CLG losing their first inhibitor just 27 minutes in.
At this point CLG were almost 10k gold behind, and with HotshotGG getting caught near Baron shortly after it seemed like CLG are about to fall, but they managed to interrupt Dignitas with an unbelievable teamfight, taking 3 kills and the Baron buff for free. 35 minutes in this was the first turning point of the match: CLG, finally able to take the initiative, were dictating the rules and taking down Dignitas’ turrets. The next two teamfights turned out to be complete disasters for Dignitas, bringing Doublelift on Kog 7 kills and letting CLG catch up and even pull ahead on gold.
The second turning point happened 55 minutes in, when Dignitas already had one inhibitor down and CLG were pressuring the second one. Dignitas initiated another unfortunate teamfight, almost instantly losing their Jungler and Support to Doublelift, but Doublelift went slightly too far, letting Imaqtpie on Caitlyn quickly kill him, and, even though it resulted in a triple for Kog, without him CLG were simply unable to continue pressuring Dignitas’ base against two high range poke champions, and were forced to leave. If Doublelift played a bit safer, and did not let himself get caught, it could possibly have been game right there. CLG didn’t know yet how badly that mistake would turn out against them.
CLG giving up Baron after a bad teamfight initiation allowed Dignitas to fully use the power of the poke composition, focusing on taking down CLG’s inhibitors and doing an amazing job at disengaging every time CLG tried to catch one of the players. The tension was growing by the minute, as even a slightest mistake could potentially end the game. Dignitas managed to take down all three inhibitors, and at this point CLG were pinned down by superminions and Dignitas pressuring the remainings of their base from all sides, but even then CLG refused to go down easily, defending their base to the very last moment, which made the inevitable ending look even more brutal.
CLG Prime vs Curse: 3rd place match
This was the last chance for both teams to get their tickets to Season 2 and Season 3 World Championship. If CLG lost, they’d no longer be concidered a top NA team, which means the time they spent in Korea was a waste. If Curse lost, it would’ve meant that the world’s most expensive team isn’t among the best ones even for their regional. Everything was on the map.
CLG once again decided to go with their triple Teleport strategy, putting pressure on every Curse’s lane, appearing with unpredictable ganks and split pushes. Though Curse were able stay on par on gold, successfully exchanging most towers and capitalizing on CLG’s poor Dragon control, it was CLG’s forced Baron teamfights that decided the game. It seemed like Curse were simply unprepared for that kind of aggressiveness, and every time Nyjacky initiated with Morgana ultimate, Westrice was too far away to follow up, rendering the core of Curse’s team composition useless.
Curse realized that their teamfight aimed composition worked against them in the first game, and went with a global presence one, picking up Shen and Karthus. The weakness of such team composition is usually the individual weakness of the lanes, and this is exactly what CLG decided to try to capitalize on, knowing that, if they would be able to avoid falling to Karthus ults and Shen counterganks, they would easily crush them in teamfights. Unfortunately for CLG, they made a few careless moves that let Curse pull ahead of them by 5k gold, but it simply wasn’t enough: as soon as Voyboy’s Jax hit lategame state, Curse lost control over CLG. They started losing Barons, turrets, and, despite Nyjacky dealing destructive amounts of damage on Karthus, teamfights – Voyboy was quickly getting unstoppable. At this point there was nothing Curse could do to save the game.
TSM vs Dignitas: Grand Finals
Despite Grand Finals being usually very anticipated, and these finals being no exception, they turned out to be extremely one sided, which is why I won’t be doing in-depth analysis of the matches. The reasons (there were several of them) the games were an easy victory for TSM were, first of all, Dignitas not properly preparing to face them. The main goal team Dignitas had heading into NA Regionals was getting into Season 2 World Championship, and, due to their tournament bracket position, they knew that the only way they would have to fight against TSM for a World Championship spot is if they both lost semifinals, which was highly unlikely.
The second reason was TSM knowing NA scene too well: they have a positive record against every NA team, which made preparing to facing TSM an even less appealing perspective for Dig. As a result, they got stomped by TSM.
Shortly after the Regionals it became known that TSM Evo will be parting their ways. As Wingsofdeath explained in his blog, the team has not been performing very well ever since Aphromoo left it, so the players decided that, in case they would be unable to win a trip to Season 2 World Championship or at least show some signs of improvement, they would disband it.
Though some may argue that the team had little time to fully prepare to Season 2 finals, the three months (since their last roster change) the team had should have been enough to at the very least become one of the top 3 NA teams. Instead they, as the Regionals have shown, remained a #4 team – which they have always been. Though it most definitely will not be disbanded – the amount of money Curse has been pumping into it is just too much for that – it will surely see some roster changes in preparation to Season 3. One, in particular, would possibly be replacing Westrice with Wingsofdeath from TSM Evo, who is known for having a bigger champion pool and being able to play “op” champions when needed.
Update #1: Westrice confirmed on his Facebook that Curse won’t be changing their roster, but instead will swap roles.
Update #2: Saintvicious said on his stream that “Westrice is benched” from Team Curse. It’s not official yet who’s going to replace him, but rumor is that it’s going to be Salce, previously TSM Evo’s mid lane player, who is currently practicing top lane in solo queue (for yet unknown reason).
North American Meta vs. European Meta
North American teams seem to be very conservative with their favourite champions, using Graves and Morgana, which European teams have fully replaced with Ezreal and Gragas/Orianna. The second noticeable trend is Leona being Europe’s favourite aggressive support, while NA teams are sticking to Blitzcrank. Lastly, the junglers: while Alistar and Nunu are being recognized as top tier junglers by both regions, Europe seem to be also favouring Malphite, where NA are instead going with Shyvana and Olaf.
While 3 out of 5 top bans are identical for both regions, the other two are really reflecting which champions are believed to be making the biggest difference: for NA those champions are Yorick and Karthus, while for EU it’s Malphite and Maokai.
Season 2 World Championship preview
Begins: on the 4th of October, in Los Angeles;
So far, 9 out of 12 slots have already been taken:
The 3 teams from Europe are going to be M5, SK and CLG EU;
For NA those are TSM, Dignitas and CLG Prime;
Then there are two Chinese teams (World Elite and Invictus Gaming) and one from Taiwan (Taipei Assasins).
As for the remaining slots, the first one would go to the winner of Regional Finals in Da Nang (the front runners for this one are Singapore Sentinels and Saigon Jokers); the second one would be given away at Korean Regionals (here the frontrunners are Xenics Storm and NaJin Sword); and the last one would go away to whichever Korean team gets more Challenger Circuit points (either Azubu Blaze or Azubu Frost – depends on Frost being able to defeat CLG EU in OGN Champions Summer Grand Finals).
Additionally, it was recently told that out of the total $2,000,000 prize pool, exactly $1,000,000 would go to the 1st place team.
Top 2 games of the event