《Welcome to Summoner’s Rift!》
Game 1 of Hand of God versus SSK was underway. Hand of God decided to go with a lane swap, sending their bot lane top. Nightsong played Jinx while SSK’s Toplaner played Fiora. HoG both wanted to make sure that the Jinx scaled into the mid game, so that Nightsong could carry them into the late game, as well as stopping the Fiora from getting any farm. If she was starved of resources in the early game, she wouldn’t be having much fun. This way, HoG took care of two of their five win conditions.
The third of five win conditions for Hand of God was that Daybreak Hermes didn’t lose his lane. A steep task with his choice of Champion. It was a Yasuo versus Kassadin matchup. Both Champions were rather vulnerable pre Level 6. So HoG decided to make use of this. Their Support, who played Janna, roamed up to mid lane at 5:10 minutes and forced Rake to Flash away to safety. It wasn’t a kill. But a Kassadin without Flash pre Level 6 couldn’t apply any pressure to the lane. If he did, HoG could come for another gank and he’d be dead.
The Hand of God fans all across the world started cheering at their computer screens or TVs, including those watching Su Xue’s stream. The streamer herself jumped up from her gaming chair and threw her hands up in the air. She laughed and cheered, “NICE! He forced the Flash! He forced the Flash! They can do it! They’re doing it! Let’s go HoG!”
Lin Feng looked up at Su Xue and rubbed his chin. “Yeah. Not a bad start for HoG.”
The game went on. Hand of God was playing well across the entire map. Then, at 8:10 minutes, their Jungler went to top lane for a gank on the Fiora. Nightsong and his Support had been pushing the Fiora deep underneath her outer tower and punished her whenever she tried to come out for some last hits. Rek’Sai Burrowed into the ground and moved through the tri-brush towards SSK’s top lane outer tower. She dug a tunnel and arrived right underneath the Fiora, where she Unburrowed. Nightsong didn’t need someone to tell him what to do. His Jinx got excited as she fired off her minigun, piercing the Fiora with bullets and killing her.
《An ally has been slain!》
The Janna made a slight miscalculation. She thought she had enough health to tank one more tower hit. She did not, and ended up giving away a kill. But Nightsong got the all important first blood on his Jinx. That was the only thing Hand of God’s fans cared about right now. Their team was doing it! They were winning! The impossible suddenly started looking sort of possible! SSK wasn’t stomping HoG! There were openings for HoG, chances for them to win this game! Hope grew among the fans.
And then it shattered. It all came crashing down. At 10 minutes, SSK decided to make a play. Rake decided to show the world why he was the best player in the world. Together with his Jungler, he walked into HoG’s upper jungle, dodging the wards. Hand of God had no idea what was happening. The last they saw of the Kassadin was him recalling back to base. But the Kassadin wasn’t back in base. He was walking toward the Jinx and Janna in top lane together with his Lee Sin.
The Fiora pushed. The Jinx and Janna knew something was up. They retreated back to their outer tower. But that was precisely what SSK wanted them to do. The Kassadin and Lee Sin were waiting in the jungle brush right below the outer tower. And when the Jinx and Janna felt safe underneath their tower, they showed themselves. The three from SSK jumped on the two from HoG and made an end to any hopes of an upset. They picked up two kills without giving one away.
Lin Feng looked at the stream. Then he looked at the chat and at Su Xue sitting next to him. The excitement from a moment ago was gone, and with good reason. SSK had flexed their muscles. They’d given a reminder to the world that they were the best. That HoG could try all they wanted, but that it was them who would take this game and then the series. Lin Feng shook his head. This was what he’d expected that would happen. Hand of God just wasn’t good enough. This series was more than just difficult.
The game had slipped out of Hand of God’s control before they even realized it. At 15 minutes, they found themselves at a 3,000 gold deficit. This was a large enough gap that every fight felt like SSK had an extra Champion on the Rift. It was the gold equivalent to a full item. One SSK made full use of two minutes later at the dragon pit. Both teams were hovering around the alcove in which the Dragon slumbered, firing off skillshots at each other and trying to find a pick. To find the angle so that they could win the teamfight and then slay the Dragon.
The Lee Sin found that angle. His Sonic Wave connected with Nightsong’s Jinx. He activated the second part of his skill–Resonating Strike–and dashed towards the Jinx. Then he flashed through the Jinx and appeared behind her before turning around and hitting her with a roundhouse kick–Dragon’s Rage! The Jinx was launched towards SSK’s team, who made quick work of her. Rake picked up the kill.
While the players from HoG turned on the Lee Sin, The Fiora from SSK had pathed around the dragon pit and walked right into HoG’s backline to help her Jungler. All the while Kassadin lingered around the edge of the fight, waiting for his opportunity. The Janna moved forward a little. Just enough to be in range of a Rift Walk. The Kassadin jumped on her, dealing splash damage. He followed up with a Null Sphere, an orb of void energy that dealt magic damage, and also canceled the Janna’s Monsoon within half a second after her casting it. Then he hit her with a Force Pulse, unleashing the residual power of collected magic, before stabbing her to death with his Nether Blade.
SSK won the teamfight. There was no hope for Hand of God after losing their ad-carry before the fight even started. Hand of God did end up killing the Lee Sin, the silver lining around a deep pit of despair. Rake got a triple kill. The Fiora picked up a kill and two assists. SSK’s carries were fed. They took the Dragon and from it they got a buff to their physical and magical damage. Then they pushed down the wave in bot lane and picked up a tower. Four kills, a Dragon and a tower. And all it cost them was one death. Their Jungler. Not even a carry. They came out big in this teamfight and had just about secured a win.
