LJL Week 1 Round-up - 8 Games, 24 Minute Smashes, Nocturne Mids and Rumble Support, Oh My!
A re-upload of an article I wrote covering Week 1 of the LJL 2020 Spring Split. The original article can be found here.
Hey everyone, Initialise here!
I've been casting the start of the LJL season over on LJL Officially Unofficial alongside u/Nymaera_ and our host and producer Masked Swan (who has thus far managed to avoid the siren call of reddit - the bloody heathen), and I'm here to give you a round-up of all the action that occurred on Week 1. It turns out, there was a hell of a lot!
Some context: The LJL has 8 teams in its league, is franchised, and those teams play each other in a triple best-of-1 round robin, meaning teams effectively engage in an extended Bo3 across the course of a split.None of those ugly tie-breakers for the LJL, our game days are long enough as-is!
[edit 11/2/2020: Correction, the LJL has moved to a double best-of-1 format in 2020 - tiebreakers are indeed possible again].
Speaking of long game days, the LJL generally has 8 matches on a game day, which means broadcasts can be upwards of 9 hours with pre and post-game content. In practice that works out with teams being split into two brackets on a game day, then playing two other teams within their bracket on that day. i.e. teams play two games v. two different teams on a game day.
Alright, enough pre-amble, on to the actual games...
(There is a TL;DR at the bottom!)
DetonatioN FocusMe 1 - 0 V3 Esports https://matchhistory.na.leagueoflegends.com/en/#match-details/ESPORTSTMNT01/1294233?gameHash=6762c2c72bc47359&tab=overview
The summer finals rematch... and an absolute whitewash by DFM who drafted the mother of all teamfight wombo-combos, smashing V3 in just over 24 minutes. Jarvan's cataclysm into Galio's Hero's entrance, layered with GP's Canon Barrage, Aphelios' Moonlight Vigil, and Heimerdinger turrets - oh, and Crescendum turrets too, because why the hell not - is a pretty apocalyptic combination. When V3's carries were Cassiopeia and Miss Fortune, the moment flash was down for either of them spelled their demise.
As the dust settled, DFM looked like they were more than ready to fight off any challengers to their throne. All hail the kings - recommended watch.
Reeling from a brutal take-down by DFM, V3 had to pull themselves back together in short order for the second game of the day. Fortunately for them their opponents were Axiz, who have finished dead last in the LJL for the last two splits running, with an abysmal record of 3-17 in both. To make matters worse, Axiz had to rapidly replace their support, who was mired in a [major racism scandal](http://www.fomos.kr/esports/news_view?lurl=%2Fesports%2Fnews_list%3Fnews_cate_id%3D1&entry_id=85855) , bringing in OCE import Corporal in his place (who fortunately speaks fluent Japanese).
In a draft move that would surely have made Vedius smile, V3 then draft Ekko jungle for ex-Flash Wolves superstar Bugi, Sett top, Aphelios/Nautilus bot... and Nocturne mid. Axiz' towers were about as useful as sand castles, as V3 proceeded to dive, dive, dive. Axiz bot laner, Hide, was in a living hell as his Ashe was punished for her immobility time and time again, with impressive performances from Bugi, who made the jungle Ekko flops of 2019 Worlds seem laughable, and the V3 bot lane leading the charge against the frost archer. Of particular note was Korean import, Archer's excellent damage and K/D/A of 11/1/6 on Aphelios, and an interesting choice to draft Kayle for Uinyan into V3's Sett pick. A free lane for Kayle, sure, but she was a long way off being truly relevant...
Just to one-up DFM, V3 ended this game in around 23 minutes - recommended watch.
Previously a middle of the pack team, Burning Core made very few changes to their roster over the off-season, outside of importing Korean Support, Proud (previously of last year's 10-man Afreeca Freecs roster). That's all well and good, but the impression myself and a number of other analysts had was that the rest of the league had largely upgraded their rosters... and so Burning Core by default has dropped down our power rankings. We had this billed, at least in our predictions, as a bottom of the table clash.
Burning Core set out to prove us wrong. After a last minute draft fake-out by Axiz saw Hide piloting Syndra in the bot lane, things looked pretty rough for BC, with the AXZ bot laner picking up 3 early kills. However, this was matched by RayFarky pulling out a domineering 4 kills early on Sett, even vs. the erstwhile counterpick of Gangplank. A previous V3 player, RayFarky certainly has a solid pedigree and continued to prove it, finding consistent flanks and TPs onto AXZ and ensuring the fed Syndra could only unleash a whimper, and never her true power. It was only made more difficult by stellar cc-lock combos from Once on Gragas and Proud on Thresh, with one exceptional teamfight including a very slick Explosive Cask into predicted Death Sentence.
Despite early resistance from AXIZ, Burning Core wrapped it up 34:28.
Burning Core 0 - 1 DetonatioN FocusMe https://matchhistory.na.leagueoflegends.com/en/#match-details/ESPORTSTMNT01/1304054?gameHash=db39c4bcb7c2320e&tab=overview
In DFM's first game mid laner Ceros got a hold of his pocket pick Heimerdinger, in the second he got a hold of his Karma. And much like their first game, DFM seemed on track to run over BC in similarly swift fashion after an early gank netted first blood on an unsuspecting Yuhi's Miss Fortune. Not even the surprise pick of Bard could keep her alive. What he could keep alive was a number of towers, denying two rift herald charges with well timed ultimates.
