NA Qualifier In-Depth Recap: Day 1



Sat 12th Jan 2013 - 11:58am

With the NA Season 3 Qualifiers underway, the group stages have proved to be even more exciting than many (including myself) predicted. With established teams looking strong, and largely unknown teams performing above expectations, there have been more close matches than shut-outs.

Below, you will find lists of commonly picked and banned champions, as well as champions that often showed up on both of those lists.  These statistics were recorded in real time so there may be slight errors in the tallies.  Below these lists you will find descriptions of each team's journey through the group stage, which should give you the basics of the match if you missed any of them.  I hope that you find this summary helpful.

Most Picked Champions:

Pick Frequency Pick Frequency
Miss Fortune 10 Kog'Maw 2
Sona 10 Xin Zhao 2
Cho'Gath 9 Rumble 2
Ezreal 9 Ziggs 2
Nunu 9 Orianna 2
Amumu 8 Ahri 2
Katarina 7 Zyra 2
Lulu 6 Irelia 2
Olaf 6 Pantheon 2
Jarvan 5 Bltizcrank 2
Jayce 5 Twisted Fate 1
Kha'Zix 5 Lux 1
Taric 5 Leona 1
Twitch 5 LeBlanc 1
Graves 4 Malphite 1
Lee Sin 4 Jax 1
Maokai 4 Malphite 1
Ryze 4 Jax 1
Caitlyn 3 Kayle 1
Elise 3 Karthus 1
Evelynn 3 Soraka 1
Nocturne 3 Singed 1
Shen 3 Anivia 1
Vlad 3 Urgot 1
Zed 3 Kassadin 1
Riven  Corki 1

Most Banned Champions:

Ban Frequency
Evelynn 15
Shen 12
Kha'Zix 10
Nunu 7
Amumu 7
Twisted Fate 6
Katarina 6
Lee Sin 6
Ryze 4
Malphite 4
Elise 3
Olaf 3
Blitzcrank 2
Nidalee 2
Zyra 2
Jarvan 2
Ezreal 2
Kayle 2
Kassadin 2
Syndra 2
Draven 1
Lulu 1
Rumble 1
Nocturne 1
LeBlanc 1
Miss Fortune 1
Ahri 1
Riven 1
Anivia 1


Most Popular Champions (Most Picked and Banned Combined):

Champion  Popularity
Evelynn 18
Nunu 16
Kha'Zix 15
Shen 15
Amumu 15


It looks like Amumu finally found some friends in the pro circuit.


Group Stage Break Down -

Group B:

Team FeaR: With the recent departure of their former AD carry, Aphromoo, FeaR moved their top laner Zuna back to the bottom lane where he used to play.  With the addition of Sycho Squid to the top position, the team has been looking much stronger than predicted.  Although their lineup change was recent, it seems that each member of the team has stepped up to the plate to make it into the Season 3 circuit.

Without a single champion repeat in their team composition between their first game against Team Towerdive TV and their second against Good Game University, they also proved their versatility in champion pools.  While their first game team of Lee Sin, Nunu, Ryze, Kog'Maw, and Elise proved to be fairly conventional, they took a slightly more alternative route for the second game with a mid lane Jayce, as well as Rumble, Ezreal, Zyra, and Cho'Gath.


Team Towerdive TV: Largely a dark horse coming into the qualifiers, Team Towerdive TV put up a good showing.  Their first game against Team FeaR, the popular favorite to win the group, put their record off to a shaky start.  In that game, they took Ezreal, Sona, Shen, Xin Zhao, and Lux, but were unable to shut down FeaR from the game's start.  

After the rough patch with the so far unbeatable FeaR, TDT found smoother sailing up against Epik Gamer.  With Irelia, Jarvan IV, Miss Fortune, Taric, and Vladimir, they were able to set up very strong team fights in which Xzevz on Jarvan could set up zxkeisukexz's Miss Fortune for strong ultimates.  As Epik Gamer gathered themselves for a comeback, TDT lost the strong lead they had acquired in the early game.  With less successful team fights and mistakes from both sides, it quickly became anyone's game for the taking.  After a 4vs5 fight that left Epik Gamer without their AD carry, TDT pulled the game back in their favor in what has been one of the closest matches of the tournament so far.  

