(Disclaimer: the author is also part of an unofficial English broadcast of the LJL. While that provides certain benefits in terms of knowledge of the region, it also comes with certain biases.)
It’s actually happened! The LJL representative to an international tournament is not DetonatioN FocusMe. Instead, it will be new blood V3 Esports taking to the stage. The LJL is somewhat of a mystery to the western world, and with all the old talking points about DFM now moot, viewers and analysts alike are a little uncertain about what to make of the LJL representative.
V3 dominated the Summer Split of the LJL, finishing 12-2, before cinching their worlds spot by taking down none other than DFM in a nail-biting 5-game series. Most importantly, they did it in their own style - DFM, V3 are not. Put it this way, it’s been confirmed they spent a lot of time scrimming VCS tops seed GAM, and they certainly play around their jungler like that’s the case. Don’t make the mistake of applying assumptions about DFM to V3. V3 are faster, more willing to skirmish early, and have some impressive macro fundamentals.
Gotta say, I'm really positively surprised by the LJL representative this year - V3 is a legit team, they don't seem to suffer from the same mechanical deficiencies you see from wildcard teams and they have a fortified identity.— Maurice "Amazing" Stückenschneider (@Amazingx) September 21, 2020
Bugi is also really good.
While Unicorns of Love, Rainbow7 and PSG Talon come in as more known quantities in Group B of play-ins (nevermind LPL’s LGD), V3 will be looking to prove it foolish to dismiss them as a legitimate threat. Not to put too fine a point on it, V3 actually look pretty impressive - and this primer should help explain why.
Top - Paz
Stable, and relatively versatile. He’s largely been relegated to weak-side play this year, but has been a strong presence at teamfights and around objectives. Known for his Ornn, Renekton, and more recently, his Sion, this is a guy who tends to bruisers and tanks.
He has previously looked to harder carry picks like Camille, but that has been a significantly less successful playstyle with the team as a whole. Nevertheless, while Paz doesn’t tend to those picks, it is something he’s brought out in a pinch before.
Some of his laning stats have been a little lacklustre (6.8 cs/m is middling at best), but he’s largely lost lane gracefully when he has been put under pressure - a useful trait when his team is known to prioritise the success of its Botlane and jungler. He’s also a big voice of reason on the team, and allegedly one of the key players in-game for dissecting what the enemy team comp wants to do and how best to counter it.
Jungle - Bugi
Arguably the best player you’ve never heard of - Bugi is potentially the best jungler in play-ins. Considering he’s sharing play-ins with none other than Peanut, Broxah, and Shad0w, that’s high praise indeed.
Known for farming aggressive junglers like Nidalee, Graves and newly meta Lillia, there is frankly little this man doesn’t play. Don’t pigeon-hole him, though, Bugi is more than capable of switching up his play-style as required. He makes Elise look like a teamfight champion, and some of his Lee Sin plays are legendary (check out his 3v5 quadra kill on the champion), and on the opposite extreme he is a talented Trundle.
His DPM, KDA, GPM… well, actually pretty much every stat is top-tier. Of course stats have to be taken in context, and V3 demolished the LJL in summer which always inflates stats. Even so, apply the eye-test and it’s small wonder the LJL as a whole has been hyping this superstar. Junglers rarely exist in a vacuum however, and his team are always quick to follow him up, with the likes of Ace regularly sacking waves to strengthen his jungler’s position alongside Support Raina.
A word to the wise, this man’s pocket Ekko pick is nuts and he’s a notorious solo-queue Evelynn player. If the chips are down, expect one or the other to crop up.
Mid - Ace
If V3 have had a weakness, it’s been Ace’s laning mechanics and variable champion pool. Despite that, his roams have been impeccable, and his willingness to sack waves to tower to win fights elsewhere (usually around wherever Bugi is) have been massively instrumental to V3’s success, even if he hasn’t been traditionally lane dominant. The poor guy rarely gets to touch the minion wave past twenty either, with Archer and Bugi usually funneled the additional resources, letting Ace run on a lower economy with what he can pick up in a sidelane.
To that end, his LeBlanc and Galio have made a player that is often perceived to be quiet look like a different kind of threat, with a much higher degree of aggression and decisiveness. In the past that’s included his Syndra, and more recently his Zoe has also impressed, especially after previous mediocre performances.
