Imaginary Opponent

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Yan Liang and Liu Zhengjie were proud of their achievements in League of Legends. They knew that they were some of the best players the game had to offer. In China, anyways. They also had the arrogance that went with this pride, looking down on the many weaker players they matched up against. But they didn’t let this go to their heads. They were very good at the game, yes. But they were also aware that they weren’t the best. There were plenty of players out there who were better at different aspects of the game. That’s why they accepted their loss last game. But the series wasn’t over. Assuming they didn’t lose again, they had three more games to prove to everyone that they were the better team. So Yan Liang and Liu Zhengjie prepared for the next game with greater focus than before. They were ready to face High School 13’s team comp this time, so they banned out the Annie and Draven. Everything was set for Shanghai International to win Game 2.

Yan Liang locked in his Champion, then stared at the players from High School 13 on the other side of the stage. “Let’s see them try and use that strategy again. I dare them!” he said over Shanghai International’s voice chat.

Liu Zhengjie clicked on the icon of his Champion and then locked his choice in. He grinned wickedly, and said, “Bot is already won. I’ll show that stupid girl what a real ad-carry looks like!”

Game 2 of the Shanghai 16 School Tournament Semifinals:

Shanghai International (Blue) versus High School 13 (Red)
Top lane: Irelia versus Rumble
Jungle: Lee Sin versus Rek’Sai
Mid lane: LeBlanc versus Twisted Fate
AD-carry: Lucian versus Kalista
Support: Thresh versus Leona

“I didn’t see that coming…” Silent Reed mumbled, though her voice still traveled through the venue. Shanghai International had picked LeBlanc first. High School 13 responded to that with Twisted Fate.

Westwind nodded, raising an eyebrow at the Twisted Fate pick. Then his lips curved into a devious smile. He grabbed the microphone and started hyping up the crowd. “Last game, we had Annie versus Twisted Fate. We all saw what happened. RIGHT?” He waited for the crowd’s response, a loud cheer, then continued, “Now we got LeBlanc, who is also a high burst damage bully just like Annie, versus Twisted Fate! It’s effectively the same situation, just that the sides are switched. Yan Liang is getting a shot at redemption!”

The crowd erupted into louder cheers. Most of them were Silver to Gold League of Legends players. When they saw the LeBlanc versus Twisted Fate match-up, it always went the LeBlanc’s way. She did too much damage and the Twisted Fate had nothing in his kit that could help him counter her. So they started shouting in support of Yan Liang, especially his fellow students from Shanghai International.

“High School 13 is stupid! Easy win for Yan Liang!”
“Haha! Go Shanghai International! You guys got this!”
“That TF is a dumbass. Getting all cocky cause he won as Annie. ”
“LeBlanc hard counters Twisted Fate! That Lin Feng guy is gonna rekt!”
“Jesus, why would they pick TF into LB…”

Near the front of the sage, Zeng Rui sat with his teammates in the private seating area for players. He wasn’t as quick to jump to conclusions as the crowd or casters. The thundering dumbass had proved him wrong too many times. Twisted Fate into LeBlanc… I can see what you’re trying to do. It’s just… While casual fans llike those in the crowd only looked at the lane match-up, he looked at the bigger picture. High School 13 hadn’t picked Twisted Fate to beat LeBlanc in the mid lane. They’d picked Twisted Fate for map pressure. He could team up with the Rek’Sai, another equally mobile Champion, and get a gank off anywhere on the map in a matter of seconds. They could use this to dictate the pace of the game and force a win. Shanghai International isn’t that bad. Yan Liang and the others won’t let this happen.

Back on the stage, Yan Liang glared at Lin Feng. He hated being looked down on, but he was also a little happy. Last game was a disgrace for him, something he wanted to wipe from his mind as quickly as possible. Lin Feng gave him that opportunity. This fucking idiot picked Twisted Fate. Ha! Does he not know my Twisted Fate is the best? He smiled, sinister. I’ll make you regret this so much!

