Every premier event in esports brings something special to the table. Whether it be a breakout performance from a future superstar, a dominant performance from the winning team, or nail biting matches throughout the tournament.. Most have some of these things that makes you remember them, very rarely does one tournament have everything.
The League of Legends tournament at IPL5 ticks all of these boxes, and may very well be the best LoL event of all time.
Just under two months prior, the Season two World Championships had taken place, with Taipei Assassins emerging as the surprise champions. Despite their win, questions still remained regarding who was actually the best team in the world. Azubu Frost had dominated the event before the shock defeat to TPA in the final, World Elite and Najin Sword had underperformed, and unlike nowadays, Europe had serious contenders in the form of Moscow 5 and CLG EU.
IPL5 would answer all of those questions. The event brought in the fan favourite double elimination format, which meant a lot more matches. In fact, IPL5 would eventually require 73 games to be played to determine a victor.
The Guest List
Believe it or not, a team titled “Meat Playground” featured in the same tournament as the likes of Taipei assassins, Azubu Blaze, World Elite, and Moscow 5. Only one team received a direct invite, as a result of winning IPL 4, TSM. Every other spot in the tournament was decided via qualifiers, hosted in Europe, North America, China, South Korea, South East Asia, Taiwan, Thailand and Hong Kong. If that wasn’t enough, there was even a wildcard qualifier, with competing teams decided via fan vote.
TSM, Team Dynamic, Curse, Meat Playground, CLG Prime, and Team FeaR represented North America. The combination being perhaps one of the most bizarre lineups to ever represent the region internationally. Amongst the representatives included a young Eugene “Pobelter” Park, Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black on his former role as an AD Carry, Steve “Chauster” Chau debuting in the jungle, and TSM with owner Andy “Reginald” Dinh still shotcalling from the mid lane.
The North American favourites were always TSM, however this is classic CLG and Team Curse we’re talking about. In a much simpler time, it was actually possible that these teams could try for a deep run at an international event.
Curse EU, CLG EU, Fnatic, and Moscow 5 carried the flag for Europe, and at the time, two of those teams were considered contenders for best in the world. In their prime. Moscow 5 and CLG EU battled for months to hold down the crown of Europe, as well as consistently placing top four at international events. CLG EU, known for being nigh on impossible to break down before battling back in the late game, compared to Moscow 5, renowned for their innovation and aggression.
Curse EU and Fnatic were the outsiders of the group. Although Fnatic were the Season One World Champions, the roster had changed, and now featured a baby faced Martin “Rekkles” Larsson playing in one of his first offline events for the side. Fnatic only got to attend the event after Alternate pulled out due to sponsorship issues. Curse EU were also using an emergency sub in the form of Jordan “Patoy” Blackburn.
World Champions Taipei Assassins represented Taiwan, IceLand attended from Hong Kong, the Singapore Sentinels somewhat speak for themselves, and BlackBean qualified from Thailand. BlackBean sparked a large amount of fan following when it emerged that their support player “Eliade” was female, the first to feature at a major international League of Legends event.
Stanley and the Taipei Assassins
World Championship finalists Azubu Frost were beaten by sister team Azubu Blaze in the semi-finals of the South Korean qualifier. Blaze then went on to topple Najin Shield in the finals, securing their spot at the tournament. In China, World Elite romped to victory, suffering just one map defeat in a 3-1 win in the final.
The first major shock of the tournament came during group play. South Korean Azubu Blaze, having defeated the World Championship runners up to qualify, were expected to enjoy an easy run into the playoffs. Alas, the side had to settle for the lower bracket, as they only managed to find one win in group play. Chinese side World Elite took the top seed, while Fnatic grabbed second. Team Dynamic failed to pick up a win on their route to the lower bracket.
Youngtser Rekkles with the veteran Fnatic lineup
Counter Logic Gaming enjoyed what could have been a disastrous group stage. The organization sent both a European and North American lineup to the event, who then got seeded into the same group. The European side took the top spot in the group, with their U.S counterparts following up in second. Team FeaR and IceLand took a trip to the lower bracket, with neither causing much fuss in the group stage.
No upsets were to be found in groups C and D either. Team Curse EU and TSM qualified into the winners bracket from group C. Unfortunately, Meat Playground failed to make in impact and joined Singapore Sentinels in the lower bracket. World Champions Taipei Assassins were joined by Europe’s finest, Moscow 5 in group D, with both heading onto the winners bracket, with Team Curse and Blackbean being unable to keep up with the powerhouses.
This is where the tournament got a little confusing. Watching live was a struggle in it’s own right, with various streams playing different matches in different stages of the tournament. The lower bracket actually saw Meat Playground pick up a win over Team FeaR, while the unsettled Azubu Blaze also progressed. Team Curse knocked out fellow U.S competitors Team Dynamic, and Singapore Sentinels managed to knock IceLand out of the competition.
The initial lower bracket action didn’t pack too much excitement. Expected wins and giants knocking out minnows. It was the upper bracket that saw some real action.
World Elite emerged as an early favourite after handing one of the tournament favourites, Moscow 5, a beat down. AD Carry player Gao “Weixiao” Xuecheng is often regarded as one of the best ever in his position, and games like this one showed why. Add to that a clinical performance from Mid laner Yu “Misaya” Jing-Xi on Twisted fate, and the Russian Moscow 5 had no chance.
Counter Logic Gaming’s European side also secured a dominating victory over IPL 4 champions TSM in their opening game of the playoffs, while the North American side eked a 2-1 victory over Team Curse EU. Perhaps most surprising was Fnatic taking a comfortable 2-0 over world champions, Taipei Assassins. Rekkles showed why Fnatic would gamble on such a young player with an outstanding performance in the series.
