After the last match of the group stage concluded on October 15th for the LoL World Championship 2017, Korean fans’ worries came true. Longzhu Gaming (1st place in Group B) and Samsung Galaxy (2nd place in Group C) were matched up against each other. Many fans lamented about an early clash between two Korean teams, and the community predicted that Samsung Galaxy would be the team to go back home early.
Four days later, the predictions missed the mark completely. Although Longzhu had made very little mistakes, Samsung Galaxy had prepared their best plays and carried themselves to the semifinals. For example, SSG’s jungler Chan-yong “Ambition” Kang showed more aggressive and active plays, such as searching for the enemy rookie jungler Woo-chan “Cuzz” Moon and cutting him off.
Min-ho “Crown” Lee still had a rough early game in laning phase, but still massively contributed to their victory by focusing on working as a team. Also spotted were much fewer mistakes made by Jae-hyuk “Ruler” Park and Yong-in “CoreJJ” Cho in bot lane. As for Seong-jin “CuVee,” there’s no need for words – he had perfectly played his role as the “TrustyMan”. What happened to SSG prior to the quarterfinals that drastically changed their performance?
■ Going All-In for Ardent Censer? SSG Begged to Differ This Time
Even before this year’s Worlds began, word on the street was that Samsung was practicing heavily on the Ardent Censer meta. It would not be surprising, because building the item was an easy shortcut towards victory – there was no reason for SSG not to take advantage of it. Just like the rumors, SSG has been playing with some fairly balanced team compositions other than, maybe, Ambition’s Kha’Zix or CuVee’s Camille throughout this Worlds.
In general, all their games flowed quite similarly, and SSG was showered with criticism after their 2 out of 2 losses against RNG in group stage. Just looking at their performances and results from group stage, it seemed impossible for them to win against Longzhu.
The most notable thing during their match in the quarterfinals was that, unlike previous games in which each team secured an Ardent Censer support such as Janna or Lulu, this time Samsung kept Janna banned for all the games. The choices left then were tier 2 supports such as Taric or Rakan, who are also known as semi-Ardent Censer supports.
And this is where Samsung’s thorough preparation showed. Although Tristana is unanimously called the best ad carry champion at this point, both Ruler and PraY picked Varus occasionally. This time, SSG decided to let Longzhu take Xayah, Lulu, Taliyah-Varus, and secure Tristana before anything.
In addition, they each took either Sejuani or Jarvan IV and evenly distributed the tanky junglers. With Tristana + a semi-Ardent Censer support, they lowered their vulnerability against Jarvan IV or the enemy ardent censer support, and built themselves a balanced team composition that is stable even in the late game.
■ Ambition’s “How to Play Against a Newbie Jungler 101”
Samsung accomplished the team composition they wanted, and revealed why they had chosen it through their plays. Ambition picked Sejuani 3 games in a row, and roamed around the rift to find Cuzz. In addition to the bot lane being already hard to intervene in, this current meta makes it impossible for one side to take a lead with just 2v2 laning. Thus, there has to be a strategic plan for the jungler and mid laner to dive bot lane.
With the junglers forced to focus on top and mid lanes, Ambition takes the lead with his well executed plays. Right as Bo-seong “Bdd” Kwak pushed slightly too far trying to solo-kill Crown, Samsung flipped the situation and took Bdd down instead. It was an unnecessary and preventable death from the side of Longzhu. This gave SSG some time for the jungler-mid to roam around together.
In the first game, Crown’s Malzahar played very passive. He used his ult for disengage/reengage mostly. However, in the second and the third game, he put pressure on the enemy bot lane with Ambition by playing mobile champions like Taliyah and Lissandra. With Shen and Taric’s ults, it was as if Longzhu’s PraY-GorillA bottom duo was laning against all five enemy champions. Even though Khan, Cuzz, and Bdd were there to back them up, Samsung’s team composition was much better in team rotations.
Longzhu was known for their fast-paced game operation, and Samsung had prepared team compositions to stay in sync with their speed. Although Lissandra is mostly known and used for her incredible CC, Samsung took advantage of the champions’ mobility.
■ Among the Little Changes is CuVee, Still Strong and Reliable
No matter the team, there is always one drawback in changing a team’s style dramatically – loss of balance. This also applies to the execution of a team. In the midst of this, CuVee still held up against the dissonance and supported his team. Khan plays rather aggressively and is the most skillful when it comes to aggressive champions. On the other hand, CuVee has a good defense-offense balance and is able to play different champions depending on his team’s comp.
There was quite a number of things CuVee did to aid in their victory against Longzhu. Firstly, Samsung decided to see Khan’s pick first before picking CuVee’s. In the first game, CuVee picked Kennen against Khan’s Jax. Although Kennen is easily susceptible to early ganks, CuVee remained wary of the enemy jungler’s routes and held back from playing too aggressively. If Khan’s Jax farmed well and got big, Longzhu would have had a better late game. However, the game breaker for this match was the ability in top laners to utilize teleport, and Samsung Galaxy took the first victory.
For both games 2 and 3, CuVee picked Shen twice. He played the game regardless of what his team was doing and won his lane. CuVee made sure to use his ult to protect his teammates and worked as an important playmaker. Because CuVee was active and reliable, Samsung Galaxy could win against Longzhu Gaming 3-0. It would have been nearly impossible to carry out the games as planned had it not been for CuVee.
Up to this point in Worlds, Samsung Galaxy was not known as a powerful team with solid tactics. However, they have always been known for being “stable.” Surprising the masses, the performances they showed in the quarterfinals was much more than just stable. It was a victory made of strong teamwork with the players supporting and complementing one another.