LPL Spring Playoffs Semifinals: JDG, iG Advance to Finals
The 2019 LPL Spring Split Finals are set. Reigning World Champions Invictus Gaming will meet JD Gaming at Foshan International Sports Performing Arts Center on April 20 for the title. JD Gaming upset top seed FunPlus Phoenix 3-2 in the first semifinals match to continue their impressive playoff run. Invictus Gaming shut down up-and-comers Topsports Gaming 3-1 in the other semifinals to earn their title berth.
SEMIFINALS: JD GAMING UPSET TOP SEED FUNPLUS PHOENIX
JD Gaming continued their impressive run from round one of the playoffs with an upset 3-2 win over top seed FunPlus Phoenix in the semifinals.
FunPlus Phoenix struck first in game 1. Kim “GimGoon” Han-saem’s Kennen teleported bot at 11 minutes to pick up the first two kills of the game and secure the turret kill for FPX. The first two mountain drakes also went over to FPX, but JD Gaming kept the game close by winning the fight following FPX’s second drake take four kills to three.
FPX made the call to start Baron at 22 minutes, despite JD Gaming having the gold lead. JDG were very tentative in walking up, so FPX burned it down and finished before JDG could truly contest it. JDG picked up two kills to one on the backend, but FPX clearly won out on that trade.
The two teams traded big objectives at 36 minutes—JDG took Baron while FPX took Elder Drake. Even though JDG had Baron, FPX pushed up mid lane wanting to fight with their shorter buff. Zeng “Yagao” Qi obliged, stepping too far forward and forcing Zuo “LvMao” Ming-Hao’s Tahm Kench to save him at the expense of LvMao’s life.
Kim “Doinb” Tae-sang’s Morgana hit a crucial binding on Gu “Imp” Seung-bin’s Varus and FPX were able to use that pick to start their game-winning fight. Even though they had to dive two turrets, FPX came out on top with GimGoon’s zone control and Lin “Lwx” Wei-Xiang’s Kalista damage. FPX won game one in 40 minutes, finishing up 17 kills to 8. GimGoon was named game one MVP for his 3/1/11 Kennen performance.
JD Gaming wasted no time in getting back into the series. Gao “Tian” Tian-Liang’s Olaf and Doinb’s Ryze tried to to kill Sung “Flawless” Yeon-jun’s Kindred in his own jungle at five minutes, but Flawless survived. Now caught in JDG’s jungle, FPX got collapsed on by the rest of JDG’s team. Zhang “Zoom” Xing-Ran’s Sylas teleported down to round up FPX, and JDG picked up four kills for zero and an early 2K gold lead.
Imp and LvMao outplayed a 2v3 fight bot lane at 8:30 for three kills, and JD Gaming were up seven kills to zero and 3K gold. JDG extended that lead to 11 kills to 1 when they forced Baron at 21 minutes. FPX picked up two kills, but JDG secured the Baron and ace. They pushed for the win at 22 minutes, up 16 kills to 3. Imp was named game two MVP for his 6/0/9 Ashe score and game-high 14.2K damage dealt.
The series swung back to FPX in game three. As much as JDG controlled game two, FPX controlled game three throughout. GimGoon was back on his comfortable Kennen, Doinb was again piloting his Righteous Glory rush Ryze, and Tian’s Rek’Sai got ahead early and was able to solo out Imp’s Ashe.
FPX were up 5K gold at 22 minutes, courtesy of turret and CS leads, when they engaged on JDG in the top river. A full 5v5 fight broke out as FPX chased into JDG’s jungle and GimGoon fell after being isolated on a flank attempt. JDG then turned around onto FPX, hoping to leverage their numbers advantage. But JDG could not take down Doinb and his Ryze carried the 4v5, surviving their engage and pumping out consistent damage. Lwx’s Varus fell, but FPX killed the five members of JDG and turned to Baron.
FPX ended using that Baron buff on their next push. The final tally was a 15 kills to 6 win in 26:30. Tian was named MVP for his 5/1/6 and game high 13.9k damage Rek’Sai performance, but Doinb’s 4/1/6 Ryze was also instrumental in the win.
Game four was the most action-packed of the series. The two teams combined for 44 kills in 35 minutes, easily eclipsing a kill per minute. Even with JDG’s season on the line, and FPX one win away from the finals, these teams were showing no hesitation in this game.
