In this first trip into my grab-bag column, we digest the fallout from both the minor and the major and we see what’s creating #BigStatEnergy!
*This section was written as DH Malmo began.*
The major is now well and truly behind us, leagues have started back up and the year-closing event season is in full swing with Dreamhack Malmo underway after Grayhound Gaming qualified into that event.
On the surface, little seemed to have changed since IEM Katowice – The Renegades retained legend status for the second consecutive time, and Grayhound found new heights in achieving their second pyrrhic victory from two trips to the major. So while the major is long gone, rippling below the surface is a new wave of promise in the Oceanic scene that I want to touch on.
The first of this new wave is the rise of the rejuvenated Avant squad. Retaining only Mike “ap0c” Aliferis and Jay “soju_j” Jeong from the previous iteration, the squad retooled with Euan “sterling” Moore, formerly of Grayhound and two players out of the Breakaway Esports squad in Jared “HaZR” O’Bree and Jireh “J1rah” Youakim.
They returned to action in the Minor qualifiers, carving a swathe through the event – toppling madlikewizards, Order, Ground Zero, taking a map from and putting a rocket up Grayhound before knocking off Order a second time to find themselves in Europe for the Minor.
The Minor itself saw them play 5POWER on either side of a swift 0-2 to Grayhound – eventually, they bowed out after losses to Tyloo and MVP PK. Their run was punctuated with tough losses on their own map picks, despite being paced by solid play from sterling.
Despite falling at the last hurdle, the side showed a lot of promise not just for themselves, but for the hopes of the rest of the region. Avant are in a tight fight with the Chiefs, Order and Genuine for the next best squad after Grayhound, and for Avant to put up such a showing in spite of the lack of experience shows that as the rest of the region continues to build, we can hold hope that the day of three Oceanic teams at the major being closer than we all might have thought.
For their part, the Hounds did their efforts one better on the scoreboard but showed a typically tenacious run through the major. In Katowice, they dropped two best-of-ones before dropping a respectable series 2-0 to Fnatic.
They started on a similar trajectory with an opening loss to Cr4zy – who showed themselves to be a feisty squad throughout the major – and Forze led to a collision with Brazil’s third-best team in INTZ. This time they overcame the 0-3 curse…only to find themselves in the line of fire of Vitality, then thought by many to be the second-best team in the world over recent months. Vitality would springboard from a 2-1 result over Grayhound, all the way into the top 8 of the major – and so Grayhound, despite their disappointment, can look back on the event with pride.
The background story for Grayhound was the farewell tour of Erdenetsogt “erkaSt” Gantulga, as visa issues meant he had to return to his home of Mongolia. ErkaSt leaves behind a colossal legacy of great play, and as a catalyst in the Grayhound squad that has paved the way for future teams, much like Avant, to chase their international and major dreams.
Replacing him in the team after his departure is Joshua “INS” Potter, formerly of Order. INS joined the team for the DreamHack Malmo qualifiers, and after a slight misstep against Genuine Gaming in the second round, stormed through the rest of the qualifier, dropping only a single map in games played the rest of the way (the 3-1 against Genuine in the finals included an automatic one-map advantage for coming from the upper bracket). That map was part of a spectacular series against Avant which I thoroughly recommend re-watching if you missed it.
I had the opportunity to ask a couple of questions to Grayhound’s AWPer Simon “Sico” Williams who talked about how the qualifiers helped the integration of INS and how the trip through the lower bracket as having some benefit, even though they’d obviously have preferred to take the easier route through the upper bracket.
“When getting a new player there is always a teething period where you get used to each other’s playstyle. You go over your strats and your entire game again and make sure all the roles are properly-suited to each player. Playing more games definitely helps us become better as a team and get the finer details of our game more concrete heading into Malmo”.
Sico’s own experience at the major saw him go head-to-head with ZywOo, and since joining the hounds he has taken on some giants of the AWP in Kenny “kennyS” Schrub and Ladislav “GuardiaN” Kovács – and he had this to say on these European powerhouses: “Aside from the obvious fact that they are very sharp and fast with the AWP…a lot of the European AWPers have different styles and are more dynamic with their positioning than Australian AWPers”.
