The first four weeks of 2021 LPL Summer Split was rough for Invictus Gaming. Going up against FunPlus Phoenix, a team with a 5-1 match record, Invictus Gaming were not favored considering they only won two out of the six matches played so far.

Due to delayed visa processes, IG have been competing without their new head coach Jeong “NoFe” No-chul and star top laner Kang “TheShy” Seung-lok, who are currently in quarantine at their home base.

2021 LPL Summer Split Invictus Gaming head coach NoFe and top laner TheShy at their home base
Credit: Invictus Gaming on Weibo

After Invictus Gaming took heavy losses from LNG Esports and LGD Gaming the week before, FunPlus Phoenix were the clear favorites in this matchup.

At the end of the draft phase in game one however, Invictus Gaming looked poised to take on the series.

Invictus Gaming last picked Taric in game one against FunPlus Phoenix in Week 4 of 2021 LPL Summer Split

The meta after the 2021 Mid-Seasonal Invitational changed quite a bit, and many teams in the 2021 LPL Summer Split are still struggling to adapt to the newer patches.

In game one, FunPlus Phoenix first picked top-tier AP jungler, Diana. Exchanging power picks, Invictus Gaming snatched up Akali, who has a high 63.7% win rate in pro play, which confirmed that Viego was going into the jungle.

FunPlus Phoenix then gave Kim “Doinb” Tae-sang his trademark Kled mid before rounding off their team composition with Leona and Irelia for additional crowd control.

LPL Summer 2021 FPX vs IG game one draft
Screenshot by Amanda Tan/ONE Esports

On red side, Invictus Gaming saw their opponent’s heavy attack damage draft and all-in potential from Diana, Kled, Leona, and Irelia, and made a bold move by locking in Taric support for Li “Lucas” Tan-Pan-Ao — the champion’s first-ever appearance in the 2021 LPL Summer Split.

Lucas’ Taric kept foiling engages from FunPlus Phoenix

In game one, Song “Rookie” Eui-jin’s Akali was already down one death in mid. FunPlus Phoenix’s game plan was to continually assert pressure to keep him down and prevent him from roaming.

Seven minutes in, Gao “Tian” Tian-Liang on Diana flanked from top side and went for a full on dive with Kled and Leona for backup.

Trading one-for-one, Rookie managed to stall things out, which bought time for Lucas’ Taric to walk all the way from bot lane. Though late on the rotation, a clutch Bastion and Dazzle from Lucas saved Zhao “neny” Zhi-Hao’s Volibear by a hair.

By the end of the action-packed sequence, FunPlus Phoenix lost three members to IG’s one, making it a worthwhile trade.

During the mid game, Invictus Gaming saw that Doinb’s Kled and Jang “Nuguri” Ha-gwon’s Irelia were overextended at bot lane. At the same time, the rest of FunPlus Phoenix were in position to back them up, making it a full on 5v5 brawl.

Waiting for just the right moment, as soon as Leona’s Solar Flare went off, Lucas casted Exhaust onto Irelia and Taric’s Cosmic Radiance onto three teammates.

Lucas’ timing on Taric’s ultimate alone halted the all-in potential of FunPlus Phoenix, who didn’t have anymore wombo combos left for the fight. Turning things around, Rookie grabbed a triple kill, and collectively an ace for the team.

One of the best counters to Leona after Braum, Invictus Gaming’s last pick Taric support was extremely high in value; no doubt a key reason behind their game one victory.

To everyone’s surprise, Invictus Gaming went on to win game two with another risky draft comprising bot lane Draven, the first for Zhang “Wink” Rui this season.

Even the official LoL Esports account poked fun at their unexpected win.

During the post-game press conference, coach Long “Along” Hong-Zhou admitted that he didn’t think Invictus Gaming would win today.

“Because we’re IG, a team that can create miracles, so in this moment when we weren’t favored, that’s possibly why we could find a win over a stronger opponent,” said Along.

Sharing more about the team’s current condition, he also mentioned that they are experimenting with different strategies, which has its tradeoffs.

“Normally our double carry tempo is very strong, but there are times when we practice the meta, we end up losing our more fierce playstyle,” said coach Along.

Invictus Gaming takes on Rogue Warriors today at 5 p.m. (+8 GMT). Catch it live on LPL’s official YouTube or Twitch channel.

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