Gigabyte Marines' Archie: the unselfish big brother who facilitates GAM's unorthodox strategies
“...but the thing I always believed, is that Archie is the best player in Vietnam. And I can confirm that: the day Archie quits professional gaming, I’ll quit coaching in Vietnam.” - Tinikun, Unlocked: GIGABYTE Marines (2017).
This bold proclamation is but one of many of Tinikun’s -- as the coach and analyst of teams such as Full Louis, Bangkok Titans (GPL Summer winners, 2015), and now Gigabyte Marines (GPL Spring and Summer 2017 winners), he has attracted considerable criticism and praise alike for his meta-defying strategies.
For someone this prolific in the Vietnamese scene to say that Archie, himself a veteran who has been around since the beginning of League of Legends, is the best player in Vietnam, the statement has to hold some weight. More than SofM (jungler of Snake), Levi (jungler of GAM), or Optimus (mid laner of GAM), Archie has ploughed along, switching roles whenever the team required it. Be it top, bot, support or mid, Archie has played them competitively.
It is in 2017, however, that Archie’s stock has really risen, although this did not seem apparent if one looked at his performances in the summer split. Having moved to top lane after the departure of Stark, his initial performances did not appear good, giving up kills in lane and later on as he tried to enact the split pushing strategies that GAM had been honing. This entailed a lot of mistakes and trials, given he was placed on champions that did not necessarily win the laning phase, and on champions like Kennen, he would be powerless were he to be collapsed upon without backup.
Archie *was* the backup, the foil for other players like Levi, who has always taken more gold than most junglers normally would in other teams. This has occasionally put Archie at a disadvantage, yet he never complains. His lack of an ego and wanting to work for the team has arguably done more for the Marines than any other component.
In the world of sports and esports alike, attention is normally focused upon the ones who have the most gold, the most damage, and the most flashy plays. Archie gets none of these three. As a result, he has slipped under the radar. This is not to say that he would carry games if only he received more gold; that is not his role at all.
Never was Archie’s role in the Marines more exemplified than in their group stage game against Fnatic at Worlds 2017; amidst the incredible performance and completely new strategies debuted on the world stage was the mastermind behind it all.
Levi shared in the post-game interview that it was Archie, not Tinikun, who is often credited for his team's unorthodox strategies, who had come up with the Galio-Nocturne draft. This entailed power-leveling Nocturne to level 6, when he would get his ultimate, within just five minutes—a timing hardly ever achieved in League. Junglers, especially these days, are used to playing for the team and being lower in level than laners as a result.
In this game, however, a few things happened:
1. Galio was drafted for Archie. The whole strategy relied on Galio being able to teleport to his teammates. It is arguable that Shen could have done this job just as well, but Galio appears to be what Archie is comfortable with.
2. Nocturne for Levi. Nocturne’s weaknesses are that he has low lane pressure pre-6, and most junglers can invade his jungle with ease. Additionally, there was a nerf on his level 6 ultimate which has made Nocturne all but unplayable in the meta. Unless…
3. Nocturne reaches level 6 in five minutes. His route entailed a superleash for the red buff (only works if lane swapping, which happened this game), followed by Archie jungling together with Levi. This was more commonly seen in 2015, when lane swaps were in vogue. However, the key difference is that Levi gained all the experience from the jungle camps, while Archie had none. This gave Levi Level 4 after the first jungle clear.
4. Levi joins Archie in the bot lane. Fnatic responds by 5-man ganking bot, but only Archie dies. Levi smites a cannon minion during this dive. Subsequently, Fnatic has to fall back and Levi gains even more lane experience and gold after Archie teleports back.
5. Levi goes back, then clears chickens and takes a few CS/exp in the mid lane. He then does wolves, giving him level 6. Immediately after, he ults down to the bot lane and grabs a kill on Jesiz, who was in a forward position due to Archie.
