Delays and cheating distracted (opens in new tab) and teams tussled (opens in new tab) , but the finals of League of Legends' Season 2 championship tournament are finally here. The two top teams, Korea's Azubu Frost and Taiwan's Taipei Assassins will play a best-of-5 series tomorrow at 5:30 p.m. PDT for the title of world champions and $1 million. Let's take a look at everything that's been leading up to this match.
This recap will pick up where my previous tournament recap (opens in new tab) left off, covering Wednesday's quarter final and semi final matches and setting the stage for tomorrow's big showdown.
Ending the longest series ever played(opens in new tab)
All eyes were on CLG.EU and Team WE as they stepped onto the stage Wednesday to start their sixth game in their best-of-three series. The drawn-out duel was a big embarrassment for Riot during last weekend's tournament, when internet disruptions forced multiple restarts and ultimately delayed the already slow matches, prompting the crowd to boo at some points.
The make-up match started with the tournament's trademark aggression. China's Team WE came out strong and dominated so heavily so early in the game that many thought CLG.EU was done for.
But if there's one thing I learned during this epic $2 million tournament, it's that you never count CLG.EU out. They're the champions of stalling and epic comebacks. They held off defeat for the entire match, baiting Team WE constantly to step into bad teamfights, to overextend and leave themselves vulnerable. CLG.EU knows that even the best players will make a mistake if you give them enough opportunities, and they're so comfortable waiting for that moment.
That moment came when Froggen initiated a fight with a wall of pain in front of Team WE right as their Maokai initiated onto CLG.EU. That forced the entire enemy team to walk through the shredding wall and run headfirst into a teamfight stripped of their armor and magic resist. It was a slaughter. From that moment, CLG EU pushed forward and turned the game around for a victory.
I will never count CLG.EU out until the game's over—there's not a situation so bad that they can't come back from it.
Not a one-trick pony(opens in new tab)
CLG.EU proved they can take it aggressive as well in their semi-finals series, where they chose poke-heavy lineups that allowed them to pressure Korea's Azubu Frost from afar and disengage from teamfights if they didn't like the matchups.
In the first match against AZF in the semi finals, CLG.EU's jungler Snoopeh got two ganks on top lane the first few minutes. They pushed for their first inhibitor kill at 20 minutes, about the same time they normally run to their opening lanes in their stall games. The second inhibitor was taken out by 30 minutes and CLG.EU was just toying with AZF at that point. In more five minutes, they'd pushed the nexus and won the game.(opens in new tab)
It was very uncharacteristic for CLG.EU, and it caught Azubu Frost completely off guard—it was the most one-sided match I'd seen so far. But Azubu Frost was quick to show the world that they wouldn't be tricked again, and a masterful manipulation of the champion ban and pick stage left them with great matchups and a less-than-surprising opponent.
The comeback(opens in new tab)
It takes incredible mental fortitude to come back from a horrifying loss like AZF just took and play confidently, but AZF is as professional as they come. While CLG.EU was laughing and smiling between matches, AZF's coach came out and was helping them re-roll their arm sleeves and prepare for the next match.
The result was even more surprising than the first game. AZF shut down Snoopeh's jungle early, stealing his red buff and slowing down his ganks. Without Snoopeh's support, CLG.EU was losing on all three lanes as AZF advanced with the confidence and determination of an immortal.
By the 15 minute mark, AZF had a gold lead of 25%, the best any team has had against CLG.EU in this tournament. CLG lost every fight, due to AZF's knack for separating them in teamfights and applying quick pressure to the weakest spot to force a retreat. AZF dominated with 13 kills and zero deaths, destroying the CLG.EU's nexus before the thirty minute mark with almost double the gold earned (60k to 31k).
Big mistakes(opens in new tab)
AZF came out dominating the third match as well. CLG.EU let their top lane player, Shy, get Singed, the tanky champion he absolutely shredded with earlier in the tournament, and Shy punished them for it. He pushed top lane with incredible ease, killing opponents in 1v3 scenarios and escaping without dying. It looked like he had the game signed, sealed, and delivered for his team, but at 30 minutes in, they made the worst string of blunders I've seen in a professional game.
It was almost like they wanted to die. Every player on AZF ran out by themselves in places that they could easily be ganked, and CLG.EU was happy to oblige, sending AZF player after AZF player to the respawn pit. It was a huge swing that the announcers could only try to explain by saying that the pressure must've gotten to AZF and completely destroyed their decision-making process. AZF ended up winning the match and securing their place in the finals, but not without a serious mental scar.
Assassination attempt(opens in new tab)
The Taipei Assassins, AZF's opponents in the finals tomorrow are going to try to abuse that weakness as much as they can. Other than that series, Azubu Frost has looked indomitable the entire tournament, playing almost perfectly. They've shown their Achilles' heel, though, and if anyone can take advantage of it, it's TPA.
Like I mentioned in our preview of the tournament teams (opens in new tab) , TPA is used to fighting from the bottom and achieving victory against all odds. They're one of those special teams that rise to their challenger's level and can play a perfect game when they need to, like they did against the team favored to win the entire tournament, Moscow Five, on Wednesday. They pushed their pressure early, they won their creep shots on every lane, ensuring that they always had more gold than their opponents, and they took every tiny advantage they could to keep Moscow Five backpedaling.
Like AZF's Shy, TPA's Stanley showed top lane dominance with his favorite champion Nidalee, destroying his lane's turret in less than 10 minutes and commanding a strong presence the entire match.
The game lasted 45+ minutes, but TPA showed incredible awareness, fighting in M5's base like titans and killing M5 under their own turrets, only trading one of their lives for three of M5's. Even more impressive was their timing, pushing that fight exactly when Baron was respawning, ensuring them double rewards for winning one fight. It was so smart and required way more map awareness than I've ever had. If anyone still doubted TPA by Wednesday, trouncing the team that many people consider to be the best in the entire world certainly convinced anyone holding out.
What to watch for on Saturday(opens in new tab)
The best-of-five series between Korea's Azubu Frost and Taiwan's Taiepei Assassins is going to be absolutely crazy. Here's the most exciting elements you'll want to watch out for between these two teams.
- Top-lane dueling: If Shy can get Singed and Stanley can get Nidalee, we could see an epic duel of the top lane titans. I'd expect to see bans used for both, but we can dream.
- Pressure early and often: Both of these teams have proven that they can play hyper-aggressively and win matches. That should mean lots of teamfights and lots of exciting plays in the series.
- Force the mistake: AZF showed their weakness Wednesday, and TPA is hoping that the added pressure of the bigger stage, in a bigger stadium, with more money on the line than before will be too much pressure for AZF to take.
- Speeding up the play: TPA faced a lot of aggressive teams in the tournament, while AZF has mostly faced slower paced EU and NA teams. It'll be interesting to see how quickly they can adjust to the faster pace of TPA.
You can watch the finals on Riot's HD livestream when they kick off tomorrow at 5:30 p.m. PDT .
Josh Augustine spends more time playing MMOs and MOBAs than most people spend sleeping. He's written about them for PC Gamer as an intern, editor, and freelancer. He's currently a game designer at Sony Online Entertainment and would love to talk with you on Twitter (opens in new tab) .