Misfits: Cracking the Code
Another year, another Worlds. Many new esports have blossomed and have taken the attention of former League of Legends fans, despite its still outstanding popularity. "What's the point? SKT will just win again." You can't help but agree with them; however, even those who watch just for the highest quality games and teams—we all hold onto that hope that maybe, just maybe, gods can bleed.
And what an unlikely scenario for this to nearly occur in.
The controversy over how to take down the top Koreans have always been a cause for conflict. Just copying them isn't going to work, so what else needs to be in place? "Well, we need to improve our infrastructure. We need to have more best-of series' domestically. We need to import Koreans. We need better coaching and analytical staff." These opinions have been echoed for years, yet to no avail.
Many times, teams would go the opposite route, but to an inefficient extreme. It would seem quite often that the reason behind the meta escaped many of these heavily experimental teams, divorcing themselves from any logic that makes the current strong picks and builds ideal. It was almost as if in a fit of low confidence, a dart was thrown in hopes that something "wacky and hip" would throw top teams off guard in a hail mary miracle attempt.
Misfits had a different approach; Misfits nearly cracked the code.
Not only did they have a better overarching view of how the game was supposed to be played, but also of very minute alterations that top teams who were even mildly complacent in their studies would overlook, or not even consider. Misfits did not have the comfort of being firmly seated in the champion's throne. All the way from being a Challenger team to tackling SKT in a bo5 at Worlds, they were the exact opposite—a unique circumstance that would end up being a luxury, the driving force of innovation, if you will.
"Do the modern age stuff kids are trying to do to take out the top."
- LS on taking down the old guard, and how you must be willing to do the things the elite are not willing to do.
A David vs. Goliath matchup is not simply won by merits and great cunning, either. It takes tremendous courage and a stoic, unyielding approach—one that Misfits was more than happy to bring to the arena. Although SKT crushed Misfits at the start of the series from draft to execution, throwing them off with early flex picks in Galio and (what would become) support Trundle, Misfits remained sturdy as a unit and kept their nerves from crumbling.
It was their time to shine—not by copying Koreans, not by having more money, and not by any other anecdotal method fabricated throughout years of armchair analysis—just grit and intuition. Misfits would give SKT a taste of their own medicine in obfuscating picks, flexing Karma and grabbing Blitzcrank for IgNar, who would soon make his performance an instant hall-of-fame classic. This would be the start of Misfits’ admirable approach—full acknowledgment and respect of meta, but with enough bold twist and flavor to sour the unexpected tongue of SKT. They would keep an Ardent Censor heavy focus, but shift it into supportive mid and jungle picks as the series progressed.
Not only did this allow for IgNar to shine on his preferential strength on initiation supports, but it would bring Hans Sama the full ‘ardent-enchanter’ package he required to dominate. To top it all off, Misfits would not allow SKT’s scaling composition to flourish, picking fights and finishing them off with excellent hooks, all while targeting SKT’s admittedly underperforming bottom lane at this tournament.
Abiding to the meta, while allowing individual styles to shine, while finding holes in the armor of their foes—these three key ingredients have eluded western teams so long in their fight against the titans, but not this time.
In the middle of the series, SKT would force a Blitzcrank ban, but that only pushed Misfits to be more crafty with their tools. Next in their arsenal was a Fervor of Battle wielding Leona. Adding insult to injury to the reigning world champions, Bang chose Vayne, and would soon be punished for the greed of this pick, amplified by Misfits’ unrelenting focus on diving and proxying the bottom lane. This was enough to win in easily the most convincing game a western team has played against a Korean team, let alone the reigning champions.
"There's no way that SKT make this mistake three times in a row and don't draft a hard-pushing, winning bot lane." - Froskurinn following Game 3.
Luckily for SKT, they wisened up and grabbed the Tristana away from Han Sama. Still, Misfits drafted fairly aggressively, taking Alistar in the bottom lane and returning to Ardent Censor wielding mid Karma.
Close, but not close enough. It started to fall apart for Misfits. On game-point, Misfits still had their confidence and vigor, but it went a little too far. With gleaming eyes driven by the hunger of the trophy, Misfits became overzealous, diving in an attempt to end the game early, which was heavily punished by SKT, who knows as a superior team with greater accolades, all you must do is maintain composure and wait for a mistake to happen that inevitably will, and punish it firmly. Still, Misfits would fight valiantly in the final game of the set, despite SKT finding pockets of vulnerability to abuse, allowing them to ultimately move on in the tournament.
Misfits may not have won. They may not have done everything perfectly and could use some fine-tuning. But not only were they faithful to their style and bold enough to execute it, they were headstrong enough to make plays and not just find weaknesses in SKT's armor, but fully expose and pounce upon it.
They were overzealous and maybe a bit too aggressive, which hurt their chances of closing out the series. But in a near half-decade long era of teams too frigid to act, and too vanilla to break the mold, Misfits are a very welcome surprise. And while they may be disappointed they didn't close out the set, it's that hunger for success overall that will hopefully change the way western teams approach the gods on the Rift.
Misfits went from challenger to getting further than any other western team at contesting SKT's dominance. The gloves are off and the excuses for the west are all but eradicated. May their performance be a lesson and set an example for the future.
Michale 'Drexxin' Lalor is the Editor-in-Chief at Esports Heaven. Follow him on Twitter at @ESHDrexxin.
Images courtesy of Riot Games' Lolesports Flickr.