I consider myself an average NA eSport fan. Sure there’s dudes who watch EVERY match and every competition for their favorite eSport, but I think most North Americans have a plethora of sport options to watch, between Football, Basketball, Baseball, and maybe even Hockey (though, hockey may fall behind eSports at this rate). There was no way that I was going to make the trip to Shanghai to watch the LoL All-Star weekend, and I only wanted to watch the North American team, so I did what American sports-writers do when they can’t make the live event: watched it from the couch. With a notepad in hand, and an iPad plugged into the TV, I sat down to watch League of Legends All-Star weekend.
- Riot puts out two broadcasting pairs, one with Phreak as the color commentator, another with Jatt … and I gotta say, Jett’s analysis and enthusiasm was lacking at times.
- Man, this is just like watching a regular televised sporting event. Starting line-ups, player profiles, pre-game interviews … Riot’s really nailing it.
- Generally, the Chinese crowd is pumped, but a little quiet at times. China is LoL’s #1 market for online viewership – perhaps the reason why they were rewarded hosting rights for the All-Star series – but the crowd doesn’t have the same enthusiasm for the little things as other crowds do. I wonder if there’s a different expectation for being a spectator in China, either due to culture, or due to a different legacy of spectator events in China?
Round 1: NA. v. China:
This was the match a lot of fans were waiting for. North American teams have been consistently sliding in their competitive edge over the past few seasons, and the country was considered fifth in the world in terms of skill (There are new leagues in Vietnam, Taiwan and Singapore, and some even questioned if these leagues are more competitive). Meanwhile, the Chinese league is hosting its first full season, but their teams have performed well in competitions. Most experts placed them ranked 3rd in the world behind the other Asian teams participating in the All-Star game (Southeast Asia/Garena and South Korea). Leading up to the tournament, the North American team had prepared almost primarily on the Chinese team, looking at this match as an opportunity to leap-frog in prestige and world ranking. With the crowd fully behind the hosting China team, this first match of the series is destined for some intrigue!
- You can tell these teams have done their homework about each other. They’re banning each other’s favorite picks pretty well.
- This looks like it’s shaping up to be a battle of styles here in game 1. NA is notorious for preferring a late-game 5v5 style, and their picks reflect it, with Vayne an Ryze for their carries.
- Early game shenanigans! China catches NA out of position, but nothing comes of it.
- The 2v2 lane is on top, and China comes damn close to getting First Blood under a tower on Xspecial (Janna). NA turns the table though, and Xspecial gets first blood. Probably not ideal for NA since Doublelift was there as Vayne, but a lot better than dying. By the way kids, tower diving kills you!
- Saint Vicious is getting counter-jungled, literally right under his nose. He lost his red to China’s Troll (Jarvan). The sequence was set up by China warding near by with a pink, and killing a NA ward. This is why pros ward their own jungle.
- Geez, NA’s bot lane solo Dyrus (Malaphite) just got rocked by China’s PDD (Rumble) at like the 6 minute mark. Here’s the kicker – PDD did it while he was supposedly getting “ganked” by St. Vicious (Zac). That was a 2v1 where the 1 won! I’m just saying, if St. Vicious had his red, that fight is turning the other way, but as is, they couldn’t touch Rumble.
- Okay, despite everything I said about the Shanghai crowd, they really take it up a notch for their home team. They still have an oddly timed quietness to them during certain plays, but when their team was holding leads (which happened quite often during the NA v. China match), they sing, and chant as if they were at a soccer match. Awesome.
- This game is going poorly for NA. They got First Blood, but since then, they’re just getting pushed around. Both the solos are doing bad, St. Vicious can’t get ganks in, and he’s getting countered. Their plan all along was to get to late game, but can they make it?
- Towers are getting pushed, NA is losing Dragons. This game’s going down soon.
- Oh damn, big turn around! St. Vicious gets a Baron steal, followed by his team getting a team fight win! The funny thing is, he was trying to use sling-shot to jump in there, but Baron interrupted it, so he flashed in and stole perfectly!
- NA’s not able to do anything with the Baron Buff. The game is still in China’s favor, but can the late game strategy come through?
- Ugh. St. Vicious, the hero from Baron, gets caught teleporting home out of position, and his team dies trying to save him. GG
- Round 2 of the best of 3 starts, and I called it! Rumble’s banned. But China bans him? Gentlemen, I suspect there’s a champion imbalance with Rumble if PDD is banning him after owning with him.
- Huh, NA is going with an early game lineup, while China picked up the late game Vayne? I wonder if this is a little bit of “we’ll beat you at your own game” kinda attitude. Heh, LoL is a NA product, so they technically already did.
- St. Vicious is controlling this game early as Volibear. He’s ganking everywhere he goes, getting the kills, controlling the pace. Great start for NA.
- They’re getting the towers too! It’s almost like a complete role-reversal of the first game. The Home crowd is getting quiet!
- About midway through the game, NA’s in a precarious position. They have the lead, and they’ve gotta do something with it, but every time they try to push or Baron, China is in great position to warn them off. NA’s gotta do something soon, or the dreaded “late game” might come.
- Okay, COMPLETE role-reversal. So NA goes for Baron this time, and this time it’s China who comes in and gets the Smite-steal! It looks like NA was caught disorganized, because they started the baron while Dyrus was split-pushing bottom with Malaphite. Dyrus’s teleport was just moments away from coming off Cooldown too. At least NA didn’t die in a team fight after.
- What a rough two games for St. Vicious. He’s the hero in game 1 with the baron steal, but then gets caught and dies in a big way. Then in game 2, he sets the pace early and leads the team in kills, just to miss his smite on baron.
- NA tries a push and dive on bottom, but for some reason, double-lift initiates as Urgot, gets focused, and dies. China’s WeiXiao (Vayne) gets a triple kill, and this looks the end of NA’s run.
China wins in a 2 game sweep. I can’t say it was a “convincing” win, because both games seemed relatively close, but it just came down to better execution in both games for China. When NA did good things, they couldn’t coordinate well enough to make the next important play. Its not just that NA made mistakes, its that they couldn’t execute the plays they planned. Man, I know some people are going to blame St. Vicious for these loses, because his mistakes were the most costly, but he also did the most positive things as well. Doublelift and Xspecial held their lane well in both games, but I kinda feel like Dyrus and Scarra were simply outplayed. They both play pretty passive, and they just got out-farmed, they died more, and they were ineffective in late-game fights (and they presumably desire passive early games so they can work so well late game). Its a team game though, and a loss means everyone should improve their play.
Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3, following the North American team through rounds 2 and 3. Next up, Europe!