Part One Part Two
While most of us are simply counting the days until IEM Katowice, there are certain community members, who just cannot sit on their hands. One of them is Ari "Storm" Storm (@StormDK), who prepared a three-part article about our miraculous run at IEM Katowice in January 2013. The first part of the article was initially posted on Reddit, but we have gained a permission to share this amazing piece that focuses on analyzing our resurgence within the walls of Spodek. Enjoy!
This is a three-part article dealing with Gambit's famous win at IEM Katowice last year. As we move closer to the IEM World Championship of 2014, it will revisit the myths of Gambit's victory. IEM Katowice 2013 arguably had one of the strongest narratives in the history of professional League of Legends. Furthermore, it is my belief that Katowice stands as the most misunderstood tournament in LoL history.
8. Azubu Blaze: Game 1 & 2
Gambit Gaming was about to face the opponent who took them down in the groupstage. Yet this time, the momentum had shifted. From being a battle between a favourite and an underdog, it was a battle between equals. Both teams instinctively knew there would be no room for complacency. To the thundering cheers of the crowd, Gambit and Blaze settled themselves mentally, ready for champion select.
As mentioned in the first part, Gambit continued with the same consistent style of picks and bans as they had used in the previous games. Olaf against Flame, Caitlyn and Miss Fortune against Cpt Jack. Blaze, recognizing the importance of Diamond's Xin Zhao in the games against Frost, banned out this champion along with Kha'zix and Lee Sin. Once again, as had been the case countless times before, Alex Ich managed to snag a champion that by all rights should have been banned. Gambit instalocked Evelynn, a champion that Alex, to this very day, has never lost a match with. Gambit rounded up their composition with a couple of comfort picks, Sona for Edward while Darien and Genja, for the third time back-to-back, respectively picked Renekton and Ezreal.
Azubu Blaze answered with a couple of traditional comfort picks themselves, picking Vladimir for Flame and Ryze for Ambition. Due to the Miss Fortune and Caitlyn bans, Cpt Jack reverted back to a Kog'maw pick with Lustboy's Nunu supporting him. This composition can be considered an early variant of the typical Blaze “ramp-up” comp, though instead of aiming for a mid-game powerspike as was seen and perfected a couple of months later in OGN Spring and documented by MonteCristo, this Blaze composition aimed more for the extreme late game advantage with the Nunu-Kog'maw bot-lane. Both Kog'maw, Vladimir and (albeit to a lesser extent) Ryze have significant ramp-up times before they get influential in teamfights. This was the ultimate late game comp going up against a very strong early game comp from Gambit.
And the early game pressure from Gambit could surely be felt. Especially in the bottom lane, where the old-school poke duo of Ezreal and Sona managed to force the flash out of Cpt Jack after only 28 seconds of laning. This signalled the opening for a series of two classic 4-man botlane turret dives, a necessary early-game manouver given the compositional circumstances. The dives were successful, the necessary early game advantage was secured and the Kog'maw's ramp up time was significantly lengthened, having only 22 CS and 2 deaths 8 minutes into the game. At the same time Flame went for a first item Warmogs, and wouldn't be able to contribute with much damage in later fights.
This was a Gambit that had maintained the early game focus they had adopted for the game against MYM. Once the early snowball had started, there were no end to the hyperaggression from Gambit. Deep jungle wards, immaculate dragon control, early homeguard boots, a 21 minute baron and methodical sieging helped Gambit secure such an advantage that Blaze chose to forfeit the game at 23 minutes. 1-0 to Gambit.
Blaze, now having felt the pain of the early game aggression from Alex Ich, wisely chose to ban both his Evelynn and his Kha'zix in the second game, thus leaving Diamond to play Xin Zhao for the fouth time of the tournament. In addition, Gambit picked up Jax for Darien and Ryze for Alex, signalling a slight change in strategy from the first game. This time they abandoned their early game champions for a stronger late game composition. With both Alex and Genja running exhaust, their late game potential was probably the strongest of all their comps in Katowice.
