At the 25th minute of their second game of Week 3, Origen acquired their first gold lead of the weekend. Having made a crucial kill on SK Gaming’s rookie ADC Juš "Crownshot" Marušič, Origen found success in a five man grouping around Baron – luring their less experienced foes to contest the objective like a magnet. The ensuing engage from Barney "Alphari" Morris on Kennen was anything but neat, only capturing one of the three foes ahead of him. But SK Gaming were pushed into retreat, Origen were able to follow as one unit, and despite Jorge "Werlyb" Casanovas’s Vladimir reducing health bars to less than half across the board, the numbers advantage proved too much for SK. Multiple members fell.
Origen didn’t secure the contested Baron Buff and instead opted to reset shortly after, but the moment was significant nonetheless. It had taken 68 minutes of gameplay for them to take a gold lead of any margin, and for the rest of the game SK ceded control of any part of the map OG so much as glanced at. The game closed out with a win for the formerly patriotically Spanish, now somewhat Danish, squad of veteran talent but their performance was still enough to raise concerns about their future. The dream of this team was to be one of the most strategically minded teams in the LEC, sporting cerebral talent across the board. So what are the challenges this line-up is facing?
The execution by which Origen closed out against SK was a far cry from the previous day’s gameplay. In the official Match of the Week, Origen faced off against Team Vitality with a composition that seemed almost destined to reign victorious in Baron contest situations. The mechanism Origen wanted to rely on in the later stages of the game remained unchanged in this regard, but against Team Vitality they were unable to secure the advantageous five man groupings that they could against SK Gaming.
The decision to match Vitality’s solo lanes of Urgot/LeBlanc with Sion/Malzahar ceded early lane control. Only their bottom lane of Patrik "Patrik" Jírů’s Lucian and Alfonso "Mithy" Aguirre Rodríguez’s Morgana against Amadeu "Attila" Carvalho’s Ezreal and Jakub "Jactroll" Skurzyński’s Thresh was capable of giving priority, but with mid lane and top lane entirely in favour of Vitality both the option of a four man dive towards bot side or a favourable swap for tempo towards top side was out of the question. Their one winning lane could not unlock its advantages.
Erlend "Nukeduck" Våtevik Holm’s play in his lane, given the circumstances, was actually very good. LeBlanc can be expected to win out on early trades against Malzahar, but Nukeduck gave no real opportunities for Daniele "Jiizuke" di Mauro to seal the deal in any lethal manner. Kold worked effectively to give him lane control at a crucial Level 3-4 point in the matchup, after Jiizuke took the lead off of an early bounce. Nukeduck had the wherewithal to reset while Jonas "Kold" Andersen prevented a crash and denied a recall, forcing a low mana Jiizuke to stay in lane and lose out on the crucial pre-6 trading potential afforded by the matchup. Vitality expended plenty of resources trying to give Jiizuke his recall, eventually costing Jactroll’s flash, but he lost his window.
Though behind in CS, from level 11 onwards Malzahar can become a sustained DPS threat with immense pick potential around the map, provided his team is able to form proper groupings around him. The threat of the QSS is somewhat mitigated in these circumstances. Malzahar’s sheer DPS is enough to make him relevant, and the likelihood of members of Vitality having to burn their sash early to Sion, Sejuani or even Morgana’s pick tools is high. Neither does he care too much that Jiizuke’s first buy was a QSS, as, from his perspective this only guarantees he will make it practically unscathed (though some CS down) to a point of strength.
However, Team Vitality have always been able to convert an inch into a mile, and the sustained solo lane pressure created a situation of total topside control in their favour. A play on the botlane that secured the death of Jactroll was all Origen could muster. The early pressure Lucas "Cabochard " Simon-Meslet’s Urgot was exterting allowed this play to be favourable for Vitality, and the decision to match proved fatal for Origen.
Against SK Gaming, despite the game’s eventual result, Origen found themselves ceding at a similar point. Contesting a potential Herald play from their opponents, the lack of pressure from Alphari lead to an even more catastrophic outcome. Rather than wait for a poorer reset, Han "Dreams" Min-kook opted to move to the topside of the map earlier to secure freedom for his Korean teammate Choi "Pirean" Jun-sik on his Aatrox. When Mithy facechecked, he unknowingly began a slaughter with three of his teammates falling and the Rift Herald with it.
