Saturday, June 25, 2022

Keria’s flawless Rift Herald maneuver

A battle between two excellent League of Legends players is like playing chess at a high level. Each move is based not only on what the player is capable of, but also on the possible reactions the opponent is likely to make. Predictions that are mechanical in nature are much easier to spot. After all, Hong “Madlife” Ming-gi went through his career alongside them expertly predict where his opponents would try to dodge his thresh and blitzcrank hooks. Macro-level predictions are harder to notice but no less impressive than their flashier counterparts, and Ryu “Keria” Min-seok is a master at it. Keria’s smart macro decisions in Game 2 of T1 vs. Liiv SANDBOX remind viewers that you can’t be a world-class player on mechanical excellence alone.

Why the Rift Herald is so important

To discuss Keria’s performance, we need to outline the meaning of the first Rift Herald and the typical setup that professional teams follow to capture it. With the introduction of Mythic items in Season 11, the impact of completing the first item has increased significantly. This has also correlatively increased the importance of early gold earnings, and this is where the Rift Herald comes in. The Rift Herald usually guarantees 320 to 1250 gold depending on how low health the turret is. While it doesn’t give permanent buffs like the Elemental Dragons, this potential increase in gold revenue is why the Rift Herald is the most valuable neutral target in the early game.

The 7:10 twist

Professional League of Legends teams have developed several strategies centered around the Rift Herald over the years. The most popular is the 7:10 rotation. At 6:35 a wave of cannons spawns, arriving in the bot lane at 7:10. The goal is to crash this wave of cannons into the enemy turret and allow support to reset and help Rift Herald control the flow by migrating upwards. Support would be first on the map as the enemy bot lane would first have to catch the wave under their turret and push it back to the other side before it resets. With the numerical advantage gained from support roaming, the mid laner would be able to crash his wave and help capture the Rift Herald. This is the textbook strategy also used by Liiv SANDBOX vs T1 in Game 2 in Week 2 of the LCK Spring Split 2022. LSB’s bot lane took advantage of their cheap champion matchups and successfully crashed the 6:35 cannon wave and reset while Keria and Lee “Gumayushi” Min-hyeong pinned under their turret. The inclusion of the bot lane in the Rift Herald was particularly important for LSB, as Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok’s Corki would have his passive pack, the pack, ready at 8:00 AM. This devastating ability would give T1 a huge advantage that could only be offset by a numerical advantage that could be acquired through the 7:10 rotation. However, Keria knew that the Rift Herald was far from lost. When LSB captured Dragon at 6:30 am after a skirmish in the mid lane, Kim “Kael” Jin-hong stayed on the map while Keria was reset. As such, Keria didn’t have to back up again and used that time to pivot into the mid lane to adjust for Kael’s next maneuver.

Rift Herald rotations showing the path of Keria and his team
Kael used the man advantage to secure Herald for his team through his foray. | Created by Eric Weichhart

The demolition

So far, however, this is something Kael probably expected given the circumstances of the game. At least Kael had countermeasures in place should Keria contest LSB’s conquest of the Rift Herald. With control of the bot wave during the Rift Herald spawn, a team could use the wave to execute a strategy known as a cutoff. Instead of relinquishing control of the Rift Herald, the support along with the jungler would instead control the enemy jungle quadrant on the opposite side. If the bot wave stacks up and pushes into the turret, the enemy AD Carry must exit the turret or dash. Enemy support also cannot quickly return to the bot lane as the river and jungle quadrant cannot be traversed without risking being caught and killed, which would worsen the situation and cause the AD Carry to suffer further gold and experience are withheld. As a result, enemy support will have to reset and return to the lane through the base. During this time, the enemy AD Carry can be denied almost three waves, which can often compensate for the loss of the Rift Herald. With Yoon “Ice” Sang-hoon controlling the bot wave, Kael intentionally hid his position to threaten the cutoff’s potential and force Keria to choose between the Rift Herald or the welfare of his AD Carry.

Rift Herald rotations showing the path of Keria and his team
Keria would be unable to turn to the bot while Gumayushi waves are denied. | Created by Eric Weichhart

Why not both?

However, Keria found a way to ensure both. He knew he only had to match numbers to ensure the Rift Herald was conquered with Chou “Zeus” Woo-jae in control of the upper side, so there was no need to commit to the flow of the upper side . As such, he purposely pointed back toward the bot lane. Of course, based on this information, Kael is discouraged from pursuing the cutoff as Keria would be able to stop the wave rejection. However, Keria had no intention of committing to the bot lane. The moment he got far enough into the blue side jungle to bluff his move, he immediately flipped back to mid lane to link up with Faker with his pack to contest the mid wave. By the time Kael spotted Keria’s bluff, it was already too late. The bot wave was already crashing and he was unable to deny the wave to Gumayushi.

To execute this level of play, Keria had to not only know the two strategies, but also understand the conditions for both in minute detail. By using the above details to his advantage, he was able to avoid a dilemma that would have thwarted most supports. The ability to see the rules of the game and then break them at will is what separates exceptional world-class players like Keria from the rest.

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