VIPL2 Grand Finals – Game Two

Game begins at video timestamp 7:22

The Draft

As is customary, IA was given first ban and draft in the second game. They still chose to ban Kestrel against ShinKaigan, most likely due to the desire to control the jungle comfortably enough that they could feed druid the extra farm without pressure from Ardent. AA in turn banned Catherine; this ban hinged on the idea that IA would select a carry for druid as a first pick, in turn allowing FlashX to pick up Ardan again as well as forcing Ruin to play a more off-meta support.

IA grabbed Skye for druid. With the fantastic plays by MISCHE in game one as well as druid’s proficiency with the mobile mech, the choice comes as no surprise. After seeing ShinKaigan’s strong Blackfeather performance, IA also likely considered the fact that Skye’s mobility is a good counter to Blackfeather. The strength of Skye is reinforced constantly in these drafts, where she’s hardly left to languish long on the select screen. AA responds quickly with a Vox and an Ardan grab, giving MISCHE a common lane hero and FlashX his go-to daddy of the Fold. With the intense mobility of Skye in the lane, more stagnant heroes like Celeste or Skaarf could have a difficulty keeping position and out of range, so Vox seemed like the solid choice. However, MISCHE had been seen to struggle early and through mid-game during the AA series with GankStars, only coming alive in the late-game when his full build allowed him to take advantage of the extremely punishing power of the sound Mage.

With two choices back to IA, there’s an immediate selection of Kohska for Wine again and then a pause as the Koreans possibly considered their options for support. Several long moments pass before Phinn is locked for Invincible Armada. Phinn has seen some tournament play as of late (see Media Pixel’s triumphant run through VGL EU), but he’s usually paired with a jungle hero more his speed. However, Invincible Armada used this comp in the semis against WEV with great success. The lock of Phinn appears to be exactly what FlashX wanted, as he is literally bouncing in his seat. Within a few moments Ardent had Blackfeather for ShinKaigan and the teams were set.

Invincible Armada’s choice for Phinn was possibly what both teams wanted to happen. Armada knew how to use it, but if Ardent had figured out a way to counter the defensive buffs and pulls it could prove cumbersome for IA. Little needs to be said about the effectiveness of Skye, and Koshka has a huge power spike when she gets her stun at level 6, so the success of the team was going to rest on the shoulders of Ruin with Phinn. The combo potential of Forced Accord into a Death From Above or Yummy Catnip Frenzy is also enormous; pulling someone out of position then locking the down with a stun can spell certain death.

Ardent Alliance were more than pleased with their composition and rightfully so. These three are heroes they knew they could be successful with. ShinKaigan, after displaying a very comfortable game as Blackfeather, could work with FlashX to keep the heat off of MISCHE until he could get his Vox to that scary late-game we saw in the series against GankStars. And the heroes step off the platforms.

Early-game (0:00 – 4:54)

The start has a relative calm, but IA chooses to invade a bit more than last time after seeing the consequences of allowing a Blackfeather to get fat with Gold. The aggression is bolstered by the early tankiness of Koshka and Phinn compared to Blackfeather’s relatively weak early game. Ardent doesn’t want conflict until they have the strength to contest objectives in their mid-game, and this is smart. ShinKaigan needs time to get Blackfeather into fighting shape, as he will be Ardent Alliance’s main damage dealer until Vox blossoms late-game.

In most of IA’s games, they try to win the farming battle first, and they start doing so with grace, pushing slowly but steadily, taking farm where they can. In comparison to game one, this is a huge step up in aggression, likely to delay Blackfeather’s mid-game strength.

Mid-game (4:55 – 10:22)

IA takes advantage of druid’s power spike with a quick Frostburn by feigning attack and then rotating for Goldmine. They wanted to put Ardent on their heels just enough to open the window, but still stayed in AA’s tri-bush while attacking the miner to prevent a steal. FlashX’s dive with Blood for Blood at the Goldmine on a quarter health seems desperate but it foreshadows to later in the series that he has a great grasp of timing. FlashX knew he would get killed but it was worth the chance for the payout and, more importantly, the jungle control to be gained from a captured Gold Miner. ShinKaigan was deeply embroiled in a fight at this point, so he wanted to make sure MICSHE was able to get clear and allowed druid to focus him.

Ardent’s focus becomes scattered. FlashX gives up an easy kill while shopping alone; meanwhile the lane is vulnerable with MICSHE back to base. IA stays together as a group to apply pressure to the lane and Ardent’s jungle simultaneously. Wine isn’t as concerned with grabbing CS for himself because he already has a few defensive items to pair with Ruin’s Phinn and druid is getting fed.

Ardent rallies to successfully push back and tries to take miner when they see druid is extremely low on energy, but their attempt is shut down because druid only needs a few well-aimed abilities to secure two more kills with the help of his teammates.

MICSHE’s choice to prioritize Eve of Harvest as his first tier 3 item has the Broken Myth team confused. There’s no denying the benefit going into late-game but the benefits are rather small for mid-game fights; Alternating Current would have been a much better choice and would have provided a larger power spike. MICSHE struggled with this build in the semis against GankStars and he did so again here, not being able to pose enough of a threat.

Late-game (10:23 – End)

Armada hardly breaks formation for the remainder of the match. The zoning potential of Skye and Phinn keeps the Ardent players right where Invincible Armada wants them, with Wine and Ruin providing the distraction and druid just barely on the outside to apply damage.

FlashX never buys boots on Ardan, opting for Fountain of Renewel, Crucible and Stormguard banner. This is a smart move when there’s so much threat to his teammates and all of Ardan’s abilities provide additional movement to close gaps. ShinKaigan also picked up a Shiversteel and shield, fairly traditional choices to keep Blackfeather in the fight long enough to build Heartthrob and Breaking Point stacks stacks. Unfortunately for Ardent, IA got druid the Frostburn/Broken Myth he needed to control and delete enemies, and Wine got an Aftershock as a direct counter to the additional health bought by AA, as opposed to the Broken Myth he opted for in the first game.

Armada lives on Ardent’s side of the map, and knowing they can handily win a team fight, hardly gives their opponents a chance to breathe. Ardent still tries to play defensively until they can get MICSHE to carry his weight in teamfights, but the force of IA proves too much and they finally give up an Ace at 13:38. IA knew when to turn their focus onto FlashX; without his teammates to really back him up whole-heartedly, he was a prime target. With respawn timers just under a minute, IA rotates to the jungle for the Kraken. Ardent doesn’t make a desperation grab at Kraken, instead wisely choosing to turtle up to get Infusions and fight in base. Despite this, IA is able to push for the win.

The Takeaway

Invincible Armada increased their aggression many times over moving into Game 2 – their early game was strong enough in the jungle to bully ShinKaigan and FlashX into giving up some farm. While they didn’t consistently invade all the way into the back camps, IA applied constant pressure until druid’s power spike with Frostburn allowed them to start taking (and forcing) full-on fights. The pulls of Phinn were excellently timed by Ruin, controlling the positioning of the Ardent and synergizing nicely with Skye’s need to stay on the outside of fights. It appeared from 5 minutes on that Ardent weren’t able to adapt enough to this strategy and their frazzled judgement caused bad engagements they didn’t have much chance of winning.

Game One

Game Two (you are here)

Game Three