Thursday, 23 January 2014

Piglet in a Suit plus a Preview of OGN Champions Winter Finals 2013

I was going to write an in depth preview of the upcoming grand final match between Samsung Ozone and SKT T1 K but then I went on twitter and got distracted by SKT's AD Carry, Piglet, in a suit. Look at him being all cute yet suave in his spare time, but I am sure he's practicing hard for the final with Poohmandu. Oh no wait...Poohmandu is spending the time fixing his car. Well I am sure the others are practicing, right? Faker? Bengi? Impact?

The World Champions
To cut the World Championship team some slack, the final is in over two weeks after the time they last played their 3-0 match against KT Bullets. They have time to relax and deserve a little bit break after clean sweeping their way to the finals without a single loss in their match history. They have not lost a game since the WCG qualifiers, and before that they became $1 million richer after winning the Season 3 World Championships in October last year. And this is from a team that debuted in the professional scene in the OGN Spring 2013 season. Everyone agrees that SKT T1 K is currently the best League of Legends team in the world. If they win on Saturday, they will be securing their second OGN Championship title, the first team in OGN's history to win twice.  It seems there is nothing that can stop them. The only thing standing in their way to securing the title of the being best that ever was is a little team called Samsung Galaxy Ozone.

The Other Team
Did I say little? My mistake, as SKT T1 K is all most people can talk about recently one forgets there are other Korean teams. Yet Samsung Ozone is by no means a stranger to the spotlight. Winners of the OGN Spring 2013 season, third place in the OGN Summer 2013 season, and one of the three teams to represent Korea in the Season 3 World Championship is an impressive list of achievements for a team. The most impressive is of course their victory in OGN Spring 2013. No one thought they could win against CJ Entus Blaze who was on epic winning streak and looked so very strong at the time. It was widely thought that Ozone would need nothing short of a miracle to even win a game in this final.  And then Ozone won. 3-0. Ozone will be the underdogs in this Winter final once again and a lot of people think they will need nothing short of a miracle to even win a game in this final. Can they do it again? If anything, it will be even harder than beating Blaze as SKT T1 K look even stronger than Blaze did in Spring. Blaze was also known to have one single strategy which revolved around carefully farming minions in order to push turrets and also getting Flame fed on empty lane farm. SKT T1 K are not that transparent and will probably be harder to exploit.

Road to the Final
Many people are quick to dismiss this match up as heavily favouring SKT TI K, while this may seem rather obvious due to SKT T1 K dominating streak over League of Legends recently, it is important, I think, to look at how each team got to the final. SKT T1 K found them in a bracket stacked full of the best teams in Korea. CJ Entus Blaze and KT Bullets fought to be their opponent after SKT beat Samsung Blue in their quarter final. KT Bullets is arguably the second best team in Korea and were SKT's opponents in the Summer finals which went to the full 5 games. Blaze, although not as dominating as they were in the Spring season, are still a team to be feared (they went on to win this season's NLB 3-1 against Najin Sword). SKT had formidable opponents on the road to the final, yet all teams they defeated relatively easily.

Ozone found themselves up against teams that were considered weaker than those that SKT T1 faced. Najin White Shield and a struggling CJ Entus Frost were Ozone's opponents. Shield, although a solid team that's improved from season to season has never been a team considered likely to take the Championship. They are, however, the team that has put the only blemishes on Ozone's win record this season, taking two games from them one in group stages and one in the semi final match. This leaves a lot of people arguing that Ozone isn't that strong because they couldn't defeat a weaker team convincingly. This is definitely how it seems on paper and ever since the brackets were announced people were writing off the bracket stage expecting them to be filled with boring games. What actually happened was a semi final series between Ozone and Shield that was anything but boring, both teams playing very well with Shield defying expectations. If you haven't watched those matches I highly recommend you do.

In hindsight, it still could be argued that Ozone had the easiest time leading up to the finals, since all the Champion favourites found themselves in the same side of the bracket. One can lament the structure of the tournament leading to top tier teams like CJ Blaze, KT Bullets being knocked out of the finals brackets so early but that's the nature of the competition and teams have to shape up or go home. If the untouchable status of SKT T1 K is to be believed, they were probably just going to lose eventually anyway.  But then that's a bit of a hype killer.

Head to Head
Moving on, let's see how the teams stack up against each other.
In the TOP LANE:
Impact vs Looper
Samsung Ozone could always pull out Homme for the finals but this seems very unlikely as Looper has really been performing exceptionally well this season. He plays teleport Dr Mundo better than most other top laners, never wasting a teleport and always finding an advantage out of that summoner spell. SKT T1 K will most likely ban Mundo against him unless they can pick it up for themselves. Impact is also an exceptional top laner knowing exactly where he needs to be to protect his carries. He and Looper share a champion pool, both of them playing the current top lane staples Dr Mundo, Shyvana and Renekton. They both also have played Singed, Impact brought Singed back into competitive play in Champion Summer and Looper played Singed (with teleport) in his first ever professional game in the World Championships. Impact also plays a good Jax, a champion that was part of Ozone's only loss to Shield in the semi finals. This should be a pretty close match up with Ozone possibly relying on Looper's teleport plays to get them an advantage.

