The game was over. China had won. They had slain every Korean All-Star on Summoner’s Rift, a decisive ace that sealed a hard fought, 50-minute slugfest of a match. All that was left was the obligatory push mid to break Korea’s nexus.
And then, moments after Lee “CuVee” Seong-jin was finally killed, China lost. While the 5v5 raged in the middle of the map, Korean winions had crept top and broken the inhibitor. By the time Ke “957” Chang-Yu and Tian “Meiko” Ye had finished their recalls, the throne was beyond saving.
Just another day at All-Star 2017.
Saturday’s pair of 5v5 semifinals was a study in contrasts. In the first series, the LMS All-Stars continued their unbeaten tournament with a quick 2-0 stomp of Southeast Asia. Led by AD carry Chang “BeBe” Bo-Wei, the LMS twice rode their superior bot lane across the map, securing objective after objective once it became clear the SEA duo of Joel “Dantiz” Poon Kah Heng and Charles “Kra” Teo couldn’t match them. Game 1 saw the eyebrow-raising selection of Akali top by SEA top laner Park “Jisu” Jin-cheol. Even with jungler Đỗ “Levi” Duy Khánh’s frequent ganks top as Kha’Zix, Jisu couldn’t get a snowball going against LMS top laner Chen “Ziv” Yi’s Gnar.
Jisu finished Game 1 without a kill, and the attention Levi paid topside left Dantiz and Kra vulnerable to pressure by Hung “Karsa” Hau-Hsuan, not to mention the superior laning mechanics of BeBe and support Hu “SwordArT” Shuo-Chieh. It took a little over eight minutes for pair to secure First Turret bot. From there, the map was their playground. Championing the infamously overpowered Kleptomancy Ezreal, BeBe finished the game 4-0-9 with 93% kill participation (SwordArT himself was 2-0-10).
Little changed in Game 2. Again, Levi failed to snowball his solo lanes, either due to Ziv’s tankiness as Sion or Karsa’s protection of mid laner Chu “FoFo” Chun-Lan. FoFo did feed First Blood to Im “Patrick” Jin-hyeok, but it was his only death en route to an 8-1-9 (89% KP) performance. FoFo’s exacting Azir, coupled with SwordArT’s pinpoint Zenith Blades into Bebe’s Bullet Time, proved more than enough to secure a spot in Sunday’s finals.
The second semifinal would not be so one-sided. Still smarting from their Worlds 2017 semifinal losses to Korean teams in Shanghai, China entered the Battle Arena with revenge on their minds. They got it, but only after three grueling matches, including the instant classic that was Game 2. China should have capitalized on their early game advantages bot after Liu “Mlxg” Shi-Yu killed Kim “PraY” Jong-in early under his own turret. But China over-dove the LCK bot outer turret, lingering long enough for the Koreans to collapse and win a 5v5 team fight 4-3. From there, CuVee continued to scale as Maokai, and Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok—who electrified the crowd with his first on-stage Zoe—kept dancing around the opposition, paddling for kills near and far.
But even with triple inhibitors down, China refused to fold. 957’s Cho’Gath grew to match CuVee’s Maokai, resulting in prolonged fights where neither frontline seemed to take damage. Eventually, 957 was able to cut down Faker and PraY consistently in team fights with Feast, but Korea’s control of the map would win the game, if not the day.
A special shoutout goes to Mlxg, who bullied Ambition for 30 minutes in Game 1 before turning in a 5-0-11 Sejuani showing in Game 3. Often in combination with roams from Su “xiye” Han-We’s Malzahar, Mlxg buried every lane he visited, keeping PraY from snowballing hard and thereby limiting the damage output of Korea’s tanky compositions. His play was so exceptional, even 957’s Game 1 Annie top was allowed to flourish. It was a marked improvement over Mlxg’s last encounter with a Korean team, a miserable five-game loss to SK Telecom T1 at Worlds. If China has any hope of cooling off the LMS in Sunday’s final, Mlxg needs to be the one aiming the hose.
Korea and China continued their feud in the 1v1 semifinals, with Jian “Uzi” Zi-Hao and PraY squaring off in a battle of world-class AD carries. As the majority of the studio crowd cheered him on, Uzi went 2-1 against PraY’s Zoe, finally overcoming the Aspect of Twilight in Game 3 with the same Varus he lost with in Game 1. Soren “Bjergsen” Bjerg lifted all North American spirits with a 2-0 win over Jisu in the semifinal. Jisu’s Phase Rush Tahm Kench was cute, but was ultimately too slow in escaping the lethal turret shot. If watching SEA get absolutely dismantled by the LMS was salt in the NA wound, Bjergsen’s victory was at least a minor salve.