Last weekend we were treated to the climax of the introduction to the 2021 Wild Rift: Summoner Series: Major 1, which closed out the first Circuit. The top 4 teams from two open Qualifier tournaments duked it out for their piece of a hearty $10,000 prize pool, and a shot at skipping the next qualifiers to jump straight into Major 2 later this month. If my beautiful word picture didn’t really stick in your mind well enough for you to understand all of that, I have provided a real picture that will hopefully catch you up to speed on what we’re looking at here.
That’s us, all the way on the left. Very early on in the journey, but we’ve passed our first milestone and sent four teams on to Major 2 already -- and I’m here to let you know how it all went down. But first, look, another picture!
Now that you’re up to speed on who’s playing, what they’re playing for, how they got here and where they’re going, we can finally start to look at some of the stand out matches.
Day 1: Round 2 - Tribe Gaming vs Cloud9
Cloud9 came into this event as pretty clear favorites to make it to the top 4, and potentially win the entire event as the champions of Qualifier #2. The team standing in their way from an analysts perspective were Tribe Gaming, who won Qualifier #1 without dropping a single game. But all win streaks must eventually come to an end, and Cloud9 were already looking hot after a revenge kill onto Sentinels.
C9 (Garen/Graves/Corki/Jhin/Nami) - TRB (Malphite/Camille/Orianna/Lucian/Janna)
C9 start off the game once again with a triple swap sending their duo lane into the middle, their baron laner into bottom, and their mid laner into top -- but it’s not matched by TRB who align a standard lane composition. Despite this, Tarzaned attempts to steal the bottom Scuttle away from Ttigers. Both duo lanes collapse but the fight breaks out just outside of the bot lane river brush and Tarzaned is taken down a lot quicker than he probably anticipated, which also baits Zelo into a bad position who is then finished off under his tower by Oldskool’s Lucian. Not having the early lead prompts C9 to surrender the first Dragon and take a relatively uncontested Rift Herald to compensate. They then tried to translate the topside advantage into a deep dive onto Malphite, but between the time it took to get from Herald to top and how deep they went, TRB is able to catch up and pick up a few return kills.
Things cool off for a bit as TRB pick up the second dragon of the game, and go for a pick near the midside jungle rather than handshaking an impromptu ARAM as all 5 members from both teams gather. No casualties happen on either side, but it does cause enough of a diversion for TRB to knock down the first mid lane tower. Once Camille’s ultimate was back up TRB go for an invade onto the Blue Buff, and the gold advantage they’ve accumulated really starts to show as C9 throw everything they have at them but are only able to pick up 2 kills to the 4 of TRB.
As the third dragon spawns Ttigers smells blood in the water and dives into the backline of C9 as an all out team fight breaks out. TRB drafted an organically tankier team, and between the item lead, Janna ultimate, and Redemption active there wasn’t enough damage on the side of C9 to pick up any kills as they all fell, until Mali made a last ditch dive into the enemy team to secure a kill onto Oldskool, picking up the only kill of the fight for his team and bringing the score to 5:14. TRB transitions their teamfight win into a Baron and a 3rd Dragon, and during their ensuing siege of the middle base tower Starting is able to pick up a triple kill under the tower with a Shockwave, laying down a red carpet for his team to storm the base and take the win.
C9 (Garen/Graves/Akali/Xayah/Senna) - TRB (Malphite/Olaf/Orianna/Kai’Sa/Nami)
The teams opened game 2 in a similar fashion to game one, with C9 pulling a triple lane swap and TRB not bothering to respond to it and instead sending everyone where the tutorial told them they should. Even the first fight of the game happened in a similar fashion, with Tarzaned calling for a contest onto the bottom Scuttle. This time though, he preemptively called his duo lane down from mid and TRBs duo lane was slightly later to respond as they were busy bullying Zelo under his tower. The fight that followed used all 16 summoner spells from the 8 players not on the topside of the map, and resulted in a slight kill advantage for C9 as Charm was the sole survivor. The kill distribution was slightly skewed however, with Xayah and Senna each picking up 2 kills but Starting’s Orianna picking up all 3 for TRB.
