Hi everyone, and welcome to this Open Rounds analysis article.
Last Saturday, I managed to qualify for the Seasonal’s top 32 in the European region, so I thought it would be a good idea to offer a breakdown of both my ideas coming into the tournament and how it went compared to my expectations.
In order to make some sense of all this, I will break this piece into 4 main areas:
- What did I expect to be up against and my overall view on the metagame
- My line-ups and reasoning behind each deck, as well as overall cohesiveness
- Reflection on how the rounds went based on my expectations
- What would I change If I had to do it again
Before we get into the nitty-gritty, here’s a reminder of the overall environment surrounding the Open Rounds and what players are looking to accomplish. On this first Saturday of competition, 1024 players try to qualify through 9 rounds of play, aiming to win at least 8 of those rounds, except if you finished at the top of the ladder rankings, which allows you to qualify with 7 wins. 700 come from the ladder’s Masters rank and 324 come from the Last Change Gauntlet.
Amongst those 1024 players, about 40 to 50 of them have an extra shot at qualifying, as the best ladder players can qualify with only 7 wins, as a reward for their ladder performance during the season.
Most of the time, it is extremely hard to get a good idea of what will be the metagame in a 1024 players’ tournament, especially as there are big disparities among them. A top ladder player will tend to focus on the highest win rate decks and try to think their line-up carefully, making sure they aren’t opening themselves to anything they expect to be popular. On the other end, a player qualified through the gauntlet can bring a completely off-meta line-up and rely on its comfort picks, making it a totally unpredictable opponent in the tournament.
With such a high disparity between each player’s profile, the Open Rounds tend to be a place where comfort is the most important thing. And although there will always be some popular deck to account for, being allowed to lose only once in the whole 9 rounds means you are required to win some unfavorable and unexpected matchups along the way.
What did I expect the metagame to look like
Usually, if you manage to get a solid finish on the ladder and place in the top 50, you usually have an easier time at the start of the tournament. Most of the time, in your first few rounds, you should face Gauntlet or low Masters ranked players, which means you are paired with either someone who didn’t perform as well as you did in the current metagame or someone who didn’t have time to do so.
Both cases lead to the same thing, that person will either bring decks they like and usually have a line-up that doesn’t necessarily make sense. Or they will use the online data to pick good decks because they feel they don’t have enough to build their line-up. In the first case, even though it means facing more exotic, less predictable decks, it also usually means facing decks that aren’t completely refined. In the second case, it means you are likely to face the most popular ladder decks.
In my anticipation, I knew I had to be ready for both Shurima and Demacia, and decided to go after Shurima and simply be fine against Demacia, either banning it (Scouts) or being around 50% against it (Pantheon, Sivir Akshan). This choice was mostly based on the ladder. I figured if Shurima was so far ahead in play rate, a lot of players would bring those decks even if they weren’t as good in a tournament setup. The reason for that is that for a good 75% of the tournament population, comfort is much more important than strategy, meaning that the time spent on a deck is much more relevant than how good the deck might be for the tournament.
The only 2 strategies that looked quite easy to build were the Triple Shurima lineup and a board-centric trio built around Pantheon, Scouts, and other Demacian decks which are usually very popular in open environments, and were doing good into other popular decks at the time. As such, when thinking about my own decks, I was mainly looking for lists that would do good into Shurima and not give too much space to potential on-board aggression.
Outside these 2, it didn’t look so easy to have a cohesive line-up of 3 decks. If you try to go for an aggressive strategy, there are Pirates looking great, but then, every other burn deck isn’t looking so hot currently.
If you try to build a control lineup, you have Feel the Rush and Sentinels which are posting good results, but the third deck is a bit of a struggle as Darkness has been underperforming in the current patch.
Overall, I felt like the better line-ups would be some sort of hybrid trying to mix the better decks together, although they don’t share a common archetype or play style. In that scenario, people tend to look for raw power level rather than try and build with specific matchups in mind.
