After completing the run to Gold Elo (1500) in solo queue, I now had achieved the rating tier in two out of the three ranked queues in Season Two, when paired together with our earlier success in Ranked Team play on Summoner's Rift. That left one queue remaining: Twisted Treeline. This was by far the least popular mode of the three supported game modes in Season Two, largely because Riot did so little to encourage people to play the map. Twisted Treeline had last been updated in early 2010, and over two years with no attention meant that the map was very badly outdated in design. Twisted Treeline had never been updated to reflect the jungle changes, which weakened the camps to make them easier for more champions to jungle. It also still had randomized jungle camps, which had been removed from Summoner's Rift over two years earlier. You would not know what monsters would spawn in each camp location, nor were the camps mirrored for each side of the map, which could cause all kinds of frustration. The map's version of Baron buff, Ebonmaw the Dragon, was also far too easy to kill - a single champion with Wriggle's Lantern could kill Ebonmaw as early as the 6 minute mark. These were all changes that had long ago been fixed on Summoner's Rift, and left completely untouched on the rarely played Twisted Treeline.
Twisted Treeline also differed from Summoner's Rift in having only three players on a team instead of five, and it was designed with the idea of having shorter 15-20 minute games instead of 30-40 minute games. This strictly limited which champion types were viable on the map. AD carries need lots of farm and items to become effective; the logic behind them is that if left along to farm for 25 minutes, they will be able to build Infinity Edge / Phantom Dancer / Last Whisper and be able to shred tanky bruisers in a matter of seconds. But on Twisted Treeline, AD carries did not get enough time to farm up those items, as the farming phase was much shorter and teamfighting began much earlier. A large majority of games were decided in the first 15 minutes, when your Ashe would still be building her Infinity Edge. This made standard ADs unappealing options. In similar fashion, with only three champions available, you couldn't exactly afford to tie up one of them in a support role that didn't farm the map. The only reason a support exists on Summoner's Rift is due to the lack of an extra available gold source: five champions, four sources of gold (three lanes + jungle). Someone doesn't get gold, which led to the creation of the support role. But that wasn't the case on Twisted Treeline, as there were two lanes and a jungle to farm. Three gold income streams, three champs. This essentially ruled out supports as well, with no real place on this map.
What roles then were there to play? Tanky bruisers with high mobility and gap closers. They dominated the Twisted Treeline metagame, as their lategame falloff would almost never arrive on this map. And with so many thin, jumpable walls on Twisted Treeline, champions like Lee Sin and Jax were in their absolute element. Most casting champions also faced real difficulties on Twisted Treeline due to the lack of a blue buff. No source of free mana regen like on Summoner's Rift. This tended to shift the metagame towards tanky mages, ones who were not blue buff dependent: Rumble, Cho'gath, Singed, etc. In terms of creating a team of three on this map, there were three roles to fill: tanky AD bruiser, tanky source of magic damage, and jungler. Many people argued at the time that running a jungler wasn't necessary, but logically speaking it was strictly superior to running a duo lane where teammates split farm. Three sources of income, three champions. Put one in the jungle. The only reason that people thought running no jungler was viable was due to the lack of competitive play on Twisted Treeline. The metagame had not weeded out the inefficient strategies due to the lack of rigorous testing. (It's also worth pointing out that the top two teams on the Twisted Treeline ladder, who went a combined 70-0 in Ranked play, both used a jungler in every game. They knew what they were doing.) In other words, having a jungler was the way to go. But there was one problem: because the map used the old Season One jungle, only a very small handful of champions were truly viable for jungling. There were really only about a half dozen of them at the end of Season Two: Lee Sin, Shyvana, Nunu, a handful of others. Most support junglers from Summoner's Rift (Skarner, Maokai, etc.) were too weak at clearing camps to work on Twisted Treeline.
I wanted to run a team of three on this map and get Gold status before Season Two ended. There was just one problem: I knew nothing at all about Twisted Treeline! I hadn't played the map in about a year, no joke. I knew nothing of the strategies or what champions were strong on this weird alternative map. As the end of the season drew near, I embarked on a crash course in the Twisted Treeline metagame. I read what I could on the Riot forums, although there was very little information out there for this map. I looked up the names of the top players on the top Twisted Treeline teams, then used the Spectate Anyone client to start watching as many of their matches as possible. Over the course of watching dozens of games, I started to understand how to play the map, in particular how winning the map relied on control of the neutral objectives. With so little knowledge out there, I became confident that we could win our placement matches and play our way up to Gold status.
