With the pride of continents on the line, Rift Rivals: NA vs EU Group Stage Day 1 has been concluded. TSM comfortably defeated G2 and UOL, while C9 went 1-1 to save face. People expected the two teams to do well, but things were a little different for P1.
In sharp contrast to their respectable 3rd place finish in Spring Split, P1 couldn’t quite make their performance stick in the summer and is currently in 8th place alongside FLY. One must wonder how a currently struggling NA team will stack up against EU powerhouses when bragging rights are at stake. My fears came true when P1 fell before Fnatic in Game 2. Fortunately, P1 was able to secure a clean victory by consistently outplaying UOL throughout the game.
Setting aside all the outside drama, there’s much to like about the match between P1 and UOL. P1’s nuanced grasp on the macro had many layered strategic depth, and P1 held on to those leads to clinch the win today. And everything started with Raptors.
▣ Setting up the ruse: Two Raptors
Early in the game, Zig and Ryu invaded the enemy Raptor camp. Vizicsacs on Galio did have a vision over the area out of caution, but he couldn’t stop P1’s advances from both players. In the meantime, Zig and Ryu snatched a Raptor each. Though two of them together reward measly 20 Gold, it had more impact on UOL’s jungler, Xerxe. Recent jungle pathing usually involves a jungler cleaning out all the little Raptors to reach level 2 and attempting to get a first gank at around level 3-4.
Without the two Raptors in place, Xerxe had to kill Crimson Raptor at an early stage, which allowed MikeYeung, who already secured the Red with Xpecial, to steal UOL’s Blue as well. To avoid giving up triple buffs, Xerxe naturally moved towards P1’s Blue and worked on nearby jungle to make up for the experience deficit early game. Since he was starting on the back foot, he must have figured that he would feed on jungle first then go ganking. Fellow jungle mains can probably all agree that there’s nothing more irritating than someone else messing up your initial jungle pathing. Xerxe was likely in the same boat.
That missed timing set the tone for the early phase of the game. While wandering UOL’s jungle, MikeYeung made a successful gank on Exileh in mid lane and another subsequent one to hand off Ryu two kills. At this point, Xerxe was in a no place to exert influence on mid lane. He did get a gank on Zig once, but no noticeable leads came off from it because it did nothing to put Renekton’s plays in check. P1’s core strategy stems from here: interfering with Xerxe’s jungling path to not only get lane advantage but to set the stage where Ryu can shine.
▣ What happens when you feed Ryu
Ryu’s recent plays demonstrated that he could essentially dominate the opponent when he was well-fed, but he wasn’t able to carry the team when things weren’t in his team’s favor. In other words, the more things work out for Ryu, the closer P1 gets to winning. To put the strategy into practice, P1 started to build foundation in the early game. After two successful ganks on Exilh’s Ryze, P1 got a 3-man gank on him again with Xpecial. Despite Xerxe getting a revenge kill on Ryu, Ryze didn’t get as much Gold because it was Xerxe who got the last hit on Ryu’s bounty.
The rest of the game involved feeding Ryu, and MikeYeung did the brunt of the work in this endeavor. MikeYeung precisely targeted the ones on UOL to be eliminated. He even connected Sonic Wave on Xerxe to pick him off when Ryze was still relevant. Past the midway point in the game when Ryze held no influence, MikeYeung perpetually isolated UOL’s sole damage dealer, Samux to assassinate him. Due to his targeted efforts in taking care of key enemy players, P1 had an easier time in teamfights, which directly translated to feeding Ryu.
By the late game, nothing could stand against Ryu. As if to pay back for all the care he received, he obliterated every enemy he came in contact and secured the game. Out of 22 kills, Ryu’s personal KDA record showed 11/2/11 with 100% kill participation. Exileh’s Ryze exerted no force on the game, and Samux’s relatively well-fed Twitch wasn’t enough to turn the tides either.
▣ A cleaner victory was possible, but hindsight is 20/20
This is how P1 got a valuable win today despite most NA fans’ expectations before Rift Rivals. The team never let go of the leads they had throughout the game and didn’t make major mistakes that shifted the pace in the other way.
However, there were some things that could have gone better. First of all, Zig’s item choice leaves much to be desired. He went with a standard dual axe, The Black Cleaver – Titanic Hydra, but P1 never needed additional firepower. Not only that, Renekton is a champion that comes with a decent AOE and doesn’t need a heavy investment into attack items. If Zig opted for more early defensive options to tank the damage, Ryu and Arrow might have popped off earlier. This shortcoming is evidenced by cases of Zig retreating out of combat due to his inability to absorb damage.
Another point is that Ryu’s unwarranted aggressiveness. During the midway point, Ryu moved within a turret range by using Valkyrie to pursue Twitch who just used Flash. Though Ryu killed Twitch, he also died in the process. Ryu’s death and that of Twitch’s have different consequences for each team. There’s a simple number Gold difference, but Ryu is the player that completes P1’s composition. If he worked on the turret slowly, P1 might have not incurred as many losses.
That said, every analysis is results-based. They put on the best show since Summer Split, and I await continued success in Rift Rivals as well as their triumphant return to LCS. Job well done, P1!