Yet the strange thing was that they chose to play this comp exactly the same way they had played their early game comp. They applied the same early game turret dive Blaze, yet this time the hyperaggression backfired, slowing the game down considerably.
This game instead taught a entirely different lesson to the LoL scene. It remembered us why Diamondprox is considered one of the most innovative junglers of the game, having an uncanny sense for how a game of competitive LoL is supposed to be played out. In reality he had followed the exact same game plan against both Frost and Blaze, but the second game against Blaze showcased the ingenious game sense of Diamondprox the most. Diamond's Xin Zhao build consisted of three core items: Boots of Mobility, Locket of the Iron Solari and Aegis of the Legion. Especially the Locket rush was considered unorthodox (as was Xin Zhao himself), but turned out to be a very good item for early game turret dives as well as 5v5 teamfights. Combined with the Taric from Edward, Gambit amassed a significant amount of auras and shields, resulting in a sneaky hidden advantage for Gambit. Contrast this to the the Warmog's rush from Blaze's jungler Helios.
25 minutes into the game, the game deciding teamfight broke out between the 35k gold Gambit and 31k gold Blaze, yet Gambit had around 5k unspent gold in their purses, while Blaze only had 3k. This ment that the overall difference in gold was only about 2k. In large part due to the massive defensive bonuses of Taric and Xin Zhao's Locket/Aegis, Gambit rolled over Blaze despite an iconic 'perfect cleanse' of Edwards stun by Cpt Jack.
9. The Masters of the Intel Extreme Masters
Up until that point, Gambit had won every IEM they had participated in. Katowice was the tournament that was expected to end this incredible run. Yet defiance runs deep in the Russian mentality. There are no underdogs or favorites in the world of Gambit. There is no metagame that can't be broken, no team that can't be toppled and no situation worthy of a surrender.
To the amazement of the casters, to the jubilation of the crowd, to the delight of fans all across the world, 29 minutes into the final game Gambit destroyed the Nexus of Blaze. The Russian squad was once again champions of an IEM event.
As Jatt mentioned immidiately after the game ended, this victory was the greatest momentum shift in the history of League of Legends. Not only had Gambit won, they had also fundamentally changed the view on how professional LoL should be played. Immidiately following the victory at Katowice, the picks, itemization and early game strategy of Gambit was then largely adopted by Najin Sword who proceeded to win the OGN Winter 2012-2013 finals against Azubu Frost.
So how is Katowice the most misunderstood tournament of LoL, as I claimed in the first part of the article? While the famous 'armor shred comp' was a great help, it wasn't at all the deciding factor at IEM Katowice. Champions like Xin Zhao and Renekton were strong, not because of the half-gimmicky armor shred, but because of their immense early and mid game power. Against Blaze the tournament taught us how early game aggression, efficient pushing, objective control and assassination completely counters a late game ramp-up comp. Against Frost it illustrated the importance of teamfight positioning and splitpush adaptibility against overwhelming waveclear.
And most of all, against both Frost and Blaze, it reminded us the dangers of metagame complacency. The confidence of the Koreans in their champions and builds got completely shattered that day. It signalled the beginning of the end of the Giant's Belt meta, and a new era for the influence of Diamondprox.
And it showed us that while Gambit is capable of pulling off combinationary plays, they are largely a team of individualists, strong exactly because each member knows the boundaries of their roles within the team. Alex and Genja as the patient positional players, Darien and Diamond as the scary frontliners with Edward as the playmaker – a support style he largely innovated himself.
With IEM World Championships starting tomorrow, we stand now before a new season, a new metagame and a new set of great teams. Tomorrow, regions will clash for the first time this year. The lessons of this coming weekend might very well be completely formative and shattering for the metagame of 2014, just as Katowice 2013 was it for the metagame of 2013.