An Xin glanced over at Shanghai International’s side of the stage and caught Yan Liang glaring ov here. She followed his gaze to Lin Feng, then grinned and shook her head. She walked up to Tang Bingyao and patted her on her shoulder, whispering, “This game is all you, Tang Tang. Show them what you’re made of.”

Tang Bingyao looked up at An Xin and nodded, earnest. “Mhm. I’ll do my best.”

“Hey HEY!” Lin Feng shouted. He turned around to look at An Xin and said, “What about me? I also want a pep talk! Give me a pep talk!”

An Xin raised her eyebrows and curled her lips. “Hmph. Aren’t you really good at giving pep talks too? You should just give yourself one. Actually, you know what? Fine. You want a pep talk? Here, I’ll give you on. If you feed, I’ll hit you in the head with the thickest book in my bag!”

“I am really good at giving pep talks too…” Lin Feng mumbled, turning back to look at his computer screen.

《Welcome to Summoner’s Rift!》

The two teams spawned at their respective fountains. They bought their starter items and set up vision, which entailed placing wards and having Champions stand at strategic locations across the map to spot movements by the other team. But there were no aggressive early plays. Both Shanghai International and High School 13 decided to start the normal way. Toplaners went to the top lane, Botlaners to the bot lane, Jugnlers stayed in the jungle, and Lin Feng went to the mid lane.

Lin Feng had his Twisted Fate hovered around his mid outer tower, waiting for the first minion wave to arrive. On the other side of the lane, he spotted the LeBlanc. He narrowed his eyes and mumbled, “I got this.” His opponent was Yan Liang. But that wasn’t who he saw across from his Twisted Fate. He was playing against LeBlanc. Rake. She was Rake’s main and favourite Champion. To play against LeBlanc was, in a way, to play against Rake. I have to win this. He focused on the game. His hands were steady, his gaze locked on the screen. The world around him disappeared until there was only him and the LeBlanc. I can’t lose against him. I won’t. Never again.

The Blue and Red minion waves crashed in the middle of the lane. The LeBlanc and Twisted Fate moved forward to last hit the minions. Both Champions worked on their creep score, while also looking for opportunities to deal damage to each other. LeBlanc had the clear advantage in this aspect. She was highly mobile with Distort, which allowed her to jump forward and back to her original position, while the Twisted Fate wasn’t. So it came as no surprise when she found more openings to damage the Twisted Fate than vice versa, pressuring him and pushing him back towards his own tower.

“Man, what the… How is he doing this? Guys, guys, tell me how he’s doing this!” Westwind said into his microphone, chuckling. Then he continued, “Ah, nevermind. I’ll tell you how he’s doing it! By being really fucking good! He’s keeping up with the LeBlanc in CS despite her pushing him back far behind his own outer tower! This is some insane skill!”

Silent Reed looked at her co-commentator and giggled. Then she turned back to look at the screen and shook her head. “You know what surprises me the most? The Twisted Fate is playing so passively. I have to say, it’s hard to believe that’s the same player as the Annie from last game…”

There was more to a lane match-up than the two Champions. In a scenario where everything else was equal, the LeBlanc would pressure the Twisted Fate and force him back. But there were plenty of things that were not equal in this match-up. Most notably, the difference in skill between the players. Lin Feng was a far better player than Yan Liang. He had superior mechanics, positioning, awareness, and reflexes, just to name a few. This allowed him to play in whatever style he chose, rather than being forced to stick to one style or another, like less skilled players would. And he’d decided to play this game passively.

An Xin sat next to Ren Rou in the special viewing area, watching the game on the large screen. It showed mid lane, with LeBlanc pushing into the Red Team’s outer tower. She focused on the Twisted Fate and how he was playing. How he was letting himself be pushed underneath his tower. How he was working on his creep score, rather than trading blows with the LeBlanc. How he was playing exactly the way he wanted to play. An Xin shook her head, smiling. She knew Lin Feng better than anyone. That LeBlanc makes you think of Rake, huh? Is that why you’re actually playing, and not just fooling around? She chuckled, shaking her head, and mumbled, “What a big idiot. I guess we won’t have to worry about winning this game anymore.”

