No More Jokes for Saigon
Up till recently, the Jokers had been having a difficult time in the GPL; after their third placing in the Community Shield, they began to show signs of trouble, losing to the Manila Eagles and the KL Hunters, whom they had previously beaten. With the new blood on the team, I expected that things would get better for them.
In a trial by fire, their first two matches in the GPL were against the Singapore Sentinels and Taipei Assassins. On Sunday night, I watched as they went up against TPA. I will be honest. I did not expect a win for the Jokers, but I hoped they would put up a better showing than before. My hopes were raised when Izumin and ZhaoJun, or Junie as he is now known, took out TPA’s star top laner, Stanley, for the first blood.
In the middle lane, NIXWATER’s unorthodox Ziggs pick paid out as he kept Toyz’s Anivia, on his toes, burning Toyz’s Rebirth and forcing him to play more defensively. However, a team is only as strong as its weakest link, and that came in the form of the bottom lane. TPA’s MiSTakE was a thorn in the side of SAJ’s Violet and Melody, allowing Bebe to pull off several easy kills, despite Junie’s intervening counter ganks with Nautilus.
With the Assassins’ signature precision, they decimated the Jokers in most team fights, catching the bulk of them out of position, with Bebe being a very fat, very deadly monster. For a brief, desperate moment, it looked like the Jokers would pull off an upset when they secured a couple of kills and pushed down the middle, but Lilballz’s spectacular gank from behind led to the Assassins putting the final nail in the coffin for the Jokers.
As a bottom lane player, it was obvious to me that Violet and Melody were making it easy for their lane opponents. Even with help from the jungler and the mid lane, the normally tanky Urgot Soraka combo was stretched to its limit. A lack of warding in the brushes as well as the occasional blatant disregard for safe positioning allowed MiSTakE to pull off way too many successful Rocket Grabs than should be witnessed in a competitive match.
In contrast, the last time the Jokers went up against the Assassins, Archie’s Varus gave Bebe hell, scoring 5 kills in the lane. Despite the Assassins’ eventual win back then, it was apparent that Archie was definitely the most skilled player in the Jokers; to date, he’s performed very well in most of his games as his two main roles, AP and AD, due to his coolheadedness in team fights. Why then was he benched this weekend? It seems quite a waste, not giving him the opportunity to play AD in the main team, when he’s clearly doing things right. With Archie on AD and NIX in mid, those would be two pretty strong and consistent lanes. This would allow Junie to dedicate more of his efforts to helping their top laner, Izumin, who has improved in his new role, but still does struggle occasionally.
All in all, a couple of welcome additions to the team, but it seems like two steps forward and then one step back. With Week 4 of the GPL over, all the teams have played each other at least twice, and it’s about time the Saigon Jokers realised this is serious business, before the other teams pull too far ahead of them.
The past weekend saw the Saigon Jokers with a new and improved lineup, introducing two of Vietnam’s brightest stars on the server, NIXWATER and ZhaoJun. For those who haven’t heard of them, NIXWATER is one of the most fearsome AP carries in SEA, having once held the top spot on the ranked ladder, while Junie was his teammate in Team SioL which won the WCG in Vietnam last year.