Golden Guardians finally did it. They started off their split with a 2-0, showing signs of promise without having to play catch-up for once. With their strong dragon control and constant movements to cover each other, they found themselves keeping the death count low while piling up the objectives.
These games were by no means perfect, but you can clearly tell they were thinking about how to push their game plan forward. This article will go over the specific aspects GGS executed on which showed a good sense of the fundamentals, while also highlighting areas for improvement in their vision game when executing a Baron Power Play.
When a team has good dragon control, they can always depend on those bonus stats they collected for later stages of the game. GGS were able to secure four dragons in each game, giving themselves a strong Elder Dragon option on top of the passive benefits. The Echo Fox game was a good indication of their strong dragon priority and control since GGS can be seen grouping for dragon early to establish positioning and vision.
The first dragon in the FOX game came from mid and bot priority. The only player in immediate danger of a FOX collapse should be Olleh, who has no Flash. When FOX do finally collapse, the only reason anyone on GGS dies is due to them not all walking towards mid. Their hesitation costs them, but the dragon timing is good.
Move ahead to second dragon, where we find everyone rotating early again to get positioning. They also previously pushed the side waves forcing FOX’s attention. FOX’s timing is off now, leaving dragon up for GGS to take.
Once again with waves pushed, GGS move in for the third dragon. You can see the consistency in GGS’s movement for each of these dragons, ensuring they hold an advantageous position. This kind of consistency is always sought out by coaches since it means the team has built good habits.
Moving forward into the game against FlyQuest, a lot of GGS’s dragons came through FLY being afraid of GGS. The first dragon GGS secured was thanks to Froggen wave skipping. Once GGS see Pobelter clearing the mid wave, they move in to surprise FLY with a contest. This one play completely changed the early game for GGS. Contractz’s pathing put him well behind Santorin, but stealing the Ocean Drake helped out their two-Tear champion and gave experience and gold to Contractz to catch up to Santorin.
Next dragon was more from the map dominance of GGS, but it still shows setting up a perimeter around dragon first. Easy take for GGS.
On third dragon, an assist ping is given early, notifying everyone what the objective is. Hauntzer will be seen finishing his push top, while Froggen looks to take one more bot wave. By the time dragon is spawning, Hauntzer is on his way in case GGS needs him. FLY end up not bothering to contest. However, ensuring it’s a safe dragon take again shows good habits based on the priority GGS assigned to the dragons.
The last dragon is irrelevant since GGS pick it up after baron. Looking through all these examples, though, it’s clear GGS have worked on this aspect. If you can’t take a tower or get kills, then at least stacking dragons is an advantage you can use. Doing it carefully is even more important.
A good example of this going wrong is FLY’s first dragon, which was not set up safely enough and turned Contractz’s early game around. Against the best teams, these slip-ups can result in big consequences making it better to start doing it now than later.
Before moving onto the next topic, I want to point out how the Rift Herald take by GGS also backs up the effective dragon attempts by GGS. In the FOX game we can find Contractz placing an additional ward with top/bot priority before starting Herald. There was no way for GGS to get surprised taking this. Also, with Tahm Kench, GGS’s duo can move up quickly, allowing GGS to assemble in case of a fight.
Team Movement and Good Habits
Early in the FOX game we find GGS pressuring Yusui twice as a team, forcing Yusui to Realm Warp out of fear. Hauntzer pushed top out, roamed down to place a pink, and saw Contractz/Olleh already in the area. GGS execute a pinch mid, but quickly back off. Yusui now has to be more aware of his opponent making multi-man plays mid.
Not too much later, Yusui is facing a Skarner wrapping around Wolves brush, again looking to pull him. Deftly also joins in the play. GGS are able to deny Yusui creeps, pressure tower, and more importantly strike fear into Yusui.
For a player getting his shot at LCS, Yusui is likely to be rather nervous. I don’t think this was part of GGS’s original game plan, but Yusui definitely seemed nervous when you can see him down in creeps just off the first two waves. Either way, both these plays are nicely coordinated by GGS. It isn’t something you would expect a team running Ezreal/Tahm Kench/Skarner to do. What GGS is showing here is the willingness to roam when they believe staying in lane achieves nothing. If the enemy roams often, then it forces other lanes to not play their matchup to the natural theoretical outcome. Certain lanes need to win or go even to allow a team to perform in mid game. This awareness and flexibility is a good sign for GGS.
Continuing on in the FOX game, GGS will perform a dive top using Froggen’s TP. While this is not exactly a good plan since the end result is FOX taking plates both in mid and bot, what it does show is GGS working together as a team. They don’t get fazed by the mistake. Their duo lane moves mid while Hauntzer goes bot as a lane assignment change to cover for the play.
An example of GGS setting up a play well would be GGS’s bot dive, shown in the image below. Waves are pushed up, giving priority for Hauntzer and GGS’s duo lane. Olleh will use Abyssal Voyage to quickly cover the distance. Think about what Hauntzer can do in this case. If FOX opt to help Yusui, Hauntzer has TP. If FOX opt to push mid, Hauntzer can cover. No advantage can be gained here by FOX, since GGS set up the map to cover all lanes.
