During each split, teams get a chance to show their development in terms of synergy, mechanical skill, and sheer ability. With this season’s roster changes and new ban system, predictions on which teams would rise to the top spread across Reddit and various other websites. Many people expected TSM, KT Rolster, H2K, Splyce, and SKT T1 rising to the top of their regions, but the first few weeks of the spring split have shown that these predictions have been utterly false. Teams like FlyQuest, Unicorns of Love, and BBQ Olivers have performed far better than many predicted. The question is, how have these teams climbed up in their regions? How did Unicorns of Love, a team that ended the summer split in 6th place, barely making the Regional Qualifiers, become an undefeated 1st place team in their group? How did FlyQuest, a team that no one expected to do better than 10th place, manage to rise above TSM? How did each team play around the trend of Ziggs in the bot lane? Although each match contains a high level of strategic complexity, we can analyze the turning points in a match and how a team was capable of winning.
Who Are They?
Let’s look at the region considered by most to be the strongest, the Korean LCK. One team that has proven that they can hold their own is former ESC Ever, BBQ Olivers. ESC Ever was a challenger team that made a complete turnaround from consistent losing and poor performance to defeating the likes of SSG and SKT T1, winning first place at the 2015 KeSPA Cup. They were then acquired through sponsorship and hit the LCK, debuting as BBQ Olivers.
Like before, BBQ has shown their strength and tenacity against the best of the best. In their series against MVP, BBQ Olivers showed that they could bounce back from a rough start. During the first game, MVP showed their macro prowess with ADD’s Sion pick constantly applying pressure via rotations. However, BBQ Olivers continued the series showing that they had what it takes to challenge other teams in their regions. During the 3rd game of BBQ vs MVP, the team compositions were quite interesting. While MVP had the more in-meta picks in the Maokai top lane and Kha’zix jungle, BBQ’s draft was powerful in how it pressured the map. BBQ’s draft of Shen, Taliyah, and Rek’sai opened up different and less expected ways to play the map and position in a team fight.
The general formation of BBQ’s composition developed “choke points” across the map, using Taliyah’s Weaver’s Wall to create non-standard choke points, forcing more favorable fights for their team. These choke points appear in the image below. The composition developed a major advantage for BBQ, who were able to easily collapse on any of MVP’s caught out players, but with the capability to pressure neutral objectives as well.
These cramped areas give Taliyah easy access to land her combo on multiple opponents. They also allow not only the Rek’sai and Shen to excel but also the Malzahar support pick, because of the sheer area-of-effect damage and crowd control output. The composition dominates in these spaces as much as a red side Varus or Orianna. Aside from the sheer dominance over these areas of the map, MVP was unable to recognize and play around the choke points. At 13:20 into game 3, MVP is in a rather unfavorable position as they begin to funnel into one of these choke points.
From the positioning given, we can see what the Taliyah ultimate grants in terms of a team fight and positioning. Being in this small area places MVP’s AD Carry, MaHa, in an unfavorable situation. With the Thresh lantern down, there is no real form of escape for MaHa. As BBQ’s jungler Bless moves in, Flash is forced from MVP’s ADC. This fight ultimately causes both members of MVP’s bottom lane and their top lane to return to their base, granting BBQ the capability to apply pressure by clearing enemy vision and placing their own. Because of the nature of BBQ’s composition, a more effective form of pathing that MVP could have taken would have been something similar to the image below. This would recognize the danger that is a competent Taliyah player and help avoid being forced into an unfavorable situation.
Another moment in which MVP is put into a similarly unfavorable matchup is at 30:58, in which BBQ starts breaking into MVP’s base. Upon taking the middle inhibitor, they rotate top. Because MVP has no actual response to Taliyah’s utility, they’re forced to watch from a distance as their tower and inhibitor are taken. MVP’s incapability to recognize the strengths of this composition during the pick and ban stage put them in a very poor matchup, in which there was no possibility to move around a very well set up siege team. In the given scenario, there was no appropriate engage that MVP could have taken.
Overcoming Jin Air GreenWings
Another point of interest involving BBQ winning takes place during Game 2 of their series against Jin Air Green Wings. At around 36:13, JAG attempts to make a comeback against BBQ, taking Baron Nashor and beginning to siege the mid lane tier 1 turret. However, this play ends up being bad for JAG because their vision around the map is weak, leaving BBQ out of sight in the fog of war. BBQ recognizes this and counters appropriately with calculated aggression. As Bless rushes in on Lee Sin, JAG’s midlaner Kuzan is forced to use his only form of lockdown on Bless, leaving himself and the rest of his team open. With Shen and Malzahar ultimates channeling and SnowFlower’s Tahm Kench knocked up from the previous Lee Sin kick, they’re all unable to reposition and develop a proper escape. So why did this siege not work? It comes down to JAG’s positioning.
During JAG's siege, there is a major disregard not only for vision, but also the utility that an Ashe ADC has to offer in terms of initiation potential. JAG’s poor positioning leaves them open to an engage from Ashe and Lee Sin. JAG’s formation, in which they are already funneling in from the blue side of the map, limits their escape routes.
Because Jin Air chose to commit to the fight instead of retreating, BBQ ended up successfully collapsing on them. As Ashe walks into the mid lane and BBQ’s toplaner Crazy teleports into bot-side river, their midlaner Tempt cuts the rest of JAG off using Corki’s Valkyrie. This was not only a poor set up taken by JAG but a solid response by BBQ. A better position for JAG would have been retreating through the top river and not over committing to a tower and a fight. They were already a good deal behind and did not have much vision set up in their favor. Vision applies its own pressure and should have been more heavily considered by JAG. BBQ Olivers played this fight well, responding quickly and correctly, and using positioning to their advantage.
As you can see, the above fight does not end well for JAG. Because they opted out for a weaker escape route in which Tempt punishes them. Because of their poor decision making, Tempt is able to ensure they cannot change their mind, truly taking the initiative and ensuring victory in this team fight.
The roster shows potential in both individual talent and the team dynamic. With more development and practice, BBQ Olivers can likely be molded into a very formidable adversary. Maybe in time, they'll be on even grounds with top dogs SKT T1 and KT Rolster. With more work and proper coaching, they could definitely prove to rise up to be in the top 5. Teams from around the world, not just in Korea, should keep their eyes on BBQ Olivers. They might learn a thing or two.
All position recreations made possible through RiftKit, which can be found at http://riftkit.net/
All captures of gameplay come from the vods found on https://stage.gg/
What do you make of BBQ Olivers in their first split? Let us know in the comments!