Sometimes a player’s greatest performance is also their most quintessential — a perfect example of what makes them great. Michael Jordan’s Flu Game captures the man’s ruthless will to win over any adversity. Zinedine Zidane’s play against Brazil in 2006 summarizes his elegant and carefree style. And Henrik "Froggen" Hansen’s Anivia game against Moscow 5 at DreamHack Summer 2012 is the prototypical example of the patient greatness of one of League of Legends’ best players.
It’s the greatest Anivia game ever played.
Make no mistake, there are better Anivia games. Froggen and his team made many errors throughout the match. There have been many performances from other players — hell, even Froggen himself — that closer reach perfection with the Cryophoenix.
Looking at it in full scope, though, shows a game that changed League of Legends forever. It crowned Froggen as an Anivia prodigy, started the incredible rivalry between CLG.eu and Moscow 5, and produced arguably the greatest comeback in the game’s history. As you look at it closer, you’ll see a man pushing the limits of what is possible with a champion.
* * *
It should come as no surprise that Froggen possesses the greatest Anivia game played. Few player-champion pairings are as iconic as him and the bird. His history with Anivia runs deeper than being one of his early favorites— watching his brother play Anivia was one of the sparks that ignited his interest in the game. As he played ranked games and online tournaments, it was virtually his exclusive champion. When asked how long it took him to realize he was good at the game, he was blunt: “2 games of anivia”.
In Froggen, Anivia found the perfect pilot and partner. The Cryophoenix was not an overpowered champion and grinding games with it was more a style choice than metagame necessity. While there were a few professionals that played Anivia, such as Michael "Bigfatjiji" Tang and Jung "RapidStar" Min-sung, it was not a powerpick. Her difficult kit made her too unsuitable for the snowball-heavy style of most mid laners of that era.
Anivia was different, but so was Froggen. Rather than hunt for kills in lane or through roaming, he would suffocate his opponent in lane through small exploits and superior mechanics. As farming became more critical than kills, Froggen’s focus on CS over duels gave him a huge leg up for teamfights. A champion with perhaps the best waveclear in the game, great disengagement, and great utility and burst was the perfect partner to the Dane.
* * *
Froggen is the first great western League of Legends player. At his peak, he was arguably the best player in the world. But not before this game. Before it, Froggen was considered a very good player, potentially elite, but one that mostly showed good results online. There are a couple reasons this game shouldn’t have been possible.
First, CLG.eu barely made it to DreamHack. They failed to win the European qualifiers and their only option to attend was to fly to Sweden and compete in DreamHack’s BYOC tournament — something the CLG organization could not afford. Only through an online fundraiser (incentives included hearing CLG.eu players sing songs and playing games with the team) and sponsors providing equipment (they literally had to bring their own computers) were Froggen and co able to compete.
Although Froggen’s team continued killing it online, questions of how they would perform on LAN were still in the air. In one of their only offline events at the 2012 MLG Pro Circuit Spring Championship, CLG.eu stunk up the venue. Though North American competition was much stronger at this time and CLG.eu had several issues with their headphones and in-game client, their performance — Froggen’s included — was far from elite level
Finally, CLG.eu, with all these asterisks looming, had to play Moscow 5. The Russians were at their very best, so ahead of the competition that other teams couldn’t even figure out what they were doing. Their own mid laner contended for the best in the world, their jungler and bot lane duo were all geniuses of their positions, and they packed it together in a teamfight-heavy style that hit like a wrecking ball. Even though CLG.eu had shown strong results against them online, no one had found an answer to the Moscow 5 at big LAN tournaments.
After qualifying for DreamHack Summer in the tournament’s BYOC event, Froggen’s team was seeded in the same group as M5. They both topped the group, and played a fairly inconsequential game before going into the playoffs. It’d be the greatest comeback in League of Legends history.
* * *
The draft phase was fairly standard for the two teams. M5 opted for an engage-heavy composition, built upon terrifying comfort picks. Danil "Diamondprox" Reshetnikov was considered the best Lee Sin player in the world, same with Alexey "Alex Ich" Ichetovkin and Karthus. The movement of Corki in the hands of a positioning genius like Evgeny "Genja" Andryushin was also troublesome, while Edward "Edward" Abgaryan with Nunu… just watch.
CLG.eu also had a strong draft, but with more crowd-control and sustained damage. They were also able to get some strong comfort picks, including Mike "Wickd" Petersen’s excellent Irelia... and, of course, the obvious one. Froggen’s Anivia rounded up the draft, complementing the crowd-control focus of his team’s composition with its slow and wall, and he could provide burst damage to make them far more versatile. Karthus was superior in lane and could farm better on paper, but as you’ve figured out by now, that didn’t matter.
The beginnings of the laning phase were uneventful. Stephen "Snoopeh" Ellis failed several ganks, as Alex_Ich pulled ahead in CS over Froggen. With such a rough lane, Froggen had to get creative. Eight minutes in, after shoving his lane, Froggen atypically roamed bottom, hiding in his team’s bottom brush. He ambushed the M5’s bot lane and killed Edward as Genja ran past his turret. With low mana and a nice chunk of change in hand, most players would recall. Froggen was patient, though. He waited in M5’s bottom brush and correctly predicted Genja to return to the lane. Another quick kill — two for Froggen to start the game.
That’s all that goes well for a while.
* * *
It was M5’s turn to have some fun. First they took an easy dragon. Diamondprox executed a perfect gank with Darien to kill Wickd, followed by a double kill by M5’s bottom lane against CLG.eu’s. Then another successful gank on Wickd. Then another dragon for M5, with Froggen dying in the chaos. Then a Baron sneak for M5. Then another two kills. Another two towers. Another Baron.