The Hand of God fans all across the world were silenced. Their hopes were crushed. SSK was too strong. Hand of God had no chances of winning this series. Or even a game. The fans didn’t start flaming Hand of God. Most of them didn’t, at least. But they also didn’t cheer. Stream chats all across HuyaTV were empty. Despite there being thousands of people in the stream, there was almost no one typing.
SSK wasn’t a team to let an advantage slip from their fingers. They capitalized on the play at Dragon and only pulled further ahead from there. More and more kills were coming their way. Hand of God had to give up objectives to them and were forced to protect their base, afraid to even step out into their own lanes or jungle. Then, as the game reached the 27th minute, SSK dealt the killing blow. They towerdove into HoG’s base and Aced them. A clean ace. Zero for five. The nexus exploded 20 seconds later.
Though HoG had enjoyed the early advantage, SSK decided to show the world why they were the best team. Su Xue had a hard time accepting this. She was still riding the high of Hand of God’s early game and was desperate to see them win. Watching SSK win felt like a bad dream to her. She muttered, “H-how did this happen? How did we lose? We had such a good start! HoG was so far ahead! I thought they’d win for sure! How did SSK turn that around?”
Lin Feng scratched the back of his head. This outcome was the most likely one. The momentum was now in favour of SSK. HoG would have to pull something truly special if they hoped to turn this around. Their odds had dropped even lower than they already were before the first game. Lin Feng really couldn’t see a world in which they’d do the impossible.
Hand of God was the Red team in game 2. They put their best foot forward, giving it their all. But there were no fancy tactics or tricks that could surprise SSK. It became another game where Rake showcased to the world why everyone called him the best player in the world. His Support helped him jumpstart his lane with an early gank at Level 3. He got a kill on his Fizz against Hermes’ Viktor. A fed Fizz was a deadly fish. Rake kept the pressure on and only a few minutes later, at 6 minutes, he picked up a solo kill on the Viktor.
Four minutes later, SSK was winning in every lane. They’d opened up a 4,000 gold lead and it was looking very difficult for HoG to do anything about it. No matter how HoG tried, from a teamfight at 15 minutes that ended in them losing all five members for two kills to a last ditch effort at 30 minutes where they lost all five players without getting a single kill, nothing worked. Their deficit just became larger and larger, reaching far beyond 10,000 gold by the end of the game, until their nexus exploded after 32 minutes of playing.
SSK 2 – 0 HoG
Hand of God found themselves with their backs against the wall. One more loss and it would be all over. Their dreams of lifting the Summoner’s Cup would end. The fans felt just as nervous, sweating behind their computers. Their team had to win! It was still possible! All Hand of God had to do was to win the next three games! A reverse sweep! It’d happened before!
But it didn’t happen this time. SSK decided to end the third game fast and decisively. Rake played LeBlanc mid. He achieved the Legendary status within 20 minutes. Hermes didn’t stand a chance. Even walking into lane felt dangerous. And when he didn’t, or hesitated, Rake would roam top or bot and pick up kills there. No one was safe. It wasn’t even fun to watch anymore towards the end. The only positive point for HoG was that SSK didn’t drag the game and ended it just short of 25 minutes in.
The online forums didn’t descend into chaos. No one wanted to flame Hand of God. They’d played their best and given it their all. There was nothing to blame them for. SSK was just better. The millions of Hand of God fans across the globe, though most were located in China, slumped back in their seats and shook their heads as they watched the screen. It was over. Their hopes for a World Championships title were gone. They’d have to wait for next year.
The stream showed the players from SSK. They were laughing and joking together. It looked like they were just having a good time, and not as if they’d just come out of a grueling quarterfinals series at the World Championships for League of Legends. Like this was just another day for them. Then the camera focused on Rake. He wasn’t laughing with his teammates. Rather, he sat behind his computer and looked at the post game lobby. There was no change in his expression from the start of the first game. He looked as calm as ever, a calmness that was borne from the absolute confidence he had in his own skills and in his teammates. They were the best.
Lin Feng looked at his old rival. He didn’t hear Su Xue blabbering on next to his ear, or the viewers typing in chat. His full attention was on Rake. The only person he’d ever lost to. Just wait. I’m training. I’ll get stronger again. We’ll fight again and I’ll win this time. Just wait. I’ll be back.
Day 3 of the quarterfinals came to an end. SSK made it through to the semis and HoG was sent home. The only Chinese hope left at Worlds was KG. They felt the pressure of an entire region resting on their shoulders. Lin Feng was well aware of this. And the heavy burden this placed on Tian Tian. So, after ending the stream with Su Xue and retreating to his own room, he took out his phone and made a long distance call to France.
“Hey, Fatty! How are you! Excited for tomorrow?”
“H-hey, Lin Feng. I-i’m ok.”
“What is that? You don’t sound all that good!”
“Eh, i-it’s just…”
“Nope! That’s not the Fatty I know! The Fatty I know would be talking about winning!”
“I-i’m going to win!”
“So you’re going to carry?”
“Y-yes. I’ll carry my team to victory!”
“And then what?”
Tian Tian had nothing to say. He had no idea how to respond to that question…