The culmination of arguably the largest esport this season came down to the League of Legends World Finals, and hopes of an explosive series were
global. FunPlus Pheonix (FPX), the most dominant team China has seen in years,
led by their own “Super Carry Doinb”. Their opponents, the European superteam
of G2 Esports (G2) who were on track to do what Royal Never Give Up had failed
the previous year and complete their golden road of winning every tournament
they played in the year. I was lucky enough to see the finals live and regardless
of what you think of the games themselves it was a truly humbling experience to
see people from all around the world come together to watch the highest level of
the game we love.
Game 1’s draft was a game of playing around flex picks, FPX held Nautilus as a
flex pick until last pick where it was shown to be mid with a Thresh support. After
G2 drafted Varus and Ryze, aware that Tahm Kench is the best support for Varus,
FPX responded with a Sivir who eventually scales to a point that she can shred
G2’s midrange team composition and Lee Sin who can pick the pair of immobile
champions. On G2’s side they used Ryze as a flex pick, sending it Top to match
FPX’s Gangplank and attempting a Pyke Mid pick to match Doinb’s Nautilus
After the draft G2 was now on a timer where they had to finish the game before FPX’s Sivir and Gangplank outscale G2. As well as Ryze and Varus scale G2’s main problem is that their team composition didn’t have a way to reach Sivir or Gangplank in a front to back teamfight. G2 needed to get ahead early utilising their tower diving tools in Elise, Tahm Kench and Pyke to snowball the early game
whereas FPX just needed to negate G2’s early game then run at Ryze and Varus until they could end the game through team fighting.
The tone of the entire series was set in the first 3 minutes, a 3 man play Top Lane by FPX resulted in first blood for FPX, despite both Mid laners teleporting to get there. FPX continued to make aggressive plays with their Nautilus and Lee Sin and while G2 manage to get some return kills, FPX came out ahead more often than not. After a Rift Herald play and using Pyke’s gold sharing ultimate, G2 pulled ahead in gold at the 20-minute mark however a play for Infernal Dragon by G2 at 30 minutes resulted in disaster. After G2 secured the Dragon, FPX ran down 3 members of G2 and then pivoted to take baron. While attempting to stop baron Caps and Wunder managed to kill Doinb but Wunder is killed in return while FPX secure themselves Baron.
Game 1 Tian Kick Worlds Finals 2019 (Image Source: https://youtu.be/LWiJ2FuzU6o) After FPX used Baron to secure mid inhibitor, G2 retaliated with a play that destroyed FPX’s top inhibitor and if played slightly less aggressively by G2 could have resulted in an Elder Dragon or possible ending the game there and then. However, after Perkz flashed forward to kill Crisp, Tian was able to get the game saving Lee Sin kick which killed Perkz and put FPX in a position where they were able to take the Elder Dragon after the skirmish. The combat stats of Elder Dragon were then leveraged by FPX to secure themselves 2nd Baron, which itself was used by FPX to take G2’s Top & Mid inhibitors, and after a final pick onto Wunder, the game 1 win for FPX.
Moving into game 2’s draft G2 open with a Nautilus ban into the G2 specialty of
Yasuo Gragas, this duo is so valuable for G2 because it can be flexed between
Mid Jungle and as a bot lane duo depending on how draft develops. G2 pair their
duo with an Akali who continues to give nothing away as to their game plan. FPX
played their own game of flex picks with Ryze and Kled, a likely reason that FPX
didn’t leave their Kled pick to last is that Wunder is also known for playing Kled
and if left open after two bans against top lane by G2 then G2 could have taken
the Kled for themselves.
As for goals, G2 should have looked to play around Mid and Bot with Top being a
Kled favoured matchup it’s best to only go there to negate dives or countergank
with a numbers advantage. If Yasuo Gragas can get ahead then G2 have an easy
way to initiate picks or teamfights with the paired ultimates and Tristana needs
to stay relevant as its G2’s only champion that can reliably get consistent tower
damage. After level 6 is when FPX could look to utilise Kled, Ryze, Kai’sa and
Galio ultimates to start roaming around the map to get any of Kled, Ryze or
Kai’sa ahead. As the game goes on any combination of these tools were able to
be used to collapse onto G2 side lanes forcing them to be very careful with their
vision control at risk of a spontaneous 4-man FPX collapse. Again, G2 have put
themselves in a position where they need to be ahead early since FPX’s global
tools make late game teamfights and rotations extremely difficult for G2.
This game started off much slower with some minor skirmishes in the early game
but none resulting in any large advantages until G2 attempted the Infernal
dragon at 7 minutes. Attempting to make a play before FPX’s Ultimates were
available, G2 narrowly secure themselves the dragon despite Jankos not having
smite. This play could have been the early play G2 needed but Caps let Crisp
flash taunt him without flashing away himself, buffering a Rocket Jump to dodge
the taunt or using his ultimate to knock the Galio away from him. Allowing this to
happen got Caps killed before he was able to do anything in the fight and with
G2’s strongest member dead, it resulted in a 3 for 1 kill trade in favour of FPX
which put LWX extremely ahead in bot lane.