This was classic M5 — taking kills across the map, using their stronger teamfighting to win objectives, and squeezing every drop out of an enemy’s mistake. Give M5 a pixel, and they’d take the whole damn screen.
35 minutes in, M5 had attained a 15k gold advantage over Froggen’s team. Since those original two kills, the Russians outplayed CLG.eu at every turn. In fact, Froggen wasn’t even doing that well individually. Besides dying twice, Karthus’ superior farming allowed Alex Ich to build a 70 CS gap ahead of Froggen. Paired with a ton of kills and global objectives gold, even CLG.eu’s best player was way behind.
Minutes later, M5 closed in on CLG.eu’s inner turrets. What do you do when the world’s best team on some of their favorite champions comes knocking? The end looked near, but Froggen remained patient. As Alex Ich overextended, Froggen immediately saw the opportunity to Flash in and burst him down.
Though it’s a bit hard to see, you can make out a perfect example of Froggen’s calculated playmaking. Instead of chasing him down until he’s dead, Froggen knew the limits and capabilities of Anivia. After initially attacking, he starts backing away, knowing he has enough damage from range to kill Karthus, aware that getting too close will put him in M5’s hands. His smart play saved his life, as well as arguably the game. M5 backed off.
M5’s retreat doesn’t mean defeat, however, and they cause even CLG.eu even more grief after regrouping. The Russians head for barren and after a prolonged team fight, they trade two-for-one and grab Baron for themselves. Once again, Froggen and CLG.eu were backed against the wall — but not entirely. Through superb wave clear from Glacial Storm, Froggen turned M5’s engages into a stalemate. Though it was peculiar that M5 was so hesitant to dive the turret, Froggen’s wall and burst were clearly scaring them away. At the same time, Froggen had shaved the CS difference between him and Alex Ich to just under 30.
Though it doesn’t lead to anything, you can see here another instance of how fantastic Froggen’s game sense was. The common use of Crystallize is either to block an enemy you’re chasing, or stop an enemy chasing you. As CLG.eu tried to catch out Lee Sin, Froggen used Anivia’s wall to seal off Diamondprox’s teammates from helping him. It doesn’t work because of Lee Sin’s escape, but still, how brilliant.
M5 again obliterated the lanes and jungle as much as possible. Another Baron in hand, and with more than 25k thousand gold ahead of CLG.eu, it still looked horrible despite all of the latter’s efforts. They continued to hold on, though. At 55 minutes, Froggen had caught up in strength and led a counterattack to M5’s siege on the bottom lane.
So much is happening here — even watching it in slow motion — that it’s hard to make out every genius move Froggen made. He started with Q from afar to allow him time to re-position closer for his R/E follow-up, as well as E’s quicker cooldown. He placed his R in beautifully, smack dab between all the action. His wall was perfect. There was no other time or place better for it. It wasn’t so much about forcing Karthus and Vladimir to spend more time in Anivia’s ultimate, but preventing Corki and Soraka from helping, having to take the long way around the wall. He burst down Karthus immediately and then threw out another Q/E combo to burst down Vladimir. Two M5 members were down in seconds.
Froggen killed Corki soon after, putting M5 on the run, and as he gave chase, Froggen’s wall placements were once again genius. Notice how instead of placing the center directly in front of them, it’s cast more downwards. Froggen often did this to use the wall to guide the enemy’s movement instead of just blocking them. Had he placed it directly in front of them like most players of the time, Nunu would likely use his Flash, leaving CLG.eu behind the wall. Instead, Froggen’s wall had Edward choose to simply walk up instead, only to be met by Froggen’s predicted Q/E combo. Four members of M5 dead. CLG.eu lived on.
Set back into neutral game, CLG.eu went into the enemy jungle. Froggen hid in a brush, soon finding Alex Ich coming to facecheck. Once again notice how crisp Froggen’s timing was, applying R as soon as he sent his Q out to have Karthus spend as much time in the storm as possible.
With Karthus dead, and Anivia and Tristana well-farmed, CLG.eu took M5’s bottom inhibitor. They switched focus to Baron, where Froggen’s now game-defining R/wall positioning chipped Vladimir down to half health.
Froggen made another brilliant defensive play, as CLG.eu disengaged while M5 were on the chase, only for him to land another combo on Vladimir and remove him from the fight. In another of his classic innovations, he sent out Q slightly before his E and landed them milliseconds apart to deal enormous burst to Karthus, setting up a kill on him. With M5 in shambles, CLG.eu cleaned up the rest of the team for an ace and a historic, record-breaking win
Though you can certainly point to M5 making many mistakes throughout this game, the win through resilience was a masterwork by CLG.eu. Though every team member deserved credit, Froggen took center stage for this victory. His use of Anivia’s utility and waveclear was what stalled the game. His CSing skills (higher than Alex Ich by the end of the game) were what gave them the firepower to stand toe-to-toe with M5. And his unparalleled knowledge of Anivia’s kit and how to apply it to fights molded engagements they’d otherwise lose into victories.
The game had huge implications: it was the first time M5 were exposed as mortals in a big offline event. CLG.eu later beat them in the finals to win DreamHack Summer 2012 in the first strong proof they were an elite team. It established a long rivalry between the two European teams and it was one of the CLG.eu’s last chances to put them on a strong path for Worlds (where they’d make the semifinals).
This game remains one of Froggen’s supreme achievements. It was his first big tournament that showed just how fantastic he was — a year he would be the best player ever up to that point. It displayed a new way to approach the mid lane: patience and calculations over constant aggression. There are so many excellent games from Froggen that show why he was such a strong player. But if it needed to be boiled down to one that illustrated everything wonderful about him, this would be the one.
The greatest Anivia game ever played.
Previously in the series:
The best LeBlanc game ever played: Faker vs. MVP Blue, OGN Spring 2013
I write. I rap. I run. That’s pretty much it.