VarisNox was already on board from our time spent duo queuing together in solo queue. I talked to some other friends online, and ended up recruiting Spreekaway and FallenAsylum to join our team as well. They also were lacking a rating for Twisted Treeline, and were accomplished players in their own right. We decided to call our team "Three Man Terror Squad", after a comment made in the World Championships where one of the casters described the Taipei Assassins as a roaming five man terror squad. I would be looking to play the jungler role, as the only one who had practiced jungling enough on Twisted Treeline. VarisNox would try to play AD bruiser, Spreekaway would play something magic damage based (ideally his excellent Cho'gath), and FallenAsylum was happy to fill in where needed. Our quest for Gold was underway!
Livestream Link: http://www.own3d.tv/Sullla/watch/848145
Version: Kha'zix Patch
Elo: 1200 (+43) = 1243
We expected our first couple of placement matches to be easy, and that's exactly what happened here. When they banned Volibear with their third ban, it was a harbringer of things to come. The other team grabbed a strong lineup (Jax, Jayce, Mundo) but we were able to get Shyvana (jungle) and Cho'gath (magic damage), with FallenAsylum picking up Xin Zhao for the last spot. Since this was our first game, we hadn't discussed what to do in the event of a level 1 fight, and we were caught off guard when their team invaded. We gave up First Blood, although their team fed back a death with an insane tower dive immediately thereafter. My initial clear of the jungle was highly inefficient, and I nearly died. Of course, we were up against very weak players and none of this mattered. They had no jungler and their Jayce was simply roaming around the map not farming. Even with some very sloppy play we easily took Dragon at 7 minutes, and then snowballed smoothly from there. Spreekaway and FallenAsylum fought 2 vs 3 at the 9 minute mark while I was clearing the top jungle and still managed to ace the other team. We took every Dragon, Lizard, and the top jungle wolf/wraith buffs. They clearly had no idea how to play the map, and surrendered shortly after 15 minutes. Game over.
One nice thing about watching the Twisted Treeline games recorded on Livestream is that they tend to be fairly short. Writing about these games is a lot faster than the Summoner's Rift ones!
Livestream Link: Did Not Record
Version: Kha'zix Patch
Elo: 1243 (+42) = 1285
I really wish that this one had recorded, as it was a very entertaining game. Their team made the mistake of not banning Rengar, who was extremely overpowered at this point in time and even more so on Twisted Treeline. We took Rengar for FallenAsylum with the first pick, and then grabbed exactly who we wanted (Shyvana and Cho'gath) with the other two picks, getting an extremely strong team. They actually did have a jungler in the form of Warwick, but I had tested him earlier and found him to be an extremely weak option. Warwick simply didn't clear the camps fast enough, and against a counter-jungler like Shyvana it was a horrendous mismatch. I could run circles around his poor jungling, which is exactly what I ended up doing.
In watching the replay, Warwick actually started Boots + 3 potions, which did not work on this map. You had to start Cloth Armor + 5 potions, or else the camps would do too much damage. I started with 61 armor, he started with 35 armor. The result was that Warwick could not clear his second jungle camp - he actually had to Flash away to avoid dying, and was forced back to base at level 1. It's pretty hilarious to watch on the replay, actually! I then ran in and stole his camp, and the counterjungling was on. I hit level 3 while Warwick was still level 1; it was so bad that he had to go and lane for a while in bot to get more experience. Haha. FallenAsylum and Spreekaway destroyed their relative 1 vs 1 matchups against Malphite and Tryndamere, and I increasingly starved Warwick of his jungle camps. Fallen and I had a really nice baited kill on Warwick at the 7 minute mark, when we feigned a retreat and then turned and crushed him. Then we killed Malphite off that same push, turned and took Dragon using Fallen's Wriggles, and Spreekaway took bottom tower at the same time. This put ahead 9.2k to 4.7k in gold, and it was all over aside from the raging. (Their team started yelling about Rengar in all chat at the end. It was most amusing.) We aced them three or four times before this one was over. Two of them even began suiciding into our towers after a surrender vote failed. By the time we killed the Nexus, we were ahead 19-2 in kills, 12k ahead in global gold, and Warwick was 5000 gold behind me individually. Yikes! If only they were all this easy.
