The 2019 World Championship semifinals showed what the LPL was about: all-out, nonstop action around objectives, from Level 1 until the games ended. In Game 2, both teams contributed to a World Championship kill record in one game, scoring 59 kills total. As a result, with so much action, FPX and iG’s macro game plans came down to whether they could execute team fights properly, and FPX had the better outcomes in three games out of four.
On the wake of their performance, FunPlus Phoenix have showed their ability to adapt to cleaner macro styles and to all-out aggression, bringing the latter on the world stage. That style could reap dividends against an organized and orderly SK Telecom T1, but should G2 Esports triumph in the other semifinal, predictions would have to account for too many volatile factors.
Specifically, FPX and G2 have showed unpredictable drafts and flexing wars with quirky picks, as well as a willingness to fight very early on. Although the Chinese team plays around Doinb’s pushing and playmaking picks, G2 Esports have used Pyke, Qiyana and Gragas as multiple position picks. Should they meet in the finals, insanity is guaranteed to ensue.
The series, as it happened
FPX frequently banned Kai’Sa and Kayle, the combination Invictus Gaming used to beat Griffin 3-1 in the quarterfinals. As a result, iG were left looking for combinations throughout the series, eventually finding success with Gragas until their opponents claimed him for themselves in the series’ final game. As for the picks FPX employed, Nautilus was the cornerstone of their draft—be it support or mid in Doinb’s hands.
In Game 1, FunPlus Phoenix tossed Nautilus onto their support, Crisp, and used Tian’s Qiyana and Doinb’s Rumble to shut down fights before they began, as Invictus Gaming frequently found themselves down two players within a very short time window. FPX’s ambush coordination around Qiyana’s Supreme Display of Talent and Rumble’s Equalizer led to the most one-sided game of the series.
From the 8th minute onwards, Doinb’s roams and team fight presence were iG’s bane. A 8:50 dive resulted in a 2 for 1, whereas an ultimately decisive Rift Herald fight at the 15:50 mark led to a 4-0 and Herald for FPX.
However, heading into Game 2, Invictus Gaming held a minor distinction going into the matchup as the sole LPL team to beat FunPlus Phoenix during the 2019 LPL summer split. Ultimately, they demonstrated that they could face FPX with the same strength as they did with the most team fight filled game of World Championship history—31 kills for iG, 28 for FPX.
With both teams having compositions that excelled in slightly different team fight settings, it was all about which team fought on their terms. For a while, it seemed that FPX’s Blitzcrank-Nautilus combination would hold the upper hand, but iG’s Vladimir-Varus-Gragas deathball answered strongly.
It took 10 team fights between the 22:40 mark and 41:30, with FPX getting a desirable outcome in five of them. However, Ning’s Gragas was the artisan of iG’s victory, with his picks (Flash-Body Slam into Explosive Cask combinations) leading to stronger base pressure.
With the series evened out, FPX drafted towards their bot lane, with Tian’s Qiyana and Doinb’s Nautilus propelling them to victory. In a more controlled game—the likes of which FPX played against Splyce in the group stage—FPX shined. The sole major early-game incident, a 10:30 Rift Herald team fight, went 4-for-3 in iG’s favor, but FPX claimed Rift Herald and used it to great effect.
From that point forward, Tian dictated the outcome of the game through excellent Qiyana ultimate usage and single-minded focus on iG’s carries. In that setting, TheShy’s Lucian and JackeyLove’s Ezreal struggled to flourish, so did Rookie’s Jayce. iG’s poke composition eventually crumbled in 25 minutes as their deficits piled up team fight after team fight.
With their tournament life on the line, Invictus Gaming were given a lifeline in the draft as they secured the Kayle-Kai’Sa combination that led them to the semifinals. However, iG’s aggressive early-game plans nearly derailed their chances; a botched Level 1 invade caused much grief to Ning’s Olaf and TheShy’s Kayle in the starting minutes, causing both to concede early kills.
Although FunPlus Phoenix held control of the early game and stockpiled a 3k gold lead at the 16-minute mark, their greed caused their downfall in two back-to-back Baron Nashor team fights (20:30 and 22:00). As such, they endured iG’s Baron-buffed lane pressure and preyed on their positioning mistakes repeatedly. Thus, the game was without rest and threatened to beat Game 2’s record—ending at 55 kills total.
It all came down to iG’s siege of FPX’s mid lane inhibitor and a crucial mispositioning from TheShy’s Kayle at the 33:40 mark. As Lwx’s Varus pinned Kayle in place, and as Doinb’s Nautilus CC’d her on the spot (without a chance to use her ultimate), iG were left reeling in a 4v5 situation and eventually conceded a 5-for-1.