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League of Legends

Anatomy of a Reverse Sweep: How BDS beat PSG to Advance to Worlds 2023 Swiss Stage

Zakaria Almughrabi

Worlds 2023 is off to a hot start thanks to Team BDS. In the final Qualification Match of the Play-In Stage, Europe’s BDS pulled off a reverse sweep to take down PSG Talon and steal the final spot in the Swiss Stage. In League of Legends, a reverse sweep is losing the first two games of a best-of-five, then winning three in a row to take the match. Reverse sweeps seldom happen on the Worlds stage, making each one a sight to behold. Let’s take a look at how BDS managed to come back from a 0-2 deficit to best PSG Talon and advance to the Worlds 2023 Swiss Stage.

BDS Worlds 2023

Image Credit Riot Games | Colin Young-Wolff

The Teams

PSG Talon came into this Qualification Match having not lost a game yet at Worlds 2023. They cleanly 2-0’d Movistar R7 and LOUD, the latter of which had just taken down the number one Vietnamese seed GAM Esports. PSG was looking hot to trot coming into this matchup against Team BDS, especially since BDS had a roadblock in getting here.

BDS lost their opening match to Team Whales, Vietnam’s number two seed. While they did sweep through DetonatioN FocusMe and CTBC Flying Oyster to make the Qualification Match, they had very clear strengths and weaknesses in their gameplay.

Team BDS

Team BDS is a unique team at Worlds 2023 in that the majority of their pressure comes from their top laner, Adam “Adam” Maanane. Adam made a name for himself this split by playing specific off-meta and counter pick champions. Namely, his Garen, Olaf, Darius, and Sett are all signature picks, earning his champion pool the acronym of GODS. That said, Adam could still play the meta champions. Renekton was a pick he was ready to play often.

In contrast, mid laner Ilias “nuc” Bizriken played mainly control mages. His lane was typically one of non-action, simply keen to just farm up and make enough space to be relevant. This allows for jungler Théo “Sheo” Borile to play for Adam or the bot lane. Sheo is a supportive jungler through and through, opting to only play champions that enable his team.

Two of those players he enables are the bot lane duo of ADC Juš “Crownie” Marušič and support Labros “Labrov” Papoutsakis. Crownie and Labrov do have the ability to play aggressive and take control of the lane. They can also opt to play for scaling and let Crownie farm while Labrov goes full roam mode. They’re really the only variable in BDS’s game, as the entire topside has static and predictable playstyles.

BDS Worlds 2023

Image Credit Riot Games | Christian Betancourt

PSG Talon

PSG Talon has a very clashing matchup with BDS for two reasons. First off, their mid laner Huang “Maple” Yi-Tang is a star player. Maple has a 10-year history in League of Legends and at his peaks contested the best Korean mid laners in the world. His champ pool employs aggressive picks like Akali, Jayce, and LeBlanc.

On the other hand, their top laner Huang “Azhi” Shang-Jhih is one of the weaker players on the roster. His champ pool is a puddle compared to Adam. PSG often allocates him a strong laning pick, but he seldom takes over a game with it.  Jungler Yu “JunJia” Chun-Chia is much more willing to jump on carry picks like Viego, but can play tanks and engage champions just as well.

Finally, their bot lane duo Tsou “Wako” Wei-Yang and Lin “Woody” Yu-En are a stable force. Wako likes scaling ADCs much more than lane dominant ones, opting to play Aphelios when a spot exists. Woody loves pure Vanguard picks like Rell and Alistar, leaving him to be the main engager when JunJia is off-duty.

PSG Worlds 2023

Image Credit Riot Games | Colin Young-Wolff

So, this series for Worlds 2023 Swiss Stage qualification will come down to a couple of main factors for BDS and PSG:

  • Each needs to find a way to enable their star solo laner while also mitigating the downsides of their weaker one.
  • PSG have the option of playing for a strong jungle mid-lane 2v2, while BDS likely just want to cover their lanes with a supportive jungler.
  • BDS can play for bot lane dominance, leaving Adam on an island in the right matchups. They can also shake hands and play scaling ADC and roaming support mirrored against PSG.

Game One

The first draft phase opens with PSG taking the top side of Maokai, Kennen, and Jayce. This puts JunJia on tank duty while Azhi and Maple get lane dominant picks. BDS’s response is Sejuani to match jungle, Azir for nuc, and Rakan for Labrov. They specifically picked support to save counter-pick for Adam, which is a great strategy for them.

