VIPL2 Grand Finals – Game One

Game begins at video timestamp 15:14

The Draft

Ardent Alliance got first ban and pick in the draft. They banned Vox for obvious reasons; druid’s strongest hero is Vox, so taking away his comfort pick was a natural decision. Invincible Armada responded with a Kestrel ban after seeing ShinKaigan using Kestrel in all three games in AA’s semifinal series against GankStars. Ardent’s first pick was Skye, one of the strongest heroes in 1.12 and one of three heroes we’ve seen druid play in season 2 of VIPL, the other two being Vox and Celeste. With Skye and Vox both taken away, Ardent knows which druid is going to choose: Celeste. Forcing druid onto this squishy, fairly immobile mage was an important part of Ardent’s draft strategy; Celeste does not have nearly as much maneuverability as Vox and Skye do. Though druid had performed strongly with Celeste in past games, this opened up the somewhat risky Blackfeather choice for ShinKaigan.

Of course, IA picked Celeste for druid and Koshka for Wine. This probably could have been drafted better; because AA does not typically run double CP, they were unlikely to choose either Koshka or Celeste after selecting Skye. Instead, IA should have locked down the Ardan choice, which is a comfort pick for FlashX as well as the top pick for support in 1.12. Because IA failed to lock down Ardan, AA picked up Ardan and Blackfeather, securing the extremely meta team composition of Skye, Blackfeather, and Ardan. That sure sounds like a familiar comp!

With Ardan out of the question and the other support choices not looking as strong, IA locked in Catherine to conclude the draft.

Ardent Alliance clearly came in with a plan for the draft and got a fantastic team comp. Blackfeather has a somewhat weak early-game, but an extremely strong late-game hero and can stick to Celeste like resin on fingers. Ardan is just a strong hero all around and has fantastic synergy with both Blackfeather and Skye. Skye is an incredibly strong hero at all points in the game – she is strong early-game, strong mid-game, and even stronger late-game. Her wave clear is also absurdly good – a single Suri Strike clears the entire wave. Every hero on AA’s team has excellent maneuverability, which is fantastic for diving a squishy carry on the enemy team (cough, Celeste, cough).

On the other side, Invincible Armada’s draft didn’t look too great. Catherine and Celeste have strong synergy, but Blackfeather has two Reflex Blocks built into his kit to avoid exactly those stuns. Koshka and Catherine only have neutral synergy. Invincible Armada typically has had a strategy revolving around druid uber-farming in lane (and later in jungle, too) to hard carry late game, with Wine on a strong early-game jungle hero to apply pressure to the enemy jungle and hopefully gain a CS lead there. However, this isn’t what happened. Let’s take a look.

Early-Game (0:00 – 6:20)

The early-game is extremely quiet in both lane and jungle, with both teams focused on maximizing CS. Though Koshka has a strong early game, particularly against the comparitively weak Blackfeather, IA failed to really push her strength in jungle to deny Ardent CS (either jungle CS by stealing, or lane CS by forcing MICSHE to rotate down on Skye). Both sides are exactly even on CS and Gold; at 6:18, both Wine and ShinKaigan had 38 CS in jungle, and both MICSHE and druid had 67 CS in lane. Ardent Alliance had a slight Gold lead with 300 more Gold than Invincible Armada. If IA had pushed harder with Koshka in jungle, I suspect that the match would have begun to snowball in the early-game in their favor.

Mid-Game (6:20 – 15:00)

The mid-game ignites with the mild excitement of a contest for Gold Mine. Ardent rotates early from lane and jungle to start Gold Mine, but druid stays in lane for a while longer, giving him a slight CS advantage. In the end, however, Ardent pulls ahead in Gold by securing the Gold Mine. At this point, there’s an 800 Gold advantage to Ardent Alliance, which isn’t too significant. Both teams continue farming optimally, taking CS as soon as they appear.