TRB being the team behind at this point in the game decide to go for the Rift Herald, but find that C9 have taken so long to start the dragon that they can actually come and contest it. A lot of haymakers are thrown on both side but no killing blows land, and C9 do walk away with the dragon. Down the line Jxcki goes for an aggressive play onto Starting who makes it out with a sliver of HP by flashing back under their turret, and while Jxcki seems to think that was the end of things and goes back to pushing mid lane, Ttiger’s Olaf comes barreling out of the jungle, flashing in for a kill. A domino effect starts as Graves jumps in a little too late to try and turn things, dies, and prompts Akali to attempt the same thing. While Akali makes it out alive, the stalemate C9 looked to end did in fact end, just not in the way they were hoping.
C9s attempts at proactivity continue to turn sour as Tarzaned and Zelo tag team dive Oldskool in the bottom lane, but their own duo lane gets caught out mid rotation by 3 members of TRB in the meanwhile. This prompts Ttigers to pop the Rift Herald in the mid lane and steal away the Blue Buff before taking a quick reset before another dragon. At said Dragon fight another big Shockwave from Starting sets the tone as TRB run down 2 members of C9, and take a kill onto Tarzaned who came back in to check on the Dragon and try to sneak an unsuccessful kill onto Oldskool. With a near insurmountable gold lead TRB are able to take the Baron with relative ease, and while it takes a few knocks on the base door to finally barge in and kill the nexus, TRB remain undefeated in games.
Day 2: Round 2 (Lower bracket) - Immortals vs Sentinels
To recap how things work, Lower bracket Round 2 is an elimination match - not just from Major 1, but from Major 2 in a sense. The top 4 teams of this Major will automatically qualify for Major 2, meaning the loser of Immortals and Sentinels will need to play through the Qualifiers of the next Circuit in order to make it back on. Probably equally importantly to the players, only the top 4 get a chunk of the $10,000 prize pool for this event. With all that in mind let's check out the first elimination match of Day 2, a rematch from the top 4 of Qualifier #1!
IMT (Malphite/Jarvan IV/Twisted Fate/Xayah/Rakan) - SEN (Gragas/Camille/Orianna/Kai’Sa/Galio)
Wild Rift is a lot more fast paced than its PC counterpart League of Legends, and this had become increasingly apparent to me the further along in the tournament we got. Usually, there’s a solid 3 or 4 kills on the board by the time Dragon and Herald spawn at 4 minutes, and first blood happening before minute two has been the norm. So when Hoon finally Destiney’d down to the dragon lane at five and half minutes in to help secure first blood for IMT, I was a bit shocked. It’s not uncommon for teams to play more reserved when they get down to the elimination rounds, but given how aggressively Yawn played with their tournament life on the line I thought perhaps Wild Rift was different. I digress.
I thought that first blood would finally open the floodgates for players to go buckwild and we’d get a continuous string of teamfights from here on out, but the reserved nature of both teams held out. Even as IMT ran down 2 dragon lane towers, SEN showed an unwillingness to contest. SENs patience paid off though as the first teamfight was started off by YikeZ with The Quickness but he’s held up by Galio, and as more members collapse a big combo of Shockwave into Explosive Cask (and VERY importantly not the other way around) chunk out IMT and scatter them to be picked off individually. With a clean 4:0 fight picked up they take the Infernal Dragon but the gold differential stayed within 1k, meaning SEN hadn’t won the game just yet.
As the Baron spawned and the dance began it was IMT who made the first move. A Gold Card onto Galio in the river meant they’d be slow to respond as Lebmont and IraqiZorro combined their Cataclysm and Unstoppable Force to try and pick off MichaelUdall but Sheesh bites the bullet instead. With the enemy jungler down IMT set their sights on Baron and find a lost Beg along the way, who walked toward the Baron pit as his team split up toward their Red Buff. The nature of the find was so unexpected that Lebmont engaged onto the 3 SEN players who were stacked together while his team split off to deal with Beg. After a few flashes every which way by both teams and the death of a Galio, IraqiZorro overchases onto MichaelUdall but still manages to make it out alive at a sliver of hp - or so he thought, as a respawned Sheesh hunts him down for the kill. After both teams had taken a small breather and let everyone properly revive, Hoon oversteps into the mid lane and is taken down as a few ultimates are expended on both sides chasing down/saving Rakan as they tried to save Hoon. SEN set their sights on the Baron but pull off when they spot Rakan still walking around at half health. Sheesh dives in with the Hextech Ultimatum to prevent the escape and IMT all in as Jarvan dives into the backline to kill Orianna, Rakan goes down, Jarvan doesn’t make it out, and when the dust settles only Malphite is left to take on 3 members of SEN. Or so SEN thought, as the fight once again dragged on for so long that Hoon was back on the map and Destiney’d straight into the middle of the 3 remaining SEN players, and with a little help from Malphite was able to finish off 2 of them before heading back to base.
