But in most of the games where he dominated, Faker didn't do it alone. In fact, a good many of the other world-class mid-laners gave Faker a run for his money. He often did poorly in the laning phase, largely due to counter-picks and targeted bans. But even with the picks and bans against him, SK Telecom T1 had a secret weapon -- their jungler bengi. Before Faker would get the ball rolling, bengi would arrive from the most unexpected locations and often with perfect timing, giving Faker the early game advantage. Throughout the mid and late games, bengi would be everywhere, always at the right moment to win the match for his team. While Faker had an impressive highlight reel, it was really bengi's constant coverage that pushed the team to the top.
Can't ban out bengi
During the matches against Najin, I wondered why Najin didn't just target bans at bengi. His Lee Sin was practically causing an instant replay every time he walked into lane, with seemingly impossible dives or saves at every turn. This was heightened by the fact that Najin won the one game where they stole Lee Sin away (bengi played Elise, and he was nowhere near as impactful). I was pretty sure that Lee was the critical component, but I was definitely incorrect.
In Game 1 of the finals, Royal Club banned Lee Sin and Vi, specifically targeting Bengi's champion pool. He responded by playing Jarvan IV and steamrolling the game. His plays swung the game at about 13 minutes to eventually win handily. Although Faker made quite a few plays that game, bengi made just as many, and bengi got Faker out of what was a losing lane with a few key ganks early on.
Looking back on the previous games, I realize that bengi has a champion pool that is too deep to ban. There really isn't a way to get rid of enough of his roster to slow him down. Royal Club's Vi bans (which they kept throughout the series) were specifically targeted due to a fear of bengi and his incredible tower dives. They felt that if Vi were played, they would just die instantly with no counterplay. They even target banned bengi again in Game 2, specifically leaving Zed open and allowing Faker to play his (debatably) strongest character. When you are a scary enough player that you provoke multiple ban threats, yet are dangerous even if the enemy spends their bans entirely on you, it makes dealing with you close to impossible. It also lets your allies get more comfort picks just because your foes need to ban some of your more dangerous choices.
How did he do it?
After the event, there was a press conference where we were able to question the players about their wins. One of the big highlights was that SKT had spent a lot of time practicing 1v1 lanes, learning to play against as many champions as possible. In one of the highlight videos, Impact bragged that he had beaten bengi 4-1 in Lee Sin mirror matches.
However, I asked bengi directly how he had practiced. Quite simply, it's impossible to practice the things that bengi did by simply doing 1v1 laning. He was always at the right place at the right time, and that's not something you can develop by practicing lane mechanics. "I spent a lot of time just predicting where the enemy jungler is," he explained. "When I am sure where he is, I go for a gank to try and win the lane." While his teammates practiced 1v1s, bengi practiced being psychic.
Unfortunately for his enemies, bengi's positioning in the matches practically was psychic. He showed an uncanny sense of where to go and where to be, seemingly knowing in advance when his lanes would do well and when they would struggle. When Impact dominated his lane, bengi paid the lane almost no mind, but if the enemy jungler was readying for a gank, bengi would be there -- frequently waiting to make a play on the jungler himself.
While warding was a big part of his game, and bengi played as more of a support jungler, bengi often made decisions based on little or no ward information. While he might not literally be psychic, he certainly displayed an incredible sense for what was going on in the game.
Stealing his tricks?
Probably the most troubling thing about bengi's performance is that it's really impossible to replicate. Watching the matches a thousand times really won't help. His presence on the map was really something magical, something we can't really quantify. It's not his mechanics that make him good, or any specific thing. I tried to pay specific attention to how he was warding, but there really isn't anything special that he does that sets him apart other than warding more than others.
Perhaps that's the biggest problem with watching bengi; it's hard to know how he works, only that he does. He doesn't buy pink wards to secure an area from potential enemy wards; he buys a pink ward because he (perhaps impossibly) knows that there is an enemy ward there. It's actually kind of scary just watching his use of pink wards, because he'll place them with almost no warning and get a ward kill.
His techniques aren't really reproducible, either. Once he came up the enemy's lane, rather than the side, for a gank. This all-or-nothing strategy would never work in a normal game, but due to the specific situation (and his trust in Faker to clean up), the kill was flawless. What possessed him to do that? Of course he was placing invasion wards at the time, but also the enemy was in just the right position for him to dive in after placing his wards. That's some crazy presence of mind.
When we really distill what led SKT to the end, it's team cohesion. Impact played like a fairly typical top laner, but he would rotate to cover his team or split push with the right timing. Faker had a somewhat weak laning phase but would cover his teammates' lanes to push an advantage or set up a kill. Piglet and Pooh did their jobs too, and while Piglet gets a lot of credit for shredding people and picking up tons of kills, Pooh would often die brutally to the enemy team in order to land a perfect teamfighting ultimate. While Pooh might not get the best KDA from that, he was no less essential in winning the fight.
As the jungler, bengi is the heart of the team. It's his job, especially in the early game, to work with the team to make good situations happen. In that respect, no other jungler in the tournament did as well for his team, and I wish I'd been able to pick his brain more about how to read the state of the game as clearly as he does.
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