JDG held the early lead in their attempt to prolong the series. Tian’s Rek’Sai started 4/0/3 in the first 13 minutes for 100% kill participation, taking cloud and infernal drakes to buff up his team. Their one area of concern, though, was that Imp’s Varus was falling far behind to Lwx’s Kog’Maw.
JDG showed their concern by dumping everything on Lwx to kill him in a 5v5 fight at 22 minutes, but lost the fight in the process. The consistent damage from Doinb’s Ryze and Tian’s Nocturne made up for the immediate loss of Kog’Maw and suddenly FPX were in the driver’s seat to advance.
FPX won the next two fights as well and took Baron at 27 minutes. Things looked grim for JDG. They were down 3K gold, FPX had the better scaling composition, and FPX now had Baron buff to push for even more. But JDG kept fighting.
FPX pushed forward after their Baron take, not content to back off and reset with their buff. JDG punished that choice. Yagao re-spawned and immediately teleported behind FPX. Again instead of backing away, FPX camped on Yagao’s teleport ward to try to burst him down immediately. Yagao flashed out and eventually died, but he bought enough time for his team. LvMao hit a great Bard ult on all three remaining FPX members, and Zoom and Imp cleaned them up, including Tian’s Guardian Angel.
FPX still had the gold lead and scaling advantage, but they inexplicably allowed JDG to quickly sneak Baron at 33 minutes. Bard portal allowed JDG to walk out unscathed.
GimGoon’s Poppy tried to flank JDG’s push at 35 minutes, but disaster struck for FPX. A combination of Zoom’s Jayce and Imp’s Varus poke killed Lwx’s Kog’Maw as GimGoon went for the engage. LvMao then turned around and ulted FPX’s turret to allow JDG to dive the four-man squad. JDG won that fight five kills to one and ended the game. After a rough start, Imp was named game four MVP with an 8/4/11 Varus score and critical snipe onto Lwx to seal it.
Tian attacked Zoom with early ganks all series long. Therefore, it was no surprise that FPX sent three top at eight minutes to kill his very squishy Gangplank before he could get going. But even though FPX attacked him early and had the early five kills to one advantage, FPX still couldn’t do enough to stop Zoom from carrying JDG into the finals.
JDG, despite their early kill deficit, retained lane priority and took the first four turrets of the game to build a 4k gold lead at 20 minutes. JDG started Baron at 29 minutes but were immediately punished. Doinb’s Cassiopeia had come online and Tian hit a great flash knock up for a two-kills-to-one fight win for FPX. FPX returned to Baron and secured it before the rest of JDG could force them off, but JDG won the ensuing fight. Imp’s Varus picked up a triple kill and Zoom’s Gangplank picked up a double kill to wipe the Baron from FPX and give JDG a 3.5K gold lead.
FPX engaged on JDG mid at 36 minutes, trying to catch out Zoom. His Stopwatch saved Zoom and Yagao’s Leblanc assassinated Doinb to give JDG two kills for zero. FPX still had the health advantage and Lwx’s Kog’Maw up and tried to retreat for an Elder Drake take. Zoom had other ideas.
Zoom teleported in behind the remaining FPX members and cleaned them up. With that play JDG were able to push through bot lane and finish FPX’s Nexus to secure their spot in the finals. Zoom was named game five MVP for that play and his 8/2/6 score on Gangplank in the series finale.
It was a disappointing end for FunPlus Phoenix, but they have qualified for 2019 Rift Rivals. JD Gaming will advance from round 1 all the way to the finals, where they will take on reigning world champions Invictus Gaming.
SEMIFINALS: INVICTUS GAMING SCHOOL TOPSPORTS GAMING
Invictus Gaming showcased their experience edge over Topsports Gaming to advance to the LPL Spring Finals after their 3-1 win.
Topsports picked Jayce early for Bai “369” Jia-Hao, but Gao “Ning” Zhen-Ning’s Rek’Sai would not leave Kang “TheShy” Seung-lok’s Ryze out to dry. Ning attacked 369 pre-three minutes to give TheShy First Blood while iG’s bot lane traded one for one on a dive from Xiong “Xx” Yu-Long’s Olaf.
369 was ganked twice more before 10 minutes and iG had the perfect counter to TOP’s early Jayce priority. iG had a huge scaling advantage in composition, so sitting ahead four kills to one and 1K gold at 10 minutes was basically game over for TOP’s early focused team of Jayce, Olaf, and Kalista.
