However, IPL did a lot to keep my interest. Normally, I'm not really into IGN's LoL coverage, as it's heavy on entertainment and presentation value and low on information. This time, not only were the matches interesting, but the format was excellent, the commentary was good, and the space between matches was filled with tons of informative content. I really couldn't have asked for a better LoL tournament to end the year. Every other tournament this year paled in comparison.
Before I talk too much about the matches, meta, and gameplay, I just want to underline just what made IPL such a great event. First and foremost, it was a fair event with proper bracketing and seeding. Instead of a lame-duck round robin group stage followed by a single elimination bracket, the IPL used a GSL-style group stage followed by a double elimination bracket. The GSL group stage emulates a Swiss format, in which teams that have won play against teams that have also won, while teams that lost play against other teams that lost in an attempt to determine the bracket placings more quickly. The organization was fairly simple; the bottom two teams in each group started in the losers' bracket, while the winners were seeded into the winners' bracket. Once a team was locked in for the winners' bracket (two wins), that team did not play more games as it would be unnecessary and potentially create a kingmaking scenario.
The double elimination bracket also does a better job of creating drama, as teams have the potential to come back and win big even if they lose a set. It also lets us identify more easily the top five places, rather than having ties for third and fourth. Even though Moscow 5 and world champion Taipei Assassins lost fairly early on in the tournament, both had a shot at coming back. TPA nearly did, making third place overall.
However, it wasn't just the tournament structure that made IPL 5 great. The commentary was fairly good on the whole. I want to highlight the IGN casters in particular (RedBaron, Hatperson, and Optimus Tom) for the perfect mix of energy, enthusiasm, and informative commentary that made matches so fun to watch. The three-man group casting was also a great choice as each commentator added a lot to the matches and kept the game fresh. It was clear that the commentators were a bit awkward with handing off to the next person, but they handled the unfamiliarity well and sounded great overall. While it was not as good as the StarCraft II commentary (which was outstanding), the IPL 5 LoL commentary was excellent and set a standard for what good commentary should sound like in future tournaments.
Normally when a tournament takes a break between matches, I do things like go cook lunch or play a game of LoL while I'm waiting for the next match. IPL did two things that made this difficult. The first is simply simulcasting StarCraft II and fighting games at the same time. I ended up missing big chunks of LoL matches because I'd become distracted while watching StarCraft matches!
IGN conducted interviews and commentaries in between matches as well. IGN invited a number of community personalities, including Studio, Pluto, and Scarra, to give their thoughts on the tournament. I thought all of this content was great. The player interviews with guys like Pobelter, HotshotGG and Alex Ich brought a personal side to the teams playing in the tournament. It was hard to switch to StarCraft if another interview might be happening, so I would consider that a big mission accomplished by IGN.
The first team I want to talk about is Meat Playground. Its members came together specifically for IPL 5, and although all of the players had top-level experience, I don't think anyone really expected anything from them. Although MP's members did not do extraordinarily well (defeating only Team Fear, losing 0-2 in group stage and 0-2 to Moscow 5), they played some excellent games. They housed two 16-year-old prodigies, LightSludge and Pobelter, and it was awesome to watch them play. I'm not sure whether the team will stick together, but I give Meat Playground my best and hope that we get to see more of its players in 2013.
Moscow 5 also had an amazing showing, and I think there are quite a few readers who would lynch me if I didn't mention Alex Ich's AP Master Yi. It did about as well as I expected it would: amazingly when it worked and horribly when it didn't. However, M5 as a whole did extremely well, fighting to an impressive fourth place finish amongst some very stiff competition.
I was a bit disappointed by Azubu Blaze. AB had a rough seed in group stage, matched up against the teams that would end up in #1 and #2. Nonetheless, I expected AB to be one of the teams to beat, and while it did well, I expected it to go further than the North American teams.
Both Curse and CLG Prime played very well, showing that North America still has some contenders. In particular, I think that CLG Prime was in a bit of a slump, and its members really got a chance to strut their stuff at IPL 5. I liked Scarra's analysis of their team; one of the best AD Carries in the world (Doublelift) and an amazing and flexible jungler (Chauster) let them go very far in the tournament.
Fnatic was a team I don't think anyone really expected to do well, except maybe for Fnatic's members themselves. Fnatic were the Season 1 World Champions, but since their win, they've been sort of lackluster at major events. However, Fnatic showed its stuff at DreamHack, winning first place in the Winter event. Most teams considered DreamHack to be a fluke. However, Fnatic completely dismantled everyone at IPL 5, losing only one game to CLG Prime. Every other loss was to the team that eventually defeated it, World Elite, which went on to win the tournament. Fnatic's showings were anything but a fluke; every game was absolutely solid, polished play.
World Elite was the team of the event. Quite simply, WE looked unstoppable at IPL. There were a few games during which it looked as if WE was going to lose, but somehow the Chinese underdogs managed to step up and come out on top. It's really no surprise; ClearLove is fantastic in the jungle as we saw in Season 2. Misaya is an incredible mid lane player, and Weixiao is probably the best AD player in the world. Their utter domination at IPL gives me goosebumps thinking about Season 3. We'll certainly get to see more of WE's incredible play.
Although I normally talk about tournament metagame, I don't really think there's much to be said about what happened at IPL. If I were to say one thing, it would be "Diana's too good," but I know that more from her numbers and playing her than this event. I'm actually surprised it took this long for her to pop up; I was surprised when Anivia was a bigger metagame pick than Diana in the Season 2 Championships.
Normally I'm very critical about everything, so it might be a bit of a shocker to find that I was completely enthralled with IPL 5. Honestly, my only real criticism was the stream quality; it was not that great on lower quality (which I normally watch for speed), and the higher-quality stream came in kind of choppy. I didn't have this problem with the StarCraft II stream, though, so I'm not sure what the issues were. Either way, none of these issues hurt my enjoyment of the event, so I'm very satisfied overall. I can't wait for IPL 6.
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