It was a sunny Sunday afternoon and what better way to spend it then huddled inside your room, watching the highest level of League of Legends gameplay available. The Sydney Battlegrounds Grand Final pitted UNSW, represented by “Add Ozo if you’re an e-girl” against cross-town rivals Western Sydney University, represented by WSU 1. A rematch of last year’s Unigames finals, UNSW looked to redeem itself against a team that had yet to drop a single game the entire tournament. Although they had qualified for the finals, UNSW looked shaky in the semi-finals matchup against Macquarie University where they conceded early game advantages and made late game blunders which cost them game 2 of the series before Macquarie was disqualified. On the other hand, their opponents were heading into the finals in red-hot form and had yet to be challenged by a single team seriously until then.
UNSW opened up the series in dominating fashion, crushing WSU with a strong early game and forcing consecutive teamfights, eventually building a solid 2k gold lead by 10min. With David “Ozo1329” Li leading from the front on his first Irelia pick of the tournament, UNSW were able to end the game with a 6k gold lead, a lead that proved insurmountable for WSU, whom despite finding key engagements from NL Pompom’s Rakan and K1LD3Rn3S5’s Zac, could not capitalise on these opportunities, resulting in WSU’s nexus collapsing in 36min.
WSU bounced back in Game 2 by targeting Ozo’s Irelia, and Richard “kantos17” Chen’s Alistar in the first ban phase, the latter being a catalyst for success in their first game and one of kantos’s comfort picks. UNSW on blue side opted for first picking Kai’Sa for Stealthix, one of his more preferred picks, but in return gave WSU Xayah and Rakan, the game’s strongest bot lane in the current meta. UNSW would round out the composition with strong initiation between Galio and Camille. However WSU pulled out the surprise mid FIora for nL Beats which was pivotal in the game. UNSW started with signature early game aggression with Adrian “Morale’ Guo ganking early for ozo in the top lane in an attempt to snowball the Camille early. Whilst they were successful in doing so, UNSW neglected the rest of the map, especially the bottom lane where WSU abused the power of Xayah and Rakan to secure early drakes. With a losing bot lane, and Johnny “XternalRageX” Xiao’s Galio being pushed around in the mid lane by nL Beats’s Fiora. UNSW were unable to push their early advantages and eventually lost to the scaling of the Fiora to leave the series even at 1-1.
After having been shaken in a close game 2, UNSW adapted their strategy and changed gears. Picking red side, the team secured Rakan to deny the lovers bot lane from WSU, as well as banning nL Beats’s Fiora after his monstrous performance in the previous game. WSU opted for a blind Renekton pick in the hopes that their top laner would be able to at least go even against ozo during the laning phase after disastrous performances in the previous 2 matches. UNSW responded by last-picking Jax for ozo, a champion he had been known to carry with previously in the tournament. WSU doubled down on their bot side oriented strategy by diving Stealthix and kantos17 under the oppressive pushing power of their Xayah-Karma lane. However, this was offset by ozo1329 in the top lane, who despite his on-paper laning disadvantage, was able to score 2 solo kills on the Renekton. WSU demonstrated better macro play by taking first tower and securing the outer mid tower in an early game snowball. UNSW kept themselves in the game by keeping the gold lead within 300 off ozo1329’s top lane performance. Eventually, UNSW swung the game back into their favour with 2 for 0 trade onto Renekton and K1LD3Rn3S5’s Warwick. Through this lucky break, UNSW was able to create pressure across the map with ozo’s split push in the bot lane, whilst the rest of the team forced WSU to commit mistakes around baron. A key engage from kantos17 gifted UNSW four kills for nothing and baron to close out the game.
Game 4 saw a return to the blue side for UNSW. UNSW began with a first pick Kai’Sa for Stealthix, as well as comfort picks for both solo laners, Cho’gath for ozo1329 and XternalrageX’s Ahri. WSU opted to exploit UNSW’s weak link in the mid lane with Yasuo for nL Beats as XternalRageX had looked shaky in the previous 3 games, going down by as much as 12 CS at 10 minutes. The Yasuo paid dividends for WSU almost immediately, with nL Beats up 40 CS by 10 minutes with two solo kills to one. UNSW’s bot lane did not fare any better as Stealthix and kantos17 gave 2v2 kills to WSU. The bleeding continued when K1LD3Rn3S5 focused his attention onto the UNSW bot lane. Through two winning lanes, WSU was able to snowball their dominant early game into the mid and late game off the scaling of a fed Yasuo, securing two ocean drakes and baron before finishing the fastest game of the series at 22:42.
With the series on the line, UNSW decided to shift their approach in the pick and ban phase to try revive their fortunes. UNSW decided to prioritise Sejuani for Morale and Jax for ozo in an attempt to strengthen their top side play. WSU responded with the Xayah-Rakan bot lane duo and Malphite, hoping that despite the mismatch, the tank will still be relevant in late game teamfights. UNSW also put their faith on XternalRageX to perform on Swain, one of his more preferred champions against nL Beats’ Viktor. The game had a quieter laning phase, perhaps due to the stakes of a game 5 weighing on their minds. However, ozo1329 was able to play with his usual confidence with an exceptional outplay that surely was a contender for play of the series.
UNSW’s mid and bot lane also played their parts admirably as Stealthix and kantos17 opened up a bot lane lead against the traditionally strong Xayah-Rakan lane and XternalRageX held his own against nL Beats. Stability across the map gave Sejuani the room to move around to pull off successful ganks in the bot lane. The game completely turned in UNSW’s favour when XternalRageX sparked life into UNSW’s teamfights on the Swain, enabling the team to abuse the top lane mismatch in a 0-4-1 push. With the help of kantos17’s play making abilities on the Thresh, UNSW secured vital mid game objectives to slowly suffocate the WSU1 defence, eventuating in their victory off a strong baron push for the nexus.
Overall, this series was a battle between the early-tempo, mechanically gifted style embodied by UNSW, and the more patient macro, mid-game orientated WSU. Both teams played to their strengths but when push came to shove, UNSW pulled ahead on the day, earning redemption for their Unigames defeat last year. MVP of the Match goes to David “ozo1329” Li for providing UNSW the necessary foundation to win the series with his dominant top lane performances. Special mention must also go to the team’s analyst Kathy “sexymario258” Xu, who helped to steady the team after their crushing losses in games 2 and 4 and guide them to victory.
By Benjamin "RedPyroMage" Letran [2018 Marketing (Publications) Subcommittee]