eSports @OnRPG - IPL5 Las Vegas: No Gambling, Just Gaming
By Remko Molenaar (Proxzor), OnRPG eSports Reporter
Last weekend was action packed in Vegas! No, there was no poker tournament or anything related to gambling, but rather the fifth IGN Pro League hosted at the Cosmopolitan. This weekend, both Starcraft 2’s and League of Legends’ best players traveled from all around the globe to come to this prominent event many players and teams practiced hard for. As this is the last big tournament left in 2012, I had my tray of red bull ready and enjoyed the free 720p streams.
Starcraft 2 All-Stars
Let’s kick things off with Starcraft 2 first; besides the main tournament there was also a special tournament hosted by both IGN and GOMTV where a team of all-stars from South Korea went head to head with an all-stars team from the rest of the world. The tournament consisted of three rounds making the series a best of three, besides the players each all-star team was also given a coach. The Korean team had Coach Won from StarTale and Bumblebee from Team Liquid coached the World all-stars representatives. The first round kicked off with a bang, with the lead jumping back and forth with Scarlett taking the game on Metropolis from the feared Korean zerg DongRaeGu. Unfortunately Nerchio, Naniwa and LucifroN weren’t so lucky, deciding the series in favor of the Koreans. The final game was the legendary Protoss player MC versus the foreigners last hope as many call him, Stephano. Fortunaly Stephano managed to win the game to bring the score to a three to two win for the Korean All-Stars.
In the second round Coach Won decided to set in the Korean zerg player, Life. Coach Won who is familiar with the player from StarTale fully trusted him with going into the first game of the series. The 15 year old talent that won the MLG Fall Championship last month and the notorious GSL Code S a month before had to face the strong Spanish terran, LucifroN. LucifroN has had a great run this year, placing in the top three of many tournaments and even taking the number one spot in a few. But now a tough match lay before him. Unfortunately, Life caught LucifroN off-guard with a less common tactic centered around Mutalisk instead of the more famous Infestors, showing LucifroN that these flying evil-beings are still a viable enough unit to decide a match.
After this game Life’s confidence was unmistakable as he plowed through Scarlett, VortiX, and Nerchio to up his win streak to 4 games. Some believed he would sweep the entire Foreign team until famous zerg player Stephano demonstrated the true power of the swarm. This time it was Stephano’s time to turn the tide. With everyone else on his team defeated already he was once again the foreigners’ last hope as Coach Won sent in MC to redeem himself after his loss to Stephano in the first series. Unfortunately for MC, Stephano is strongest in ZvP match-ups and demonstrated series 1 was no fluke as he once again put down MC. The third opponent, Seed, also was shown the door as Stephano’s momentum began to build.
Next up was arguably the best Korean Zerg, DongRaeGu, who has been in a slump lately but otherwise should be able to hold complete control over this tournament. This Zerg versus Zerg was a promising match for every Zerg fan to get to know this mirror matchup better. DongRaeGu tried to take the game early with some early aggression with a lot of zerglings but didn’t manage to break through Stephano’s strong defense. DongRaeGu kept throwing units at the French famous zerg player but each subsequent raid broke against Stephano’s defenses like water on the shoreline. In the end Stephano just snowballed from a massive resource advantage until he unleashed an unstoppable end-game force against a badly beaten DongRaeGu.
With Stephano extending his win streak beyond even Life’s, the second series all came down to one final match. With only one opponent left, the downtrodden foreigners saw a glimmer of hope that an epic comeback spearheaded solely by Stephano might be in the works. Pressure was on the Korean team’s Squirtle as his victory in this game was all that his team needed to crush these comeback hopes and prevent a third series. But could he manage a Protoss win over Stephano’s favored Zerg match-up after MC had already failed to do so twice? Squirtle believed he could outmaneuver his opponent by opening with a Stargate in the hopes of limiting Stephano’s progress towards end-game. As Squirtle has hoped this really caught Stephano off-guard and forced him into an impromptu counterattack that Squirtle predicted and fought off suffering minimal losses. But Stephano refused to let a minor early setback quench his victory chances and continued to turtle against Squirtle until a massive Zerg army was formed. Yet Squirtle met him with an equally large Protoss army, melting the underdeveloped zerg forces in a head to head battle.
