Chu Fang was in charge of the East China Regionals, so he was present at the event. And he was also in charge of Team Shanghai, so he watched their games. Right now, he sat in a private room backstage in front of a large tv screen that showed the game between Fuzhou Tech and Team Shanghai. Staff members were walking into the room and asking him to sign off on things, but he brushed them away. His full attention was directed towards the screen, towards Lin Feng. Maple. He smiled and balled a fist. He’s good! Much better than the last time I saw him play! I don’t think it’ll take him much longer to reach Goalie’s level. That’s a good start for him. And from there we can push him to the real top!
The last weeks since Chu Fang had rediscovered Lin Feng came to mind. He lost a lot of his skill during his four year hiatus. I really wasn’t too impressed with what I saw… Chu Fang shook his head and grinned. But he was the best. And he still is the most talented player I’ve ever seen! If we use the normal grading system, Maple would’ve hit anywhere between 95% to a perfect score. And Lin Feng hasn’t dropped that far down. Some things you just don’t forget. I’ll give him a solid A right now. Yeah, I think that’s a fair grade.
The system to judge a player’s skill level was incredibly comprehensive. Lin Feng’s ability in some aspects had declined sharply over the last few years, his game mechanics being one of them. But there were other aspects of the game that he didn’t unlearn. He knew like no other how to roam around the map, follow up on engages and control the flow of the game. They were the aspects of the game that many professional players were still struggling with, yet he’d mastered them. This was why he could still play at the highest level despite his break from the game.
Chu Fang was in an incredibly good mood. Some of these things just come so easy to him! As if it’s second nature! So many pros struggle with learning how to roam their entire career, yet he just knows how to do it! It’s those little things that he’s just so good at! And then there also is… He turned his attention to the large tv screen which was currently focused on the mid lane.
A storm was brewing around the tip of Yasuo’s blade. Lin Feng had dashed through to one minion! Sweeping Blade’s cooldown was almost zero. He just couldn’t target the same minion twice. He didn’t want to. There was another minion closer to the Lux. He had his Yasuo dash through that minion and clicked on the Lux, his finger lightly pressing down on the D key.
Fuzhou Tech’s Lux panicked. She saw the fed Yasuo dashing towards her and knew she was dead if he got on top of her. Light Binding! She cast a sphere of light that flew straight towards the Yasuo!
Lin Feng was ready for the Light Binding. He cast Flash. Yasuo disappeared with a mottled flash of light, then reappeared on top of the Lux. He activated Steel Tempest. The storm brewing at the tip of the blade was unleashed onto the battlefield! Winds howled and raged, launching Fuzhou Tech’s Lux into the air! And then Yasuo used his ultimate skill. Last Breath! He blinked to the Lux and suspended her in midair! Then he unloaded a flurry of strikes on her before slamming her back to the ground! The unquenchable flame from Ignite started burning on Lux’s skin and a sharp cut from Steel Tempest pierced her body!
《You have slain an enemy!》
The audience erupted into cheers! Lin Feng had achieved a solo kill on the Lux! And he got away with zero damage dealt to him! It was especially the dodging of the Light Binding that evoked a strong response from everyone watching. That wasn’t just limited to the spectators, but also to other teams competing in the tournament. Even the players from Zhejiang University were feeling the heat. Their Midlaner, Zuo Cheng, started to realise that beating Lin Feng might actually be impossible, while Sun Ruinian began to reevaluate his earlier assessment of Lin Feng’s skill level.
Chu Fang grinned when he heard the cheers and started laughing when he saw the stunned expressions from Zhejiang University’s players on a second screen. That’s right! His game senses and awareness are slowly coming back! He’s getting better and better by the game! But what’s even more important are his mechanics! No one had better mechanics than him! And they’re coming back to him! We’re getting to see the real Maple mechanics again! He’ll stand on the Rift and become invincible again! Just like we planned!
