On Sunday the best NA teams battled in the VaingloryLeague championships for a spot in the upcoming season of VIPL. The action was intense moving through the quarterfinals and into the semifinals. However, the best teams rose to the top in this best-of-five series to crown a victor and usher one champion into the Vainglory International Premier League in Korea.
We took the opportunity to break down each game–dissecting the picks and bans, while also giving an overview of what went right, what shocked us, and how the matches ended.
VON acknowledged the power of Vox and opted to ban him to see how Ardent would react. Ardent Alliance had seen the triple-stun comp VON had used in the semifinals to easily dispatch of Nemesis. By removing Joule, that trifecta wasn’t possible and VON would need to rely on a different strategy in the finals.
With the two main crystal carries being Celeste and Skaarf, VON used their first pick to give themselves the mage of their choice. In response, Ardent Alliance left their lane pick as a mystery and got the jungle carry and roam of their choice. Taka hits some very powerful spikes throughout the game, and Adagio helps to sustain Taka’s squishy frame in the midst of battles and brawls. VON decided to try Glaive in place of Joule, paired with the stuns of Catherine and Celeste.
Ardent Alliance didn’t wait to start a fight. They jumped out to an early kill and gold lead behind the damage of iLoveJoseph’s Taka. Staying true to his name, Phoenix once again gave VON a second life with a fortunate Gold Mine steal.
Ardent kept their cool and scored an insanely close ace around 12:30 into the game. After finishing that ace, Ardent quickly rotated to the gold miner to get themselves control of the middle of the map without external pressure. This objective-based control and planning would pay dividends during the very next engage, when Ardent was able to score another ace fighting near that freshly captured gold mine.
Ardent captured Kraken shortly after it spawned and immediately won a fight, only losing MICSHE in the aftermath. FlashX and iLoveJoseph were able to rush into VON’s base with the Kraken, using War Horn to fast-track the Kraken to the vain turrets. With both VONE and VONC running themselves out of energy, the Kraken was able to survive just long enough to finish off the vain crystal and seal the first game for Ardent.
Ardent Alliance targeted Joule, again removing the option of the triple-stun comp of VON. VON had learned the true power of the lane Skaarf, and correctly banned it away. MICSHE would need to show his power on a new hero.
In the pick phase, Ardent Alliance first-picked Vox, solidifying their composition with a strong crystal carry. VON could have saved their lane pick for last, but opted to pick the Celeste to prevent her from being used in the lane by Ardent. VON also highly valued Taka for their jungle pick, sacrificing their roam slot for last pick.
Ardent picked a well-rounded team in Vox, Adagio, and Glaive, but despite their early attempts at aggression, they fell to an early 3-9 kill deficit. Despite VON’s kill lead, Ardent Alliance was only ever behind by roughly 1,000 gold, thanks mostly to the creep score discrepancy of the lane carries.
VONE was having an amazing game, jumping to an early score of 7-1-1, while MICSHE was only 1-2-2, but was farming the lane well. However, Vox is a ticking time bomb.
13 minutes into the match, the caster, Valdes, says “Ardent Alliance knows how to play from behind,” and he couldn’t have been more right.
VON captured Kraken just after 16 minutes in, and attempted to siege. To everyone’s surprise, Ardent Alliance engaged on VON outside of the base as Kraken pushed in. After picking up a kill on VONC, Ardent feigned going after the Kraken, only to have MICSHE turn and engage 1v2 against Phoenix and VONE. MICSHE cleaned up both kills with ease, squeezing every ounce of value out of his Eve of Harvest for the crystal lifesteal.
Minutes later, Ardent was sandwiched by VON as Ardent tried to push a turret. Before VON could close the gap, Ardent finished the turret off, and then turned their attention to VON. Behind some great zoning by FlashX, Ardent won the fight with a clean 3-0 ace! With that ace buff, Ardent was able to finish off the game, granting them a come-from-behind victory to take a 2-0 lead in this best-of-five series.
VON decided that the expert zoning by FlashX’s Adagio was too detrimental for their team, and they targeted FlashX with the third game ban. FlashX was actually criticized for picking Adagio in the first game, but proved himself a powerful component to Ardent’s success. Ardent decided that their ban strategy was working, and they continued to deny the Joule stomp comp.
VON had every crystal mage available, but then opted to pick Celeste. While Celeste was one of the most dominant lane carries in this tournament, Vox was an impressive specimen in the later rounds. VON countered the Vox and Skaarf picks with extreme jungle intensity; Taka and Catherine.
Before Ardent had a chance to realize what was happening, VON jumped out to a huge lead, dropping the first turret just six minutes in with a massive 6-1 kill lead. The early lockdown of Phoenix was priceless, allowing VONC to pump out some intense early damage. With Ardent’s late-scaling crystal composition, VON took no prisoners, increasing their kill lead to 13-2 just 13 minutes in.
This is where the game intensified. VON, sitting on a huge lead, couldn’t crack the shell of Ardent’s base. They decided to repeatedly clear the jungle minions and push the wave into Ardent’s base, but simply refused to take Kraken. Their Kraken pushes had not been successful in the first two games, so rather than gift Ardent Alliance with 1500 team gold, they were just going to starve them, and wait for them to come out of their base.
Ardent had a different plan.
Ardent knew that VON had control of a minion mine, so they started doing their best to freeze the lane in their base. For 12 extraordinary minutes, Ardent stalled the game by farming in their own base. Finally, VON had seen enough and they picked a fight in Ardent’s base. In a strange turn of events, FlashX survived the engage with a sliver of health and a Fountain of Renewal healing him rapidly. Once safe on his platform, he unleashed his frenzied pack of wolves to chase down VON.
In the meantime, MICSHE managed to burst down VONE, and had Fan the Flames ticking on Phoenix. While some phoenix’s don’t mind fire, this one definitely did. MICSHE stepped up and made some big plays in this fight, guaranteeing that all three members of VON would fall. It would cost him his life, but FlashX would remain to defend Ardent’s base for the next battle.
After another three-minute stall, VON pushed into Ardent’s base without Kraken once again, and the fight quickly went in Ardent’s favor. After VONC and VONE both dropped, Phoenix was able to escape to safety, and Ardent didn’t miss a beat. They swooped down to unleash the Kraken in their favor.
VONE and VONC came running out of the base as the second lane turret went down. FlashX attempted to engage with his ultimate, but appeared drastically out of position. As he retreated, both VONC and VONE chased him to finish him off. Channeling his inner baitvizzle, FlashX managed to escape with virtually zero health left, but baited VONC and VONE into a perfectly aligned Wait For It, that didn’t wait long before immediately erasing the health bars of VON.
Despite being down 18-9 in kills, Ardent Alliance overcame a massive gold and kill deficit to push themselves on to the VIPL. If there was ever a competitive game where a team was behind worse than 13-2 and managed to come back and win, I’d love to watch it!
The MVP of these matches was FlashX. His zoning and positioning was so key in the first two games that he earned an Adagio ban for the third match. In a format with only a single ban, to have it focused on the support player means that the amount they are contributing is deserving of MVP honors. Then, in this third match, FlashX showed immense patience, even on a less comfortable hero pick. His timing was impeccable and his positioning was key in this win.
Ardent Alliance now looks forward to the VIPL as they will join Gamers2 where they will compete for the VIPL prizepool and look to be crowned VIPL champions.