Livestream Link: http://www.own3d.tv/Sullla/watch/848179
Version: Kha'zix Patch
Elo: 1285 (+43) = 1328
This enemy team looked like they knew what they were doing, banning strong champions and first picking Lee Sin. Then with their last two picks, they grabbed... uh... Vlad and Karthus?!? These were completely terrible choices, both of them being lategame AP hypercarries who need large amounts of farm to be effective. Karthus in particular sucked on this map with no blue buff to use for mana regen. We counterpicked them with Kha'zix as our last pick, an assassin who would be able to chew right through the weak early game of Vlad and Karthus. Their team then amazingly came to fight us at level 1, despite our far superior teamfight at level 1. We killed Karthus instantly, but unfortunately lost Spreekaway due to some miscommunication. It probably should have been 2-0 or even 3-0 in our favor. Oh well. As it turned out, we would not suffer a single death again for the rest of the game.
Their team had no jungler again, which meant that they were forced to run two champs in bottom lane. Spreekaway's Cho'gath handled this without too much trouble. Meanwhile, I was able to clear both sides of the jungle without any competition, and Varis abused their Karthus in the solo top lane. We were patient and didn't force early fights, relying on our superior farming edge (i.e. actually clearing the jungle) to put us ahead. Their Vlad had ZERO minion kills at the 5 minute mark! And Vlad didn't exactly make the best 0 CS support. We caught out their bottom lane just after 6 minutes and double killed them, then picked off Karthus immediately thereafter using my red buff to slow him. We aced them at 11 minutes in two separate fights, took Dragon, and with our team ahead 8-1 in kills, that was essentially game over. They surrendered immediately at 15 minutes.
Karthus built one item: a catalyst. This game definitely showed why not to play Karthus on Twisted Treeline!
Livestream Link: http://www.own3d.tv/Sullla/watch/848204
Version: Kha'zix Patch
Elo: 1328 (+42) = 1370
This game was a real pain in the rear. We had the first pick and left Rengar open for FallenAsylum, which we were able to claim without issue. We then picked Shyvana for me and Cho'gath for VarisNox so that we had a source of magic damage. They picked a strong team themselves, grabbing Olaf and Singed along with Teemo. They did not have a jungler, however, which meant that we had the edge in terms of farming income. They ran two champs in bottom lane, very common on this map, which forced Varis to 1 vs 2 and try to pick up what farm he could get while I ran around the top of the map clearing the full jungle. We had factored this into our picking strategy, deliberately taking Cho'gath most games in the expectation of a 1 vs 2 lane. Cho was one of the better champs at that role, tanky and with good wave-clearing abilities. Unfortunately Fallen made a mistake and gave up First Blood just before the 5 minute mark, which put their Teemo ahead. This meant that Teemo would cause a lot of headaches before this game was through.
Despite the initial hiccup, we were doing a good job of farming both lanes and the jungle, which quickly raced us out to a significant gold lead. Fallen and I combined to take down the Dragon at the 9 minute mark, which snowballed our team further ahead. I had control of the red buff due to my Smite, stealing it away from their team even when they came to try and stop us. It became obvious early on that their team was making no effort to contest our control of the map, giving us every Dragon and every neutral camp. They turtled underneath their towers with Teemo shrooms and Singed/Olaf minion wave clearing and tried to stretch out the game for as long as possible. This was one of the biggest design flaws with the Twisted Treeline map: it was extremely easy to turtle in the base, since the spawning platform was way too close to the Nexus. You could pull super minions into the fountain and hold out almost indefinitely. In fact, the best strategy was NOT to take the inhibitors, since it would allow the other team to huddle up in their base and continue farming, while your own team would be denied gold and experience. To make matters worse, this particular patch version of League had a bug where towers shot at twice their normal rate, making it even easier to turtle in the base. Sigh.
