"Welcome one and all to the Season 9 playoffs stage. I'm Ming Yu, one of your official commentators for tonight's game."
"And I'm your commentator Yao Mu."
At the same time, the big screens at the venue and the livestream broadcast of the game cut over to the commentators' booth. Ye Shaoyang looked up at the big screen with some surprise—he hadn't imagined that Mu-jie would be invited as an official commentator this time, rather than a special guest.
The requirements for an official commentator were much higher than that of a special guest.
The situation in a game could change in an instant. Commentators had to swiftly capture moments of brilliance from the players and point out those moments to the audience. They also had to have an extremely deep understanding of things like team synergies, picks and bans strategies, and each player's specialties.
If Yao Mu was capable of being an official commentator, that meant she had an extremely high level of understanding of both the game as well as of the professional league.
She wasn't dressed too formally that night, instead wearing a nice and neat white blouse. Her hair was pulled back in a tidy ponytail, making her look like a very professional young woman. As always, her smile was warm and friendly.
Ming Yu said, "Mumu, this is the first time you'll be joining us as an official commentator. Nervous?"
Yao Mu smiled slightly and said, "I'm okay. I have a partner with me, after all, so I won't have to talk to myself."
"Your fans must be pretty surprised that you're here as a commentator tonight," Ming Yu said. "Would you like to say hello to everyone?"
"Thank you to the Gods War official league for recognizing my abilities, and thank you to my fans for supporting me," Yao Mu said. "In the future, I'll be acting as a regular commentator at Star City's Esports Center. Now let's place our attention on the two teams who will be playing in tonight's match."
Ming Yu picked up on the change of subject and said, "The two teams facing off tonight are Team Tianhuan and Team Beimu. They're both well-established teams, and they have quite distinctive playing styles. Tianhuan's core is their jungler. There's no need for me to tell you about Captain Chi's skills as a jungler, he's incredibly formidable.
"As for Beimu, they have two main carries—Big Zhao and Little Zhao, the twin sister and brother combo with their natural tacit understanding. That's a sort of mutual understanding that many teammates can't achieve."
Yao Mu said, "That's right. Captain Zhao and Little Zhao took home the international championship title as the best duo last year. They're both gilded with countless honors from the official international league."
"The two teams are pretty evenly matched," Ming Yu said. "It's anyone's game tonight. Our results prediction game is already open, so everyone can start submitting their predictions now…"
Ye Shaoyang took out his phone and opened up the official results prediction page.
The listed probabilities for Tianhuan and Beimu were 45% and 55%, with Beimu being the favored team at the moment. Beimu had two world champions on their team, while Tianhuan only had one. Furthermore, Tianhuan's performance in the regular season this year didn't inspire confidence.
"The players are ready," Yao Mu said. "Let's enter the picks and bans phase."
"Beimu's coach, as expected, started off by banning the Bloodstained Assassin," Ming Yu said. "Captain Chi's Bloodstained Assassin has consistently been banned in official games. Maybe it's because he got too many pentakills in S6, leaving shadows in every other team's heart."
Yao Mu smiled and said, "This is a form of respect towards him, right? When facing off against Tianhuan, very few coaches would let Captain Chi play the hero he used to make a name for himself. My guess is that Beimu will ban the Stealthy Rogue as well. This is another of Captain Chi's signature heroes."
"It's as you said!" Ming Yu exclaimed. "Beimu has used up their first two bans on two junglers. Tianhuan is using their choices to target Beimu's top lane. They've banned Little Zhao's favorite heroes, the Berserker and the Black Dragon Knight."
Yao Mu curiously mused, "Then… which heroes will the two sides pick first?"
Ye Shaoyang silently thought that Tianhuan would most likely use their first three picks for their marksman, top laner, and jungler. If they didn't claim a jungler early and the opposing coach continued to target Chi Shuo in the second round of bans, then Chi Shuo wouldn't have many heroes left to choose from.
Things progressed just as Ye Shaoyang expected.
Both sides locked in their heroes quickly. Chi Shuo took the King of Fighters for the jungle in this round. This was a hero Ye Shaoyang had encountered in the summit tournament, so he knew this hero was more suitable for late-game and needed huge amounts of resources to develop.
