Week 2 of the UKEL- a chance for our teams to further distinguish themselves in the standings, and a chance for me to flame some more players who are infinitely better than I am. This week saw the first emergence of everyone’s favourite season 9 mid lane matchup of Corki vs Azir, and a heavy focus on bottom lane (be that for positive or negative reasons). An act of God meant we only got three games this week, with Nuclear Storm Gaming forfeiting their match against Absolved due to a power outage that sent their top laner out of action. Although I could provide some deep, hard-hitting analysis of differences between traditional sports and esports; how one of the key problems of esports is its reliance on machinery that breaks much more easily than something like a football, meaning it can be much more difficult to foresee problems, making it more difficult for organisers to ensure the smooth running of events and therefore harder to secure sponsors- but, I am not going to do that. This was just an unfortunate coincidence, and a chance for Absolved to pick up a free win, bringing them to 1-1 in the standings.
The first match of the day treated us to one of the greatest redemption arcs of all time. Forget Loki, forget Severus Snape- Jhinsanity in weeks 1 and 2 of the UKEL is the most inspiring transformation from feeding to carrying that the world has ever seen. After a less-than-stellar performance on Kai’sa against Absolved, involving a couple of flashes into 1v3 fights which I’m sure he’d rather forget, it was doubtful whether Jhinsanity would be able to show anything other than the hot-headed, somewhat tilted performance of Week 1. However, he proved the doubters wrong, and with a little assistance in the form of 4 bottom lane focused bans from his team, had a solid game with some excellent clean-up fights around objectives. With Hyojung piloting an absolute masterclass in how to play Lux support like a secondary mid laner, Radiant picked up a pretty clean win into Viperio. After delivering a loss to Precision’s Camille last week, KenRuto decided it was his turn to have knives for legs, picking up two kills in top lane within the first few minutes in what is generally considered a losing matchup for Camille. However, as the famous solo queue adage goes, ‘top is dead role omegalul go next’, meaning that despite his astounding attempt at a solo carry, KenRuto could not do enough to stop an underfed Jax jumping onto his team and bonking them all with a lamp post while Diana, Xayah and Lux made quick work of teamfights.
In our second (technically third, but who’s counting) game of the day, we saw Clique running their sub top laner, Shiklin, on loan from Irish team Phelan Gaming. Unfortunately for Shiklin, this is hardly the entrance to the UKEL he could have been wishing for: going 0/5 in laning phase thanks to a successful top lane camp by Demo on Lee Sin. However, by essentially waving his hands in the air and screaming ‘GANK ME PLEASE!’ repeatedly throughout the game, Shiklin drew the attention away from his Corki in the mid lane, who was left to farm in peace for the majority of the early game. This, combined with Kleptomancy aka ‘you hit your opponent and money falls out’ got him a strong early item base in an otherwise uneventful lane. Confident enough to take teleport into a Syndra running ignite, his chad mentality paid dividends in the huge amount of mid pressure he was able to generate, resulting in a handy clean-up quadra kill in the dragon pit, turning the tides of the game in Clique’s favour despite the setbacks in top lane. Furthermore, Bulldogs forced their superstar bot lane into a horrendous matchup in order to avoid a ranged-into-melee matchup for their top laner. TheKat’s Thresh was a huge factor in Bulldog’s Week 1 win, but it is almost impossible to gain any kind of lead in the Poppy versus Nami matchup- I’ve heard it described from the Poppy’s viewpoint as the equivalent of being chained to a wall and having buckets of cold water repeatedly thrown at you. With some excellent map rotations from Week 1 MVP Praevius (ignoring a moment where he burned his flash and his life to pick up a Rift Herald), Clique managed to secure the fastest win of the split so far.
For our final game of the day, Lion’s Creed picked up their first win of the season into a Mythos who have missed their wins by the skin of their teeth in both matches so far. Mythos always display a masterful early game; this game in particular saw them utilise the non-traditional Karma bottom lane pick to free up their support for a mid lane roam into successful kill. This generated some action in what is otherwise the single most boring mid lane matchup in the game right now. I’m sorry I ever complained about the flex pick meta- I’d rather have Akali into Irelia every game than watch Corki and Azir farm for 40 minutes, win one teamfight and end the game. Even after dying in lane to a couple of successful roams, Mythos couldn’t quite shut Ehyro down, and his first game of the UKEL saw some incredible teamfighting that won the final fight of the game and allowed Lion’s Creed to teleport into the base for the win. I can’t give Azir all the credit, though. The devil works hard, but Yuumi works harder, and in combination with a very beefy Aatrox, Regan was able to create a completely unkillable frontline for LionsCreed. This frontline, backed up by the insane amounts of damage that Azir and Ezreal pump out on two items, meant that Mythos simply weren’t able to translate their early game lead into a win, leaving them 0-2 in the standings going into Week 3.
Going into Week 3, we are clearly beginning to see some of the league’s strongest teams and players. In particular, Bendix is someone that I am going to be watching out for in the weeks to come. Although his Orianna was denied MVP in Week 1- with the accolade going to Praevius on Jarvan- he has consistently been a backbone for his team, pumping out insane amounts of damage on mid-to-late game carry picks. Two weeks is a small sample size from which to base an overall tournament MVP, but Bendix is definitely in the running for me, and I’m excited to see what he will be able to do over the next five weeks of play. Not to forget the hardworking, but sometimes underrecognized supports of our league, I am going to be keeping my eyes on TheKat in weeks to come- forced into an awful matchup this week, I look to his Thresh performance against Nuclear Storm Gaming as an absolute masterclass in how to translate bottom lane pressure into an overall map advantage. Hopefully Bulldogs will be able to pick up their performance next week, and can find some more favourable matchups for TheKat to really show us what he’s made of.