Unfortunately for TDT, their picks of Vladimir, Amumu, Lulu, Draven, and Singed could simply not out match the incredibly strong Katarina, Nunu, Shen, Twitched, and Karthus.  Although TDT was eliminated in the group stage, they showed some real talent and ability to take down top-tier players, which we might yet see in tournaments outside Riot's Season 3 circuit.


Epik Gamer: A team largely comprised of pro players who found themselves without a team, many viewers expected to see a competitive showing or even a win from them.  In their first game against Good Game University, EPG took Kha'Zix, Sona, Twitch, Orianna, and Maokai.  With losses in multiple lanes, GGU took a strong win.  

In their last chance for recovery in a game against Team Towerdive TV, the lack of team synergy showed through for such a young team as far as cooperation.  While each player still showed signs of the technical merit that has kept them in the pro scene, repeated mistakes with their Kha'Zix, Ezreal, Zyra, Ahri, and Maokai put them at a heavy disadvantage from the beginning.  Although they did pull themselves together to rally for what many thought was a spectacular comeback, they were ultimately unable to seal the deal, and TDT responded for the win.  Their second loss sealed their fate as the first team to be eliminated from the qualifiers.


Good Game University: Formerly Team Dynamic, GGU went through a few roster changes before the beginning of Season 3.  Popular opinion split fairly evenly on whether or not this would be a disadvantage going into today's matches, but it's hard to argue with results.  Their first game put them up against Epik Gamer, against whom they chose Olaf, Nunu, Rumble, Caitlyn, and Ziggs.  Extremely strong play from NintendudeX's notoriously strong Olaf as well as ZionSpartan's Rumble pulled them into a seemingly effortless victory, not to diminish the performance of their other members.

Good synergy and the classic Team Dynamic aggression that carried through into the new team proved too powerful for EPG.  The second game brought them up against popular group favorite, Team FeaR.  Their Lulu, Graves, Elise, Nidalee, and Ziggs composition took a disadvantage from champion select to Cho'Gath, Ezreal, Zyra, Jayce, and Rumble.  Repeated mistakes forced them into their first lost against FeaR, who had then secured their place in the brackets tomorrow.  

With another chance at the brackets versus TDT, both teams knew that this game held the last hope for the Season 3 circuit.  GGU put their trust in an incredibly strong composition comprised of Nunu, Twitch, Karthus, Katarina, and Shen.  Although the double AP team has not been terribly popular as of yet this tournament, strong jungle support from NintendudeX's Shen on the solo bottom ZionSpartan Katarina began an unbeatable snowball from the early game.  As the entire team continued to strengthen, Karthus, Twitch, and Nunu began to carry nearly as heavily, and GGU became the second member of Group B to advance.


Group C:

Meat Playground: With several recent roster changes due to the age of some of their players, MP surprised everyone by showing up with former FeaR player, Balls.  After he left FeaR to focus on his studies, fans of Meat Playground are still unsure whether he intends to remain with the team.  In their first match against Falafel Gaming, Miss Fortune and Sona set up very strong ultimate combos even versus the aggressive Ezreal Leona opposition.  Katarina mid roamed almost constantly throughout the early game, helping to snowball each lane and acquire kills for Arthelon.  Finishing out their team composition were Amumu and Vladimir, adding a good tank line and crowd control.  With well placed CC and Miss Fortune Bullet Times, MP consistently came out ahead in team fights, not relenting until they secured the win.  

Looking for the second win that would be their ticket into the next round, MP took Cho'Gath, Lee Sin, Evelynn, Caitlyn, and Nunu versus Dirtnap Gaming.  With xHazzard in a lane swap into DNP's bot lane Sona and Graves, they struggled through the early game.  They couldn't come back from the early strengths that DNP gained, and Meat Playground would look for their final chance at Season 3 versus 1 Trick Ponies.  

In the last game of Group C, MP took Sona, Kog'Maw, Kha'Zix, Nunu, and Malphite.  Although they lost the early and mid game rather hard to 1 Trick Ponies, they were able to turn it around with one major team fight in the mid lane, pushing straight to the nexus with a great comeback for a spot in the brackets.