A 5v5 bot lane at 30 minutes cemented iG’s game 1 win. TheShy kicked it off by diving 369 between his bot turrets and everyone from both teams joined in. In the end four members of iG were left standing to none of TOP and iG were able to end the game on that push. iG finished game one up 14 kills to 5 in 31 minutes. Ning was named game one MVP for his 4/2/6 Rek’Sai, shutting down 369’s Jayce from the get-go.
Zhuo “Knight” Ding is a star and may have had a better regular season than Song “Rookie” Eui-jin, but Rookie had a surprise for Knight to kick off game two. Knight’s Jayce pushed too far forward mid lane at six minutes, and even with a full creep wave fighting against him, Rookie’s Akali soloed Knight to pick up First Blood for iG.
TOP picked up the next five kills of the game, but iG were still the ones getting the objectives. They picked up infernal and Rift Herald to secure their late-game scaling into the physical damage heavy composition from TOP.
TOP tried to take Baron at 21 minutes after killing Yu “JackeyLove” Wen-Bo’s Kog’Maw, but they were too slow to peel off when iG contested and were punished. iG picked up four kills for one and, though Knight picked up two more kills while iG tried to finish Baron, iG were back ahead in gold with the superior scaling composition.
iG pushed into TOP’s base with open inhibitors at 28 minutes. TOP tried to engage, but had no front line to stand up to the damage from Ryze, Akali, and Kog’Maw. iG picked up three kills for one and used their numbers advantage to finish the game. iG were up 17 kills to 14 in their 29 minute win. TheShy’s 6/1/5 Ryze earned him game two MVP.
With their backs against the wall, Topsports Gaming made a lineup change for game three. A combined 0/8/5 score in the first two games from 369 resulted in Xiong “Moyu” Hui-Dong coming on to top lane for TOP in their must-win game three.
Whether Moyu presented new problems for TheShy, or TheShy just had an off game, the switch worked for TOP in game 3. Moyu played his signature Kennen and had a bigger impact on the game than TheShy’s Viktor, finishing 3/6/12 to TheShy’s 0/8/13. The real carry for TOP, though, was Knight.
Getting First Blood from a three-man roam and ill-advised teleport from Rookie, Knight’s Akali took the game over for TOP. A triple kill at 22 minutes gave TOP the ace and gave Knight a 7/1/2 score on Akali. He would go on to finish 11/1/6 to be named game three MVP in TOP’s 44-minute win. Xx’s jungle Urgot also fared well, finishing 8/3/10. Ning finished 11/4/3 on Rek’Sai in a losing effort.
TOP kept Moyu in for game four, but he got the same treatment as 369 on Jayce. Ning ganked top for First Blood again, then killed him with two more ganks pre-14 minutes. Moyu recovered better than 369 did earlier in the series, but iG’s game plan was clear.
iG looked like they were coasting to the finals until 24 minutes. iG tried to pick off Xx’s Olaf but bit off more than they could chew. The rest of TOP was ready to collapse and did, killing Ning and continuing on to chase down Wang “Baolan” Liu-Yi’s Nautilus. TOP then started Baron to force a fight, but iG were up to the task. JackeyLove’s Varus shredded TOP in the 3v5, picking up a double kill.
iG tried to force on TOP again at 27 minutes and were again thwarted. Knight had fancy footwork to avoid death in his top jungle while Ning and Baolan again fell to TOP to give them a 1K gold lead. TOP again started Baron, this time finishing it, but iG again won the ensuing fight. TheShy’s Vladimir with JackeyLove’s Varus wiped the rest of TOP to eliminate the Baron buff and even the gold once again.
After taking TOP’s bot inhibitor, iG reset and moved to Baron at 35 minutes to try to close the series. Moyu was caught trying to clear minion waves bot and iG were able to pick it up uncontested. iG pushed down mid lane and caught Xx lazily moving from his jungle for an easy pick, setting iG up for an easy winning push. iG finished the game up 22 kills to 18 in their 37-minute win. JackeyLove’s 7/2/8 Varus performance earned him game four MVP.
Topsports Gaming look like one of the top contenders heading into the 2019 LPL Summer Split. We’ll get to see them play again as they qualified for 2019 Rift Rivals. Invictus Gaming won the 2018 World Championship but did not win either the LPL Spring or Summer Splits. They’ll have a chance to win the 2019 Spring Split against JD Gaming on April 20.