On October 19, 2017, Longzhu Gaming clashed with Samsung Galaxy in the Quarterfinals of the 2017 World Championship. They entered the match as the overwhelming favorites, yet as the series progressed, it became evident: Longzhu were going to lose. Not only that, but Samsung dismantled them in a quick 3-0 sweep.
So how did the #3 LCK seed kick-start an upset against the league’s champions? We’re going to be breaking down everything—from draft to in-game plays—while showing timestamps for key moments.
Without further ado, let’s get to it!
To be frank, we’re not huge fans of Longzhu’s draft.
Their bans are mostly standard with the exception of Gnar, which—combined with Khan’s tendencies—declares their intent of playing a top lane carry. Samsung read the situation and save the top lane pick for last, allowing them to counter Jax with Kennen.
Not only that, but Longzhu take Xayah in the first rotation, which makes it all too easy for Samsung to secure godlike initiation with Rakan and Sejuani. Of course, you can’t give up both bird people here, so you have to first-pick one or the other… Or you could just leave Cho open and use the freed up ban on Xayah with the intent of camping for Jax in the top lane.
But Longzhu have a different idea, and take Jarvan and Thresh in the second rotation. The latter pick is particularly important because it puts Longzhu at the monumental disadvantage of not having Ardent Censer in the late game.
Samsung also decide to spice things up by picking Malzahar and making their single-target lockdown even more powerful. Longzhu answer with Syndra who’s capable of bullying Malzahar in the early game, but becomes a sitting duck at level 6—especially if her lane opponent has flash.
In the end, LZ’s draft relies on getting Jax rolling and turning him into a splitpush threat to the point where SSG have to answer him with two or more champions. Meanwhile, the rest of Longzhu want to pressure turrets/objectives and get picks with Jarvan combos and Thresh hooks.
On the other hand, Samsung have a very traditional team comp with an Ardent Censer support, several strong initiators, and a robust frontline. It’s a bit heavy on AP damage, but the Tristana/Rakan combo is a big enough threat to prevent the enemy team from stacking MR. Another thing to note is that it’s very easy for SSG to force an engage on LZ’s 4-man core.
The early game
Longzhu start the game by playing to their win conditions and trying to get Khan’s Jax ahead with an early 2-buff gank. But Samsung read the setup and place a ward to counter it. Still, this forces CuVee to play further back than he would have liked to, and allows Cuzz to go for an invade.
Once he finds Ambition chunked out at his Raptors, Bdd takes full control of the mid lane in a winning matchup.
With Syndra securing an early 20 CS lead, and Xayah and Thresh winning the push in the bottom lane, things are looking good for the LCK champions. But they’re about to get a whole lot better once Bdd solo kills Crown at 6:45.
Both mid laners use flash, which sets up Cuzz with an easy gank at 8:30. Syndra’s ultimate is still on cooldown, so they don’t manage to get a kill, but the free damage on Crown is more than enough to break open the mid lane.
And then Bdd makes a mistake.
At 8:48, he pushes the wave in and tries to pressure Crown under his turret, which would’ve been fine and dandy if Ambition wasn’t lying in wait nearby. Bdd takes a few steps too far forward, and Crown suppresses him with Nether Grasp, making it all too easy for Ambition to follow up with his ultimate.
The worst thing? Bdd could’ve still lived if he simply retreated and waited for Cuzz to come back. But instead of doing that, he tries to go for a kill under the enemy turret, miscalculates his damage and tanks two turret shots. Of course, this wasn’t enough to nullify his lead, but it did relieve a lot of pressure out of what was essentially a lost lane for Samsung.
SSG try to seize on this momentum and orchestrate a 2-man gank onto Jax (10:40.)
Khan plays it well enough and almost gets a return kill onto Ambition, but since he’s chunked out from Kennen’s harass, Samsung persevere with a relatively easy dive and an (eventual) turret. Longzhu answer by pulling Bdd down to the bottom lane and winning the First Brick race and securing the Infernal Dragon.
A good trade for Longzhu, in theory, but Samsung accomplish their goal of keeping Jax under control.
Not only that, but the fact that Longzhu don’t have access to Ardent Censer means they’re not as far ahead as they could’ve been.
The mid game
The nature of Samsung’s CC-heavy squad reveals itself when everyone on Longzhu (except the ADC) is forced to buy Mercury’s Treads.
With such a large investment into defensive stats and with Rakan finishing Ardent Censer at the 14-minute mark, Longzhu’s win conditions suddenly grew very narrow. But they were still there.
At 16:50, Ambition tries to secure vision control around the upcoming Dragon—another Infernal—but Cuzz and GorillA read his maneuver and drag him into a fight. Of course, CoreJJ and Crown are nearby to cover their jungler, but Longzhu are already collapsing onto them from the mid and bottom lanes. Khan and CuVee channel their teleports, but by that time the LCK champions have already crushed Ambition with the numbers advantage.
And here’s where they make another misstep:
Longzhu get carried away chasing into the enemy jungle and lose track of CuVee, allowing a full AP Kennen to flank and delete PraY before he can even press heal. Of course, Khan is still there as the secondary carry, and he cleans up CuVee and CoreJJ, but Ruler also jumps into the fray and gets a kill of his own.