The last 20 minutes of this game were a long, slow process of our team taking down the enemy team's base through one push after another. By the 20 minute mark, we were 10k gold ahead of their team, an astronomical sum for this map. Their Singed had been the one stuck with no farm in the duo lane, and was way behind in items and levels. But we were having great difficulty breaking the combination of Teemo mushrooms and the wave clearing of their other champs. We finally had success by splitting Shyvana in one lane and Rengar/Cho in another lane, forcing them to separate Teemo from their other champs. I occupied Teemo (clearing his mushrooms with Oracle) while Varis and Fallen slowly pushed into the base. We finally took all of the outside towers, took both inhibs, and then killed the last tower and Nexus, acing them in the last fight. It was only 9-5 in kills but 37k to 23k in global gold. The game was not close. This was a good example of how to defeat a turtling team through slow but steady pushes into their base. We never got overly impatient, and never gave them a chance to turn things around.
Livestream Link: http://www.own3d.tv/Sullla/watch/848221
Version: Kha'zix Patch
Elo: 1370 (+43) = 1413
We did not have first pick this game, so no Rengar for us. They took Rumble with their first selection (a good choice), then we countered with Shyvana and Cho'gath. When they picked two melee AD bruisers in the form of Pantheon and Gangplank, we responded by taking Jayce, who was a very strong option against those champs. When the game began, their team invaded our jungle at level 1. We had already discussed this, and did not think that we could beat them, so we simply retreated and I started in the top jungle instead of the bottom jungle. This game offered up a classic example of competing metagames. They had two champs together in bottom lane and no jungler, in comparison to our three lanes / three champs setup. Because they had a duo lane splitting farm, the only way for their team to win was to kill our bottom laner in the 1 vs 2 lane over and over again. On the other hand, if poor Spreekaway could successfully manage to survive the laning phase, we would eventually pull way ahead by virtue of farming an additional income source. This was just like the discussions that had taken place on Summoner's Rift in early 2010 when people debated the merits of having a jungler. Which metagame plan would work better here?
We narrowly missed First Blood on Rumble when he escaped with 4 HP, less damage than a single minion attack. This was the first team that knew how to freeze bottom lane successfully, and their Gangplank/Pantheon bottom lane was very strong in early levels. They managed to both hit level 4 while Spreekaway was still level 3, then dove him under his own tower. I was close enough to be able to help out, and while Spreekaway did die, I was able to take a kill in response and mostly break even. With every minute that passed, we were pulling further ahead as a team. Their Gangplank had 5 CS, for example, while all of us had close to two dozen. As Spreekaway gained more levels, he could use Cho'gath abilities to clear the wave with a Rupture + Feral Screen combo. More levels also made him more tanky, and started to rule out the possibility of further dives. With no Smite, I could take every red buff even if they came to contest it, and holding two champs in bottom lane gave us every Dragon uncontested. By the 10 minute mark, Spreeaway was an unkillable monster Cho and we had pulled extremely far ahead in the global gold total. Mopping up from there was largely academic. We won a team fight, took top tower, and they surrendered. Spreekaway was the team MVP for successfully pulling off the 1 vs 2 bottom lane.
Livestream Link: http://www.own3d.tv/Sullla/watch/849449
Version: Kha'zix Patch
Elo: 1413 (+35) = 1448
No first pick for this game either, meaning no Rengar for our team. They grabbed Lee Sin first, we countered with Shyvana and Cho'gath (the core of our team strat), and then took Mordekaiser with the last pick. Mordekaiser was a bit of a feast or famine champion on Twisted Treeline, either giving you a ghost and turning fights into a 4 vs 2 situation, or getting shut down and becoming completely useless. It wasn't my favorite pick, but we had seen it work before. They had a strong team of Lee Sin, Singed, and Irelia; we thought that Lee Sin would be jungling, but he did not take Smite for some reason. Their team once again had two champs in bottom lane against Spreekaway's Cho'gath, same as in the last game. Their team tried a couple of early ganks after pushing to tower in bottom lane, but we were able to dodge all of them successfully, giving me more time to continue farming the jungle. We went 1-1 in the first real fight at red, losing VarisNox but taking the red buff and claiming First Blood in the process. Poor communication cost us a few unnecessary deaths, but I was still the only one farming the jungle and giving us a general leg up in the larger picture.