Finally, to end the game GGS transitions from a 1-3-1 setup to a 1-2-2 setup. Hauntzer holds Solo’s attention. Ezreal/Tahm Kench can buy a lot of time if engaged on. The time they could buy would give GGS the side lane towers. FOX hesitate to pull the trigger, resulting in Contractz, who has been sitting between mid/bot, taking bot tower with Froggen. GGS synced these waves to crash at similar times, forcing FOX into a difficult choice.
In the FLY game, GGS’s first big team movement is to Herald. GGS wanted to stop FLY from taking Herald, which they succeed in doing. What they do next is a bit bad in the sense that GGS give up top and bot waves in order to five-man Herald, which isn’t ideal. Despite that, GGS are ensuring no problems can occur when taking the Herald, thanks to every member moving for it. This shows everyone is on the same page.
Now look at the image to the right. Contractz is using Herald mid to break some turret plates. While he is doing this, both side lanes are moving inward to give possible backup if FLY opt to collapse and attack. These examples may seem simple or expected, but fundamentals can go a long way in preventing losses.
In cases where a member on GGS has to base, you can find another player covering said lane. Froggen heads towards top to swap Ezreal mid. By doing this, Deftly would not have to use TP to cover top or mid. (FLY can’t pressure mid tower.) Even though Deftly does use TP mid, the initial idea is still good. All it requires is having Contractz cover mid for one wave until Deftly arrives. As usual, it’s a simple action, but leads to putting GGS in a better position to pressure the map.
Travel further into the game and GGS can be found swapping their side lane assignments, even though both players have TP. Their goal is to pressure FLY’s red buff. Froggen is better suited to being with the team compared to Hauntzer.
There are two last pivotal choices made by GGS which showcase trust and synchronization in their calls. The first is when GGS looked to surprise FLY by having Froggen and Contractz stack in top river. This is a big error, with GGS most recently using Tahm’s Abyssal Voyage on Pobelter bot. GGS are in a clear number disadvantage.
GGS escape and even push FLY towards top lane. Pobelter suddenly shows on top wave instead of basing. GGS quickly push mid as five, getting mid inhibitor. This was a big take since Baron is still up, as it makes the Baron dance much easier for GGS.
The only issue brought on from taking mid inhibitor is that FLY get to shop, unlike GGS. The items are closer for the next fight, adding risk. If GGS bases together, then FLY could possibly look to rush Baron. What ends up happening is GGS initially look at dragon, but FLY come and quickly push GGS away from it. GGS make a quick read on taking Baron, trusting their ability to take it quickly. GGS are right, and the two play calls allow GGS to close out the game.
Baron Power Play Error
When it comes to Baron PPs, you choose the towers/inhibitors you wish to pressure, place wards on flanks, and clear any vision the enemy may have, which could be used to set up flanks either on foot or with TP. GGS did not successfully clear vision. Against FOX, Olleh places three of his four wards down right away, with only one having much benefit. No vision was cleared for Hauntzer or for the left side of mid, giving FOX a window to use Solo to flank mid before Hauntzer gets top pushing. Neither Sweeper was up on the tier 2 pushes, meaning that if FOX placed anything (they which didn’t), most of it wouldn’t have been detected by GGS.
Looking at the FLY game, GGS can be found again not clearing much of the vision. GGS want to sprint through the bot inhibitor tower using the zoning power of Anivia and Ezreal. Unfortunately, Pobelter is above GGS and has pockets of vision where he can move around. His flank ends up helping FLY stop GGS from ending the game.
Fundamentals are key to building strong and creative decision-making throughout a game. Coming up with solutions on the fly is something G2 does very well, for example, and that was part of why they triumphed at MSI. Without strong fundamentals, a lot of creative plays can be viewed as a coin flip, since the players do not have a strong basis on how it works.
Based on this week, GGS are on their way to building up their creative play options, allowing them to adapt better than other teams during games by quickly problem-solving issues they haven’t seen before. Their dragon stacking can be used as an advantage when even or behind. Getting the lane assignments which best fit the team’s ability to pressure the map is huge in mid/late game. Having every player on the same page for objective plays helps reduce unforced errors. Even in the failed plays, every member will know why it went wrong, assisting with the team’s growth.
While GGS continues to grow in this area they still have to worry about player-specific issues. The most glaring one is that Olleh still moves up too far for vision without proper assistance. He also positions forward in lane often, which is particularly not good against Xayah/Rakan when playing as Tahm Kench. FLY was hesitant to pressure this lane when GGS had numbers on top side and GGS’s duo was still pushing bot.
Also, Contractz had very poor pathing choices against FLY, putting himself in a hole not once, but twice before the first dragon fight. Although this was only one game, he has had issues with initial pathing before.
Skipping vision steps as a team can also lead to a team on their backfoot finding kills.
Regardless of these issues, Golden Guardians are heading the right direction and I look forward to see how they continue to grow as a team while plugging holes.
Most images were taken from the LCS streams. A few were from Pro View POV’s. Header image courtesy flickr.com/photos/lolesports.
Brendan “Loyota” Schilling was the Head Analyst for Immortals in 2016-17 and analyst and position coach for Team Liquid in 2018. Follow him at twitter.com/Loyotalol.