Perhaps cheekily, I finished by asking Sico how INS was going to copy him next, having taken his spot in Order when Sico left and now following him to Grayhound. Ever the team player, Sico only had his eyes on the prize as he hoped to “pop his major cherry”.
If Grayhound continue as strongly with INS as they have started, that is but a matter of time.
“Only a matter of time” describes the hopeful, yet fatalistic outlook I’m sure many Renegades shared with me as they were down 0-2 in the New Legends stage. Despite two competitive matches against Avangar and NRG, it felt like more of the same that we’d seen from the Renegades in between the two majors.
In fairness, Renegades had what could be politely described as one long nightmare from February to August after that initial wonderful success at the Katowice major. Visa issues and disrupted preparation plagued their attempts to consolidate their major run and left them with no consistent match fitness and dependent once again on a boot camp to find their form.
Their way out of the 0-2 pit started thanks in large part to Jay “Liazz” Tregillgas making a sparkling run through the major. Liazz finally showed the performances he was putting up before he joined the Renegades after not being able to stand out in a largely thankless role. In particular, he combined brilliantly with a throwback Joakim “jkaem” Myrbostad outing to topple G2 Esports and helped Renegades seal their second straight top 8.
The quarterfinal would see a comfortable 2-0 win over an ENCE squad going through a little turmoil as aleksib was on his way out of the Finnish side. They took Avangar all the way to the second overtime on Mirage, before the clock struck 12 on this wondrous run as they dropped Dust2 16-9.
In the face of what seemed to be the most impossible position, the Renegades reeled off their best finish at a major. The magical performance of Azr’s troops has had wide-ranging impacts throughout the scene. Firstly, the most important impact is that all the concerns, all the doubts that were coming in from outside the team during their rough patch between the two majors was smoothed away with this run. Winning, as they say, cures all ills.
Much as it was with IEM Katowice flowing into this major, the next standout effect is one for the rest of the scene. By not needing to go through the minor system, we will see another case being made by our teams for three Oceanic teams making it to the first major of 2020. Avant and Order have been having themselves some fierce battles over the quest to be the third-best team in the region, and they may be driving themselves into a position where they can each threaten The Chiefs off of what previously looked like an unassailable second.
There’s been a cavalcade of crazy results that have followed the major, and it’s a series of events that makes the next major cycle an enticing prospect. There’s still plenty left to play for in Oceanic Counter-Strike this year as teams jostle to put themselves in the best possible place to make that great run into the first major next year.
Big Stat Energy
Each column, I’ll be taking a look at statistics that intrigue me, and then talking about whether or not there’s something behind these stats, or if it’s just the wonderful circumstance of numbers.
The Great Oceanic Ezreal War
Those that know me know that I have had an axe to grind with this for some considerable time. I have had it with most OPL teams picking Ezreal. Absolutely had it. I think this pick, with notable exceptions, does absolutely nothing for the region. Let’s dive into why.
Ezreal serves several useful purposes. The most common reason is that it is a high source of damage per minute from must-respect range across the course of the game, while maintaining the ability to stay quite safe with his Arcane Shift.
That same range allows it to whittle down a wave from safety as well. It can serve as part of a great poke/siege composition. And it does an excellent job of nullifying enemy bot lanes where the composition has been designed to get a lead through bot-lane. Ezreal/Braum, a lane I have railed against on many occasions for doing nothing, is noteworthy for its specific ability to turn a lane that an opponent is depending upon to nothing. To borrow a phrase from another game:
“But it doesn’t do anything!”
“No, it does nothing.”
But this is not how it plays out. At least not in this league. Time after time after time we see the Ezreal picks put into situations where it doesn’t suit the composition, where it is asking the pick to teamfight off its ideal tempo, or with not enough damage supporting it to win a fight.
If you’re planning to teamfight with an Ezreal, something has probably gone wrong unless it is massively fed or is sporting a Trinity Force into a squishy enemy composition. You’re planning to fight with a pick that needs several seconds and ideally multiple rotations of Mystic Shot. Not only that, all of them need to hit, and probably he needs to be close enough AND safe enough to be auto-attacking alongside that.