As such, I ruled out most potential extreme line-ups like Triple Burn or Triple Control. To me, the secret to doing well in those open rounds was to find decks with a wide matchup table and just accept my mistake if one of my decks was to be hard countered by someone who actually found a way to build a trio that would be cohesive enough without being from Shurima or Demacia.
The logic behind my line-up
I ended up going for Fizz Aphelios – Draven Sion – Taliyah Ziggs as my trio, and I have to admit, it is one that doesn’t necessarily make a lot of sense outside simply being a playstyle I enjoy and all decks being favorable to any Shurima deck currently. Before the tournament, I also believed these decks would do good into Ezreal Caitlyn and were all fair into a control-based strategy.
So I was leaving myself open to an all-out aggressive lineup that could pray on Taliyah Ziggs, but as said previously, I did not believe that trio was overall strong, and aggro would have to play Draven Sion in the trio, which was an okay deck for me.
Here is how I picked my decks individually:
- Draven Sion: I’m a big fan of the Noxus / Piltover pairing, and Draven Sion was ticking all the boxes I thought were important as well. The deck is good into all the Shurima-based decks and isn’t that easy to counter for other lineups. It offers a proactive playstyle which is what I feel is where I am most comfortable. I have never been a fan of Decimate as a card in general, and as I was looking to play Draven Sion for its capacities on the board, so I decided to play AfterShock. The card is more flexible and can allow destroying the Sun Disc and play a grindier play style against Mono Shurima while also being a decent removal for most 3 mana champions in the game.
- Aphelios Fizz: The deck became popular a few days before the Open Rounds and immediately became a comfort pick for me. As I played a ton of Fizz / Nami in the past, I was pretty comfortable with a combo/tempo deck built around Fizz and looking to be flexible in the way it executes its game plan. I have to admit, I wasn’t so sure about most of its matchups entering the tournament and relied more on the comfort I felt when playing it. But I knew the Attach units were great against Shurima and the Faes synergy is a good one in almost any match-up.
- Taliyah Ziggs: This was the more exotic pick of my trio and potentially the downfall of the line-up had I guessed wrong on how popular burn strategies would be. Just like the other 2, Taliyah Ziggs was great into Shurimian decks, and thanks to Quicksands and Hexplosive Minefield, I didn’t feel that bad against decks looking to grow their units either. I feel there were probably better picks in this third slot for this lineup, but I really liked the fact that I could switch to a burn gameplan when necessary. If other players made the same assumption I did about a Burn lineup not being viable, I wasn’t expecting to see a lot of healing in opposing decks.
Overall, I feel like I could have picked much simpler decks to play, and my high seed into the tournament as well as being able to lose 2 games instead of 1 made a ton of difference regarding the success of my line-up. My best decision probably was to go for proactive strategies that allowed me to focus on my game plan when I wasn’t so sure of how the opponent would execute theirs. A lot of time, I relied on simply playing what was best for my deck, and it worked out for the best.
If I had to resubmit, which I have to for top 32, I think the biggest part of rethinking the line-up is the pairing of Taliyah Ziggs and Draven Sion. Although I feel both decks are well-positioned into the metagame and have in common their ability to burn the opponent down if ahead on board, the sole common point of being good into Shurima probably wasn’t enough to get them both into the same line-up.
The thing I really enjoyed with the line-up though was the fact that I could be very flexible regarding my ban, and depending on my interpretation of the opponent’s strategy, I could use the ban to protect my weakest deck without hurting my other matchups too much. Most of the time, I was banning Scouts to protect both Taliyah Ziggs and Aphelios Fizz, the rest of the time, I was banning to protect either Draven Sion or Taliyah Ziggs as Aphelios Fizz usually was average into most opponents.
The Tournament itself
Overall, I feel like my read was quite on point if I look solely at the 9 opponents I faced during the open rounds. 5 of them had Mono Shurima, Mono Viego, or both and 2 more had Ezreal Caitlyn, which is more than I could hope for over 9 rounds to be honest. I also faced only 1 full control lineup and 1 full aggro lineup, meaning my expectation for a lot of hybrid trios definitely paid off.
