Taiwan’s League Master Series is back under way after a break for the Chinese New Year. The eight teams have battled hard, with some clear favorites already starting to come out. The current standings are as follows:
As is often the case, different regions play the game quite…. well, differently. Some key trends are starting to develop, and it’s becoming a bit easier to identify weaknesses and strengths.
If you follow any other at all, you know that the three most banned picks are Leblanc, Camille, and Rengar, typically banned from red side so as to not give them up to the first pick, because they are all at nearly unmatchable points of strength right now. That is, if you have somebody who can play them, which is not a given in LMS. Rengar was banned from red side in every game this week, but both Camille and Leblanc were actually taken off the table by the team with the first pick a few times, or even left unbanned. It stands to reason that many of these players can’t actually play the power picks, presumably because outside practice sources don’t often let these champions through the ban phase either.
This makes for interesting scenarios in matches between less experienced teams, but it poses a problem moving forward. In international play, it’s a must to able to play some meta picks, if only to force bans from the opponent. Then again, this is only an issue if a new team actually makes it to an international tournament, which is a nice segue.
Flash Wolves shine, and others ought to follow
As usual, Flash Wolves sit atop the league, and the race for second is underway. Their success is pretty easy to attribute to their four returning players, collective experience level, and the ability to play the aforementioned power picks (Leblanc was left open for Yi-Tang “Maple” Huang twice on red side, with devastating results). So what can anyone do to catch up? The first thing has been mentioned twice already: learn to play the must-bans, so they actually get banned. This is easier said than done, and may not even apply to these three champions specifically moving forward, but it will be necessary, especially when we get to playoffs.
The second thing that will need more variety is the collective playstyle of the league. The meta right does in fact support great teamfighting comps, but this league (Flash Wolves included) doesn’t just kind of excel at the 5v5-heavy win condition — they only excel at it. This issue predates the current meta (see Flash Wolves’ many blown leads at Worlds 2016). Many of the teams in this league are simply scaled-down versions of that same Flash Wolves team, with the inability to split up map pressure early and effectively, and an inability to combat it. If any team can learn to do this as game changes come in the near future, they will be the first (or only) LMS team to do so, and this is something to watch moving forward.
There are a lot of sequences that happened this week that we can learn from, for reasons good and bad. So why not take a look here at one with both. The clip features a somewhat uncommon dual-lane gank in which the Flash Wolves send three champions to the bot lane, and two to the top, and taking three members of M17 at the exact same time on opposite sides of the map.
Bad news first — let’s break down what went wrong here:
- Ward coverage: By 15 minutes into a game, pushing a lane beyond a turret (dead or alive) can be risky. Doing so without watching your back is even riskier. Each side of the Rift has two tri-brushes, and M17 had neither of them warded, despite having lanes pushed up to them, trying to farm back into the game. You’ll note both teams had about the same number of wards, but three of M17’s saw Maple taking off for bot lane, but had none to see anything in between, including his landing. On the top side, Chen “3z” Han had no idea anyone was coming, due to having no ward in tri-brush, in river, or near the Krugs where they’d last seen the Wolves.
- Indecision: Watching the minimap. You can see Taizan and PaSa freeze near the mid-lane, starting to follow the Aurelion Sol before changing their minds a few times and going back to farming. As Syndra (or Ivern) you’re not going to match the roaming speed of Aurelion Sol, and if he’s ahead, your teammates are likely dead once you finish thinking about it. Nearly a full minute passes before any Wolf comes back to mid lane to defend the turret. Chip damage on that turret might’ve helped establish some counter-pressure in the coming minute, considering they went on to lose two turrets.
But Flash Wolves deserve some credit for this play, and here’s why:
- Ward coverage: The Wolves had as many wards as Machi did, but had spaced them all along the midsection of the map, as well as where they’d just seen Taizan. But they didn’t just happen to have vision in the right places; they played around it, waiting until the enemy was in a fully covered area. Trying to make a play somewhere without sight is a cause of many deaths at all levels of play, and it’s hard to remember in the heat of the moment.
- Restraint: It would have been very easy for the Wolves to try to take towers immediately after securing the kills. You never want to let your opponent reset if you don’t have to, but with death timers so low, and healthy towers to take, it ended up being much smarter to clear a wave on each side, reset yourself, and come back to your pushed lanes to finish the job, knowing you have continued kill pressure on pretty much the entire team. By doing this, they were able to nullify any retaliation from the remaining M17 members, take two turrets for one, and then rotate to put pressure in the mid lane.
Watching for learning moments like these can drastically increase your own play. So put yourself in your favorite player’s shoes, and ask yourself what you would do. Catch week 3 of LMS starting Friday at midnight PST on Garena’s Chinese stream here or TheEnderL’s amateur English stream here!