When FPX used the Rift Herald to take Top tower G2 matched with Cloud Dragon
and Mid tower plating but in an ensuing fight once the objectives were traded G2
were taken down after overextending into the top river. Playing to their draft
strengths, FPX collapsed onto G2 whenever they overextend on the map which
prevented G2 from being able to secure baron vision enabling FPX to take a 20-
minute baron in fog of war. As FPX used baron to siege Bot lane, G2 tried to pick
Crisp on his way to his team and after buying enough time G2 managed to
secure the kill on Crisp. FPX started to disengage via Ryze ultimate but when it
was interrupted FPX counter engaged onto G2 resulting in an ace and two Mid
towers for FPX. After returning from spending gold an incomprehensible number
of fights occurred around the map as G2 and FPX took it in turns chasing the
other one which eventually resulted in FPX again acing G2 and ending the game
to go 2-0 up in the finals.
The third game draft started with G2 making a play to take two of Doinb’s best mid laners straight away. After the essential Pantheon & Qiyana bans G2 made the decision to ban Rakan instead of an expected ban of Ryze, Nautilus or Xayah. The reason G2 did this is because FPX were then forced to take Xayah first pick
else G2 could pick Perkz’s Xayah, who is his best performing ADC. This let G2 take Ryze and Nautilus who were Doinb’s best two picks at Worlds and by banning Rakan it lowered Xayah’s full potential in lane. This clever work around for G2 also still provided them the flex pick of Ryze going into the second rotation. G2 let GimGoon play his best performing champion of Gangplank due to it being a favourable matchup for Ryze, after game 1 it’s understandable why you may think otherwise. It’s impossible to say if this was the right decision or if banning or picking the Gangplank would have been better but if G2 had the plan of taking Veigar last if Doinb picked a tank then allowing Gangplank is debatable.
As for game plans, G2 wanted GimGoon on Gangplank because Ryze outscales him in a side lane as the game goes on. This means G2 should be able to split push with Ryze while the rest of the team looks for picks on FPX members that approach for vision, eventually choking FPX out and out scaling. This is why the Gangplank logic is debatable because by allowing FPX to take Gangplank they are able to match G2’s team in terms of scaling and if he is even then Gangplank is able to wave clear against Ryze in a side lane which reduces split push pressure. FPX’s goals were to focus botlane early with Gangplank and Galio Ultimates so that they can use Xayah throughout the game to take down Baron since G2’s team composition lacks good wave clear against Baron empowered minions.
Getting into the game both Junglers started with vertical Jungling which is where both Junglers take one quadrant of their own jungle and one of their opponents. This puts more pressure on the lanes that both teams want to get ahead which for FPX is the bot lane and for G2 is getting the top lane ahead. FPX showed the strength of this when at 3 minutes Tian forced G2’s bot lane so far back from their tower that FPX got a tower plate before Perkz was able to get a minion. The immense pressure from this start forced Caps to flash an early engage by Doinb at risk of Tian and Crisp being around to follow up and allowed FPX to take the first Mountain Dragon, G2’s second blue buff and the bot tower before 8 minutes
into the game. FPX proceeded to transition all of their team to the top side of the map to allow Xayah to take the first top tower with the Rift Herald. G2 eventually took first blood after FPX overextend mid which helped G2 to stabilise the game. As they began to recover, G2 capitalised on a late reset by FPX and managed to secure themselves the Infernal Dragon on spawn which slightly put them ahead in the scaling game. Crisp got picked in the mid lane and after a skirmish in the top lane G2 traded one kill and Wunder’s teleport for two kills. Taking inspiration from G2’s reset punish, FPX attempted a Baron knowing Wunder was without teleport but they quickly disengaged when G2 collapsed with the Veigar cage. A mid lane pick by G2 turned into a negative trade in kills but destroying FPX’s mid lane outer tower made it another net profit for G2. The game turned on its head when FPX used G2 going for the second Mountain Dragon as an opportunity to sneak baron and by the time G2 got there to intervene FPX made it out unscathed with Baron buff. G2 pre-emptively pushed the mid lane minions while cooldowns were still down for FPX to try and minimise the effectiveness of the baron but while doing so Tian hid inside the G2 jungle. Tian’s trap was sprung when Caps took what he thought was a safe route to collapse on Doinb but was killed by Lee Sin and Galio before he could react, this fight resulted in the G2 top inhibitor going down along with several kills in FPX’s favour. Relative peacefulness took place until the Baron respawned and after Jankos was denied a Baron steal despite G2’s best efforts to stop them FPX secured themselves the game, the series and the World Championship.
Unfortunately for European fans the G2 that showed up on the day were not able to beat the FPX that took it all. It felt reminiscent of the previous year’s China vs Europe final in more ways than one, but it was all the more personal being on European home turf. G2’s journey through 2019 Worlds was a tough one, facing
all 3 Korean representatives and only being knocked down by Griffin on their way to finals. FPX entered the tournament into the easiest group where they battled Splyce for first seed and won. They moved on to stare down Fnatic’s permabanned Twisted Fate pick and wipe the floor with it. Penultimately, FPX had to take on the only LPL team that had beaten them in the summer split and in a slugfest IG, the reigning World Champions, were defeated. Notably FPX’s Jungler, Tian, claimed finals MVP after a dominant Lee Sin performance and LWX had the first deathless series in World’s finals history. Marking the end of this year’s Worlds FPX take home the Summoner’s Cup in preparation for Worlds in China next year and I’m already excited to see what all the regions bring to try and stake their claim as next year’s World Champions.
Written by Callum Iles (@MelvinizzleLOL)