This team was definitely more capable than the other ones we had been playing so far, and we traded an uncontested Dragon for our bottom tower right around 10 minutes. Even though they had been splitting farm in bottom lane, they had still picked up enough kills to be effective as a team. They made a nice play to dive Varis with all three members of their team and kill them, then head straight for Dragon. However, we already had Dragon warded and with the combination of Smite and Cho'gath Feast, we were able to steal it and then ace them 3-0 in the following teamfight, with Spreekaway claiming a triple kill. This was the obvious play of the match and put us far ahead, even though it had been a narrow run thing. We then had another nice fight where we caught them without Singed, killing Lee Sin and turning the victory into a Dragon and red buff. That should have been the end of the game, but we misplayed a push into the enemy base afterwards and started doing some serious throwing of a seemingly assured victory. Fortunately they overpushed in turn after taking our top tower, we won the subsequent team fight, caught them at Dragon again (claiming it with another Cho'gath Feast) and then patiently pushed into their base to end the game. Even though we all died in the process of killing their Nexus tower, it was worth it. Once that tower died, the game was over, and the next push finished things off. (I actually caught Irelia trying to do Dragon on low health, Smited the Dragon away from her, and then killed her as she tried to run away. LOLZ!) This was a fun game to play, decently challenging while still coming out on top.
Livestream Link: http://www.own3d.tv/Sullla/watch/849494
Version: Kha'zix Patch
Elo: 1448 (-30) = 1418
We were thrown off at the beginning of this game when the other team used their first pick on Cho'gath, a champion that we had used to great success in all six of our previous matches. We ended up taking Xin Zhao and Rumble to complement Shyvana, while they loaded up their team with Malphite and Jayce. They had a very good team for this map, lots of crowd control and ranged poke with Jayce. Their team again did not have a jungler, running two champs in bottom lane and solo Jayce in top. This is where we would have liked to have had Cho'gath, for the 1 vs 2 matchup in bottom lane, but Varis handled it OK with Rumble. I got too greedy trying to clear a small camp around 4 minutes, which nearly baited us into a terrible fight. Should have just left that small lizard and come back for it later... Their team caught me transitioning between lanes and scored First Blood, but we were then able to kill two more of their champs, turning the fight into a 2-1 exchange. With their Malphite sitting at 1 minion kill, this put us into a comfortable lead. We were farming the jungle while they were still splitting gold and experience in bottom lane. We took the first red buff, then the first Dragon, and were in great position to win the match.
Unfortunately this proved to be the most disappointing game of our run, as we ultimately wasted away a significant lead. We aced them 3-1 in a great teamfight at the 13 minute mark, then went and took Dragon, scoring another kill on Jayce when he came to try and stop us. We won another Dragon fight at 21 minutes, 3-0 and Dragon, and at this point I would have wagered anything that we were going to win the game. Our problem was our inability to get into their base; without hard crowd control on our team, they kept disengaging and running away from every fight. We couldn't stop them from Flashing over a wall or using Malphite ult to escape or using Jayce's Acceleration Gate to race everyone to safety. This was where we felt the lack of having Cho'gath ourselves, as his Rupture and Silence would have meant kills instead of narrow escapes for the other team. When we tried to push towers, they had outstanding wave-clearing power with Cho'gath and Jayce poke. We tried to go into a 2 and 1 split push, but unfortunately Varis got caught by a Malphite ult in the process. While they pushed our base, we managed to take their bottom tower, but again Fallen died rather needlessly to their Cho'gath, and we ended up losing top tower and top inhib. We likely could have saved the tower, and certainly could have saved the inhib. Then Varis fought 1 vs 2 and died, then Fallen got picked off at the red buff, etc. Instead of grouping as three, we were letting them kill us individually over and over again, and with the death timers being so long, it opened up the map to their pushes. Even though we aced them yet again, it was too late. Our base was in shambles, and they were able to push in for the win.