Although I was expecting quite a few Pantheon decks, I only faced the deck once, something that is much lower than the overall popularity of the deck indicates. Scouts was the Demacian archetype I faced the most with 3 encounters. Sivir Akshan, Lux Jayce, or other decks based on Demacia were completely absent from my Open Rounds pairings. This probably has been a big factor in how good I did this time. I made the decision to focus my line-up around Shurima more than Demacia, and managed to dodge the latter while facing a lot of the former.
Among the surprise decks that I wasn’t ready to face was Ezreal Kennen, a deck I had to go against twice and which I had no idea of how good or bad it was into my decks. It was in those times when I was quite happy I picked mostly proactive decks, as I at least could just focus on my development and try to pressure my opponent. It might sound like I wasn’t prepared, and it kind of was the truth. But in a way, I prepared for the possibility that I would have to play against decks I didn’t even know I should practice against by picking decks I could play in a certain way against any opponent, as long as the opponent was not a burn deck.
I can recall that, in at least 3 different rounds, I deferred to what I knew my deck was good at and simply hoped for the best as I had no clear idea on how to outplay my opponent in that specific match-up. As such, I simply swarmed the board with Draven Sion, rushed my landmark condition for Taliyah Ziggs, and hard-mulliganned for my Faes in Aphelios Fizz, basically hoping my opponent wouldn’t be able to counter my very straightforward progression.
While it is obviously not ideal and shows a lack of preparation, I don’t think it is possible to fully prepare for a 1024-person tournament, so being able to have something I could do against almost any deck felt like the next best thing.
I guess this was luck, but thinking back on it, most of the matchups where I had to defer to this basic game plan were in Ionia matchups (Karma Viktor and Ezreal Kennen mostly), a region notorious for lacking solid board removal. So one of the regions I faced most amongst those I didn’t plan for was naturally weak to my default plan.
I believe facing 6 out of my 9 opponents on decks I was prepared for is on the better side of things. Most of the time, I’d say a normal spread would be 4 favorable, 3 even and 2 unfavorable could already be considered a favorable pairing in the open rounds.
Closing Words and Changes
The main things I would change if I had to go through the open rounds again are how much practice I put into Aphelios Fizz compared to the other 2 and how I build the Taliyah Ziggs deck.
I clearly underestimated some matchups for Aphelios Fizz, mainly the mirror match, and treated it as just a good overall deck with a ton of flexibility. Also, as it was quite a new deck into the metagame, I wasn’t expecting so many people to bring it too or try to beat it. I ended up just playing it on the ladder to get a feel of the deck before entering the tournament, where I should have given more credit to the available data and tried to work the difficult match-up.
For Ziggs Taliyah, I think I tried too hard to give the deck a shot against aggressive decks, mostly with the 3 copies of Quicksands, when in reality, I should have gone all the way with my idea that triple aggro wouldn’t be a thing. While Quicksands is a top card in the current game and should be played in all Shurima decks, I think I went too far with 3 copies and could have included more synergistic cards to the core game plan of the deck.
Amongst the things I think helped me qualify were that I didn’t overthink the metagame this time around, and just trusted my idea that Triple Aggro wouldn’t be a good lineup. I had a clear but not so precise idea of the metagame, and I think keeping it at “this region or archetype should be popular, this one I can probably ignore” made it much easier for me to build some confidence and build a line-up that played to my strengths as a player rather than looking for an edge in a super-wide environment.
If these kinds of reflective pieces are something you enjoy, do let us know, and we will make it more of a regular thing or will look for other players looking their share their experience in high stakes tournaments. If you are a qualified player yourself and want to share your feedback on these open rounds, feel free to reach out!
On this note, all that is left for me is to wish everyone a good reveal season and a fun time in the game. Make sure to tune in to the seasonal top 32 broadcast this weekend to see how the best players are performing.
Good Game Everyone