Nukeduck was a non-factor in both scenarios. In one, he was on a losing matchup where he played as he should to avoid a significant deficit and become relevant later. In the other, the enemy team considered him first and foremost before their moves towards the topside of the map. In both, Origen had not come win with the proper structure to accrue advantages out of the top side of their map, and were beaten to the punch by a more experienced team and then again by a less experienced one.
Can veteran talent turn things around?
The fact that experience is a defining difference between their weekend opponents is significant. The decision of Origen to contest Herald in either scenario was a strategic nightmare. When SK Gaming dove their tier two tower, it was as un-strategic as one can be. Had SK simply reset for tempo with their sidelaned ADC and set up a proper map to take advantage of its new state, Origen may never have found their way back into the game. Should Crownshot have simply moved with his frontline in the fight preceding this article’s opening gambit, the entire Baron dance may never have occured.
Vitality did not even utilise their Herald effectively, with Lee "Mowgli" Jae-ha giving his life for no particular perceivable reason (except maybe to make the game briefly more interesting) but that was enough trolling for the day for the returning Worlds squad. Origen found very quickly that there was no configuration of their lanes that could contest either Jiizuke’s LeBlanc or Cabochard’s Urgot, and as a result, the five man groupings that they so desperately needed were unavailable to them. When Origen did pressure Baron, they did so as four (with Sion playing catch-up to fix sidewaves) and Vitality could simply ignore them and crash the mid wave into the tier two turret as five. Origen had no choice but to go around and meet them at the structure, giving Vitality the window to become king of the purple hill.
"With no control of sidelanes, the only groupings Origen could attempt as five would always be on a positional disadvantage."
When Vitality pressured Baron, they did so as a five man, and when Origen attempted the same crash into the tier two turret, Vitality simply threatened to sandwich them. This is an option afforded at a draft level. With no control of sidelanes, the only groupings Origen could attempt as five would always be on a positional disadvantage. By abandoning playing keep-up on sidewaves, they would be at an XP and gold disadvantage instead. Eventually, Origen just had to lose. Facechecking two brushes at the same time, the game swung beyond all doubt on the 30th minute. In this fight, Alphari was two levels down at 15 to Cabochard’s 17. Patrik – their only carry with a significant advantage from draft – was a level down at 14 to Atilla’s 15. Nukeduck had stayed even in XP and even slightly ahead on gold against Jiizuke, but was now met with four QSS’s on the enemy team. In the aftermath of the next teamfight, that number would extend to five.
Waiting for Gold(ot)
The most striking thing is how reactive all of Origen’s plays were. Though the first game could certainly be argued down to a draft deficiency, the second was far from a decisive victory. After that tier two dive, Origen displayed their idea of a proactive play: a complete abandonment of mid pressure in favour of a two man cheese grouping in a brush on bot lane from Alphari/Nukeduck while the rest of the team attempted to react to a tier one take by their opponents on top side. Hardly a way to play to tempo gifted to you by your loving opponents.
Conceding toplane should be a given, and if Nukeduck groups mid with their three man while Kennen trades bot tier one for top tier one then they can translate this setup into clearing vision and gaining control of topside while SK matches their mid push. This would already be forcing SK to play on Origen’s terms. Instead, control was not established, and the next advantage gained by Origen was through another reactive play, taking the Infernal Drake from SK’s grasp, at the cost of Mithy’s life. This was not set up by Origen. They were playing SK’s game.
Waiting for these opportunities is not viable against teams like Vitality that will simply run you around the map. It certainly wasn’t good enough against similar teams like G2 and MSF whose understanding of these concepts is already better and coupled with drafts that give feasible win conditions in the later stages of the game. Yet even if Origen do have advantages at certain stages, they seem unwilling to execute on them. In past games, their leads have been so fragile that one bad transition (in an otherwise fine rotation) has cost them the game.
It’s puzzling to write about because this is a team that is filled with players hailed for their understanding of League of Legends at a fundamental level. Mithy was widely perceived as one of the game’s best thinkers, Alphari’s accolades have always been strategic (even in that brief period where everybody rushed to paint a picture of Misfits as three winning lanes and a good boy) and Kold was noted for his creative control of the map in poor circumstances on UOL. Coupled with two strong formidable laners in Nukeduck and Patrik, it should be the perfect package. For Origen to fall with this roster as it has with so many others would be a shame, but it would be a great tragedy if the marriage of brains and brawn that otherwise seemed so perfect should continue to limp on. The dream that became the nightmare? Let’s hope not.