Falafel Gaming: A mostly unknown team found themselves up against Meat Playground for their first match.  With Elise, Cho'Gath, Pantheon, Ezreal, and Leona, they fell to a small disadvantage in the early game.  With high pressure on all lanes from the enemy roaming Katarina, the gold disadvantage quickly translated into losses in team fights.  With a very high amount of crowd control and well placed Miss Fortune ultimates from MP, they were unable to return the aggression and ultimately lost.  

With a first round loss, they sought redemption against 1 Trick Ponies with a composition of Graves, Lulu, Nunu, Rumble, and Pantheon.  Once again, they were hurt out of the gate with early aggression they had trouble countering.  Similar to their first game, they unfortunately could not turn the game around, and were knocked out with an 0-2 record.


Dirtnap Gaming: In their first game against 1 Trick Ponies, Dirtnap Gaming chose Shen, Maokai, Graves, Lulu, and Jayce mid as we also saw from Team FeaR in the first group.  The game went mark for mark, with both teams remaining almost perfectly even in golds, kills, and objectives during the first phases of the game.  Although 1TP had great ultimate synergy from Sona, Amumu, and Miss Fortune, the well countered Lulu ultimate and excellent positioning was enough to overcome the high damage output.  When they finally broke the stalemate, they ran with the lead all the way to their first victory of the qualifiers on the back of Cris's insanely tanky and unkillable Shen.  

Their second game held an Olaf, Nocturne, Jayce, Graves, and Sona composition for the 'shocking' (bad jokes) third mid lane Jayce of the tournament. Cris, the hero Shen from their first game took a top lane 1 verus 2 lane against Nunu Caitlyn, while Graces and Sona took on xHazzard's solo bot Cho'Gath.  With predictably strong jungle presence in both lanes, the early game was nothing short of exciting.  With the strong fear of Nocturne's ganks as well as some great play in the bottom lane, DNP came out with a 4-1 kill and two thousand gold advantage at 6 minutes.


1 Trick Ponies: Their first game against Dirtnap Gaming held a perfectly unremarkable early game, with very few kills or gold differences.  1TP chose Olaf, Amumu, Katarina, Miss Fortune, and Sona, a team composition that is quickly becoming one of the most popular combinations of the tournament.  As they pushed the game further into the late game, their synergy became a stronger factor in team fights.  Unfortunately for 1TP, the opposing Lulu ultimate and strong cooperation and positioning skills of DNG were too much to overcome, and they suffered their first loss despite a respectable attempt at a comeback in the mid game.  

In their second chance versus Falafel Gaming, Zed, Olaf, Katarina, Miss Fortune, and Sona provided a similar team composition to their first game.  Quite different than their first game, 1TP took a much more aggressive strategy in the early game, and it paid off with a 7-2 lead on kills at 13 minutes.  They carried the lead through into the late game, not letting up on their pressure until they had the win.

After their second game win, they looked to maintain the momentum versus Meat Playground as both teams fought for survival through the group stage.  They took Zed, Evelynn, LeBlanc, Caitlyn, and Lulu into their last-ditch match.  While the LeBlanc pick won them the early and mid games with an incredible amount of damage, a single teamfight loss and ace on their team allowed Meat Playground to push to their base for the win.  While 1TP held up great through the group stage, they faced elimination.


Group A:

The Brunch Club: Another team recomposed of previously pro players like Epik Gamer, The Brunch Club (formerly She Said She Was Level 18) hoped to have better luck than EPG did in the qualifiers.  In their first game versus Pulse Esports, TBC took Jayce (at last, not mid lane), Maokai, Kha'Zix, Ezreal, and Sona.  Pulse gaming took a hyper aggressive early game and pressed the advantage with first blood and a second kill on Sona.

TBC pushed back in the other lanes to even out the kills, gold, and objectives.  Nickwu with Jayce in the top lane took a strong early victory over Halfers's Cho'Gath, while Chuuper took a disadvantage with his mid Kha'Zix against Ryze.  After losing a hard engagement to pLs with a well-placed Jarvan ultimate, they found themselves behind by 3 kills but only one thousand gold.  They worked to close the gold gap by taking turrets and farming as they had for the early game as well.  After winning a mid game team fight for the ace and only losing two players, they took a more definitive three thousand gold advantage, though they were still down by one kill.  Eventually, Chuuper's Kha'Zix and Lautemortis's Twisted Advance from Maokai was too much for pLe, and TBC pushed to win.  

