A look into ESC Ever’s Drafting - IEM Cologne
If someone had told you that some months ago, a Korean Challenger team would win an IEM you probably would have dismissed it as nonsense, but after being together for a couple of months, ESC Ever took home the IEM Cologne trophy.
This ESC Ever roster came out of nowhere due to the lack of attention zoned in on the Korean Challenger scene and they ran through Samsung Galaxy, Rebels Anarchy, SK Telecom T1, and CJ Entus — only dropping a single match to Rebels Anarchy — en route to a first place finish.
Two months before, they had failed to qualify for Champions Spring 2016, losing to a renewed SBENU roster with the addition of upcoming jungle talent Flawless. The truth is, only some weeks prior to the KeSPA cup, Ever managed to pick up a sponsor, and with it, a gaming house and a live-in coach.
Today we’re here to talk about their drafting at IEM Cologne.
Ever showed one of the most complete styles of drafting I’ve seen in recent patches. They showcased excellent usage of flex and power picks, correct usage of both banning the “OP” champs and specifically targeting opponents and even showed games where they were ready to leave some power picks open in order to contest them, or just outright counter them. Overall, they showed good adaptation throughout the series they played in. These are all marks of a great drafting team.
Before we dive into these drafts it is important to take a quick look of what Ever played in the KeSPA Cup before they got to Cologne.
Semi-finals versus H2k
H2k went for 3 target bans, taking out Key’s Bard and banning out two of the three champions Athena played.
As was the norm for most of the tournament, Red side banned Lulu and Gangplank. The Trundle ban is a target ban after having seen Vander play it in all 3 games against C9.
H2k open up the draft with an Alistar pick. While it’s a strong support pick and doesn’t give away much, other priority picks like Lissandra and Mundo were open.
Ever promptly take these two champions in their first rotation. Both of these picks are flexes (they can be played in more than one role), Lissandra is flexed between top and mid and Mundo between top and jungle. With these two picks, Ever shows little of what they’re intending to draft, giving them a strategic edge.
If you’re blue side, in most scenarios you want to avoid picking solo lanes here, as you want to be able to counter-pick one of them after red side 2nd rotation. That’s exactly what H2k does with the Rek’sai and Lucian picks.
Ever lock in Shen and Kalista. Shen is yet another flex pick and Ever has only really shown their ADC pick. This means that H2k has to do most of their draft with blind/safe picks, as that last pick can be a top, jungle, mid or support pick.
H2k close out their draft with Viktor and Rumble. I can’t say for sure what they were thinking but Viktor is all in all a very safe blind pick and Odoamne is a pretty good Rumble player, so it’s a comfort pick for him. He probably likes the Rumble vs Lissandra matchup (Crazy’s most played champ in KeSPA Cup) and doesn’t mind if it ends up being a Rumble vs Shen/Mundo matchup.
These two picks also give H2k the power to burst down that Kalista. Unless auto-attacking, Kalista has problems moving out of that Equalizer zone which can open for easy Death Rays and Chaos Storms.
Ever finishes their draft with Varus; while it’s a good matchup into Viktor, I don’t think it’s the best pick as it’s immobile and makes landing a good Equalizer easy. Overall Athena does show preference towards TP mids and while Varus might want a defensive summoner he can also run Teleport for added map presence.
Varus also has a better itemization path into double AP. Maw of Malmortius is an extremely strong item on him right now (flat Penetration) and Death’s Dance (which he built) helps with not getting bursted as easily.
The game went to Ever, as LoKen went off with another stellar Kalista performance and with 0 deaths on Crazy and Ares. On H2k’s side, Rumble didn’t get to do that much and Odoamne ended the game 1–4
Now on blue side, Ever have the chance to target ban more. They still take out Vander’s Trundle (that can also be a flex), Jankos’ Lee Sin (one of his best champions) and Ryu’s LeBlanc.
This LeBlanc ban shows Ever did their homework, it was what H2k used to counterpick on red side versus Cloud 9.
H2k ban the 2 usual suspects and add Dr. Mundo to their bans.
I didn’t want to go as in depth this game, mainly wanted to look at the flex picks.
Ever first pick Ryze (a flex for them) and H2k responds with the double flex of Lissandra and Shen. Ever don’t show much in their second rotation and delay their Kalista pick as much as possible in order to see more from H2k (Forgiven won’t pick Kalista).
In their last rotation they pick Kassadin, which at first looks weird, as a blind mid lane Kassadin can be countered as H2k can move the Lissandra to top lane, and pick something to deal with that Kassadin. H2k lock in the Fizz to finish their draft and after seeing this, Ever put the Kassadin top lane vs Lissandra, while Ryze lanes vs the Fizz.
While H2k managed to claw back into this game, it really should’ve been the 2–0 for Ever. H2k was not able to punish Ever’s weakened early game with two scaling late game mages and Ever were clearly in the lead, but a misplay by Crazy let to a disadvantageous scenario where Forgiven got reset after reset and closed out the game with an unofficial penta kill.
Ever is blue side once again, they ban Tristana after an unofficial pentakill from Forgiven, replace the LeBlanc ban for a Fizz (Ryu’s pick last game) and keep the Trundle ban.
This game H2k decide to not ban Mundo and instead go back to banning Ryze, as they know it’s a dangerous pick that Ever can flex.
Ever opened their champion select with the Lissandra pick, H2k answered with a somewhat weird Kassadin pick (because it was so early) and a Dr. Mundo pick.
Second and Third Rotation:
I believe that in this rotation Ever immediately started to plan on how to deal with the Dr. Mundo pick, Rek’sai was open for Ares (his most played with 6 games in the KeSPA Cup) but he went with Lee Sin in order to have a champion that not only has early pressure, but can knockback someone like a Mundo trying to go for the back line. With it, Ever pick Alistar for Key, which they had as high priority all tournament and again another pick with good peel and displacement.
Now, the big thing I want to talk about in this draft was the Vayne pick. Despite not having played it in the KeSPA Cup by Ever, it is by far LoKen’s most played champion in solo queue. Not only this, it’s one of the go to picks against tanks like Mundo as Vayne is one of the only AD Carries that can reliably kill tanks.
What also makes this Vayne predictable is the fact that H2k show the Sivir pick before seeing Ever’s AD carry pick. Vayne has one of the few good laning matchups when played into Sivir.
A lane bully or simply not showing the ADC pick until last rotation could’ve made Ever not go for Vayne, or if they had, given her a much harder time. (like Ever did versus QG,)
By trying to keep the flexes going and only picking jungle in the third rotation, H2k made Ever’s job all too easy, they drafted a comp with two sources of True Damage (Vayne and Ahri) with a lot of kiting potential and peel for the main carries.
Ever ended taking the game and the series, with another solid performance from their botlane.