“Maybe we can push him a little harder,” Chu Fang mumbled. He was better than Phoenix back in Season 1. Only Rake could put up some kind of resistance! But Lin Feng… Maple was the best! He just was! We need that player back so that China can finally grow into one of the big regions! He chewed on his lips and tapped his fingers on the table next to him. With the way he’s improving, I don’t really see anyone in this tournament being much of a problem for him. Even that Goalie guy won’t be his match. It would help if everyone knew how good he is. They might prepare harder…
Chu Fang shook his head and frowned. That Midlaner from Fuzhou Tech might be a Master on the Ionia server and a B grade Midlaner, but that’s just not enough to make Lin Feng really try. And it also doesn’t help that the rest of Team Shanghai is also doing great. If Lin Feng doesn’t really get pushed, he won’t show exactly how much he’s capable of. It’s a shame, really. Goalie won’t know how good Lin Feng is and won’t prepare for that. He’ll be screwed. I kind of… I really want to see a fully prepared Goalie take on Lin Feng. He sighed and focused back on the game.
Lin Feng’s Yasuo was fed. There wasn’t a single player on Fuzhou Tech’s team safe from him. But the other players from Team Shanghai were also playing at an incredibly high level. Tang Bingyao’s Lucian and Zeng Rui’s Thresh decimated their opposition in the bot lane and destroyed the outer tower 13 minutes into the game. They then rotated to the mid lane and helped Lin Feng get another kill on Fuzhou Tech’s Midlaner followed by finally destroying the outer tower. Lin Feng had kept it up until now, just so that he could farm a few more kills on Lux.
An Xin also found the flow of the game, and of her Champion. Evelynn was the mistress of the shadows. There were so many potential plays An Xin could make with this Champion, because Evelynn could move around the map invisible. And that was exactly what An Xin started doing. Whenever Fuzhou Tech got the idea of teaming up to try and fight Team Shanghai, she would find a flank on them. Then she’d engage them from behind, bursting their backline down and distracting them from the follow up by the rest of Team Shanghai.
The audience didn’t understand what had changed. They mumbled questions about the Evelynn that started the game farming Jungle camps like a noob yet was now finding the perfect angle for every attack. There was only more confusion in the responses. No one knew what to say. They didn’t have the answer. Most of all, Rollfire didn’t have an answer. He sat quietly at the shoutcaster desk, letting Silent Reed hype everyone up for the next beautiful engage orchestrated by An Xin’s Evelynn!
“Get ready, I’m going in!” Became the staple sentence for An Xin when she’d found the gank. The other players from Team Shanghai knew that when those words arrived over the team’s voice chat, they didn’t need to wait any longer. They could rush forward and jump at Fuzhou Tech’s team! The ensuing teamfights were clean victories. Every last one of them.
The game time hit 20 minutes and the surrender option became available. But this was a tournament with serious money on the line. Fuzhou Tech wasn’t willing to surrender, arguing over their team’s voice chat that they still had a chance at a comeback as long as their nexus was alive. They finally agreed that they just had to play the game ultra-defensively and hope for Team Shanghai to make enough mistakes for them to catch back up. More importantly, the longer a game went on, the fewer mistakes Team Shanghai could permit themselves to make. Because there was a maximum level and maximum number of items each Champion could buy. Once those were reached, it was only a matter of time until the other team caught up.
But the game never reached that point, because Team Shanghai didn’t make any mistakes. Zeng Rui made sure of that. He guided his team from one tower to the next, pushing for objectives rather than kills. When the Dragon spawned, the team was preparing something in the two lanes bordering the dragon pit. And after slaying the Dragon, they’d go back to taking down towers. Fuzhou Tech lost their outer towers and inner towers. They tried to protect their inhibitor towers and inhibitors, but Team Shanghai was too far ahead.
At 25 minutes, Team Shanghai made the final push into Fuzhou Tech’s base. They were buffed by Baron Nashor and a powerful pink-purple aura flowed through their minions, bolstering their stats! It was overkill. Fuzhou Tech was torn apart, after which their Nexus towers and finally the Nexus itself were destroyed. The energy that exploded from the nexus morphed into the red victory screen for Team Shanghai.
“WOOOOOO!” Silent Reed screamed her throat dry. She shoved the microphone halfway into her mouth and shouted, “THAT IS 1-0 FOR TEAM SHANGHAI!”
