The World Cyber Games (WCG) Grand Finals are drawing near, and everyone is positively aquiver with anticipation. The long awaited showdown between the four League of Legends (LoL) regions around the world is about to begin! Competing for the grand prize of $10,000 USD are North America (NA), Europe (EU), South East Asia (SEA), and China (CN). Representing the West, we have Counter Logic Gaming (CLG) from North America and SK-Gaming (formerly known as I Wear A Cape IRL) from the continent of Europe. On the Eastern front, we have team Another Story (AS) from Singapore and team China Hero (CH) representing their home country. This is a highly anticipated event and will serve as a litmus test for the current state of League of Legends in the eSports scene. Let's take a brief look at the history of each region and then examine the strategies we might see in the WCG Grand Finals.
Gameplay style in League of Legends - unlike most games in the genre - has developed very differently from region to region. Like Darwins Finches, the separation of players across each server has allowed players to develop a play style unique to their competitive player base. It will be interesting to see how these differences in gameplay culture play out across the matches in the Grand Finals.
As many of you may not have been aware, rivalry between the North and American and European servers dates back to early October 2009. Europeans and Americans challenged one another's gameplay choices, calling them incorrect or even downright noobish. However, due to the separation between servers, the grudge matches were never fully realized and dispute never settled. It has remained a verbal debate for the entire year. Finally, on October 2nd, CLG or SK-Gaming will be able to settle their dispute in person, and one will stand triumphantly above the other as the true competitive authority in League of Legends.
Another contender in this event will be Another Story. Another Story was a professional DotA (Defense of the Ancients) team that turned to LoL. These veterans from Singapore will be bringing their extensive competitive experience and ability to play under pressure to the table. Additionally, the playstyle of competitive teams from Southeast Asia is beginning to emerge as different from other regions of the world. In the first match of the SEA regional finals, team AS used a line up with heavy global presence (Twisted Fate & Pantheon) against Team Friends Forever from Vietnam. Then in game 3, AS changed things up, utilizing a physical carry heavy team. Physical carry heavy teams tend to be very strong late game but relatively weak in the early to mid game.
Finally, the last of the four regions is represented by Team China Hero. This team is relatively unknown due to relatively young age of the Chinese competitive scene. But based purely on the results of their national finals, China appears to be favoring heavy Area of Effect (AoE) damage lineups. This type of play is extremely risky because it requires immense coordination and timing, but executing a perfect engagement can decimate the enemy team in seconds.
Going into the Grand Final, fans seem to be expecting CLG and SK-Gaming to emerge as the two most dominant teams. This is because North Americans and Europeans have had earlier access to the game and have had an established competitive community for longer. While the Western teams have had longer to perfect their League of Legends game than their Eastern counterparts, players from Southeast Asia and China were among the best in the world in Defense of the Ancients. If they can apply the same discipline and tenacity that gave them the edge in DotA competitions, they should be able to give the other competitors a run for their money despite the fact that they are playing catch up.
Ban and Picks Predictions
CLG Picks Pool: Amumu, Ashe, Ezreal, Garen, Janna, KogMaw, Malzahar, Morgana, Sion, Sona, Taric Vladimir,. [off picks] Gangplank, Soraka, Pantheon, Annie, Shen
SK-Gaming Picks Pool: Ashe, ChoGath,Ezreal, Miss Fortune, Kassadin, Galio, Warwick, Janna, Vladimir, Xin Zhao, Garen. [off picks] Annie, Sion, Shen, Gragas, Annie
AS Picks Pool: Amumu, Ezreal, Galio, KogMaw, Pantheon, Sion, Taric, Twisted Fate, Tristana, Xin Zhao. [offpicks] Blitzcrank, Mordekaiser, Kassadin, Annie
CH Picks Pool: Amumu, Fiddlesticks, Galio, Miss Fortune, Kennan, Morgana, Nunu, Sion, Twitch, Warwick.
Bans vs CLG: Ezreal, Taric, Morgana, Garen
Bans vs SK-Gaming: Ashe, Galio, Miss Fortune, Vladimir
Bans vs AS: Galio, Ezreal, Amumu, Vladimir, Taric
Bans vs CH: Warwick, Morgana, Fiddle, Sion
In general, champions that are usually top choices for bans are either new, known top picks of the opposing team, or generally thought of as very strong. New champions add an element of uncertainty to the match, and so have tendency to find their way into the ban pool. Whenever a new champion is introduced, it takes quite some time for an effective counter strategy to develop. The list of bans above is what I believe will be the top picks for each respective team. Banning the other team's top picks can disrupt their play-style and take them out of their element. However, since the teams don't have extensive experience playing against one another, they will be initially inclined to ban champions that they banned in previous competitions. Finally a few champions that are simply considered strong in their role are: Amumu, Miss Fortune, Morgana, Taric, Vladimir, and Warwick.
The League of Legends Grand Finals will initially be played in a round robin style to determine seeding. Each team will play every other team once in the group stage on Friday October 1st between 9AM to 2PM. The first round of the 4 team tournament will happen immediately after the group stage on Friday October 1st at 2PM. Finally the bronze and gold matches will happen the following day. The bronze match is on Saturday October 2nd at 10AM and the gold match is at 2PM. (All times are in Pacific Time)