Yan Liang was completely oblivious to what was happening. From his perspective, he was winning the lane. He smiled smugly. What happened? Why are you hiding under your tower? Oh, wait, is it maybe because it isn’t all that easy to play Twisted Fate against my LeBlanc? Is it maybe because you’re getting countered, like I was last game? Huh? Show me that big stupid ass grin again! He chuckled, then laughed. Lin Feng had really gotten to him last game, so he was eager to return the pain in kind.

Oh, look! A new wave of minions! Here, let me show you how to CS! Yan Liang laughed out loud, evoking glances from his teammates. But he didn’t care about that. He only cared about doing to Lin Feng what Lin Feng had done to him last game. He pressed the TAB key and compared his creep score to Lin Feng’s. Uh, huh? What? They were almost dead even. How the fuck… Then Yan Liang watched his minion push in front of the Red Team’s outer tower. He laughed again, his whole face beaming with schadenfreude. Let me help you miss last hits on all those minions!

Lin Feng watched the LeBlanc attack the new minion wave fast and hard. She tried to clear it instantly, so she could then start pressuring him. It’s so obvious. He shook his head,not minding the LeBlanc, and focused back on the Blue minions. There was a surprising sense of calmness. It didn’t matter that the LeBlanc was pushing him underneath his tower. He even prefered it this way, because Rake would also push him underneath his tower. Rake would do it a lot better though. Lin Feng took long and deep breaths. The LeBlanc in front of him split in two. One was Yan Liang, while the other was Rake. Lin Feng didn’t care about the first. That LeBlanc was easy to beat. But he did care about the other. Rake. I’ll beat you! He started adjusting his style and play, searching for a way to beat Rake-shadow.

Lin Feng had to thank Yan Liang for putting so much pressure on him in lane. It helped him imagine playing versus Rake. This was exactly what he wanted, because the fastest way to improve was through adversity. He made it difficult for himself on purpose, almost forcing Yan Liang to play in a fashion similar to Rake. The only thing letting him down was the fact that Yan Liang simply wasn’t anywhere near as good as Rake. There was always an opening, always a mistake to exploit.

Yan Liang had cleared the Red minions in the latest wave. The Twisted Fate still had to clear two caster minions. He grinned, waiting. Come on, step forward. You know you want to! The Twisted Fate took a few steps forward to get the last hit on one of the two caster minions. GREEDY IDIOT! HA! He slammed down on his W key–Distort! His LeBlanc jumped forward.

The audience had two very contrasting reactions. One half was screaming in joy and cheering in excitement. Yan Liang was going to get First Blood! After all the pain and suffering in Game 1, this game would be his show! The other half held their breaths. They stared at the large screen above the stage, biting on their nails, terrified that Lin Feng would give away First Blood. “Watch out, Lin Feng!” was what they wanted to shout. But they didn’t because he couldn’t hear them anyway.

Lin Feng message in the comment section: LOL! Like I didn’t plan this. Didn’t I tell you guys? I’m really good at baiting too!

Rise Team Reddit AMA Continues! Bring Snacks!

Shanks Thought: Hey guys. The AMA is still going on right now. Check it out here:

Devshard, Sietse, and I are sitting in a voice call right now shooting the shit while answering questions. Not gonna lie. I think we’re getting bored. There’s a distinct lack of degen there that we’re usually used to seeing here. We’ve resorted to entertaining ourselves by reading and making fun of bad novel synopsis’s from NovelUpdates. I think we’re having a lot of fun with that. I think we’re having a very deep philosophical debate about an older sister being their own younger sister and getting pregnant with the villain’s child.

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