With Squirtle becoming stronger and stronger every minute and snowballing further and further, Stephano had to watch his every move or risk defeat. Suddenly his fog of war exploded with Protoss units, wiping Stephano’s hive from the map and securing the expected Korean victory for Starcraft 2.
Now that the all-star national team event was over, fans shifted their focus to the main event. Unlike many other tournaments, IPL5 didn’t have a group phase at all and directly went into the bracket faze where it is do or die for many gamers. Koreans were overly represented in this tournament, placing intense pressure on the handful of big name foreign competitors looking to grab some prize money. Unfortunately only Stephano, VortiX, Scarlett, Snute, XiGua, and HuK were able to take a small piece of the prize back home with them, as Koreans dominated all 12 spots in the finals.
With names such as DongRaeGu, Sleep, Bomber, Symbol, Polt, violet, Sniper and Leenock still in the tournament in the last five rounds, explosive matches weren’t only possible but expected. In this tournament Winner’s Bracket status carried weight as both Violet and Leenock advanced into the Grand Finals. These two Korean Zerg players are known for their many tournament wins that they have achieved over the years and were an exciting series to look up to as a Zerg fan. Leenock had a decisive advantage having defeated violet previously, putting him one win ahead to start. Still with $40,000 on the line no one expected violet to hand over the grand prize quietly.
This mirror match-up is one of the weirdest and some might say boring match-ups that can be watched as a Starcraft 2 fan because it can be over in a split moment by one slight mistake from either player. With Leenock winning their first face-off three to one, many feared that this was going to be a quick final. The first game that was played started off in the famous and well known map for its meaning ‘Family,’ (Ohana) which is a relatively small map. Leenock continued his constant pressure aggression tactic that had brought him so far unscathed through the tournament while violet kept up his macro management aiming to make a big play late-game. All in all neither side suffered heavily as the match evolved to an explosive conclusion. With both of them expanding fast into a second base, there were no signs of either of the players trying to quickly finish off the other.
After establishing their second bases, both sides attempted some low risk zergling baneling battles resulting in Leenock landing some key damage to viOLet’s economy. While it might have seemed like a minor loss to the untrained eye, this small victory was all Leenock needed to snowball out of reach of viOLet’s future ventures. Once Leenock felt comfortable with his lead he launched a much larger zergling assault. Once again viOLet took a loss but minimized damage to stay in the game. Leenock effortlessly transitioned the initial assault with a follow-up baneling attack to keep viOLet on his toes. But this was no real threat for viOLet who showed some great micro to completely decimate this massive follow-up. Leenock had wasted his lead terribly at this point and viOLet proved more capable of utilizing an advantage, finishing him off in the late game to bring the series back to a tie.
After this game viOLet seemed to have Leenock’s tactics on lockdown as he went on to win the series three to two, meaning the championship would go on to the extended series. viOLet knew Leenock would be planning for a late game showdown and switched his plan to an early game aggressive strike. Leenock deftly defied giving up an easy win and showed viOLet the error of trying such a cheese tactic against him by taking an early win in game 1. viOLet now knew that a simple mistake could cost him the championship and decided to go outside the norm and rush Leenock with Mutalisks. This gave him the early lead he needed to narrowly defeat Leenock in a later battle to tie up the series 1-1.