The man’s been on a tear in solo-queue too, ratcheting up a 57~% winrate on the Chinese super server in Challenger, putting him currently within the top 10 rankings of World’s pros on the server. That’s not to invoke the old meme of Balls getting stuck in Diamond II at Season 5 Worlds (solo queue really isn’t everything), but it certainly gives hopes to the LJL faithful that Ace’s laning might be on the up
Bot - Archer
Picked up by V3 Esports at the urging of Bugi in the pre-season, Archer is a Korean solo-queue god brought into competitive where he has promptly thrived. In spring he was dominant from ahead and fragile from behind, eventually buckling under the pressure in the semifinals to DFM. In summer, he seems to have learned from that failure and held his own far better on the rare occasion he was put behind. Just check out Game 4 of their finals versus DFM - it was a poignant turnaround from spring.
As for playstyle, he and Support Raina have been the best 2v2 lane in the LJL in Summer Split, contended only by the late resurgence of DFM’s Yutapon and Gaeng. They’ve tended to lane dominant picks, transitioning from prioritising Aphelios/Thresh to Kalista and Ashe paired alongside things like Bard and Sett. The Kalista in particular is a terror because of how it enables Raina and his aggressive playmaking.
Double that up with a tendency to either split the map at level one, or just run Galio mid, and opposing Botlanes need to fear the diving prowess of V3 Esports.
When they are forced to play defensively, or V3 have ended up behind, they’ve looked to funnel resources heavily into Archer as their primary carry, and ensure he has access to waves (normally at the expense of Ace).
That faith has generally been rewarded - he had an average of 600dpm and 9.6cs/m in the regular season, alongside a KDA of 8.7. Compare that to TSM’s Doublelift (501dpm and 9.9cs/m) and G2’s Perkz (540dpm and 9.8cs/m), and you can see Archer is the real deal.
Again, stats aren’t everything, but they are a part of the story. A part that looks pretty damn good for Archer.
Support - Raina
If Bugi is one side of V3’s playmaking coin, then Raina is the other. He was in contention for the best player on V3 this Split, and that’s with Bugi making a mockery out of other junglers.
We’ve already touched a little on the V3 Support’s playstyle, favouring the likes of Sett, Nautilus and Thresh heavily, but his Bard and Tahm Kench are pretty noteworthy too. While his play in lane is very strong (he near single-handedly took CGA apart the first time they met this Split, for example), it's his teamfight decision making that has really raised the bar for the Support.
His eye for not only engages, but singling out and neutralising key enemy abilities and counter engages has been on another level this Split. One of V3’s weaknesses from Spring Split was mid-to-late game teamfighting, but that has not been the case in Summer heavily largely on the back of Raina’s prowess. Blind flays to prevent Wukong clone engages, flash hooks to catch Twisted Fates mid-Destiny ports, landing the one piece of cc to prevent the enemy ADC running over an otherwise lost teamfight versus DFM… this guy ticks all the teamfight boxes.
He’s a key part of V3’s impressive vision game, too. While his wards per minute aren’t the insanity of someone like Proud (who was 2.48 w/m in the LJL playoffs), he and the rest of V3 are ruthless about scouring enemy wards and protecting their own around the river jungle entrances. Many have (very legitimately) favoured Unicorns of Love over V3 Esports in Group B of play-ins, but UoL’s penchant for playing through Mid and Bot and collapsing onto objectives may prove harder to pull off versus V3 due to their impressive vision set-ups - and that is heavily facilitated by Raina.
With an idea of what the roster of V3 looks like, it’s worth exploring what they do that sets them apart from other teams. In other words, what are some of their characteristic plays?
Early Jungle set-ups
V3’s plans for the first 10-12 minutes of a game - especially regarding jungle pathing - are very precise. Split map? They’ll have it planned and warding patterns pre-prepared, and will set-up their lanes for the inevitable dive two minutes after. Invade raptors as Nidalee? Bring up the support and keep the enemy Graves trapped on his red buff. They are very adept at playing to a plan, and have been impressively co-ordinated when it comes to pulling off these early macro moves. One of the keys to that is of course…
Support Bugi at all costs
Most of these early plans revolve around giving Bugi an edge in the jungle, be that in tempo or camps. He then either uses it to snowball himself, or impact other lanes (usually Bot or Mid). For this playstyle to work though, V3 have to be willing to back up their Jungler, particularly in early skirmishes. At least within the LJL, V3 have been faster to the punch when backing up their Jungler and more willing to sacrifice position in their own lanes to win the bigger prize elsewhere.
