Team COCO followed a Korean macro style of play that was especially effective back in S7. During that season, they were the LPL team that advanced the farthest in the world championships.
As everyone knew, before DG won the championship title last year, the strongest league had always been Korea's LCK. Their style of operation was extremely unique—
Each team didn't necessarily have to have incredibly strong players to make their tactics work. The players simply had to develop on their own in a match, then combine their powers together to snowball their way to an immense advantage. Once they were ready, they could initiate a team fight around a boss monster and use their combined strength to gain the upper hand, ensuring higher rates of victory.
During LCK's long reign at the top of the world of League of Legends, other teams intently scrutinized their style of play.
COCO was the type of team that chose to imitate them.
DG, on the other hand, was the type that chose to crack them.
During last year's world championship tournament, and during this year's international tournament before Lu Zhe's injury, DG had been able to win against various Korean teams because of Lu Zhe's strong sense as a jungler. He was always there to oppose the enemy every time they tried to make a move, hindering their development and disrupting their rhythm. He never allowed them to gain too much of an advantage.
But this style DG adopted was heavily reliant on their jungler.
When Lu Zhe first joined DG, before he made a name for himself as a powerful carry, people often said the true daddies of DG were their middle and bottom laners. Qianbao was notoriously powerful in the middle lane, and Old Wo and Er-Hua were a formidable duo in the bottom lane. As long as the top laner and jungler held their own, DG could definitely win.
In reality, before Lu Zhe sharpened his claws and Old Wo truly matured in his own play style, DG could only have been considered a middle-of-the-pack team. Back then, they didn't possess the unstoppable momentum that they gained later on.
Last week's opponent, WTG, was the same type of team as DG. They used similar tactics to disrupt their opponents' rhythm.
WTG was extremely strong in the jungle. They were able to rely on their jungler to set the pace of the game and destroy DG's own rhythm. Meanwhile, DG's players were still struggling to get on the same wavelength as their new junglers. As a result, their cooperation was lacking during team fights. Whenever they clashed with their opponents, in big or small bouts, only destruction awaited them.
But this week—
The determining factor in the match against COCO would be which team managed to throw the other off their rhythm.
Would COCO dominate with their usual style of play? Or would someone on DG flourish and lead the charge for their team?
Fans eagerly awaited the answers to these questions.
In today's game, DG had Zheng Zhizhuo take the field first.
They even let him choose his best champion, Gragas.
During a critical team fight, he failed to time his ult with the rest of his team's movements, missing out on a big opportunity to turn the tides. That mistake, combined with the small gap COCO had opened between their teams earlier in the round, allowed COCO to continue steaming onwards without giving DG a chance to recover.
The five members of COCO stuck together, using their advantage in numbers to gank DG's middle and bottom lane several more times. Finally, they pushed all the way up to DG's base in one go and claimed the first win.
"Congratulations to COCO for taking the first round! They've taken the lead, bringing us to the match point!"
While the commentators chattered on, DG's players calmly stood from their seats. Old Wo picked up his thermos and only spared the encroaching cameras a glance before rubbing his arms and complaining to Er-Hua about the intense air conditioning that was threatening to freeze them to death.
Zheng Zhizhuo glanced back at Shen Qiao, looking rather displeased with his own showing during the game.
Shen Qiao noticed Zheng Zhizhuo's gaze on him. He had already been looking backstage, but he retracted his gaze now and patted Zheng Zhizhuo on the shoulder. "Good luck next time."
Zheng Zhizhuo nodded enthusiastically.
In contrast to the calm players, the fans in the livestream room were starting to explode. They filled the chat with colorful, spiteful comments.
[Last week, I thought this kid was just nervous because he was taking the stage for the first time. Sorry, June. I was wrong. Turns out you really are just garbage.]
[Every time I leave a comment under DG's official Weibo posts, there are always people telling me to get up there and play if I can do better. Now I can say, sure. I can't do better, so I won't get up there. But if you can't do better either, you should get the fuck off the stage.]
[I just ordered some takeout, but they only sent me five bowls of white rice. I was going to leave a bad review, but now I just give up. Thanks to June's plays, I stress-ate all five bowls. Someone call me an ambulance.]
[I seem to see a trend emerging. Is DG going to lose 0-2 again today?]
[DG, just forfeit. Stop struggling.]
[Are we seeing history in the making? Will we see some champions fall to the bottom of the LPL? If they keep fighting, nothing's impossible. We'll see them next year in the secondary pro league!]
While fans continued to lament in the livestream chat, the players of Team DG were resting in the players' lounge—calm as ever.
Shen Qiao sat on the couch. He unscrewed the cap of a bottle of water, then looked towards Lu Zhe to ask, "What are the coach's plans for the next round?"
Lu Zhe mulled it over for a moment. "Same as usual. Play to your strengths. But if COCO sticks with the same strategy in the picks and bans stage, go with the plan we talked about before. Hold your own in the top lane."
Shen Qiao nodded. "I can do that."
When he first came to DG, Shen Qiao hadn't gotten many opportunities to truly show off. Even in their practice game against WTG, Shen Qiao had played by the book. It was rare for him to get a chance to play champions like Renekton; more often than not, he went with picks like Aatrox, allowing him to bear the pressure of the enemy's assault.
He'd wanted DG's coach to know that he had the ability to adapt to various play styles. Even if he could only weather the opponent's attacks, he could do that. After all, that was how he'd played on BLX as well.
But after a while, Shen Qiao realized that his new teammates were extremely powerful, and they had Lu Zhe supporting them as an incredible jungler. If Shen Qiao wanted to rampage down the top lane, they would give him the chance to do just that.