What could’ve been a very one-sided trade for Longzhu turned into a 3 for 2. While this is still good, it's good enough against a rapidly scaling Tristana.
Longzhu are in a do-or-die situation, and they know it.
They turn to the second Infernal Dragon—a risky call, considering the entire SSG lineup is right around the corner. But LZ time it just right and manage to secure the objective before Samsung are in position to contest it. They lose PraY on the retreat, but the second Infernal means Longzhu can keep up the scaling war for a bit longer.
Both teams take some time to recollect themselves, but 21 minutes into the game Samsung move into the top-side river and secure vision control. This forces Longzhu to push out the mid lane creep wave before attempting to regain river control, and at 21:15 Samsung pull the trigger and engage onto GorillA. Unfortunately, this is exactly where Syndra is at her strongest.
Despite losing Cuzz early in the fight, Bdd flashes in and absolutely deletes SSG’s bot lane. CuVee roams down and shuts Syndra down, so Khan is forced to burn teleport to back up his teammates. And while he does get a kill, resulting in a 3 for 2 trade for his team, Longzhu are now stuck with a teleportless splitpusher against double TPs from CuVee and Crown.
Samsung Galaxy continue fighting for the top side river control, pushing out Longzhu’s vision line away from the Baron pit. The threat of Samsung’s initiation is simply too large, and LZ can’t afford to contest with their top laner being stuck on the splitpush duty. Slowly, but surely SSG are setting up their web.
At 26:50, Cuzz and GorillA are forced to facecheck into the trio of Rakan, Malzahar, and Tristana, and Samsung jump at the opportunity to chain-CC the enemy jungler to death.
The beautiful thing about Samsung’s setup is that even after being a man down, Longzhu are forced to stick around. So SSG threaten to start a fight onto GorillA, force out Khan’s TP, and simply walk away.
The teleport advantage is once again in their favor.
The late game
At this point, Samsung have an iron grip on Baron control and side lane pressure from having two teleports to none.
Finally, 29 minutes into the game, Longzhu are forced into the exact same push-the-mid-lane-to-contest-the-Baron scenario, and Samsung press the go button. For a moment, though, it seems like LZ would win the teamfight.
Khan jumps in and soaks a lot of damage with his Frozen Mallet build, allowing his team to kill Ambition for free.
But just as both teams are about to disengage, Bdd lands a stun onto Crown and flashes into it to finish him off. Samsung reengage on him, and with Cuzz walking away, Longzhu are stuck in a 2v3 against Rakan, Tristana, and Kennen. The 1 for 0 trade quickly turns into a 2 for 2 and a lost mid lane turret for Longzhu. Not only that, but since Longzhu members died at the end of the teamfight and Crown has TP, Samsung then find an uncontested Baron, and Longzhu’s comp is starting to fall apart.
With no side lane pressure and weaker 5v5s, they’re forced to give up a Cloud Dragon and their mid lane inhibitor. They manage to catch a break when GorillA lands a great hook (34:55) onto CoreJJ and starts a miracle fight for his team, but even after killing four Samsung members, Longzhu can’t get much except for a single outer turret.
When Longzhu see Kennen splitting in the bottom lane at the 38-minute mark, they think they have a window for a Baron rush, but Samsung are well in the late game now, and their 4-man core is strong enough to take on the entire enemy team. They kite out Longzhu’s mellow initiation and reengage onto Khan and GorillA, claiming two kills and a Baron on top of that.
Now it’s only a matter of closing out the game—something Samsung are well-versed in.
They patiently crack open Longzhu’s base, take all three inhibitors, claim a safe Elder Dragon, and make the final push for the enemy Nexus.
Many Longzhu problems can be traced back to the draft.
Despite the fact that GorillA’s Thresh was on point, he didn’t provide enough pressure to counter the Rakan pick. Champions like Karma or Morgana could’ve accomplished the same goal of getting lane priority, countering engages, and finding picks while making use of Ardent Censer to empower Longzhu’s carries. Hell, even the Jax blind pick deserves to be questioned. Unlike Jayce, he simply doesn’t offer as big of a presence in the laning phase, which makes him far too exploitable in the early game to be what he needs to be later on.
Still, this type of drafts are a part of Longzhu’s identity, and it’s fine to go for riskier picks at the start of a Bo5. The game wasn’t lost there.
With Bdd dominating Crown in the laning phase, Longzhu had a very strong win condition in the mid lane, ut Bdd’s misplay forced his team to slow down for a bit. Still, Longzhu had the lead for a large chunk of the early game before getting dragged into trades where they could’ve simply walked away with free advantages.
But the real game-changer was the Baron dance.
Samsung Galaxy scaled up to the point where their team comps was flat out stronger in 5v5s, and they used this fact to seize vision control around Baron.
From then on, Samsung jousted back and forth, forcing Longzhu to facecheck, burn top lane teleports and commit blatant mistakes. In the end, it was impeccable play from Samsung that allowed them to turn the tables on the LCK champions fact and lay the foundation for a very surprising upset.
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