All in all, it’s asking really a lot from the pick to be set up for failure like this and ask it to succeed. And speaking of success, let’s have a look at the numbers that feed this big stat energy. Take a gander below at the win rates of OPL AD Carries (and Victor “FBI” Huang, as one of the great luminaries of the pick from OPL days gone by).
|Player||Career||2019 OPL Season|
|OPL Total||–||41.8% (67 Games Played)|
|FBI||64.9% (37)||80% (5)|
|K1ng||64.3% (42)||50% (8)|
|Raes||63.2% (38)||61.5% (13)|
|Looch||100% (2)||100% (1)|
|Katsurii||33.3% (9)||37.5% (8)|
|Dream||48% (25)||18.2% (11)|
|Raid||52.9% (51)||46.2% (13)|
|Praedyth||0% (4)||0% (4)|
|Gunkrab||33.3% (6)||0% (3)|
|Anderu||33.3% (6)||0% (1)|
There’s some good in this, no doubt about things. FBI, while he was still here, was immense on the champion, and arguably it’s his signature pick. K1ng is another player who is a legacy Ezreal player and is excellent on it. Raes was not someone I associated with it, but this year he came on in leaps and bounds showing great performances in both wins and losses.
After that, and throwing out Looch’s (and Anderu’s if you must) win rate for sample size, it’s abysmal viewing. Top of the list salvages that 41.8% win rate in 2019 which is awful in and of itself. Let’s explore some of the reasons behind that number.
Traditionally, teams in Oceania love big teamfights. It’s something we do relatively well as a region. It lets the players display their micro-skills which they’re inclined to want to do over patient, methodical build-up. If you can teamfight well, then you can win from in front and even from narrowly-to-moderately behind. Players play to this strength, and so they look to teamfight with their Ezreal in situations where it is off the proper timing, or when they don’t have control over when and how the fight happens, nor correct vision control to protect their carries.
So as I touched on before, teams pick Ezreal in some situations where it doesn’t make sense. In Oceania, fights are often over before the Ezreal can get enough Mystic Shots away to be threatening.
Excellent teamfighting teams like The Chiefs can take advantage of this to punish Ezreal compositions that get caught in fights. The Chiefs excel against the Ezreal pick by forcing teamfights upon it, exemplified by their undefeated 12-0 record when the enemy team picks Ezreal.
Flowing on from this, Ezreal requires unbelievable discipline from everyone on its team. You need to have discipline putting it in positions to succeed, you need to play patiently with the pick – particularly if you go to a dedicated poke composition, and the Ezreal player needs to be unbelievably disciplined in the way that they position an Ezreal for maximum damage output.
One of the elements that makes the best three Oceanic Ezreals above so good at the pick, and particularly k1ng and FBI, is the way they hover on the razor’s edge of danger. They know they need to be close enough to weave in autoattacks to augment Ezreal’s spell damage, close enough to make Mystic Shot harder to dodge, yet far enough away that they can stay safe.
This can be overwhelming for all but the most spectacular of players. Ezreal is a champion that regularly does high damage yet doesn’t always have the impact to match the raw damage number. The best players don’t just put out damage, they have massive impact with the Ezreal. And that’s just not everyone.
Verdict: This is not all the fault of the champion. He’s certainly not a bad champion, not by any stretch. The pick can bring a dynamic punch in widely different situations. But he’s not a get-out-of-jail-free pass to being a late game hyper-carry. He asks a lot, of the composition, of the execution, and of the pilot.
But just because the problem isn’t always the pick – that doesn’t mean it is OK to play it. Pro League doesn’t exist in a theoretical vacuum, it exists in the real hands of the real players who need to make the pick work in real games. In a region still developing the discipline to play this pick at the highest level, across all the players in the league, it just feels like taking the path of most resistance.
At the end of the day, if your name isn’t k1ng, FBI, or now Raes…I don’t want to see Ezreal in the OPL. I’m declaring war on this pick – just stop doing it.
With this meaty first edition complete, thanks for reading through the first of my columns. Check back next time, where you can expect to find a little more CS, a little more league, and more great Tie Takes.
Follow Reece “Ties” Perry on Twitter.