Echo Fox vs Team Liquid
How to Rope a Dope in League of Legends
If you aren’t familiar with the term: “Rope a Dope” then prepare to have some knowledge dropped on you. Back in 1974 Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr., better known as Muhammad Ali faced George Foreman (yes, the grill guy) in a professional boxing match titled: The Rumble in the Jungle (if his team is ahead, don’t fight them in there!). Rope a dope in boxing is a technique which the boxer leans against the ropes to absorb the force of hits from an opponent as opposed to taking it full on with their body. In this way, an opponent is lead to believe that they scored significant damage to the boxer, when in reality the rope hugging boxer is reserving their energy for precise counter attacks which will drop the dope.
I’ve already made two references and we haven’t even gotten past the introduction yet! If you haven’t seen last week’s LCS match between Echo Fox and Team Liquid, then shame on you! Click on that link and watch it so you have some idea of what we’re talking about. For those of you that did, I’m certain that a good number of you are scratching your head about the outcome of the match. At 34 minutes with a team score of 11 kills and 0 deaths you would expect a team to be able to close things out, no sweat, especially with one inhibitor down and no inhibitor turrets to speak of for the defending team. Right! I did too! Craaazy! But that’s why we love this game. Because the genius is in the madness and if we can find the method behind it all, it just becomes that much more satisfying.
To begin to understand where it all started to go wrong for Echo Fox, we need to understand where it was going right. Both team compositions were similar in that they were team fight compositions that allowed for single target focus and forced repositioning on the enemy. Damage composition had a healthy mix of attack damage and ability power, with sources of percent health damage (anti-tank damage) and flat scaling (anti-carry damage) on both sides. The obvious edge that Echo Fox had over Team Liquid would be sheer mobility. With Solo (Tahm Kench) and Goldenglue (Lissandra) taking teleport, and Solo and Gigne (Rek’Sai) having near global placement ultimates, Echo Fox had more tools to place their champions in dominant positions for every play they made until the 34 minute mark. Movement abilities/spells are great, especially the ones that people tend to underestimate early game, which is the gap-closer.
In a way, Piglet set up first blood for Echo Fox. Though I feel that statement on its own is unfair to Piglet, the call to have Piglet remain in bottom lane once Tahm Kench went MIA and showed up mid to head towards top-lane was the real culprit (I’ll let YoonSup Choi figure that one out). Now, the micro-game here is numbers (I can see Mark Zimmerman rolling his eyes now). You have five members of the enemy team showing up and telegraphing that they’re headed for a single static objective. It would have taken 18 seconds for Piglet to recall and move to defend the top second-tier turret with the rest of Team Liquid, while it took 19 seconds for Echo Fox to get into position and turret dive to get first blood, an additional kill, and a turret. Hind-sight being 20/20, leaving Piglet to push bottom lane was not a good call. But this professional League of Legends and we don’t surrender at 20 after seeing one or two impressive plays from the enemy team.
So Echo Fox lands the hay maker to stagger Team Liquid against the ropes. Team Liquid understands that being a turret and two kills down (with multiple assists) puts them at a power disadvantage — especially when Alistar gets picked off before the 10:44 (on the VOD) dragon by Echo Fox. Power disadvantage in mind, Team Liquid tries their best to play slow and cautious, but see an attempt to help against the inevitable siege situation they’re going to find themselves in until the end of the game. RIFT HERALD! The answer to mid-game balancing —
Echo Fox: Hey guys we’re already ahead, if they don’t literally have the whole team to defend this we’ll just take the bot second-tier turret. Oh look! Make with the double teleport boys!
Rift Herald, I can see it being an objective to help with the counter-pressure, I do get the logic behind that. But you’re not going to take any objective safely if you are already under heavy pressure. At 24:17 into the VOD, Team Liquid pinged on Echo Fox pushing up the bottom lane, so that means they knew there was pressure on the bottom lane, but didn’t read it as an immediate and real threat.