The problem with taking a passive early game is that given a neutral game state, one team is going to outscale the other - which is the hard lesson IMT learned as Kai’Sa and Orianna really hit their teamfighting stride and as the fights went slowly more and more in the favor of SEN, eventually they found a clean 5-0 and pushed through all 3 middle towers to secure the win.
SEN (Olaf/Camille/Corki/Kai’Sa/Braum) - IMT (Gragas/Jarvan IV/Twisted Fate/Xayah/Rakan)
IMT took a much more proactive approach to game 2 despite having an almost identical team composition to the first one, orchestrating a 4 man dive onto Rest before the two minute mark. It worked so well for them in fact, that they decided to do the exact same thing just as soon as SEN duo lane returned and this time managed to kill both of them. IMT continues a train of multi-man ganks until they have nearly 5k gold lead going into the more teamfight focused portion of the game. Expectedly, they’re able to snowball this advantage in the teamfights and it seems to be one of the more cut and dry games of the event so far to force out a Game 3, but Sheesh in the final hour manages to secure a Baron steal shortly after spawn to try and give SEN a window back into the game.
That window is shut however when Sheesh walks a little bit too far forward during an NARAM and is Explosive Casked into the middle of IMT. He manages to put some distance between himself and IMT thanks to Camille’s mobility, but with SEN not in a position to be able to afford losing anyone they’re forced to take the fight. The damage was there for IMT as Hoon’s Wild Cards rip through the health bars of SEN and they push through mid to end the game.
IMT (Gragas/Jarvan IV/Diana/Xayah/Rakan) - SEN (Garen/Camille/Twisted Fate/Corki/Nami)
IMTs success with dives in game 2 seems to have stuck with them, as they stack up a wave for a 3 man dive onto MTS to kick off the deciding game of the series. With MTS stuck playing catch up, SEN try to take a proactive start to the Dragon fight with MichaelUdall pressuring the duo lane with Destiney. As SEN is probably all too accustomed to at this point, Rakan is a slippery Vastayan and pulls Sheesh light years away from his team in order to secure the kill, which lets the rest of IMT collapse onto the other SEN members and pick up a few kills before setting their sights on the Dragon. MTS tries to start up a Rift Herald for his team but is chased out by IraqiZorro returning to lane with his team in tow. After an exchanging of blows, IMT take down the Herald as well.
From there things continue to go the way of IMT - every time SEN makes a play, IMT is able to respond with a slightly better one somewhere else on the map and maintain their lead. With MTS being set so far behind in the early game he’s not able to do much as a Garen, whilst IraqiZorro’s Gragas represents a near unkillable frontline for IMT. The final nail in the coffin came just after the 10 minute mark when IMT took a stroll through SENs botside jungle to surprise them from over the wall with their higher mobility champions and chase them beyond their tower to stretch their gold lead to 7k. SEN, not wanting IMT to take a free Baron, use all of their mobility trying to take a pick onto YikeZ in the mid lane before IMT can respond. They come up just short as YikeZ is able to flash all of the important engage tools, and once again IMT waltz out of the jungle behind SEN and chase them through their towers. One more go at the Baron dance is all thats needed for IMT to find one last engage, and as Hoon goes Legendary on Diana they’re able to take the Baron, and move on to Round 3 of the lower bracket and lock in their spot at Major 2.
