The main stage of the 2018 Mid-Season Invitational kicked off on a high note, with a much hyped match between perhaps the two teams who can put the biggest challenge to Korea’s dominance in the international scene. But perhaps even more expected than that was the duel between two of the most accomplished and legendary ADCs in the history of League of Legends, Royal Never Give Up’s Jian "Uzi" Zi-Hao and Fnatic’s Martin "Rekkles" Larsson.
With most experts and professionals – including Rekkles himself – considering the Chinese superstar the best in the world at his position, his performance against the European Champions maybe helped convincing a few more that yes, he is everything what people say – and a bit more.
Against Fnatic, he played as Kog’Maw, picked as instant answer to Fnatic instantly locking Kai’sa for Rekkles. Of course, Kog’Maw is perhaps the best example for a “hyper scaling” champion, who trades a fairly week laning phase for raw power in the latter stages, especially against completing his core items – in this case Guinsoo’s Rageblade and Runaan's Hurricane.
But in the hands of Uzi, any apparent weaknesses are just non-existent: using his superior auto attack range to perfection, he put pressure on Rekkles and Hylissang’s Braum, not giving his opponents any openings to fully engage him. Well, even if they could, Ming’s Tahm Wench was always waiting to bring Uzi away from any potential harm.
Therefore, what we saw in the bot side during the first minutes was a passive game, with both players looking theoretically to farm up, but with the Swede being often pressured back to his own turret or losing significant health due to Uzi’s incessant harassment, the RNG superstar managed to open a significant gold lead, which amounted to 36 after just 15 minutes played.
Such lead led to a smooth transition into the mid game, where, with his team fully understanding their win conditions – play defensively, let Uzi farm up before going for the decisive fight later on in the game - he effectively got enough gold to build a noticeable item advantage over his lane opponent.
Yes, Fnatic definitely played overzealously, unwilling to take risks and definitely over-respecting the Chinese Champions, giving Uzi more than enough room and time to reach that late team fight period where he could shred the Europeans into pieces, dealing the maximum damage output as possible while staying on a relatively safe position at all times.
And that is exactly what happened in the first and only full 5-on-5 brawl with this game, which actually just took place because of Uzi: with Fnatic looking to retreat after finding an opening to knock down RNG’s mid lane inhibitor, he smartly used his Living Artillery to reveal the entire Fnatic team recalling on his team’s top side jungle.
What followed was a short (but decisive) fight, and if you are a Marksmen main, aspiring to climb the ladder and looking for inspiration to improve your play, don’t look further: you won’t find more refined mechanical and tactical play coming from an ADC than from the Chinese prodigy, now more eager than ever to bring his Royal Never Give Up to the top of the world.
Having fully confidence that his team got his back, he went in for the damage, shredding down Bwipo and Hyllisang before getting eaten up by Ming to rescue the escapeless Kog’Maw from Caps’ arriving Yasuo. After returning to the fight, he positions himself strategically in the river brush – close enough to keep doing damage to Fnatic’s frontline but at the same time, completely out of reach from anything Fnatic could throw at him.
At the end, a decisive victory for Royal Never Give Up, who marched towards Fnatic’s base to take down the European Champions to earn their first victory at the MSI. Uzi ended the game with a 4/0/0, claiming two-thirds of his team’s kills in a relatively calm game, showing that sometimes, a few moments of sheer brilliancy already prove you are above the cut, with that being the case today in Berlin.
To finalize, a small statistical breakdown of his performance against the European Champions:
CS difference between Uzi and Rekkles at various stages of the game:
Uzi: Time: Rekkles:
164 15 138
314 25 268
475 End 407
Damage dealt to Champions:
Damage to Turrets:
Day 1 of the 2018 Mid-Season Invitational ended up with Fnatic also losing their second match, this time to Taiwan’s Flash Wolves, in a game where once again the European Champions showed deficiencies in their macro play, as well as in their late game decision making, while Korea’s Kingzone proved to be overwhelming against Royal, using an aggressive early game strategy to completely shut down Uzi, claiming a comfortable win.
Returning to the Rift for Day 2, Fnatic will face exactly the Koreans, while Royal Never Give Up have theoretically an easier opponent on Vietnam’s EVOS, who will however arrive extremely motivated after taking down North American Champions Team Liquid.
(Photos courtesy of Riot Games)