Seven Barons. Eight broken inhibitors. 776 CS. 80 minutes of my life I won’t get back.
Those are only some of the otherworldly numbers from Game 3 of Sunday’s All-Star 2017 final between the LPL and LMS All-Stars, the highlight of a five-game series that crowned China champions. The LMS didn’t make it easy, raking the LPL over coals for six long hours, with each game lasting an average of 48 minutes.
Game 1 continued the script of an unbeaten LMS squad poised to seize the title for themselves. Jungler Hung “Karsa” Hau-Hsuan’s Jarvan IV was magnificent, finishing deathless with 100% kill participation (1-0-18). His pressure across the map kept China from gaining a split push advantage with top laner Ke “957” Chang-Yu’s Jayce, and without that, their composition fell apart.
To be fair, the LPL team comp was fragile from the start. Off-meta picks like Rammus, Xerath and Ashe puzzled as better alternatives were left on the board. Jungler Liu “Mlxg” Shi-Yu’s Rammus in particular was a mystery; the last time he’d been played professionally was this summer in the LCL by jungler Yevgeny “SaDJesteRRR” Starosvetskiy for Team Just Alpha. Before SaDJesteRRR, it was top laner Lee “Duke” Ho-seong in the Season 6 LCK Spring Playoffs. Mlxg’s 0-4-2 showing, coupled with an inability to pressure lanes, might not trigger the resurgence Rammus fans were hoping for.
The LPL stopped messing around in Game 2…kind of. Facing a Gnar top from Chen “Ziv” Yi, 957 reprised the Annie pick he used to defeat top laner Lee “CuVee” Seong-jin’s Gnar the previous afternoon. Annie is nearly as far out of the meta as Rammus, but there was a method behind the madness.
“Right now,” said 957 through a translator in the post-match press conference, “I think Annie in this meta is only good against less tankier top laners, such as Kennen, such as Gnar. It’s a pretty good counterpick against them. But besides them, it’s probably not the best pick.”
Much like his match with CuVee, 957 neutralized Gnar while providing valuable set-up for the rest of his team with Pyromania stuns. At times it seemed like a new take on the old Hot Pot strategy, but substituting Rumble’s Equalzier for Tibbers into the J4 Cataclysm.
But the stars of Game 2 were the Chinese carries. Su “xiye” Han-We got a chance to style in the mid lane with LeBlanc, giving Chu “FoFo” Chun-Lan fits on what would otherwise be a steady Azir over the course of the series. And AD carry Jian “Uzi” Zi-Hao couldn’t have asked for a better start, punishing an aggressive Level 1 red buff invade from the LMS with three kills before arriving in lane. His only death during a clean 8-1-6 performance was a fountain dive to secure the Ace, and then the game.
Tied at 1-1, the stage was set for a historic Game 3. Officially the longest international match of 2017 by three full minutes, Game 3 looked to be a quick stomp one way or the other after picks were locked in. Two aggressive carry junglers in Lee Sin and Kha’Zix meant kills across the map, and Uzi got the broken Kleptomancy Ezreal. The LMS even did China the favor of not drafting a tanky frontliner, giving Ziv Annie to play the reverse matchup into 957’s Gnar.
China should have had Game 3 in the bag, but the Annie/Ryze/Miss Fortune wave clear, combined with Karsa’s world-class Lee Sin, kept China from getting a hold on the game. They never felt confident committing to a fight late, and couldn’t slow push waves in due to the LMS clear speed. The game devolved into a lengthy stalemate of cowardice and inaction; the LMS clearing while the LPL refused to go all in. At the 50-minute mark, neither base had been broken, and the LPL needed a total of four Barons to successfully siege. The seventh Baron belonged to Karsa and the LMS, but to get it they exposed themselves in the river. Support Tian “Meiko” Ye’s Double Kill was enough to finally end the game with super minions streaming into the LMS base.
Up to this point, China’s objective control problems—Karsa’s Elder Drake steal in Game 3 comes to mind—had yet to cost them winnable games. That changed in Game 4 when, with China up five kills and over six thousand gold, Karsa stole Baron by dragging himself through Xiye’s zoning Weaver’s Wall and into the pit. His steal helped reverse the minion wave pressure and gave FoFo space to roam as Azir. One of the standout talents of the tournament, FoFo ended Game 4 6-0-7, but it was AD carry Chang “BeBe” Bo-Wei’s Quadra Kill on Ezreal during a second Baron Power Play that put the match to bed.
China’s Baron control problem continued to haunt them in Game 5, again suffering Karsa’s smite heroics. Down ten thousand gold and a bot lane inhibitor, Karsa simply crept into the Baron Pit with Kha’Zix’s Void Assault activated and stole the objective from three bewildered Chinese players. The LMS took mid inhibitor, and might have held on to win the game if not for one last team fight.
In an attempt to pick off Uzi, Ziv teleport-flanked in the mid lane, popped Righteous Glory, and instantly rooted him as Karsa leaped forward. In response, three of Uzi’s teammates quickly rallied to him, body-blocking Jhin’s Curtain Call while inside the Cataclysm Mlxg created to kill Karsa. Uzi stayed alive, helped win the fight 4-0, and finally got to lift a 5v5 trophy at an international tournament.
It wasn’t the first trophy Uzi had lifted that day. Prior to the 5v5, Uzi defeated Soren “Bjergsen” Berg in the 1v1 final, retaining his title from 2016. Bjergsen was able to take a game off Uzi by effectively using Taliyah to out-CS him via wave shove, but Uzi proved irresistible on Kalista. His high damage Rend pulls and near-perfect last hitting forced Bjergsen into bad trades and eventually lethal fights.
Uzi would take center stage again six hours later, but this time, he wouldn’t be alone.
LPL resumes mid-January on twitch.tv/lpl1, but this time with a lot more North American fans tuning in to watch.