In Season Two a young and talented Moscow Five (later Gambit Gaming) team started their professional careers with eight months (count ’em, eight) of top two finishes. Their dominance under the Moscow Five name began in January at the Intel Extreme Masters (IEM) Global Challenge Kiev. In the first event they participated in they stole first place away from Team SoloMid.
Team SoloMid was considered one of the best teams in the Season Two meta, but the meta was a delicate thing that Gambit gave no regard for. Gambit were innovators in a stagnant meta. They were quoted to say “We only play OP champs,” and rotated through champions on such a regular basis that it was impossible to keep up or ban them out. Their innovations led to picks such as Shyvana top, Evelynn mid, Urgot marksman, Ignite support, and more.
While Gambit didn’t have the strongest individual players, what they lacked in personal talent they made up for in team play. It was standard procedure to see four members of Gambit Gaming surrounding a lone defender of a turret for First Blood, or for the top-laning Shyvana to roam into the enemy’s jungle and take no prisoners.
These abnormal strategies were quickly picked up on by other professional teams trying to keep up with the hottest team in Europe. It wasn’t long before Gambit was crushing events and changing the meta.
After a brief time as part of Curse, Edward returned to be a part of Gambit and it’s fair to say “Gambit is back!”
On November 24, 2013 Gambit Gaming raced through the rounds of the IEM 8 Cologne event. In the rounds leading up to the final they bested a lesser known team (The RED) and the American powerhouse Cloud 9. Gambit looked like they hit their stride as they managed 2-0 victories over both of these professional teams.
In the finals Gambit was looking to keep their perfect tournament hopes alive, but their daunting foe was Fnatic. Season One World Champions, and a first place in the EU LCS Summer Playoffs, Fnatic is a juggernaut of team play. Led by their mid laner, xPeke, Fnatic has had impressive LAN records since the beginning of League of Legends competitive play. Gambit reunited, ready to change the meta, facing off against one of the oldest and most dominant EU teams really set the stage for these finals.
These teams are no strangers to one another, facing off many times in the EU LCS and in tournaments for the past couple of seasons. In the first game Fnatic banned Kha’Zix, Renekton, and Annie, respecting a pick for Alex, Darien, and Edward. Gambit banned Nidalee, Kassadin, and Shyvana, which is a tip of the hat to xPeke and sOAZ. Fnatic was forced into choosing a mid laner as Gambit saved it for last pick. Without knowledge of who Gambit would be taking mid xPeke decided to play Ziggs, after having a rough game against Ziggs, played by CLG’s Link. As a veteran League of Legends player, I can’t think of a single “good” lane pick against Ziggs. However, Alex didn’t miss a beat. He picked Malphite for last pick and loaded into the first game.
Edward lost his Flash early to a jungle invade by Fnatic, but escaped with his life. First Blood didn’t happen until after the six-minute mark when Darien was able to catch sOAZ too far from his turret. Gambit maintained lane pressure until the nine minute mark when they picked up the first dragon almost unnoticed. Near the 15 minute mark Gambit took both the outer top and outer bottom towers, then rotated to Dragon. Fnatic took the outer mid turret in response.
While the first 23 minutes of this game did result in a farm fest, when the team fights arrived they were full of action. Gambit swung into action after sOAZ caught Diamond in Fnatic’s jungle. While Diamond fell in the pursuing team fight, Gambit were able to trade their jungler for three members of the enemy team, and Baron. Darien and Diamond slipped in a two-man Baron before the 27 minute mark, undetected by Fnatic.
The strength of AP Malphite shone shortly after when Alex was caught in bot lane by sOAZ, Rekkles, and Cyanide. Seeing that he was going to die, he expended the resources at hand and used Deathfire Grasp, Ignite, and Unstoppable Force all on Corki to secure that he would die in a 3v1 situation.
When Alex respawned he walked down mid lane, found Rekkles alone, and with a Deathfire Grasp, Unstoppable Force, and Ground Slam combo, was able to change Corki’s screen to black and white. This was the turning point in the game. Alex hunted down Rekkles, and Gambit sieged like Gambit likes to.
Gambit sailed on to win the first game of the Intel Extreme Masters finals in Cologne.