Next up on TBC's ticket would be the group favorites, Curse Gaming.  They took Zed, Malphite, Kassadin, Miss Fortune, and Sona.  Curse took an early advantage in kills, turrets, and gold, but TBC refused to stop fighting as CRS pushed forward down their middle lane.  Still at a heavy disadvantage, they did their best to close the gap in gold, but could not turn the match around despite a long and valiant effort.  They would move on to face Pulse yet again for their last opportunity at the circuit.  

Taking Zed, Cho'Gath, Evelynn, Twitch, and Soraka, BrunchU and Ellie Bee started with very strong aggression, soon assisted by Lautemortis.  Pulse did not leave this unanswered and soon responded with aggression of their own.  Despite the response in aggression, TBC did not lose sight of objectives, and took three turrets for pLs's zero.  With incredible sustained aggression, they took four turrets before twelve minutes, creating a gold difference of nearly six thousand.  Pulse made it difficult for TBC to fully capitalize on their advantage with strong defensive skills, but great strategy, strong play, and a superior team composition finally brought the game to an end, ensuring The Brunch Club's admittance to tomorrow's competition.


Pulse eSports: Another of the smaller teams that emerged from the 5v5 ranked ladder, Pulse Esports began their first game against The Brunch Club with Taric, Miss Fortune, Ryze, Jarvan, and Cho'Gath.  An early game ambush gave them first blood on Miss Fortune against Ellie Bee's Sona.  In an effort to shut down TBC, they pushed for early aggression and secured two kills on Sona, but could not kill Ezreal.  After the early game aggression, the game evened out in kills, gold, and objectives into the mid game.  With a big team fight mid lane and a hard engagement from Jarvan, they pulled ahead 8-5 kills with a one thousand gold advantage.  TBC took a mid game team fight and aced them, losing only two players and gaining the gold advantage, but pLs held onto the kill advantage.  After fairly even back and forths, TBC developed a stronger team fight presence with Kha'Zix and Maokai engagements backed up by Ezreal, Sona, and Jayce.  Pulse would have to face COL for their final chance.  

With everything on the line, Pulse went for Olaf, Ezreal, Taric, Kayle, and Xin Zhao.  Revitalizing the spark that we saw in their first game against The Brunch Club, it proved to be enough this time around.  They took an early lead which they refused to let go of until they had secured their right to one more game, against TBC once more.  

Taking Jarvan, Ryze, Ezreal, Taric, and a fairly unconventional Karthus top, pLs's bot lane fell to TBC's early game play.  pLs responded with two kills in the river, but could not stop TBC from taking three turrets.  They began to turn the kill score around, putting a dent in the massive gold disparity, but still could not answer the turret and objective dominance.  While Pulse did stave off the advances of BTC for a short while, they eventually fell to elimination although they gave a commendable performance.


Curse Gaming: The easy crowd favorite to win the whole competition, Curse began their play in the group stage against Complexity esports with a composition of Kha'Zix, Cho'Gath, Ryze, Miss Fortune, and Lulu.  NyJacky's Ryze proved too strong for COL's Katarina, and Voyboy's Kha'Zix destroys any attempts at early game engagements from COL's part.  After powering through those early team fights, there was nothing to stand in Curse's way to take the victory.  

After their first win, they faced The Brunch Club for their second round, bringing Elise, Cho'Gath, Twisted Fate, Ezreal, and Lulu.  Voyboy's Elise took the early edge on Nickwu's Zed for first blood.  They snowballed this advantage into every lane with jungle pressure and ganks from NyJacky's TF ultimate.  While the game continued on for one of the longest in day one, Curse's pressure never let up and they slowly and steadily built upon the lead that would take them to the win and secure them the first spot from Group A.

compLexity: The last of the 5v5 ladder teams that we had the opportunity to see play, Complexity knew they had a difficult start to the group stage against the fan favorite, Curse Gaming.  They started out with Jax, Amumu, Katarina, Ezreal, and Sona.  With an early fed Ryze on Curse's Nyjacky, and the overwhelming team fight presence of Voyboy's Kha'Zix fueled by Saintvicious as well as the bot lane, COL could not return the pressure.  They took a loss and moved on to battle pLe for their last shot at the brackets.