Second phase rolls around, PSG take a standard Kai’Sa Alistar in bot. BDS take Zeri to match scaling. Finally, Adam’s grand counter pick is… Sion. Sion is a tank champion that mainly plays to support his team in fights. He loses lane and gets bullied by a pick like Kennen. BDS’s win condition this game is surviving the PSG onslaught early and outscaling with Azir and Zeri.

This starts off promising, as a well-timed roam and gank from Labrov and Sheo kills Maple early. They then use their botside control to take early Dragon. Despite the first blood, PSG is ahead in gold at the 13-minute mark due to their dominant top lane matchup. The first teamfight goes PSG’s way, giving them a kill and second Dragon.

The game completely stagnates, keeping the kill score at 1-1 until 27 minutes in. By this point, PSG’s gold lead has ballooned to over 3K and they’ve gotten up to Dragon Soul point. Maple has gotten back into the game and is a full item up on nuc. Azhi also has a whopping 70 CS lead on Adam. BDS are forced to fight for the Soul. They walk into a PSG controlled river and lose four players and the Soul.

From there, the game is essentially over. PSG take Baron and end at 34 minutes.

Game Two

Draft number two starts off much differently for BDS. They opt to blind pick Adam Renekton, the strongest blind pick at Worlds 2023. They immediately slam Kalista and Nautilus, showing that they want to play for bot lane dominance while leaving Adam on his own. PSG has Kai’Sa and Rell to try and weather than storm, as well as a safe Poppy pick in the jungle.

Here, the draft completely falls apart for BDS. PSG realize that they haven’t picked Sheo’s jungler yet. In addition to the existing Maokai ban, PSG bans Sejuani and Ivern. With Poppy gone as well, BDS are forced to take Taliyah for Sheo. Taliyah is a farming carry jungler, one that Sheo is not comfortable on at all. They are also grab a blind control mage for nuc in Syndra instead of Azir. This allows Maple to pull out his Akali as R5 counter pick.

Game two was a total stomp. Despite another first blood for BDS, going to Crownie’s Kalista no less, they aren’t able to continue that snowball. A regank onto a flashless Crownie gets him killed and BDS’s bot lane advantage is gone. The mid game completely belongs to Maple. His pressure on Akali allows him to move and skirmish wherever, getting his team kills and Dragons.

Meanwhile in top lane, Adam can’t actually dominate lane in the static Renekton vs Jax matchup with his jungler focused on bot. Once the already ahead PSG gets a chance, they three-man Adam and shut down that lane too.

The rest of the game is fairly uneventful. PSG uses their lead and superior draft to take whatever they want. After taking Baron, they run through BDS to end the game in 29 minutes. The final kill score is 19 to 3.

Game Three

Now down 0-2, it’s do or die for BDS at Worlds 2023. They finally identify a winning formula in draft. Maokai first pick for Sheo, Kai’Sa Alistar blind for their bot lane. PSG pulled out a unique Caitlyn pick to take advantage of BDS’s low range bot lane.

For solo lanes, PSG blind Sylas for Maple, as it’s a good pick in a vacuum. BDS grab Azir for nuc and give Adam his Olaf. While this Olaf isn’t a counter-pick, it’s still good into three of BDS’s four champions here. Knowing this, PSG R5 Gnar for Azhi to give him a leg up in laning.

From the get-go, BDS look out of sorts in this game. Their early top lane play to snowball Adam goes awry thanks to JunJia’s counter gank. They then lose Labrov to a bot gank and nuc gets solo killed in the mid lane. BDS are down 2.5K gold by 11 minutes.

A Comeback within a Comeback

The mistake that starts the BDS comeback is an overextension from Wako’s Caitlyn that gives Crownie a kill. BDS are then able to contest the Rift Herald, funneling PSG via Maokai Ultimate and an Alistar Hexgate flank. The mid game went back-and-forth with both teams having chances at breaking it wide open.

At 28 minutes, BDS opted to start Baron. This fight was extremely chaotic and was on a knifes edge for who would win and secure Baron. Crownie living through Maple’s onslaught at one HP was huge, as was Adam getting a double kill in cleanup and staying alive to finish Baron with Sheo. This play allowed BDS to get their first gold lead of the game.

It took another 10 minutes, but BDS eventually found their first win of the series through team fighting. Nuc, Crownie, and Adam had firmly outscaled their opposition. Sheo won every contested Smite on objectives, and Labrov had found numerous key flanks. This full team performance was a great sign, but BDS still had a long way to go in their comeback.