In the JUNGLE:
Bengi vs DanDy
Elise and Lee Sin  have been the story for both these junglers this season, with Bengi picking up Olaf just as frequently. He and DanDy are excellent junglers often pairing with their supports to create plays for their team, as demonstrated by Bengi and Poohmandu using an Elise/Zyra combo to grab an early dragon to negate KT Bullet's 2v1 advantage in the semi final match. Bengi has also played Nunu pairing it with Caitlyn for the early tower pressure bloodboil provides. Neither these junglers are really "carry" junglers. Bengi has always invested in providing vision control for his team early in game and the season 4 changes to vision have not dampened his enthusiasm, leading to SKT having a superior understanding on how to use pink wards in the new season. DanDy is known as the counter ganking jungler, always knowing where the other jungler is and being there in time to turn a gank around. This match up will be a pretty close one, SKT T1 have looked on fire regarding controlling objectives lately and it will be up to DanDy to predict Bengi's movements and make the right choice on what lane to visit to respond to the unrelenting lane pressure that is bound to come from SKT.

In the MID:
Faker vs Dade
Both MVPs of their respective winning seasons these mid laners have differing stories. Faker has been labeled "Best Player of 2013" on pretty much any LoL eSports website that bothered to put out a list. Dade on the other hand, despite his amazing performance on Zed during the final of OGN Spring 2013, is notoriously known for is absolutely terrible Gragas play at the Season 3 World Championship.  This Winter season  has shown  Dade can expand his previously limited champion pool by playing a lot of Kha'Zix, Nidalee and Gragas along with Zed, even pulling out a niche Ghost/Flash Ziggs against Shield. Faker has been playing a lot of Leblanc, Nidalee, Riven and Gragas. I expect at least one Gragas ban against Faker and Nidalee and Kassadin are likely to be banned by either team. Also as Yasuo is now available this adds another champion into the mix, and Faker has been playing him in solo queue. Dade is facing a huge hurdle in the midlane that is Faker, and Dade will have to play at his absolute best to show if he can match up.

In the DUO LANE:
Piglet/Poohmandu vs Imp/Mata
Both these botlanes have had a huge impact on the games that their teams have played this season.  Piglet is commonly referred to as the second superstar on SKT T1 (second to Faker, of course). Both Imp and Piglet are famous for their Vayne and Caitlyn picks in the past. Piglet has played both Caitlyn and Vayne this season whereas Imp as not played his famed Vayne yet. This may have something to do with him thinking he is not a top tier AD carry at the moment which he stated in an interview after their semi final win a few weeks a go. Piglet has not shown any such doubts, with his Vayne mechanics proving to be almost flawless in recent games. Despite Imp's own admissions he has been playing extremely well, his mechanics don't seem to be lacking displaying impressive flash mechanics and escapes against Shield and Frost. Imp has also been playing Sivir, Ezreal and Lucian. His safest pick aside from Caitlyn is probably Ezreal and it will not be surprising if he plays it in the final. Imp will need to regain some confidence if he wants to compete against Piglet. Neither of these players will be alone in the lanes (most likely) as they have arguably the best two supports in Korea at the moment to keep them out of trouble. These supports are likely to draw a lot of bans. The choice of support can have a major effect on games currently and Mata and Poohmandu play them all. Both are deadly on Annie and Thresh. Mata has exhibited amazing Leona play recently and Poohmandu always has his pocket Nami, a champion that he is so good on it's a bit ridiculous. It will be very exciting to see which bot lane comes out on top, while I think Piglet and Poohmandu are slightly stronger as a duo, Mata and Imp will be no push over.

The SKT T1 K Factor vs the Samsung Ozone Factor
No matter who wins on Saturday OGN will be crowning a second time Champions winner. SKT T1 are the heavy favourites, generous fans out there are predicting 3-1 in their favour. Why are they so heavily favoured? What do they possess that no other team in Korea has? The simple answer is that they are just so darn good. It is like they have taken apart Summoner's Rift and then put it back together again and know exactly how it works, like they have reached a state of enlightenment about the game that other teams are yet to find. They have excellent mechanical skills, superior game knowledge which allows them a strong pick and ban phase and the winning edge in the strategic game. They work as a team almost seamlessly and they know all the plays and the counter plays their opposing team will do. They don't have any obvious weaknesses. SKT T1 K also has this killer instinct and ruthless vibe about their play, they don't let their opponents relax and they always seem like they are in control. If an opposing team starts to think they are in control SKT T1 will suddenly be there getting an inhibitor at 12 minutes. It's this along with their imposing win rate that gives them a substantial mental edge over their opponent. Samsung Ozone boasts some top players and excellent team work but they have relied on research and carefully planned strategy to overcome their most formidable opponents (which is why their performance at Worlds is so baffling). They will need every bit of their assets to present a challenge to the unstoppable SKT T1 K. I don't think SKT T1 K are unbeatable and as I am an Ozone fan I am highly optimistic about their chances. And I am hoping for that game 5 blind pick. Because who doesn't want to see a blind pick?

OGN Champions Winter 2013 Final is on the Saturday 25th of Jan. at 4pm KST on twitch.tv/ongamenet

Thanks for reading! Congratulations for making it through this very long post. I think you are awesome. Follow me on twitter @gerarda and feel free to tweet me feedback or similar.







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