Reigning champions TSM were sent home in the lower bracket after they had the misfortune of running into an Azubu Blaze with a point to prove. A disappointing finish for the side, which also left just two North American teams left in the competition. Thankfully for the home fans, Team Curse was able to knock out Team Curse EU in their do-or-die match in the loser bracket.
In a deciding match in the lower bracket, Moscow 5 met Azubu Blaze. One team would be heading home, and it was a pretty outstanding best of three series between the two giants. The Russian side eventually took game one, despite struggling to push their lead for much of the game, however Azubu Blaze immediately bounced back with a crisp, clean victory in game two. A 45 minute behemoth of a game ensued, with everything on the line. Moscow 5 eventually picked up the win, and booked their place in fourth round, while sending Azubu Blaze packing.
Elsewhere, reigning champions Taipei Assassins kept their tournament alive after a disappointing start with wins over Team Curse and then Counter Logic Gaming EU, who had previously fell to World Elite in the upper bracket, in what might be considered one of the best competitive matched of all time, after the two teams clashed for 70 minutes in the second game of the series.
Fnatic continued their dominant run with a victory over Counter Logic Gaming (NA), who were then brushed aside by Moscow 5.
With one semi-final spot up for grabs, Moscow 5 were pitted against Taipei Assassins. Both looking to right some wrongs that had occurred early on in the tournament, and looking for the right to face Fnatic. Despite their run at the event, Fnatic looked beatable for both of these sides.
Despite mounting an early lead in game one, Moscow 5 were undone by the ‘Curse of the Sad Bullet Time’ strategy from Taipei Assassins. The move combined the huge stun from Amumu’s ‘Curse of the Sad Mummy’ ability with the massive barrage damage from Miss Fortune’s ‘Bullet Time’ ability to create mass unavoidable damage. The beasts from the east again pushed Taipei Assassins in game two, but once again fell short, dropping out of the tournament, and leaving Fnatic to carry the torch for Europe.
Alex Ich in his prime was one of the best in the world. He and his Moscow 5 lineup were unable to claim victory at IPL5
The team could have secured a spot in the final if they had been able to defeat World Elite in the semi’s. The Chinese side had quietly gone undefeated for the entire tournament up until their clash with Fnatic, who were at least able to take a game off them. Regardless, it meant Fnatic would have to dip their toes into the lower bracket for just the one game against Taipei Assassins to see if they would get their rematch against World Elite in the grand final.
Earlier in the tournament, Fnatic had ousted Taipei Assassins from the upper bracket with a clean 2-0 victory, however the world champions had since arrested their problems and battled back with dominant performances against Counter Logic Gaming EU and Moscow 5. This was billed to be one of the best matches of the tournament, and yet once again it was an almost trivial 2-0 for the European side. Taipei Assassins were knocked out of the tournament with four losses, all of them at the hands of Fnatic.
Reaching the final of the tournament was already an outstanding achievement for the team that only got to attend the tournament because fellow European side Alternate had been unable to make the trip. The trophy was likely never a target, and yet here they were, stepping onto the stage to face World Elite one more time for a chance to become the IPL champions.
The Chinese side entered the series with a one game advantage having come from the upper bracket, however Fnatic were very quick to even the scoreline with a very clean 27 minute victory in game one of the series. sOAZ’s Lee Sin exploded in the mid-game, combining with mid laner Xpeke on Ahri to shut down Misaya.
A much closer affair in the second eventually lead to World Elite winning a crucial teamfight in the base of Fnatic. Caomei consistently posed a threat to the Rekkles, even on the mobile Ezreal with sOAZ attempting to block for his man on Shen. With their tournament on the line, Fnatic pulled out all the stops to try and take the series to a fifth game.
Unfortunately, this resulted in a botched level one strategy leading to the deaths of Rekkles and nRated, followed shortly thereafter by a Clearlove flank in the mid lane picking off Xpeke. In a fairytale world, Fnatic would have battled back and taken World Elite to the brink, in reality though, they never really recovered. By 30 minutes, World Elite had extended their gold lead to over 12,000, and by 35, the trophy was theirs. A valiant effort from the surprising Fnatic, but World Elite were certainly deserving champions, having dropped just two maps over the course of the event.
Where are they now
Many players at IPL5 are now considered legends of the game, so let’s take a look at where they ended up, or if they’re even still playing.
Weixiao – World Elite
Considered by some to be the best AD Carry to ever play the game, Weixiao stayed with World Elite up until his retirement, enjoying moderate success within China, however failing to deliver on the world stage quite as he had done at IPL5. Weixiao retired from competitive play in late 2014, after failing to make the playoffs in the Chinese League (LPL)
Rekkles – Fnatic
While Weixiao may have peaked at IPL5, Rekkles had just begun an illustrious career. Despite being unable to feature in the first season of the LCS due to age restrictions, Rekkles eventually returned for Fnatic and was a key player up until moving away to Alliance in 2014. Just a year later he returned, and continues to feature for Fnatic in the European League Championship Series.
Largely considered to be the best “western” lineup in the history of League of Legends. Whether it be the birth of the aggressive jungler from Diamondprox, the innovative item builds from AD Carry Genja, or the somehow functioning ‘feed to win’ playstyle of top laner Darien, Moscow 5 really did have it all. The birth of the LCS meant the death of the team. After re-branding to Gambit Gaming, the lineup eventually suffered losses after poor performances, largely down to the travel from Russia to Germany every weekend.
The Taiwanese team would never again lift the Summoner’s Cup, or enjoy much international success in itself. Despite continuing to show strength within the region, dwindling performances internationally lead to roster changes, and the players have since spread to new lineups, moved into coaching/management, or retired completely.