With the next stage on the line, COL picked Miss Fortune, Shen, Amumu, Lulu, and Katarina against Pulse's Olaf, Ezreal, Taric, Kayle, and Xin Zhao.  COL fell to early pressure and could not bridge the gap in the gold deficit.  They lost their second game and were eliminated from the group stage.


Group D:

Team MRN: A newly-composed team which entered the competition via the 5v5 ranked ladder, the members of Team MRN were out to prove themselves.  They began against Cloud9 with Irelia, Cho'Gath, Anivia, Ezreal, and Sona.  With the Anivia pick left open for mid laner, Ecco, Team MRN fans rejoiced.  The early game showed a fairly high level of aggression with a lot of one-for-one exchanges, and two turrets destroyed for each team before the 9 minute mark.

After a great fight in the enemy jungle, MRN pulled ahead from the deadlock.  The power of Sona's crowd control paired with Ecco's mastery of Anivia, MegaZero's Irelia, ClakeyD's Cho'Gath and Heartbeat's Ezreal gave them a significant edge.  They of course translated their gold lead into an item advantage, and pushed easily through C9's mid lane.  Shortly after their apparent advantage, they got caught out at dragon and lost four members.  When all seemed even, both teams pushed forward in an incredibly suspenseful base race.  Just as it appeared as though Team MRN would lose their nexus, the masterful Anivia defense (CLG.EU style) allowed MRN to take C9's nexus just before C9 could defend.

In game two versus Azure Gaming, MRN picked up Riven, Jarvan, Ahri, Urgot, and Taric.  AG's jungle Nocturne ganks coupled well with the aggressive play style of the rest of their lanes.  This put MRN at an early advantage that they could not easily shake.  At last, a huge team fight in the Baron pit secured the ace on AG, putting Team MRN safely back in the running.  With multiple back and forth team fights, another game turning engage in MRN's favor occurred just outside of AG's base, with MegaZero and Clakeyd alternately absorbing enough damage to keep their carries alive.

Just when we thought we might se another base race, both teams backed out and waited for another engage.  On what appeared to be MRN's final push, they lost two members, but the power of the super minions had already pushed down one of AG's nexus turrets.  In the final battle next to AG's nexus, Demunlul got taken down early and MRN finished off the rest of the team for the victory, making them the first 5v5 ladder team to advance.


Cloud9: With some old veteran players, Cloud9 was expected to make a good showing in Group D.  For their first game against Team MRN, they took Nunu, Twitch, Lee Sin, Amumu, and Elise.  Risky play from both sides created a fairly even early game as far as gold and kills, with two towers gone for both teams.  After getting split into poor positioning in their own jungle by the powerful engagement potential from Team MRN, they found themselves behind in kills, gold, and turrets through the mid game.  With MRN's advantage, they could not defend against their advances, and found themselves falling further and further behind.

With an incredible turn around at dragon, C9 eliminated four of MRN's members, leaving only Ecco alive, without losing a single one of their own players.  With everything more or less tied, the pressure of the game increased.  Suddenly both teams decided to race for the other's base and it appeared as though C9 would be successful with their bloodboiled Twitch pushing power.  With the unexpected back of Ecco's Anivia proving enough to push them back, C9 couldn't return to defend their own nexus in time and lost their first round.

When facing The Salad Bar in their second game, Cloud9 took Katarina, Amumu, Vladimir, Twitch, and Zyra.  They took a healthy lead early, which they slowly nurtured into an eight thousand gold difference.  They slowly chipped away at TSB's defenses until they could no longer hold up.  They would have to defeat Azure Gaming if they wanted to advance any further.

