VIPL2 Grand Finals – Game Three

Game begins at video timestamp 8:44

The Draft

Invincible Armada
druid (lane): Skye
Wine (jungle): Kestrel
Ruin (roam): Ardan

Ardent Alliance
MICSHE (lane): Skye
ShinKaigan (jungle): Kestrel
FlashX (roam): Ardan

On the surface, this is a mirror match. In reality, it was far from equal. Ardent went with all comfort picks; heroes they’ve practiced and played competitively multiple times. Invincible Armada essentially did the same thing with the exception of Kestrel. By selecting Kestrel, a hero they knew was on high on Ardent’s priority list, they were essentially betting $33,000 that Wine’s Kestrel would be better than ShinKaigan’s Kestrel, that latter of which had been practiced and proven in competitive play already. In hindsight, I’m surprised that with every hero available to him, Wine didn’t opt for a Koshka, a hero he’s extremely solid with.


The first jungle clear and visit to the jungle shop is often an important objective in competitive play. It enables you to set up ganks, steal camps, and otherwise establish early-game dominance. Ardent’s strategy was to skip the rear health minion, take the double backs, the center health minion, and finally the double smalls by the jungle shop. They were able to shop at 48 seconds, which is stellar time.

Invincible Armada went the path of a full jungle clear, reaching their jungle tri-bush at around 48 seconds. Before they could reach their double smalls, FlashX’s Ardan was already on the Invincible Armada side of the jungle, acting threatening. This was a good position for Ardent because both roam and jungler had already shopped, giving them an edge over their counterparts.

However, there was one more key, advantageous component to Invincible Armada’s seemingly slower jungle rotation: their laner, druid. During those first 48 seconds of the game, druid was focusing on pushing the lane so that he could rally with his teammates to shop safely together and possibly invade, thus turning the jungle situation in favor of Invincible Armada.

It’s hard to say if MISCHE should’ve allowed druid to push the lane like that. Nonetheless, some sort of communication or map awareness should have kicked into effect when druid left the lane, telling ShinKaigan and FlashX that they were in a potentially dangerous situation, which ended in FlashX sacrificing his life. Luckily for Ardent, Ruin was close to death and druid wanted to get back to lane; otherwise, we could’ve seen some early jungle camps stolen.

Another interesting strategic element was Ardent’s vision strategy, which was in actuality a sneaky way to conserve gold. Ardent’s roam, FlashX, placed a single scout trap around 2:10 (off camera) and it was triggered 65 seconds later by a member of Invincible Armada. The entire rest of the game was built upon meticulous map awareness and scout flares. Using this strategy enabled FlashX to save quite a bit of money and pick up a Fountain of Renewal by 6:30, giving a large power spike to Ardent’s team fight capabilities and allowing them to be more confidently aggressive.

Conversely, Invincible Armada’s roam, Ruin, picked up seven scout traps by 6:30 and also upgraded to a Stormguard Banner, totaling 1000 gold. This had a significant impact on his ability to pick up his first tier 3 item, Fountain of Renewal, which he didn’t obtain until 10:20. Not to mention that of the 20 or so scout traps picked up throughout the game, the median lifespan of those traps was 38 seconds, having a short duration for the 50 gold price tag and rarely doing damage. This is not including the amount of flares that Invincible Armada purchased in addition to the traps, which I did not track for either team.

What enhanced the jungle strategy further was ShinKaigan’s Kestrel build. By the 3-minute mark he had travel boots – something I had never before seen in competitive play, for any hero. In particular, that’s a 700 gold upgrade that could be spent more offensive or defensive power. When asked about this build decision, this was his response:

This was because Kestrel has incredible clear speed and dueling power. While practicing I had realized that it’s possible with tier 2 boots to not only clear my entire jungle but then be there in time to contest the enemy when their camps begin to respawn. This tactic lets me pretty much hyper farm and if I even get a little bit ahead, then it can snowball out of control because very few heroes can fight Kestrel 1v1 early on.

This was further amplified by rushing a Tension Bow by the 6-minute mark. Paired with the Fountain of Renewal from FlashX (completed 30 seconds later), they had a large power spike on their hands.


The mid-game was in full force around the 7-minute mark as each team lost their first turret and both teams shifted away from a traditional jungle/lane farm strategy. This was important for Ardent because their build choices made them superior when it came to team fights and the fallen turrets encouraged the teams to group up more for safety.

While the mid-game was largely about Ardent exercising their early strength to put pressure on the lane and steal from Invincible Armada’s jungle, the real standout performance was ShinKaigan’s Kestrel tactics.

View post on

In this scenario, ShinKaigan is keeping Invincible Armada on their toes in a 2v3 scenario. Here’s the key elements you should note:

  • Positioning: he’s heavily using the terrain – wall and bushes – to prevent his opponents from getting to him. This is a consistent tactic he uses throughout the game, particularly because his build is very glass cannon, with little to no defense.
  • Movement: for the same reasons positioning was so vital, he kept moving between arrows to make sure he was avoiding damage, particularly from the opposing Kestrel.
  • Active Camo: WP Kestrel has very little extra energy to spend on the costly Active Camo, but ShinKaigan wisely uses it to reposition himself and also lay a mist trap for opponents who decide to follow him. Once again, this is done to keep him constantly out of harm’s way.

Newer Kestrel players will want to watch this game more thoroughly and take some notes.


The late-game began with Ardent 5000 gold ahead of Invincible Armada and continued to steadily increase to an 8000 gold lead. This is the point in a snowball game where the 1.12 bounty system will perform a judo move on you if you’re not careful – and it did, to Ardent.

It began when Ardent overstayed their welcome, trying to finish off the last vain turret and potentially close out the game. When MICSHE was killed in battle (18:21), Invincible Armada received 1200 gold. When ShinKaigen bit the dust (18:24), another 1000 gold was distributed. When FlashX final drew his last breath (18:34), another 900 gold was paid out. 3100 gold for an ace!

The thing about the new bounty system, however, is that the gold payout doesn’t end there. After an ace, the winner gets to then rip through objectives, especially with the longer death timers that late in the game. In this case, Invincible Armada was able to farm the lane all the way up to the Ardent turret (across the map), take that turret, then proceed to clear out Ardent’s jungle. When all was said and done, Invincible Armada had closed gold lead gap from 8000 gold to just 3000.

At this point, Invincible Armada was able to complete multiple new tier 3 items and the power balance was a lot more even. This is the point in the game where if you’re a pro team, such as Ardent, you have to be very careful not to tilt. Ardent was undoubtedly aware of the huge gold payout they just provided their opponents and were probably wondering if they had thrown the game.

The deciding moment that facilitated the close of the game was a single One Shot One Kill by ShinKaigan. He timed it when both Wine and druid were walking through the same choke point, catching Wine and taking off half his health. Instantly, FlashX sensed the blood in the water and knew this was their moment. He triggered his Warhorn + Gauntlet combo and the rest is history.

The Takeaway

Early-game aggression can still be a strategy in 1.12 by leveraging a combination of gold efficiency and rushing early tier 3 items – in this case, Tension Bow and Fountain of Renewal. However, as this game demonstrates, if you build a significant lead, you have to find a balance of caution and aggression. You need to press your advantage and end the game, but not at the expense of giving up kills to the other team.

Also, this game was another great case study for Kestrel. Watch the game through again and pay close attention to how ShinKaigan operates.

Game One

Game Two

Game Three (you are here)