Day 2: Grand Finals - Tribe Gaming vs NME
NME (Malphite/Wukong/Katarina/Senna/Galio) - TRB (Gragas/Camille/Twisted Fate/Kai’Sa/Braum)
Earlier in the day when TRB and NME clashed, they set the bar for the slower pace of the game in Day 2. They showed us you could play a reserved early game, and you didn’t have to fight over Scuttles. Heck, you may not even have to fight over Dragons. But that was NME two hours ago, and this is NME now.
NME start off strong with a dive onto the dragon laners, chasing them all the way back to their tier 2 tower. Then, they pick up two kills in a minor disagreement about which team was going to kill the Dragon. For fun, they pick up two more kills in the dragon lane after TRB told them they weren’t allowed to siege their tower. When NME tried to leave, they accidentally killed 3 more people on the way out who went to check the bush they were recalling in. Heck, snag one more kill in the dragon lane for good luck while you’re at it. Wrap all of that up in a nice little bow with a Katarina quadra kill in the mid lane, and you get pre-10 minute NME in Game 1 of the Grand Finals.
Five minutes and 10 more kills for NME later, they lightly ransack the base of TRB and pick up 2 inhibitors for their trouble. Unable to end the game however, they take every precaution necessary and grab a 3rd Dragon, a Baron, a few Red and Blue Buffs and march back into the open TRB base, and kindly kill the Nexus to take a dominant start in the series.
NME (Jarvan IV/Wukong/Katarina/Corki/Pantheon) - TRB (Gragas/Xin Zhao/Galio/Lucian/Nami)
Game 2 does start off a little slower than its predecessor (thank goodness) with only three kills on the board total when it came time to start slugging it out over neutral monsters. NME get started on the Dragon but TRB drops the Rift Herald off in middle, tell it to have a nice day at school, and promptly launch a Tidal Wave at NME. Starting is the first to fall in the fight as NME regain their footing after the flash flood, but as they dogpile on Startings’ grave Chuck throws out an Explosive Cask that chunks out Truth and sends Tibe alone into the Dragon pit. NME pile into the pit to help out their jungler and manage to even out the kills and find one of their own onto Ttigers, backing out of the river to go deal with the Herald charging into their tier 2 tower.
While things stayed at around an even pace for most of the game, disaster struck at 12 minutes. While attempting to baron dance around mid lane and find enough picks to transition into Dragon or Baron, Ttigers thought he saw an opening to get some poke down onto Tibe, hoping to force out the enemy jungler to make it easier to power down an objective. Tibe saw this possible overextension as an opening, kicking off the teamfight with a Cyclone as Truth marched in behind for some follow up damage. NME laid down their crowd control effects nice and proper, making way for Truth to pick up yet another Katarina quadra kill. Despite having less than desirable hp bars of their own when the fight was over, NME hopped onto Baron and masterfully juggled aggro so as to all escape at sub 100 hp.
As the stakes get higher the games get longer as they say, and after failing to bait TRB into a Baron fight NME back off to the midlane where TRB jump onto them as soon as The Package had timed out. Selmaw actually engages the fight with a stun onto Ttigers but as Truth and Aluy look for backline access and think they found it, Ttigers manages to pull three members of NME onto himself leaving Truth and Aluy high and dry. With four members of TRB focused on Truth it’s not hard to take him down before any kills are found, and Ttigers walks away with his life still intact from his extended scrap. With NMEs main carry on cooldown for another 50 seconds, TRB head toward the Elder Dragon. After seeing that Truth was still down for 20 seconds, they went ahead and took the Baron buff as well. With the power of the double buff egging them onward, even Truths Katarina was no match for TRB as they tied the series 1-1.
TRB (Darius/Wukong/Diana/Lucian/Nami) - NME (Jarvan IV/Camille/Corki/Xayah/Seraphine)
This time TRB wondered what it would be like if they were to cosplay as the aggressor, and it works out quite well as Oldskool and MaxGreen are able to pick up 3 very early kills in the dragon lane. They got to follow this up with another 3 kills in the botside river only trading 1 back over as Oldskool got a little too big for their britches, but nevertheless held a 6k gold lead at just seven and a half minutes in. But at the 2nd Dragon it’s NME who come up big as Tibe locks down Oldskool in a Hextech Ultimatum and Truth lays down a Package that prevents anyone from coming to the rescue. The Package didn’t tickle the enemies it happened to land on either, and NME pick up two more kills after losing the Dragon.