Rollfire stared at the screen, numb. H-how is this even possible? How did these fucking kids… He took a deep breath. A staff member reminded him through his earpiece that he had a job to do. So he grabbed his microphone and cheered, “Team Shanghai won this game! Yeeeey!”
“WOOT WOOT! BUNBUN IS THE BEST JUNGLER EVER!”
“Fuzhou Tech got wrecked by a bunch of high schoolers! HAHAHA!”
“That Yasuo! HOLY FUCKING GOOOOOOOD!”
“GO GO! GO GO! TEAM SHANGHAI! YAY!”
“Lux spread her legs for that yasuo! LOL!”
“HAHA! Didn’t know Fuzhou Tech’s Midlaner was into hentai shit!”
Sun Ruinian ignored the cheering crowd behind him and the blaring shoutcaster at the caster desk. His entire being was focused on Team Shanghai’s soundproof booth. More precisely, on the Midlaner. That dude… Lin Feng? He isn’t A-. He’s an A, maybe higher. Hard to tell from this game. Fuzhou Tech just isn’t good enough. Fuck! I want to be happy that there’s a talented Midlaner. It’s just… We need to play against him! He shook his head and glanced at the Midlaner on his team. Zuo Cheng isn’t that good. We’re going to have to find a strategy to deal with this Lin Feng. But it’s not just that either.
Sun Ruinian turned his attention to Zeng Rui and grimaced. Zeng Rui has also gotten a lot better. He’s right up there with that Midlaner, maybe a little bit worse. But still. He’s a good player that’s going to require a lot of planning on my part. He bit on his lips and looked at An Xin. And then there’s that girl. Her early game Jungling wasn’t anything impressive. We can beat that. But then… He shook his head. I don’t really get what happened in the mid game there, but it’s like she woke up and decided to play a little. I’ve got no clue how good she actually is. Maybe it was just luck and leaning on that Midlaner to carry her. But if any of that was real skill, then we’re in deep shit.
There was a little downtime between the first and the second game. The players from Team Shanghai and Fuzhou Tech were given the chance to take a toilet break and unwind for a couple of minutes. What the organizers did during this time was having the casters reflect back on the game while playing highlights on the large LCD screen. Silent Reed took charge in this. She smiled and said into her microphone, “Team Shanghai really deserves some congratulations for that massive win! What a display of skill!” She turned to look at Rollfire and continued, “After a questionable start, Team Shanghai’s Evelynn really fell into her roll. What do you think, Rollfire? I know you had a few choice words for her early on.”
Rollfire bit back. Don’t think I can’t see what you’re trying to do! But I won’t let you get to me! He forced a smile onto his lips and replied, “You’re completely right. The start was really rough for her, which I pointed out. But it’s like she could hear me and took my advice to heart. She worked really hard to turn things around and by the end of it she looked pretty decent.”
“I think pretty decent might be underselling it a bit,” Silent Reed argued. She giggled and added, “Pretty damn goo—”
“However,” Rollfire interrupted. He narrowed his eyes and said, “Fuzhou Tech got too comfortable with how the Evelynn played early on. They should’ve set up a proper line of vision to stop that Evelynn from getting all those flanks on them. Had they done that, who knows, maybe they’d have won.”
Silent Reed looked at Rollfire and raised an eyebrow. Why can’t he ever say something positive? It’s like he’s got a personal vendetta against Team Shanghai. He’s not even trying to hide it! She shook her head a little and said, “I suppose you’ve got a point about Fuzhou Tech’s warding. If they’d invested more gold into vision wards, they could’ve stopped a lot of these engagements from Evelynn. But I’m not sure if that alone would’ve been enough for them. The Yasuo was the real carry here.”
Rollfire chuckled and concluded, “Let’s just hope Fuzhou Tech has learned from this first game. I’m hoping to see a stronger performance from them in the next game. Then they might actually punish that Jungler for the glaring holes in her ga—”
“I think that’s enough of that!” Silent Reed interrupted. She pointed at the large LCD screen and continued, “Looks like we’re getting ready for the second game between Team Shanghai and Fuzhou Tech! The series right now is 1-0 for Team Shanghai! Let’s see if they can bring this best of three series home, or if we’re going to an all deciding Game 3!”