This was an unexcuable loss; we took the first 5 Dragons, we led the entire game in kills, and their team still had less global gold even after their victory (38k to 37k). We were caught too many times, and failed to execute a push into their base correctly. Our team comp needed to have another source of hard crowd control, as even one or two kills in key moments of the enemy team could have let us push into their base and begin snowballing things. Another thing that just killed us in this match was the buggy towers, which were shooting at double speed in this patch version. With normal towers, their team could not have stalled out our pushes nearly as effectively. I also think that splitting Xin alone was a mistake; Shyvana's movement speed and wave clearing power makes her a natural split pusher. We should have gone into a split earlier, and should have had my champ off by herself. It worked against the team with the turtling Teemo, and I think something similar would have worked here. What a frustrating match, made worse because it failed to put us over the top for Gold rating (1450 in ranked team play).
Livestream Link: No Recording
Version: Kha'zix Patch
Elo: 1418 (-35) = 1453
This game can best be described as anticlimatic. We needed to get five ranked wins for each member of the team to qualify them for season end rewards, so I went ahead and sat out this one (already having six wins) to give everyone else a chance. Because I didn't play in this game, I don't have a Livestream recording, or even a replay to watch in Spectator Mode. Varis had seen enough of our games at this point to be comfortable with jungling Shyvana on this map, although I remember that he did make some silly mistakes at times. It didn't end up mattering, because their team actually did have a jungle Mundo to go along with their Jax and Ezreal picks. FallenAsylum played Jayce in the top lane against their Jax and essentially broke even, but Spreekaway played Cho'gath in the bottom lane against their Ezreal and simply wrecked his face. He killed Ezreal twice, then when Mundo came to help out, Spreek killed him too, and was able to grab a Needlessly Large Rod on his second trip back to base. We rode a fed Cho'gath to an easy victory, and they surrendered immediately at the 15 minute mark. I wish I could remember more, but I have no record of this game. Sorry!
Our team received 35 points for winning that last game, which took Three Man Terror Squad to Gold rating (1450+ Elo in Season Two). This was our goal all along, so many thanks to everyone on the team for a job well done. We still needed to get one more team win for FallenAsylum, and queued up for another game, which of course we lost, just as I had done with VarisNox in solo queue earlier. (That was a sad game because I was up against a jungle Cho'gath and utterly destroyed him, but Spreekaway and FallenAsylum had rough games and lost their individual laning matchups. Once again, we had failed to get Cho'gath in the picking stage, and once again had lost. Our team went 7-0 with Cho'gath and 0-2 when the other team picked him!)
Thanks to the help from my teammates, I was able to achieve my goal of hitting Gold in all three ranked queues in Season Two. As in Season One, this served as a personal validation that I did know what I was talking about when creating all of those YouTube videos. Gold rating in solo queue worked out to the top 5-10% of the ranked player base (much, MUCH higher than that for the total player base), and the number of people who managed to get Gold rating in all three ranked queues was smaller still. Riot did a nice job of handing out end of season rewards for their players, which included forum icons, banner headings, summoner icons for each ranked queue, and the Triumphant Janna skin for anyone who achieved Gold rating or higher. Now I could pair the new Janna skin alongside my rarely-used Jarvan skin from Season One. A free exclusive skin on a champion that I actually play all the time - excellent!
While it would have been nice to reach Platinum in one of the ranked queues, I knew that I wasn't a good enough player to meet that criteria. I didn't play enough games in ranked, and I wasn't strong enough mechanically to reach the levels needed for Platinum (1850 solo queue, 1650 ranked queues). Varis and I both decided that we would try to shoot for Platinum in Season Three, with no idea whether or not it would be possible. But it would be a fun goal to pursue nonetheless. I planned to move away from a shallow understanding of many champions (which I used in the custom YouTube games for variety) and focus on mastering a small number of champions in great detail, 2-3 champions for each role. More than anything else, I just needed to play more games, lots and lots of ranked games, to become mechanically proficient with more champs. If I could pull myself into a higher Elo bracket, that experience would also help us in our quest for better team rankings in the next season as well. I don't think that the Elo system is unfair in the least - I was correctly rated in Season Two as a low Gold player. If I were a better player, I would have been crushing 1400 Elo and moved up into higher levels of play.
In the meantime, I was very happy with how things had played out. I now had a triple Gold summoner's icon from Season Two to pair with my Gold icon from Season One. Thanks for reading, and I hope it inspires some of you to try your own journeys. Remember, you'll never win if you don't try!