Each team's resources in a game were limited. Professional players had to cooperate well. If their jungler needed resources, their mid laner or top laner had to choose a hero who could make an impact on the match without using up too many resources.
And so, the mid laner Qu Jiang chose the Frost Goddess.
There were two ways of playing the Frost Goddess. She could be the main DPS of a team with burst-oriented equipment, which allowed her to rely on her ult to do large amounts of damage. Or she could be pure support; even if she didn't take up any resources from the map, she could still act as crowd control and focus on freezing the enemy, allowing her teammates to do the damage.
Clearly, in this round, Qu Jiang intended to play this hero as more of a support. He would probably leave the minions of the mid lane to Chi Shuo.
Since the King of Fighters had relatively weak damage output in early-game, the marksman chose the Godly Sniper. This hero was extremely powerful in early-game, with the potential to instakill his enemies. With this team comp, Tianhuan wouldn't be too powerless in early-game. They wouldn't just be bullied by the enemy.
Ye Shaoyang thoughtfully mused, "Tianhuan's Coach Lin has some pretty good ideas."
Qin Rui looked completely lost. "Is this a good team comp?"
"They have potential in early-game and late-game, they can do damage and they can do crowd control," Ye Shaoyang said. "It's pretty comprehensive."
Qin Rui was silent for a moment. "…oh."
He was just here to check out the commotion, and to keep an eye on his gege while he was there, just in case his gege suddenly differentiated in a public place.
Stuff like team comps… he didn't understand it at all.
The game began very quickly.
Tianhuan's jungle, as expected, was invaded by the enemy.
Chi Shuo was targeted mercilessly. When facing Tianhuan, the enemy team tended to wildly invade Tianhuan's jungle. Besides the marksman Zhao Xinping, who stayed in the bottom lane clearing minions, the other four players of Beimu all charged in to steal Tianhuan's blue buff!
Chi Shuo was suppressed and rapidly beaten to critical health by the lot of them. He was pursued when he tried to flee, and ultimately had no choice but to die.
Having your jungler be the first death of the round was really a huge loss.
Yao Mu said, "When you see people playing against Tianhuan, you see this kind of team invasion very often. It's a special treatment reserved for Captain Chi. Everyone should be pretty used to it by now."
Ming Yu laughed and said, "Right. After all, as soon as Captain Chi manages to get going, he can make the entire enemy team collapse. So, all teams who face off against Tianhuan know to pressure their jungle in early-game."
Ye Shaoyang furrowed his brow. He was thinking that if it were him, he would have taken the Destiny Goddess or the Abyssal Lord to work with Chi Shuo's King of Fighters. Those two heroes had decent damage potential even at Level 1 and could help Chi Shuo go out and steal the other team's blue buff, or at least help Chi Shuo evade the enemy team's ambush. They could have gotten away with losing just a blue buff.
As long as the King of Fighters could get the blue buff, his farming speed in the jungle would skyrocket. He would have a slightly easier time getting through the earlier periods of the game, during which he was typically weak. In this game, however, the enemy team took their own two buffs as well as Tianhuan's blue buff—by starting out with three buffs, they put Chi Shuo in a very difficult position.
Just as Ye Shaoyang was thinking about this, he saw Chi Shuo respawn and swiftly rush towards Tianhuan's red buff. Tianhuan's support and marksman were very thoughtful. After clearing the minions in the bottom lane, they went over to the red buff and started hacking away at its HP to help Chi Shuo. By the time Chi Shuo arrived, he was able to take the red buff with just one skill. Then Chi Shuo went straight to the river by the middle lane to get one of the crabs that spawned there, which helped him recover at least a little from that early loss.
However, Team Beimu played very calmly.
Their marksman Zhao Xinping developed swiftly, which was definitely bad news for Tianhuan. This little alpha jiejie always kept her face completely expressionless when she played. She was extremely cool; her minion farming skills were top-tier, and her positioning was very cautious.
If Chi Shuo wanted to gank her, it would be extremely difficult. As soon as he headed down to the bottom lane, the support would catch just the barest glimpse of him, and immediately Zhao Xinping would flash back to her own defensive tower—this was the game sense and reaction speed expected of outstanding professionals.
