The twist was huge in this match between Curse and Cloud 9 and it’s time to breakdown what happened. This isn’t really a game where the individual plays can be analyzed so much as the team decisions, and the huge differences in the overall strategies behind the champions chosen by the two teams. The best way to look at these strategies is to look at them on the individual champion level, and see what the champs naturally build into.
Curse’s picks: Elise, Draven, Blitzcrank, Twisted Fate and Maokai.
Elise: Elise provides a very strong “catch” initiation, as well as heavy sustained DPS and the ability to dive a squishy target in a team fight – depending on build. With the minimal help of a second diver she can reliably burst down a target, or provide a lot of kite and peel with an item like Rylai’s. Her laning is one of the safer ones, and with proper play she shouldn’t die without the help of a jungler.
Draven: Draven has gained massive popularity since the end of the Spring split, and this is due to his ridiculous damage. He has a solid attack speed steroid, Spinning Axe almost doubles his auto attack damage, and he’s amazing in lane. He does lack an escape though, and his mid-late game is dependent on a strong frontline. In the end though, if Draven is in the game he is a heavy threat as long as he can stay alive. He can snowball on his own, but requires a team snowball to really get going.
Blitzcrank: Curse was running Edward on Blitz, and it’s an Edward character. Laning as Blitz can be rough but a good grab can cause kills, and in the mid to late game a strong grab has the potential to end the game if it’s on the right target- similar to Elise’s stun it’s another great catch spell. His only AoE CC however is the silence from his ultimate, which is useful as an interrupt, but not much else.
Twisted Fate: Twisted Fate is that mid-game ganker that terrorizes solo queue. Late game he has incredibly powerful burst, and can take out an AD Carry that doesn’t have a defensive summoner up. He lacks reliable AoE damage, but can consistently output quite a bit onto a single target. His laning isn’t the safest, but against melee characters like Kha’Zix he’s fine as long as proper ward coverage protects him from jungle ganks. Strong pushers can make his ganks weaker, but only if TF doesn’t strongly push as well before he leaves lane.
Maokai: Maokai fits into the same mold as the other champions in Curse’s lineup. Lots of early game gank potential, lots of catch potential later on, but generally he’ll be used for his ult to prevent AoE damage. This is the only commonly thought of “team fighting character” on Curse’s lineup. His CC is either single target or in a very small radius for AoE, so he’s just adding to the catch potential in the end.
This team has ridiculous single target potential. They have four characters that are amazing at catching out individuals and lots of single target stuns, but lacked in AoE. Their team comp is based off winning early and using map control to keep the enemy team down. If they do end up against a stronger teamfighting composition later on in the game with equal or more gold, Curse has very little chance of winning that fight.
Cloud9’s picks: Kha’Zix, Zac, Sona, Ezreal and Rumble.
Kha’Zix: Note that these games weren’t played on patch 3.8, so none of the recent changes had been put in. The bug with the passive applying Void Spikes is still around. Kha’Zix himself provides a lot of roaming potential, and ridiculous AoE damage in team fights through Void Spike, with a lot of follow up damage through his leap. Against Twisted Fate he can leave his lane and arrive for a fight, but generally doesn’t have the needed movement until he has both leap and his Void Spikes evolved (note this was on the last patch).
Zac: Zac provides decent AoE damage, average pre-6 ganks, and one of the best mid to late game engages out there. Let’s Bounce isn’t the hardest CC in the game, but his Elastic Slingshot means that if there aren’t wards past a turret, Zac can still get solid initiation from out of line of sight. He’s shown his strength for teamfight style catches in the LCS, and he cannot be trifled with.
Sona: These picks are all leading down a road, and the road is AoE team fight ability. Zac has amazing initiation, Sona can possibly have amazing initiation, though riskier, or she can follow up on Zac’s initiation with Crescendos, making the enemy team dance. In lane she suffers from being incredibly squishy; one hook from a Blitz and she’s gone. She also has strong sustain for pushes and siege engagements.