Game Four

Game four was the most one-sided affair of the series. Two key picks came through for BDS. Firstly, Sheo’s Ivern got through the ban phase and was picked first. Ivern is one of the best supportive junglers in the game and can easily accelerate winning lanes into a won game. BDS’s winningest lane came from Adam who finally got ultimate counterpick. He chose Garen with Ignite into Azhi’s Jax.

Sheo’s Ivern got going early with a minute four gank onto PSG’s bot lane. Assisted by Labrov’s Nautlius, they locked down Alistar for a free first blood on Crownie’s Kai’Sa. Sheo and Labrov then found an immediate gank timing on top lane, giving Adam an early kill as well.

Sheo also got a kill for nuc’s Cassiopeia on Maple, solidifying a lead in every lane for BDS. Using all this gold and pressure, BDS could force plays onto PSG. While some plays were answered well by PSG, they had absolutely no answer for Adam, who started solo killing Azhi on repeat.

Eventually, PSG was unable to respond to BDS in any way. The core of Kai’Sa Alistar Ivern was too fed, and Garen and Casseopeia could go to whatever lane they wanted and win. A decisive teamfight win at 21 minutes led to a Baron buff and end from BDS. The 25-minute game evened the series up at 2-2, prompting Silver Scrapes.

Game Five

The final game of the series was the longest while also having the second lowest kill count. This is in part due to the scaling picks of both teams. PSG took Aphelios and Taliyah in the mid lane. Sheo got a comfort pick in Maokai and Crownie matched scaling with Zeri. Azhi was once again forced to blind pick top, choosing Gnar as his comfort. Adam’s counter was Darius, completing the GOD this series. Most interestingly, nuc used final counterpick to grab Tristana, another scaling ADC threat in mid.

BDS’s strategy is to cover their lanes early on and only fight on their own terms. If they had to give something up, they would. Early kills and Dragons are exchanged. The gold lead is less than 500 at the 15-minute mark. Notably, both of BDS’s kills are on nuc’s Tristana, setting him up for later.

Adam made his first move at around 16 minutes, using Ghost to once again solo kill Azhi in the top lane and get first Turret. PSG focused heavily on taking both Rift Heralds, giving them plate and Turret gold to make up for the kill deficit. Gold was dead even by the 23-minute mark. Here, Adam made a snap play to Flash and pull Wako’s Aphelios in the mid lane. Labrov and the ADCs follow up, netting them the kill and the first Baron.

The power play ends with BDS now up 2.2K. Once Baron is back up, BDS group in mid again. Adam tries the same play, but only grabs JunJia’s Jarvan. Adam dies for this and PSG get the second Baron. PSG’s Turret count doubles from four to eight, slingshotting them ahead in gold.

Anyone’s Game

Baron number three spawns and BDS opts to start it up. Their double ADCs burn it down before PSG can get there, but multiple members of BDS are chased and killed. PSG takes two Inhibitors and sets up for the Dragon Soul fight.

Both teams have three Dragons, meaning that whoever wins this Smite fight gets Soul. It’s Sheo who comes out on top over JunJia, forcing PSG to back off. The final fight of the game happens at 42 minutes in. Sheo starts things off with a Maokai ult to zone, followed by a Labrov Alistar flank. PSG’s lines are all over the place, causing Azhi and Wako to get caught by Adam and Sheo. Nuc comes in for the quadra kill cleanup and the series ends.

 How Far does BDS Go?

With this win, BDS has locked in the final spot at the Worlds 2023 Swiss Stage. They deserve it after that rare reverse sweep performance which exemplified fixing your issues over the course of a series. Their games one and two drafts were quite frankly the antithesis of playing towards their win conditions. Sheo is not a Taliyah player, and Adam on Sion is a waste of his champion pool.

BDS has many Worlds level players for sure. The issue comes from what they can do against the best in the world. The Swiss Stage features the top seeds from the four major regions of LoL, including their fellow European squads the bested them in the regular season. The initial match draw has seeded them against JD Gaming, China’s number one seed and a frontrunner for the Worlds 2023 title.

With BDS’s overreliance on Adam’s top lane dominance and Sheo and nuc’s lack of flexibility, many top teams will find a way to just push through them. That said, Swiss Stage will start with best-of-ones. The possibility of upsetting a high seed with something they aren’t used to is high. If Adam is able to keep playing his signature picks unrestricted and the rest of the map can play their comfort to a high level, they could take some wins. We’ll have to wait and see just how far BDS can go at Worlds 2023.

The Worlds 2023 Swiss Stage begins on October 19 at 1:00 AM ET.