Chi Shuo failed that attempt to gank.
If he couldn't gank the bottom lane, then what about the top?
Little Zhao was known for his volatile nature. When Chi Shuo went up to try to attack him, Zhao Xin'an immediately unleashed his ult to fight back. All by himself, Zhao Xin'an faced off against two players from Team Tianhuan. He fought fiercely, and he managed to clear a wave of minions as well.
Although Chi Shuo managed to kill him in the end, Chi Shuo himself was left in critical health again. He had no choice but to return to his base to heal up.
With that, the enemy marksman could peacefully level up for a while.
Ye Shaoyang watched until the ten-minute mark, then helplessly said, "Tianhuan is in trouble this time."
In the first big team fight, Qu Jiang's Deep Ice froze the enemy jungler and support who'd moved too far forward. Originally, this seemed to be a good thing. The Frost Goddess's freeze ability could keep those enemies frozen for 1.5 seconds, which was enough time for Tianhuan to do some fast damage. However, Little Zhao suddenly flashed out from the nearby woods and cut into Tianhuan's back line, hacking wildly and instantly killing off Tianhuan's marksman!
Ye Shaoyang was silent.
This was a first-class top laner, with an incomparably brutal play style. When an enemy attacked so abruptly, most marksmen wouldn't be able to dodge away, and Old Nie really had been a tiny bit out of position at the time.
The other marksman, Zhao Xinping, was hidden very well. She shot out her frozen arrows from the woods, swiftly sniping Qu Jiang to death.
With their marksman and mage dead, there was no reason for Tianhuan to fight in this battle any longer.
As expected, Tianhuan helplessly retreated, leaving their mid lane tower to be demolished by the enemy.
As soon as they lost their mid lane tower, they lost control of the top lane, bottom lane, and jungle very quickly as well. Beimu started to snowball their way to an advantage, swiftly ending the game.
The score was 1-0.
Ye Shaoyang sat very close to the stage. He could clearly see the vexed look on the marksman Old Nie's face. Old Nie seemed to feel very guilty about his positioning error from earlier. Chi Shuo's lips moved a little; there was no way for Ye Shaoyang to know what he was saying, but he was probably comforting Old Nie? Chi Shuo's expression remained calm, and after the other Tianhuan players finished listening to him speak, they all adjusted their mental states and prepared themselves for the next round.
During the picks and bans stage of the second round, Coach Lin went all out targeting the enemy marksman, sealing off two of the heroes Zhao Xinping often used. Beimu stuck to their guns and continued to target Chi Shuo with their bans—a jungler who could stealth? Don't even think about it. They wouldn't give him the chance to play such a hero.
In the livestreaming room, Chi Shuo's fans were all howling about the unfairness of it all.
[If you're really so tough, let our Captain Chi play his Bloodstained Assassin!]
[How many seasons have you been banning his best hero? You're still afraid of letting him out?!]
Well, who told you to be a team with a jungler core? Your jungler was too powerful. Other coaches were terrified of him.
Of course they couldn't let his most powerful hero run wild.
The only way things would change was if Tianhuan had another player who was just as powerful as Chi Shuo, someone who could draw attention from other coaches. If opposing coaches targeted this other players with their bans, then Chi Shuo would finally be able to play his favored heroes again.
But in the current Tianhuan, the mid laner Qu Jiang didn't really know how to play assassin mages. So other coaches didn't bother banning assassin mages at all. The marksman's condition was declining, which meant other coaches didn't need to ban marksman-type heroes either… then if they didn't target the jungler, who would they target?
It was easy to imagine what kind of pressure Chi Shuo was under.
However, what was astonishing was that Chi Shuo was extremely focused when he played. His expression didn't show any hints of nervousness or despair. His face remained very calm and solemn. Sometimes he would open his mouth to give a command, but mostly he seemed to use in-game signals to issue his orders.
In the second game, Tianhuan's jungle was invaded again.
Chi Shuo had already guessed that the enemy would target his blue buff once more, so this time he chose to open with the red buff. As a result of the two teams managing to avoid an altercation this time, Chi Shuo managed to collect the enemy's blue buff as well. The two teams each started off with a pair of buffs.