In the last game of today's games, almost everyone watching expected Cloud9 to secure the only remaining spot in the bracket stage, but they still had to get through Azure Gaming who had taken out The Salad Bar previously.  They went with an interesting composition in Amumu, Twitch, Riven, Lulu, and Corki mid to counter the Orianna.  Although Corki did do this with relative success, the rest of Cloud9 did not hold up extremely well in the other lanes.  WildTurtle and LemonNation felt the pressure in the bottom lane when Bloodwater's support skills shined through fantastically strong on Nunu when coupled with Demunlul's AD on Miss Fortune.  It seemed as though Cloud9 just could not catch a break from the near absolute early game dominance that AG produced.

Eventually they were able to farm and put up a more even fight, but it simply wasn't enough.  Their attempts to split push were thwarted by the sheer force of a team with such an advantage, and Cloud9 shocked viewers by being the last team to go home from the qualifying rounds.


The Salad Bar: Although most people were not familiar with The Salad Bar before the qualifiers, their first game against Azure Gaming appeared quite even in the early phases.  Their team consisted of Ezreal, Amumu, Cho'Gath, Nunu, and Katarina.  After the early game, TSB fell behind in kills and a small amount of gold, though a good number of AG's kills came from their support.  While it seemed as though they might be able to turn the game as it progressed, Azure Gaming took two big team fights at Baron for a decisive lead and win.

 TSB's second game against Cloud9 was made up of Blitzcrank, Miss Fortune, Jayce, Lee Sin, and Cho'Gath.  Much like the first game, The Salad Bar took a small early disadvantage, but victory was not yet outside of their reach.   After C9 continually gained small advantage after small advantage, TSB could no longer keep up, and found themselves eliminated from the group stage.

Azure Gaming:
In their first game against The Salad Bar, Azure Gaming met a fairly even start.  They chose Singed, Jarvan IV, Jayce, Miss Fortune, and Blitzcrank.  With both sides securing a few early game kills and towers, the game was not stagnant.  When it seemed as though the match could go either way, AG turned their modest lead into a great leap with an extremely successful fight at Baron.  With Bloodwater and Demunlul showing excellent kiting abilities, their Ezreal was allowed to destroy the entirety of The Salad Bar.  Pushing with that same strength, Demunlul got a pentakill in the enemy base, and the nexus was just a short length away for their first win.

Their second game pitted them against Team MRN, and they picked Cho'Gath, Nocturne, Kassadin, Graves, and Nunu.  The combination of Nocturne's roam and the coordination of Bloodwater and Demunlul's bottom lane put an incredible amount of pressure on every lane.  The gold advantage that they pulled from this situation stayed with them throughout, and only grew as the game went on.  After losing several key team fights to MRN, they were able to take two players out as they pushed into the AG base, but they had already lost a nexus turret to super minions.  When MRN pushed into the base and Demunlul went down at the beginning of the fight, AG couldn't hold out any longer, and would have to face a third game versus Cloud9.

Pulling into the third and final game of the entire group stage, Azure Gaming was left up against Cloud9 to bring back the nearly spotless play they exhibited in their first game against The Salad Bar.  With almost all eyes and hopes on Cloud9, it wasn't going to be an easy job.  They came out with Nunu, Nocturne, Miss Fortune, Orianna, and Olaf.  With Bloodwater and Demunlul looking incredibly strong in the bottom lane, though Nunu may have gotten a bit more fed than Miss Fortune early game, and the pressure coming in full force into other lanes as well, AG got off to a great start.  They seemed untouchable for a good stretch, until Cloud9 could muster their efforts with good farm and split pushes.  It looked as though Azure Gaming might have more of a fight on their hands than they had hoped or bargained for, but they were able to shut down Cloud9's attempts at a comeback in arguably the biggest upset of the day to become the last team in the brackets for tomorrow's competition.


Wrap Up:

The games today were fantastic, and I enjoyed watching them as I hope you all did.  If you missed any of the action, I hope that these break downs helped you to catch up.  Remember to catch the remainder of the competition tomorrow and Sunday here. 

What can you expect tomorrow?




Team FeaR vs Meat Playground

11:00 PST

DirtNap Gaming vs Good Game University   

15:00 PST

Curse Gaming vs Azure Gaming

19:00 PST

Team MRN vs The Brunch Club

23:00 PST

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