Thereafter, the game started to snowball for Levi and NoWay; the latter had been dutifully pushing the top lane with Nevan and kept Soaz’s CS at 0 for 6 minutes. At this point, Archie had died twice and was at level 4, the same level as Nevan. He had given up his life, twice, for Levi to get to the point where Levi could 1v1 Caps.
There is a perception that Archie is a weak top laner because of the amount of deaths he tends to give up. Optimus sometimes falls under this criticism for the exact same reason. The truth is that these laners are always doing two jobs: facilitating Levi’s farm by allowing him to take CS, and moving around the map to establish map control. Part of their job is to ensure that opponents do not get to defend pushes across the map by occupying them, even if it means they die in the process.
“Lose the battle, win the war” defines GAM’s strategy. While Optimus and/or Archie lose their lives, they also switch the focus away from NoWay and Levi, who are pushing turrets and diving incessantly using their numbers advantage in the meantime. As both Optimus and Archie have Teleport as well, they can collapse on the opponent should NoWay and Levi get targeted, or to set up dives and skirmishes.
Mistakes in decision-making means that the team loses kills in situations where they shouldn’t, but ultimately the goal is clear: once NoWay and Levi get into a position to carry and have both their requisite items and enough side-lane pressure, the Baron is set up and the resulting teamfight should end in their victory due to the actions made previously.
Archie made his name playing support in DotA, and the game back then was harsh for supports; they generally work with little gold and relied primarily on their spells to get ganks off and win the map thereafter.
What we just witnessed at Worlds was a mishmash of several concepts: the lane swaps, the support with little gold (revived as a top laner) who relies on their skills to ‘carry’ the team, the usage of a powerfarming jungler who can carry when ahead in the early-mid game, two ‘global’ champions in Nocturne and Galio, as well as a high-mobility mid-laner with Teleport in Kassadin. Last but not least, we had in Lulu a support eligible to wield the Ardent Censer and, by foregoing Flash, became an oppressive presence designed specifically to bully out the opposing laner.
This was Archie’s score at the end of the game:
People will look towards Levi and NoWay’s carry performance, but I argue that Archie was an integral piece in the puzzle. Without Archie in the top lane, the games are far more messy; Nevan who made his debut as support, is normally the top laner.
Not only does Nevan favour a more carry-oriented champion pool, he was arguably also worse at playing the map than Archie is, sometimes even giving up more kills than he does. Even though the team still wins with Nevan, the games tend to be sloppier and reliant on teamfighting.
The world may not give Archie enough attention, but if not for his sacrificing ways, the Marines can only go so far. In fact, even in the support position, due to his champion pool, he can be of more use than the other support Syaa, who primarily plays engage supports. This has been circumvented somewhat by Nevan stepping into the support role, allowing Archie to become the second support.
One may remember that in Dota 2, drafts frequently consist of two supports (known as a ‘4’ and a ‘5’ to denote the amount of gold they receive in comparison to a ‘1’, who is the carry and receives the most gold). Attempts have been made to replicate this concept in League of Legends over the years to varying degrees of success, but they never caught on due to how the game is balanced around specific laning arrangements.
Never have we seen this move to a second support succeed as wildly as it did today, when everyone thought the meta had been all but figured out, and the game itself has even been balanced to all but remove lane swaps. But now, lane swaps are exciting again, and we have Archie’s own skill as well as the team’s composition to thank for that. Soaz, the opposing top laner, was completely unused to the 1v2 lane as well as not receiving enough gold, and was thus unable to have an influence on the game despite his skills being useful for fights. Lane swap metas have historically never favoured top laners, and we got a grim reminder of this today.
While teams may start figuring out the Marines and their wins grind to a halt as we saw at MSI, it is clear that Archie as the jack-of-all-trades opens up more opportunities than before for the Marines to try even crazier strategies and shake up the meta even further.
Now that’s a tantalizing thought.
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Cover image credits to game8.vn