A great example of this is how V3 backed up Bugi’s Lillia in Game 3 of their upper-bracket playoff series versus Sengoku Gaming. Blank’s Graves (of ex-SKT fame) had won a smite fight over Lillia’s blue buff only the minute before, was up a level and was wanting to push his advantage. I
Instead, Bugi manages to not only secure both Scuttle crabs, but earned his team two kills over the following skirmishes - including one onto Blank. Central to the turnaround was how fast V3’s lanes were at responding to the two skirmishes, where Sengoku were a beat too late to leave their lanes.
Other play-ins teams would do well to be prepared to fight over early jungle priority - and to make the decision fast.
With Bugi ahead, stage two often becomes diving Bot lane. This is especially prevalent if V3 have drafted for it, because you can nearly guarantee they’ll have tried to have either Bugi start topside and path Bot, or really forced it and split the map to isolate Bot.
Check out V3’s first match against CGA in the summer split, and you’ll get the picture. Split map, teleport on the Midlaner (and a willingness to sack his wave), and some brutal hook accuracy prior to the clip as a cherry on top make this a perfect example.
It is worth noting V3 did change things up in playoffs, looking to punish weakside Shen with Lillia jungle, so while this section reads “dive Bot,” V3 have been more than willing to mirror the set-up where the game plan calls for it.
The dreaded phrase: “lane swaps”. Viewers may shudder to remember the days of Season 6, but this particular macro move has been starting to rear its head again - and V3 have found success with the tactic. The key key is getting Sion for Paz, and grabbing Archer’s patented Aphelios.
Previously, Archer was one of the LJL’s premier Aphelios players and occasionaly still pulls it out. Namely, when V3 are looking to lane swap. Despite the deluge of nerfs the Weapon of the Faithful has undergone, Severum/Crescendum still shreds towers, and add in a cull to maximise profits and a Sion to neuter the opposition’s attempts to trade tower pressure on the other side of the map, and V3 have found some very elegant ways to get Aphelios online in fewer than 200 years.
(Picture: Riot Games).
The other key is what the opposing ADC is. A utility carry like Ashe or Jhin are less frightening if they’re somewhat accelerated compared to the likes of a Kai’sa or a Kog’maw. If V3 do look to pull out this strat, they’ll likely want to do it in part to punish the prevalence of these more utility focused carries.
How to Attack V3
It’s all well and good knowing how V3 tend to play the game, but how have teams looked to take down V3? What weaknesses could other play-ins teams look to exploit? Here are some of the most practical:
1) Stifle bot - It reduces Raina’s playmaking, and keeps nominal carry Archer under control. Besides, this is still Archer’s first year of professional play, and targeting the rookie is as tried and true a method as any of hunting for weakness in a team. This also heavily affects V3’s vision game, as Raina tends to be central to defending river vision with Bugi.
2) Track Bugi - If V3’s jungler doesn’t get anything done early, then V3 can end up stalling until they can teamfight at 20 plus minutes - more than enough time to wrestle the game out of V3’s hands. Remember this is likely going to involve beating V3 to the punch around early river and jungle skirmishes.
3) Attack Ace - Both his champ pool and laning have been suspect - if you can murder him in lane, it’s possible to snowball from there. Just make sure he can’t roam and that Bugi doesn’t countergank you.
As a final note, V3’s tendency to leave Paz as weak-side is always a port of call for teams looking to abuse less defended areas of the map. The important thing will be to not give up too much in trade elsewhere.
Coming into play-ins, these are the picks to watch for from V3:
Sett - a four-way flex, but primarily ends up in Mid or Support. Both Ace and Raina have run over early objective fights with the champion, and the draft flexibility of the pick is some of the highest in the game.
Galio - V3 love to back up their playmakers of Bugi and Raina, and Galio is one of the best (and fastest) follow-up tools available. Galio also sures up Ace’s often lacklustre laning, because the success of the pick is rarely dictated by how well it performs in lane but rather how often it manages to leave.
Lillia - Kanavi eat your heart out. While that statement might be facetious, Bugi is really good at this champion. Really good. If nothing else, the sheer farming speed and teamfight power of the pick is to be respected. You have been warned.
(Picture: Riot Games)
Sion - The true key to V3’s lane swaps. There is no better weakside top-laner to play in a lane swap. You can abuse Sion’s passive at level 1 to clear parts of the jungle, and then teleport to lane and clear waves at tower with decimate. As an added benefit, you outpush the other prevalent weakside Toplaner Shen, so you can often nullify his split-push options.
Worlds play-ins begin on 25/09 at 9:00am BST. V3 Esports will play for the first time on 26/09 at 9:00am BST. All games can be viewed on the LoL Esports website, or its associated YouTube and Twitch streams.