As Order emerges from the first round of the gauntlet, they find themselves staring down the barrel of two Melbourne derbies. Up first are defending champs Bombers, albeit in a different form from the last gauntlet.
We learned yesterday how Order made it to the gauntlet – a 9-12 regular-season run, bookended by a 1-5 beginning and an exciting 2-1 close in Super Week. Thursday evening saw Order managed to reverse an 0-3 split record against the Dire Wolves into a commanding 3-1 series victory and now they look to avoid the Bombers showing them the same fate.
Order’s run through the previous gauntlet came to a screeching halt in the grand final last split against the Bombers, but the favour was repaid over the course of a 3-0 season sweep.
Order took advantage of the developing new face of the Bombers’ bot lane with a trio of commanding performances from Ronan “Dream” Swingler, Sam “Spookz” Broadley holding the go-button for his squad, and a magic-damage carry for James “Tally” Shute to go toe-to-toe with fellow top lane superstar Min “Mimic” Ju-seong.
The matchup between the two teams poses a dichotomy that’s a tantalising prospect. Order has so far demonstrated one thing, and they do it very well. They take you late and beat you in an important fight. Consider Tally in the mid-split battle with Avant, or Spookz against either of the Chiefs in week 10, or Bombers in week 8 – even when they get behind, they find multiple kills in key mid-to-late game fights.
If Order goes deep, the Bombers go wide. Through circumstance and roster construction, the Bombers do a lot of things well instead of just one thing excellently. They did this to the tune of a 14-7 split – impressive considering it took them fully half the split to stop splitting weeks 1-1.
Most of this is facilitated through their mid laner-come-AD carry Carlo “Looch” La Civita. While learning the ins and outs of his new lane, he’s been able to successfully weave in mage play held over from his old role into his new one.
It enables Jeong “Wilder” Jin-woo to delve into the physical damage side of his champion pool, and has allowed many, many Aatrox games to come out of Mimic in the top lane – and even a sneaky Yasuo or two from Tommy “ry0ma” Le! By not forcing themselves into a marksman in the bottom lane, it opens up their solo lanes to have more freedom in what kind of damage they can deal.
Ultimately, Bombers are at their best when they play through their solo lanes. You can make a compelling argument that they have the best, or certainly top two-to-three, players in each role. When one of them stumbles, as they both have from time to time, the other has been there to uplift them until the point where they can both fire and lift the Bombers across the line. And when they both are firing, they can absolutely blow away otherwise very excellent teams.
The first line of defence for Order comes from Tally. For all the talk of Spookz-and-Swiffer, for all the emotional energy that comes from Dream, it is Tally that forms the barometer for how Order succeeds. As long as he is in the game, Order never really feel buried. If Order can keep him relevant, they have a genuine chance against the Bombers.
They haven’t put Tally on a tank all split, and only five times have they put him on a bruiser or fighter – and they’ve lost three of those five times. Order have identified that they’re at their best when Tally has damage at his fingertips. Expect fireworks from this part of the map, hopefully with duelling heavy-damage champions.
The mid lane is where the map threatens to run over in favour of the Bombers. I don’t think there’s any room for debate any longer – ry0ma is a better button-presser than Simon “Swiffer” Papamarkos at the current date. But there’s so much more than that to this lane. I liken Swiffer to Tom Brady – arguably the greatest of all time in his craft in Oceania.
But in 2019, both Swiffer and Brady don’t blow you off the field with physical talent as they may have done in past years. Instead, they use their vast experience and incredible mind for their respective games to understand when and how to make plays and put their team in position to have success.
While ry0ma is no slouch when it comes to smart play and team fighting, he definitely wants to make this matchup about just the two of them. It’s the most alluring tug-of-war of all of the matchups – ry0ma wants this to be about “he who wins the 1v1, wins the game” while Swiffer can show why he is the Greatest Of All Time still by being showing that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
There’s an avenue of attack for Order in the bottom lane if they can make it a marksman duel. Dream, unlike his counterpart, has shown no inclination to play mages and has had considerable success on Lucian and his trademark Xayah over the course of the split. Order will want to bring the fight down bot somewhere that in Dream’s wheelhouse rather than Looch’s comfort zone.
Further, the overlap between Jayke “Jayke” Paulsen and Jake “Rogue” Sharwood’s skillsets has produced captivating bot-lane matchups over recent years. Rogue is a masterful Thresh and Alistar, and Jayke, dating back to his Avant days, has been an expert in situations where his lane needs to fight backwards, kite back and counterpunch.
This leaves us in a situation where the junglers may have a significant say in who wins this match. Spookz has shown that he can perform with gold against the Dire Wolves yesterday, and he has also shown, as previously discussed, that he can still remain carriable when things don’t quite go so well. For his part, Wilder has been remarkably consistent. Consistently “fine”. Aside from notable performances on Taliyah, he hasn’t shown himself to be the kind of jungler to take a victory out of the jaws of defeat – but by the same token, he doesn’t strike me as the kind of player to throw the series away for the Bombers either.
The trump card for Order might not be on the rift, rather off of it. After a disastrous 2018 preparing for best-of-fives – do not let me get started on that – they’ve now shown four out of five playoff series in 2019 putting out a masterclass in game planning in a best-of-five scenario.
Preparing for Mammoth in Split 1 by attacking Mitchell “Destiny” Shaw’s champion pool to create an avenue of attack through the bottom lane was inspired, as was setting Spookz up for success against the Dire Wolves yesterday. It nullified the Wolves’ best player and made the rest of the series about comparatively inexperienced players.
The playoffs for our @Bombers team begin tomorrow. Please cheer up our team Bombers! We prepared really hard. I believe our team members.— Wilder (@LOL_Wilder) August 22, 2019
明日うちのチームのプレーオフが始まります。 応援してくださいね! 😀
Opposing general manager Jake “Spawn” Tiberi and coach Aaron “ChuChuz” Bland is Oceania’s beloved coaching son in Luchio “Soulstrikes” Park. Having had success both in Oceania and taking a Challengers Korea team to the precipice of promotion to the LCK, he is certainly not outclassed by Order’s staff – but he will have his work cut out for him, perhaps more so here than any of the rival coaches still awaiting the winner of this series.
Having said all of this, both teams have clear avenues they can attack in order to reach a victory. So, as cliché as it is, it really does come down to who executes on their win conditions the best will take the win.
Despite going against them ending poorly for us yesterday, I am tipping Bombers to take this series. At the end of the day, in this region typically the team with the better players wins the match. And while Order has spent most of their 2019 postseasons defying this on paper, I still favour Bombers in four close games.
Whoever wins this will go into tomorrow’s match against Mammoth battle-tested by a strong match today. Tune in at 4pm AEST to watch the first Melbourne derby of this gauntlet as Order takes on the Bombers at twitch.tv/riotgamesoce.