However, with their early snowball rolling, DFM got cocky. Two consecutive 2v2s between the top/jungle pairings went awry for DFM, with RayFarky's Gangplank limping away on slivers of HP each time and DFM punished for their greed by well timed Elise counterganks from Once. DFM's missteps were BC's boon, allowing them to snag a number of mid-game towers and drakes. However, BC's fortune wasn't to last. As Evi's Aatrox and Yutapon's Apehlios accrued items, the teamfight machine of DFM got rolling backed up the by the shields, heals and speed-ups of Karma. Between that and a laser focus on Once's Elise (despite some fancy footwork and problem solving with rappel), DFM managed to wrestle control back of a number of key objective fights and ultimately the game in 43:16.
Crest Gaming Act 1 - 0 Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks Gaming https://matchhistory.na.leagueoflegends.com/en/#match-details/ESPORTSTMNT01/1304081?gameHash=d3e5c8f0270ce96f&tab=overview
Legendary LJL mid/jungle duo of Ramune and Tussle are back! Formerly of the imperious Rampage squad that dominated the LJL way back in 2017, the duo have spent the intervening years separated with Tussle most recently a member of Unsold Stuff Gaming (who relinquished their league slot to SBH), and Ramune languishing on DFM's substitute bench. No longer however, as Ceros' arch-rival is back on the playing field and ready to get back to his winning ways...
... but CGA were having none of it. Narrative be damned, CGA's Aria (formerly known as Luna) and ex-KT Rolster ADC Gango put out carry performances on Zoe and Senna, with Aria in particular eager to prove that Ramune had more than just Ceros to contend with, leveling some disgusting Paddle Star damage. This was also the second time we saw Kayle drafted into Sett, and not work out. SBH's Dasher (who recently converted from mid to top) missed two teamfight defining ultimates that arguably cost SBH the game, once allowing his Miss Fortune to be 100-0'd by combined Zoe and Senna damage, and again when he himself got deleted despite being on three items with flash up. CGA closed out in just under 32 minutes.
Sengoku Gaming 0 - 1 Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks Gaming https://matchhistory.na.leagueoflegends.com/en/#match-details/ESPORTSTMNT01/1304132?gameHash=ff37582431bd7e7b&tab=overview
The LJL's match of the week, with both teams expected to be playoff, or even championship, contenders. With their defeat fresh in mind, the Hawks' all-star mid/jungle duo decided enough was enough and drafted themselves LeBlanc and Lee Sin. SG responded in kind, with ex-SKT (or would it be T1?) members Blank and Pirean selecting Rek'sai and Akali. The promised bloodbath in the midlane didn't take long to deliver, with Ramune claiming first blood onto Akali with Lee Sin's assistance, only for the Lee Sin to be smacked down in return by a vengeful Blank's Rek'sai.
The game remained back and forth until around the 20 minute mark, when the Hawk's started to find consistent teamfight victories through excellent vision play (utilised expertly by Leblanc), and sheer damage output from rookie ADC Honey's Aphelios. In contrast, SG struggled to find methods to engage outside of a Kennen flank or an opportunistic Rek'sai flash-unburrow. While apaMEN's Kennen was a force to be reckoned with in a side lane (including a well-played level 6 solo-kill), he was eventually out-scaled by Dasher's Vladimir, and so even split-pushing ceased to be a viable win condition. In the end, it was a commanding victory for the SoftBank Hawks, finishing in around 37 minutes - with both Ramune and Honey out-damaging their respective opponents by over 10k.
Sengoku Gaming 1 - 0 Rascal Jester https://matchhistory.na.leagueoflegends.com/en/#match-details/ESPORTSTMNT01/1304169?gameHash=ee6bc6a087a6bc36&tab=overview
Lose, get angry, win, seemed to be the pattern of the day for the latter LJL bracket, with Sengoku Gaming slamming Rascal Jester in the early and midgame, before taking their sweet time to close out later on. Outside of a couple of early kills onto Art's Miss Fortune and an admittedly nice solo-kill by Cogcog's Aatrox on to apaMEN's Ornn, there was very little positive for RJ.
For Sengoku though, this was a much improved showing, drafting jungle Qiyana and the carpets of doom. The game plan involved Blank giving the Jesters a supremely talented display, before following up with Ornn's Call of the Forge God, Senna's Dawning Shadow and support Rumble's Equaliser. The red carpets proved too much to handle, and Sengoku closed out after getting stalled out around Baron in just shy of 40 minutes - long, but recommended.
Crest Gaming Act 0 - 1 Rascal Jester https://matchhistory.na.leagueoflegends.com/en/#match-details/ESPORTSTMNT01/1304217?gameHash=b29c2b7461c7700f&tab=overview
And the pattern completes itself: the Jesters come back from a first game defeat to bring down CGA off a gorgeous performance by Art on Ashe, who went 6/0/15 despite repeated ganks, TPs and roams bot. While RJ's Ashe and ViviD's Nautilus took over the bot lane, it was CGA's Aria who tried to carry his team to victory with a scary early-mid Qiyana performance. But despite the terror Qiyana was capable of bringing to bear, opposing mid-laner Ninja (of REN, TDK and NV fame) kept his cool in front the AD assassin, surviving some massive all ins as Soraka with clutch silences and side-steps, dying only once all game despite the pressure.
We also began to see another compositional reason to pick Sett, who used his Showstopper to knock Qiyana out of her own ultimate, stunting multiple attempted flanks on to his vulnerable mid and ADC. Poppy, step aside, The Boss is in town. Rascal Jester ended the game in a little over 31 minutes. If you've got the time, this is a great game to watch, too!
DFM 1 - 0 V3 - watch V3 1 - 0 AXZ - watch AXZ 0 - 1 BC BC 0 - 1 DFM CGA 1 - 0 SHG SG 0 - 1 SBH SG 1- 0 RJ - watch CGA 0 - 1 RJ - bonus
DFM look good, AXZ have problems, strong showings after shaky starts from SG and SBH. Hope for CGA, V3 and RJ