Shen Qiao and Lu Zhe exchanged a few more words before falling silent. They didn't speak again, taking the rest of the break to rest quietly in the lounge.
It was a comfortable silence. Even their pheromones seemed to have grown accustomed to each other. As soon as they got close, their pheromones subconsciously seeped out and intermingled, meshing at the edges before settling as a dense yet refreshing scent between them.
Shen Qiao finished his water and set the bottle down on the table next to him.
Lu Zhe's gaze had been glued to Shen Qiao's body the whole time. His eyes tracked the way Shen Qiao's throat bobbed when he swallowed, and he now looked back up to Shen Qiao's dampened lips.
Shen Qiao leaned back against the sofa, feeling the heat of Lu Zhe's gaze on him. But he felt extraordinarily relaxed in that moment, and he allowed Lu Zhe to look.
Because the two of them both understood what was important at a time like that.
As for everything else…
It would have to wait.
Lu Zhe didn't try anything funny either. He only reached out for a cushion and slid it under Shen Qiao's neck, to let him get more comfortable on the couch.
Soon, the second match was set to begin.
Zheng Zhizhuo was swapped out for Zhao Yue. The five players began to make their way to the stage again—
Lu Zhe fixed his gaze on Shen Qiao's back. As always, he whispered, "Good luck."
Shen Qiao heard. He lowered his head and tugged at the sleeves of the team jacket he wore, then turned back to Lu Zhe.
There was a firm determination in his eyes.
He knew he wouldn't lose.
"Alright! After a short break, our second game starts now. DG is playing the blue side. They've banned Pantheon, Varus, and Syndra. As for COCO, they've chosen to ban Nautilus, Renekton, and Qiyana."
"Both sides have targeted the other team's top, middle, and bottom lanes with their bans. Let's see how their picks unfold."
"DG has gone with… Jarvan IV. Mm, this is what Moon used in a previous match. Will today's match be a repeat of last week?" one of the commentators boldly joked.
The other commentator didn't follow up on that comment, instead continuing to narrate the action. "COCO doesn't hesitate for a second! They've locked in Yuumi and Olaf!"
"As everyone knows, Yuumi is very strong this season, especially when paired with Ezreal or Olaf. These duos can really dominate. And this is a good pick to face off against Jarvan IV. How will COCO wield their advantages in the coming game? Let's watch and see!"
The commentators' voices enthralled all the spectators, drawing their attention to the big screens in the stadium. Fans of both teams were nervous. COCO's fans hoped their team could win two rounds in a row and claim the victory, while DG's fans hoped their team would be able to push the match on to a third round.
In Team DG's voice channel—
"They've gone with Yuumi, so let's run Xayah and Rakan. A-Yue, you go down to support them later. But Old Wo and Er-Hua, you two need to build up as much of an advantage as you can, early in the match," Coach Fang said. He stood between his players, calmly giving them their marching orders.
After the coach finished speaking, Zhao Yue and Qian Bao helped the bottom laners choose their champions.
As soon as they made those choices, COCO instantly locked in Mordekaiser for their own team.
Although the game had yet to begin, it was obvious from these first few picks what each team's strategy would be. COCO obviously wanted to barrel through this match again, using Yuumi and Olaf to steamroll through the early stages of the game and develop as much as possible. Later in the game, they would aim to wipe DG out in every team fight.
Meanwhile, DG was placing their focus on the bottom lane.
Jarvan IV was well-poised to initiate fights. Paired with the duo of Xayah and Rakan, they would surely be able to tear down COCO's strategy as long as they managed to gain the upper hand in the early stages. They had the potential to destroy COCO's rhythm and lay the groundwork for their own team's victory.
Afterwards, both sides continued with their bans. DG swiftly banned Kassadin. Then, because they couldn't be sure where COCO would be playing Mordekaiser, they banned Gangplank as well.
COCO used their bans on Aatrox and Jayce—it was very obvious they didn't want DG's top lane to become too powerful.
DG didn't rush to focus on their top lane. They chose LeBlanc for Qian Bao first. Their plan for the day was to remain flexible. Xayah and Rakan could lead the charge while LeBlanc finished enemies off from the back. Jarvan IV could engage the enemy as well. There had to be a limit to how many of their champions COCO's Mordekaiser could shut down at once.
COCO then chose Twitch as their AD, before settling in to wait to see how DG would round out their team comp.
"This lineup… is way too powerful," one of the commentators said. "DG's side is still missing some DPS, right? After all, when Twitch, Olaf, and Yuumi really get going, their damage output is insane. Aatrox, Jayce, and Gangplank have all already been banned… what will DG take?"
"Kennen! They've locked in Kennen! Then DG's lineup is set—Kennen in the top lane, Jarvan IV in the jungle, LeBlanc in the middle lane, and the Xayah and Rakan duo in the bottom lane."
"Now we're seeing COCO lock in their final champion too… they've gone for Ryze! Wow, both teams seem set on fighting tooth and nail in all three lanes. Kennen and Mordekaiser are fit to battle it out in the top lane, LeBlanc and Ryze in the middle. The bottom laners Xayah and Rakan will be up against Yuumi and Twitch, both of whom can disappear when stealthed… this is going to be exciting."
"Similarly, in the jungle, DG's Jarvan IV will have to find his own way of ganking the enemy, while COCO's Olaf will have to develop fast and early. Both teams have their own tactics and strategies. We'll have to see how well they can use their lineup to their advantage."
The commentators' voices filled up with excitement. They were clearly looking forward to seeing this game unfold.
On the stage, the players exchanged champions with one another until everyone was in the right position. Afterwards, a short animation signifying the start of the round played out on the screens—
"League of Legends, summer tournament, regular season… DG versus COCO, round two… starts now!"