Game 2 of the East China Round of 16
Team Shanghai (Blue) vs Fuzhou Tech (Red)
Top: Gnar versus Rumble
Jungle: Fiddlesticks versus Rek’Sai
Mid: Zed versus Fizz
AD-Carry: Ezreal versus Kog’Maw
Support: Leona versus Alistar
Silent Reed looked up at the large LCD screen and read through the line up. Then she mumbled, “Fiddlesticks? What? Why?”
A confused buzz murmured through the audience. Even the other teams competing didn’t know what to make of this choice of Champion. Fiddlesticks wasn’t a bad Champion, but he wasn’t particularly strong in the current meta either. His entire kit relied on him getting off a good ultimate. But a well organized team could plan for this and play around it. This was the main reason why his winrate in low elo games was incredibly high, yet he was almost never picked in the higher ranked games. And it was unheard of to pick him in competitive play.
“Jungle fid? Did they lose a few too many brain cells?”
“Oh god, those high school kids got cocky…”
“What the hell are they thinking? Do they want to lose!?”
“What bm! Holy sweetness! Gimme some of that!”
“Fuzhou Tech better wrecks them for this!”
Rollfire smiled a smile that didn’t get anywhere near his eyes. He grabbed the microphone and said, “Team Shanghai has chosen to go with Fiddlesticks Jungle! He’s a strong Champion that can easily ace Fuzhou Tech’s team! He’s a pentakill Champion! It’s just…” He paused briefly before continuing, “It’s just that Fuzhou Tech only has to cancel or evade Fiddle’s ultie to make that Champion completely useless! And there’s nothing Fiddle can do about it!”
Silent Reed bit on her lips and then argued, “He is not often seen in high ranked games. But that doesn’t make him a bad Champion.”
“Oh, he’s not bad. I’m not saying that,” Rollfire fired back. He shook his head and continued, “It’s just that when you play against a well prepared team, the threat a Fiddlesticks brings is greatly reduced. And we should be able to assume that the teams competing at the Winter Collegiate Cup have at least reached that level of skill. But I guess it all comes down to whether Fuzhou Tech can sort out their warding problems. Keep vision on the Fiddle and he’s useless.”
“I guess so,” Silent Reed said. She glanced at Team Shanghai’s soundproof booth. Why would they pick Fiddlesticks? He’s such a strange champion to go with. Do they have something specific in mind? I don’t get it… They must have a plan for this, right?
Rollfire chuckled and said, “I was talking about Fuzhou Tech needing to sort their warding out, and now they’re getting to show us right away if they have learned from their mistakes! If Fuzhou Tech messes up again, they only got themselves to blame for a terrible ending to this tournament. But let’s face it, they should be a strong team for making it this far. I’m guessing they’ll figure out how to ward properly.”
Everyone was confused about An Xin’s choice of Champion. Even Zeng Rui wasn’t feeling it. He knitted his brows and asked over the team’s voice chat, “BunBun, you sure about this?” Fiddlesticks isn’t in a great place right now. It’s just how the meta works. We should be focusing on other Champions. That’ll also help us prepare for games further down the road. Why are we wasting a game to play with Fiddlesticks? I don’t get how this is going to help us as a team, even if we win the game.
“Don’t worry about it! I’m pretty good at Jungle Fiddlesticks too!” An Xin replied, forcing a smile forward. Zeng Rui needs to know about the game plan. I’ll just guide him through what he needs to know…
There was a strange silence. An Xin was clearly holding back, lacking her usual insightful explanation. It was painfully obvious to Zeng Rui, Tang Bingyao and Zhang Hao that An Xin wasn’t telling them something, but Lin Feng didn’t notice this. His focus was on the loading screen, which showed the lineup for the game. Fizz? FIZZ! He grinned and tapped his finger on Zhang Hao’s shoulder. “HaoBro! HaoBro! Do you see that? Those idiots picked Fizz!” He laughed and added, “I’ma have a fish steak sandwich!”