Ezreal: Ezreal has taken up the role of a really strong mid-lane ADC. His laning can vary and if he falls behind it’s terrifying, but with the advent of Blue Ezreal (Frozen Fist, Muramana, Spirit of the Elder Lizard), Ezreal provides solid damage and great team fight presence with the slow from Frozen Fist, a team attack speed boost, and AoE damage from his ult.
Rumble: Rumble falls into the similar category as Ezreal. He provides great teamfight damage, has a slow that can stack with the other CC, and his laning is powerful as long as he doesn’t fall behind. While even he can be hyper-aggressive and god help the man facing the Rumble that’s overlevelled.
Cloud9’s team has very limited individual catch potential – nothing as quick or snappy as an Elise stun. Zac can make some awesome ganks happen, as well as Kha’zix with the slow from his evolved W, but C9 can’t compare to anything Curse has in regards to ganks. This team is entirely based off of teamfighting in the mid-game, leading to a fast win or a heavily snowballed lategame. They’re not just good at team fighting though, they’re amazing at it. This is one of the scariest team fight compositions imaginable, but it suffers from a weaker early game.
When players predict games from picks they usually look at laning and what the mid-game will be like, assuming both teams are even. In this case Curse’s team has beautiful early game gank potential, and in the mid-game, if they can stay spread out across the map and apply split push pressure, they can catch just about anybody in a bad spot. Curse’s lanes are also really solid. the only possible lane-loss would be related directly to Zac ganks. If they make it to the super-late game, a six item Draven outscales a 6 item Ezreal. Even though Could9 has a much stronger five man battle potential, the early laning can set the team so far back that Curse can play their spread out game. However, if Curse ever engages without a massive lead or certain spells down on Cloud9, they’ll lose the fight.
Looking at Cloud9’s team, their lanes are weak, but once the team groups up as five they’re going to be unstoppable. Everything they have is built around AoE damage, and against a comp like this the only way to win in an outright 5v5 style team fight is to have similar AoE and get better initiation, or to be so far ahead that the AoE damage doesn’t instantly kill the team and they can fight back and win afterwards. The only weakness would be super late in the game, but there is never a point where Draven could safely survive a fight if he’s hit by a Zac initiate, since Rumble, Sona, and Kha’zix can follow up so well on it. Even Ezreal with his ultimate.
So how did the game play out? Curse was able to make picks. A lot of picks. No seriously, look at all these picks. These picks are Curse’s strength, and they were playing their team composition to the max. Unfortunately they didn’t keep up this pick-focused gameplay, and Cloud9 were quick to step into action. It took one fight for Cloud9 to become relevant again, and that was Curse getting too confident and not properly playing the style of game the team needed. If you watch that fight, C9 locked down three in a Sona ult, deal damage, but don’t instantly get kills. Curse was about 1000 gold from being able to win the fight by tanking C9’s damage, but they weren’t there yet, and C9 was able to clean up the members of Curse that had been left with slivers of HP. After the won fight C9 instantly came back into action and just controlled the game, and Curse kept trying to team fight.
The moral of the story is the need to play team comps with their design in mind. It took one fight for Curse to lose their massive lead in the game, and it was all because they thought they could tank through the massive amount of AoE on Cloud9.
What Curse could have done better?
For the first portion of the game, not all that much. They got lots of kills, held the map, and lived a good life. After the Baron teamfight is when they lost their grip on the game, but they had a chance to reclaim it. Instead of using the Oracles Edward bought to clear C9’s wards from the map and go for more catch-style of gameplay, they found themselves going for pushes and playing 5-man League of Legends. The big problem is how atrocious their picks were for 5-man League of Legends. It doesn’t matter how much they want the team to work, going into AoE hell without being massively far ahead or with key items like a Runic Bulwark, is ineffective.
What could Cloud9 have done better?
Not lose lanes. They were in the fun position where their team composition had a clear cut way to beat Curse through 5v5 fights, but their lanes had to not lose terribly. They were lucky that they were still able to win that first fight, but a lot of that was overconfidence on Curse which led C9 to have really strong positioning. The solo queue school of thought is to pick to win lanes, and if you’re far enough ahead the comp doesn’t really matter. This also used to be the meta for about a year, before teams developed. Now that is a valid strategy, but the lanes have to be outright crushed, it’s very risky, and the game has to end quickly.