Alright, if you haven’t figured it by now, my point in this entire wall of text is that moving on actionable information, or rather moving directly against what you already know is happening is how you cut or even prevent losses during a game of League of Legends. Taking Rift Herald against a fast push is a play, yes! Taking Rift Herald against a fast push is a stupid play against a team with near global movement and two teleport summoner spells that have yet to be used. Maybe I’m just spoiled from watching the LCK so much, but really? You don’t even have to look at the numbers anymore. You just need to get into position before the enemy team does. Echo Fox showed in their first play that they were after turrets, so if more than one member of Echo Fox aggresses onto a live turret, it’s relatively safe to read that as the entire team going for that objective. By the end of this fiasco, Echo Fox walks away with three more kills rounding their lead out 6–0 on kills and 4 turrets to Team Liquid’s 2. We’ve barely crested past the 15 minute mark into the match and Echo Fox is ahead by 4.4k gold. Things are looking grim for Team Liquid.
If Echo Fox wanted to make Monte Cristo happy they are doing one heck of a job right after the 20 minute mark. Notice the stealth ward placed right outside Team Liquid’s bot-lane gate. Just underneath Echo Fox’s stealth ward Team Liquid has a vision ward, so we can assume that Fox’s ward is in a blindspot (it is) that Team Liquid didn’t account for. Lourlo (Gnar) recalls practically on top of the enemy stealth ward which gives Echo Fox the opening they want to deny Team Liquid more resources and possibly force another engagement at red buff. Team Liquid gets caught out after taking their red buff during Echo Fox’s rotation with Dardoch (Elise) getting taken down first before the second-tier mid turret. Team Liquid still on the slow and cautious mindset, they still have their inhibitor turrets up, and Echo Fox hasn’t taken Baron yet. So as long as Team Liquid does their best to keep up with farm and their jungle camps, they should still be in this game!
Usually when I play from behind I don’t try to kite and counter-engage a team that has better mobility tools than my team has. That isn’t what Team Liquid was trying to do, they honestly got caught out again and were forced to fight after getting engaged on by a team that benefited from more resources in gold, mobility, and positioning. It happens, you learn to take the L (that’s “L” for loss) and move on. But Team Liquid is playing rope a dope at this point. Yes, they underestimated a team full of subs, maybe. But there’s a way to play this game no matter what the situation is. By now you get that the mounting pressure on Team Liquid is enormous. Going into this match 0–3 against subs and losing would practically be career suicide for some of these guys if they don’t make some drastic changes.
Like I said, there is a way to play this game no matter what the situation is, you just have to keep your head in the game and do things right. With Solo’s death in an attempt to take the third inhibitor, Echo Fox backs way up in order to execute a fifth dragon attempt. When you’re behind you have to make hard sacrifices and Team Liquid chooses to deny the fifth dragon away from Echo Fox and fight. Statistically, Echo Fox should have won this fight, but an uncoordinated move between Big and Goldenglue using their ults at the same time swung things into Team Liquid’s favor. Zirene said it best, with Fenix and Piglet not standing on top of each other and spreading things out so that it becomes harder for Echo Fox to focus down damage threats. The rope a dope is nearly complete, and with Team Liquid having kept up with farm and making the right sacrifices they are closing the power gap.
It becomes clear that the cognitive dissonance between Big and Goldenglue causing a lost team fight shook something up in this sub-roster for Echo Fox. Instead of showing an immediate threat and using their superior mobility tools they start doing the objective dance with Team Liquid. Team Liquid wants the fights to happen because their DPS has practically caught up with Echo Fox’s as their stats begin to plateau on the power asymptote
Team Liquid kept the nerves down and looked to play the long game knowing that power plateaus out. By having similar team compositions they could eventually begin to win fights, having Piglet and Fenix on carry roles and trusting in their ability to do what they do best. Let’s listen what Rivington says before the final team fight of the game.
Some take aways I want to take from this game:
- Keep your head in the game no matter what the situation may be.
- The game is only over when the nexus is down.
- Stay positive, focus on what needs to get done to build your team’s power.
- Believe in your teammates.
- Keep doing what is making you win.
This was probably the best game last week. Echo Fox showed great decision making and game knowledge up until late game (which is probably the roughest phase of the game to master) while Team Liquid kept it together and showed everyone how to play from behind. Looking forward into this week’s LCS, I’m hoping to see some improvements on Team Liquid’s early game, while Echo Fox hashes out their visa issues on top of getting their substitute squad to iron out their late game communication and shot calling.