At 7:50, FlashX attempts to initiate a teamfight with a Gauntlet, but druid easily walks out with a smartly timed Reflex Block, and despite a little trading, nothing much happens. Farming continues. We can see that Ardent wants to put some pressure on Druid to stop him from killing every single creep that spawns (and not missing any), but IA is playing too passively and safely for this to happen.

By 9:30, we can see a lot of crowd control on the side of Ardent Alliance. Ardan’s Gauntlet, Skye’s Frostburn, and Blackfeather’s Shiversteel are all excellent tools to help take down the main threat on Invincible Armada’s side – druid. All of these prevent druid from easily escaping Blackfeather’s and Skye’s fantastic damage. On the other side, Koshka only has one damage item and and the rest are support/defense items to keep druid alive. It’s pretty clear who the fights are going to revolve around.

At 9:55, a gank comes in onto MICSHE, and his death is the first blood of the game, followed quickly by FlashX. However, Wine falls soon after, and with druid low on energy, IA is prevented from taking any meaningful objectives such as a Gold Mine or turret. Wine begins donating jungle creeps to druid, allowing druid to gain a CS advantage over MICSHE. This is pretty routine for IA and must come as no surprise to Ardent; they know that the target to take down is druid, and the CS only heightens the importance of assassinating druid in the fights to come.

In the mid-game, Ardent tried to pressure druid into losing farm, but it didn’t quite work out. Something Ardent probably could have done better was freeze lane instead of clearing it as fast as possible every time the two waves met, since this would have forced druid to either extend further down lane to secure farm (leaving him more vulnerable to ganks) or risk missing some CS.

Late-Game (15:00 – End)

As the Kraken mauls the Gold Miner to death and crawls out of the pit, the mid-game is brought to an end and the late-game begins. Ardent Alliance comes up to lane and initiates a fight with a Gauntlet close to Invincible Armada’s turret, but druid once again easily escapes the Gauntlet. Not willing to dive druid that far in, and with Wine locking down MICSHE, both FlashX and ShinKaigan are forced to back off slightly to peel Wine off of MICSHE, in the meanwhile taking massive AoE damage from druid’s Heliogeneses and Solar Storm. Wine falls and so does Shin – wait, no! Shin escapes with a sliver of health, and the threat of his return once again prevents IA from taking any objectives off of the back of the fight.

However, the fight only proves what Ardent already knows – they need to take down druid. If they don’t, the uber-farmed Celeste will murder them all. At this point, Ardent realizes how safely IA is playing the game, and they know that they won’t be able to reach druid if he’s standing by his turret laying down stars and stuns.

With this in mind, they realize that there may be a way to lure IA into a fight away from their bastion in lane. The Kraken has spawned, and the momentum swing from a Kraken is enormous. At just about 18 minutes, everyone on Ardent decides that the Kraken is the way to go. Either IA comes down to contest the Kraken (away from the safety of the lane turrets), or they give it up and AA can push in with it. FlashX, ShinKaigan, and MICSHE all collect 1,000 Gold and pick up double infusions for immense stat boosts, looking for this next fight. They start the Kraken.

Invincible Armada chooses to come down, and FlashX slams down a Gauntlet, landing the first stun of the game on druid. With Wine’s Koshka attempting to both contest the Kraken and deal with MICSHE and Ruin’s Catherine stuck in the Gauntlet, for the first time all game, druid is vulnerable. ShinKaigan immediately engages, popping his Shiversteel to slow druid’s escape. Ruin comes up behind, finally getting out of the Gauntlet. He stuns ShinKaigan, but it’s too late. The moment druid falls, the fight is lost. Wine and Ruin are cleaned up easily, Kraken is captured, and still fueled by double infusions, Ardent pushes all the turrets down to win the game.

The Takeaway

Both teams that ended up in the grand finals are masters of the long game, waiting patiently, pushing small advantages into large advantages. However, with a better draft and more versatility (double carry on Ardent’s side with Blackfeather and Skye vs. double support to keep druid alive) as well as very good decision-making, Ardent takes the game. Masterful baiting and an excellent Gauntlet turned a relatively even game into a decisive victory.

Game One (you are here)

Game Two

Game Three