TRB go for a Baron bait and get to push some damage down onto Aluy, and with a slight health advantage for the team Ttigers makes the call to go all in and lets it rip with a Cyclone engage. He manages to split Tibe from his team as a Tidal wave forces most of NME to kite backward toward their base but Chuck manages to grab Aluy walking a little too close to the team and from there all the members of TRB are able to execute their roles in the fight to perfection and get a clean 5-0 ace and a win in Game 3.
TRB (Darius/Camille/Akali/Kai’Sa/Janna) - NME (Gragas/Wukong/Katarina/Xayah/Rakan)
Do you remember how game 1 went? While NME wasn’t 14 kills deep at the 10 minute mark this time around, they were 4 kills deep on Truth’s Katarina, which is almost as good. They even managed to have a two Dragon lead, but just as the first Baron of the game spawned TRB was able to hunt down a pick onto Truth and start it up without fear of the resets. What they seem to have underestimated was the power of Baron Nashor himself, as he ripped through the team who saw this as their only opportunity back into the game to keep up with Katarina. The result? There was now a fed Xayah to go with the fed Katarina.
As soon as Truth got back onto the map he was able to put two more kills under his belt. NME still reigned it in, and took a steady approach to ending the game, not wanting to throw another game when they were on their last life in Major 1. Once the Baron spawned it was easy pickins for NME, who used the buff to push through the remaining turrets of TRB and send us to a Game 5.
NME (Darius/Jarvan IV/Diana/Senna/Galio) - TRB (Gragas/Camille/Orianna/Xayah/Rakan)
Despite NMEs wins both being largely off the back of Katarina, TRB put their tournament life on the line without banning it. Instead they save their mid lane counterpick for last and force Truth onto a safer pick, going with the Diana. I’ll tell you what wasn’t safe though; this early game.
Both teams sat on each others wards while preparing for a fight over the dragon Scuttle, and NME thought they had the upper hand coming into the fight as they engaged with a Justice Punch. Starting had the foresight to flash behind Selmaw, putting him in a good position with his team and eating one of NMEs best engage tools at this stage of the game. While Ttigers wasn’t so lucky, he did get a few NME members to commit flashes to him over the Blue buff wall, where he walked them right back into his team. After TRB picked up a favorable trade, MaxGreens got a little greedy and tried to flash dive a low hp Tibe, who managed to survive thanks to the Golden Aegis and get the kill back onto MaxGreens. He also picked up something else; Max’s arrogance, as the 50 hp 0 mana jungler attempted to walk into the river to claim the baron Scuttle, only to be wiped off the map by Starting.
TRB drew first objective blood by getting the Rift Herald, and then still managed to push NME away from the Dragon. While the kill deficit remained small, as the game crested into the mid game TRB kept up the macro pressure, maintaining a tower lead. The symbolic end to the game came at the all too important fight for the second Dragon. After a 1:1 trade outside of Baron, a half health TRB (minus Chuck) runs to do the Cloud Drake. NME show up just too late after Ttigers had already secured the smite, and as the half health NME tried to retreat they’re hit with a Command Dissonance that gives Ttigers the go ahead to full tilt dive into the enemy. As he tried to kite backwards Truth makes the hero play and dives in, killing both MaxGreen and Ttigers, but in the same breath Starting finds a Shockwave that ends Selmaw and DNZio. With Oldskool finishing off the too-deep Truth, TRB have firmly cemented both their macro lead and their mental lead. The game ending fight however, is done in one of the most classic ways imaginable - a death bush at Baron. TRB five stack into the bush just outside of the Blue buff area in NMEs jungle and lay down an inescapable crowd control train starting off with a Shockwave to pick off both Truth and Selmaw. With two members of the enemy team dead they have no fear of going for Baron, and letting NME pick a hill to die on. NME pick their red side jungle, and TRB happily oblige.
Be sure to catch Cloud9, Immortals, NME and Tribe Gaming again at Qualifier #2 later this month!