The last game was now at hand. Both players decided to play it safe play, resulting in a slow early game demonstrating how important APM is in this intense RTS. Finally Leenock broke the silence and fully committed to some aggressive play. viOLet suffered a devastating blow and realized that without immediate aggression he would never catch up to Leenock, striking back full force to hinder his economy as well. This is when Leenock had enough and decided to take the fight to multiple places at once to test viOLet’s ability to multitask multiple battlefronts. Even though viOLet managed to stop most incoming streams of units, Leenock proved his skill as IPL’s champion with this insane multifront strike that brought an end to the battle hardened viOLet’s night.
League of Legends: Fnatic is Back
Riot Games flew in contenders from around the world of eSports for a truly international IPL5 this year. The tournament format was a bit unusual as every team was put into one of four groups. Instead of only two teams advancing every team advanced while the top two most winning teams stayed in the winners’ bracket. This meant that the third and fourth placed teams still had a last chance if they could defy the odds and win every match until the finals.
But anyone who has kept an eye on League of Legends lately can tell you that upsets aren’t terribly common against the top teams. Fnatic was the only notable exception, making a strong early showing after months of stagnant gameplay and underwhelming losses. They just haven’t had much synergy after some serious roster changes made early this year. Yet last week over at Dreamhack we saw some signs of a rebirth as they held it down for the first time in ages. Their showing as second in a truly competitive group proved this was no fluke. However it wasn’t until their first rematch in the tournament that I took notice.
They won a convincing 2-0 victory over Taipei Assassins, the Season 2 World Champions. Anything was possible for this Swedish based team now. Next up they had to face the surprise breakout of the tournament, North American team CLG Prime. They managed to win 2 to 1 over CLG Prime with some great teamplay, eliminating what many fans are arguing is the new top North American team. All that was left in their path of destruction was Team WE, arguably the top tier Chinese based team on the eSports scene. Unlike Fnatic’s ups and downs, Team WE has been consistently solid for as long as most people can remember. Could Fnatic keep it together and outclass such a consistent team?
In the first game it already was looking bright for the Swedish team. They managed to get a double kill in the first two minutes of the game, offering a devastating advantage given the current meta. Team WE recognized they were too far behind and bailed early. The second game really was a neck to neck game with kills all over the place and some really important group fights for both teams. Unfortunately Fnatic had some unlucky team fights, a consistent plague on their record throughout the tournament and Team WE took maximum advantage of each slip up. Both the second and third game was decided in Team WE’s favor as Fnatic simply jumped the gun and engaged in poor circumstances, throwing the game. Team WE tossed Fnatic into the loser’s bracket after this, surely thinking they would see the last of them as Taipei Assassins furiously devoured the losers in their path climbing back to the spotlight. Fnatic refused to call it quits though and resoundingly stomped the World Champions back into the dirt to advance 2-0. They had beaten the odds and returned to the spotlight for the final match with Team WE with $50,000 on the line.
Having faced them before, Fnatic knew what was coming for them and they knew they had a tough battle ahead of them. With the ‘Triforce’ Deman, Jatt and Joe Miller casting this was a promising final to look forward to. The first game Fnatic was looking strong again, fearlessly challenging Team WE at each tower, witling them down and picking off kills whenever the opportunity presented itself. After multiple face-offs Fnatic had gained such an advantage that Team WE could no longer oppose counter-pushes and fell 1-0. The second game the audience was fooled by Fnatic’s strong start and domination through the mid-game. Unfortunately Team WE reminded everyone why they won the first series by demonstrating their superior late game team fighting ability, tying up the series 1-1. The third game resulted in a decisive victory for Team WE as they played cautiously early on and didn’t allow Fnatic to claim their usual early game advantage. Fnatic was on the ropes and one loss away from losing the championship.
This match was the most intense match of the entire tournament. Unfortunately it was simply a higher level of the same systematic loss for Fnatic as they took an early lead and yet again failed to capitalize on it to convert it into a victory. A few back to back failed engagements initiated by Fnatic resulted in Team WE pushing to yet another late game win. Nonetheless, this was a fantastic tournament played by both teams, and I’m looking forward to the return of Swedish Fnatic in Season 3!