In this round, Chi Shuo was playing the Nimble Fox. With several movement skills, this hero was one of the most highly mobile jungler-type heroes. In addition to movement skills, the hero could also pass through walls. Compared to the King of Fighters, who was too much of a late-game hero, the Nimble Fox had pretty decent battle potential in early-game.
As soon as Chi Shuo reached Level 6, he immediately started to wander the map to gank the enemy.
He used a 'life for a life' tactic. With the Nimble Fox's swift movement skills, he darted straight into the range of the enemy tower to get a kill on the enemy marksman!
Even though Zhao Xinping made a swift retreat under the protection of her support, she couldn't withstand Chi Shuo's charge from afar. She was slain by the Nimble Fox with one skill combo! After her death, Tianhuan's bottom lane duo instantly started to push their minions forward, starting to grind down the HP of Beimu's defensive tower.
After being aggressively slain by Chi Shuo twice, Zhao Xinping's side collapsed first.
Tianhuan destroyed their bottom lane outer tower. Then their jungler, marksman, and support started to roam together, swiftly snowballing an economic advantage for themselves.
Tianhuan played very well in that round. Chi Shuo set the rhythm of the whole game, and none of his teammates made any mistakes.
However, in late-game, the top laner Zhao Xin'an started to flourish. Zhao Xin'an had taken a fighter called the Vampiric Duke, who had huge burst potential. When his ult was up, he could rampage freely and suck his enemies' blood—he was practically capable of single-handedly taking on three enemy heroes at once.
During a critical grand dragon fight, Zhao Xin'an once again flashed into Tianhuan's back line and unleashed his 'Bloodthirsty Demon' ult. With his terrifying hand speed and damage potential, he instantly killed off Tianhuan's marksman and mid laner!
One marksman down, one mid laner dead. How were you supposed to keep fighting?
Tianhuan had to forfeit the grand dragon, and Beimu managed to turn things around.
Ye Shaoyang looked towards the soundproofed room that housed Team Beimu.
The little jiejie Zhao Xinping was as calm as ever, like a robotic killing machine. Zhao Xin'an, on the other hand, was very lively. He couldn't stop running his mouth, though none of the spectators could tell what he was saying.
Beimu's twin brother and sister duo was indeed very powerful. If you targeted the didi and let the jiejie develop, she would be absolutely unstoppable in later team fights. If you targeted the jiejie, the didi would find the opportunity to dive in and instantly kill off your team's glass cannons. That was the strength of a 'two core' team. Unless you destroyed them in the top and bottom lanes, it was practically impossible to defeat them.
Although Tianhuan played very well in the second game, although Chi Shuo set an excellent rhythm… games were often like this. One lost battle could destroy all your previous advantages.
Ye Shaoyang had encountered this sort of situation in ranked matches before—his team would clearly be at an advantage throughout the whole game, with many more kills than the opposing team. They would seem like they were on the brink of making it to the enemy base. But then with just one mistake, leading to one lost team fight, they would have the tables turned on them by the enemy.
This kind of feeling was very hard to bear.
It felt countless times worse than being at a disadvantage through a whole match, from start to finish.
The big screens in the stadium showed the current score.
Playoffs games were best of five, meaning Team Beimu only needed to secure a total of three wins to win the match. They could take any one of the next games, and Tianhuan would be eliminated.
At a moment like this, the pressure on Tianhuan's players must have been immense.
From the stands behind him, Ye Shaoyang could hear a wave of hoarse sobbing. Most likely, Tianhuan's fans had started to cry. Qin Rui also felt a little uneasy. He whispered, "Ge, is Captain Chi about to lose?"
Ye Shaoyang silently looked up at the big stage.
Chi Shuo's expression was still calm, as though their disadvantage of a 0-2 score wasn't affecting him at all.
Ye Shaoyang had come to watch the game live in order to get a better understanding of Team Tianhuan's players, and now he was seeing them fight an uphill battle against a 0-2 disadvantage.
Chi Shuo, what will you do now?
Will you seek stability, or will you seek change?
Win or lose, they'll advance the plot~