Another international group stage, another chance for North America to break my heart.
Day 2 of All-Star 2017 solidified Saturday’s semifinals as an all-Asian affair. In the first match, the Southeast Asia All-Stars will continue their miracle run against an undefeated LMS side eager to prove their region is more than its mediocre Worlds 2017 performance. The second best-of-three is nothing short of a heavyweight bout, with the All-Stars of Korea battling China’s best.
North America will not be among the final four. Given the chance to control their own destiny with a win over Southeast Asia’s All-Stars, they (semi-predictably) faltered. It was a result few saw coming yet many subconsciously feared, a future made even more unlikely when you consider that the SEA side can barely speak to one another due to language barriers. Star jungler Đỗ “Levi” Duy Khánh is Vietnamese; mid laner Im “Patrick” Jin-hyeok and top laner Park “Jisu” Jin-cheol are South Korean. AD carry Joel “Dantiz” Poon Kah Heng, support Charles “Kra” Teo, and Head Coach OMO are Singaporean. During games, a mix of insistent map pings and broken English is the lingua franca.
For their match against NA, SEA All-Stars employed some of the drafting flair Gigabyte Marines, their region’s flagship team, has become known for. They first-picked Shen and Lee Sin on red side, but then flexed the top lane tank to support after selecting Sion in phase two. Given global map pressure with Shen, gap-closers like Lee Sin and Sion, plus effective sieging champions in Tristana and Malzahar, the gameplan was simple: Push and fight. You don’t need many words to convey that.
Levi was incredible, as always. His Lee Sin ranks among the best in the world, able to glide in and out of fights at will, turret shots be damned. His First Blood on Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi—created in part by Kra’s taunt initiation—was textbook. Levi finished 7-4-11, but his team-high deaths afforded carries Patrick (4-1-11) and Dantiz (7-0-8) room to safety operate. SEA secured the first Baron at 23:16, broke the first nexus turret at 24:08, and ended the game five minutes later. Of course, it was a smooth Flash-kick from Levi on Soren “Bjergsen” Bjerg’s Azir that sealed the game.
NA had no way to protect their carries from Levi and Kra, which ended any thought of a split-push victory. Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell (3-7-2) looked awful on Jayce, and Sneaky was far too stationary to escape the enemy in a 5v5. Yes, it’s All-Star, and little is on the line besides pride and entertainment. But what does it say about North America as a major region when our best talent cannot escape a group containing two minors? If the players lacked motivation, pinpoint for me the disconnect between an event designed to increase competitiveness and NA’s end result. Let the memes flow.
In other games, EU joined their NA counterparts in elimination with a loss to group-topping LMS All-Stars. The LMS continues to impress, led by a free-agent jungler Hung “Karsa” Hau-Hsuan who seems to be playing extra hard for that new contract. Korea buried the TCL All-Stars on the back of Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok’s 6-1-6 Ryze (Sidebar: Maybe don’t give him that champion), and China’s match with an already-eliminated Brazilian team was spicy until minions spawned.
Yet North America found a measure of redemption in the 1v1s when Bjergsen upset Faker on CS. The Dane’s strategy to push Faker’s Syndra under turret with Taliyah’s excellent minion shove proved enough to overcome God. But even in the 1v1s, levels of seriousness varied. On one end of the spectrum, Jian “Uzi” Zi-Hao popped Bullet Time to kill the last minions in a Miss Fortune mirror match against Felipe “brTT” Gonçalves. On the other side, Kim “PraY” Jong-in challenged Martin “Rekkles” Larsson to a Garen dance-off, complete with strobe Sweeping Lens lights. PraY won, as the bans predicted.