PCS Grand Final Recapped
Published on Sep 15, 2023
While The Chiefs and Team Bliss didn’t make it to the finals guest writer Elliot Brunk has nevertheless summarised the Grand Finals of the PCS for those who missed it!
The Flash Wolves may have disbanded in 2019, but the PCS 2023 Summer Split has served as a reminder of just how talented the players who competed for the organization were. Each of the final three teams in the Summer Playoffs added a former Flash Wolf to their roster for the Summer Split: PSG Talon mid-laner Huang “Maple” Yi-Tang, Beyond Gaming bot-laner Lu “Betty” Yu-Hung, and CTBC Flying Oyster support Liu “ShiauC” Chia-Hao. Phenomenal regular season performances from Betty and Maple earned them both spots on the 1st Team All-Pro. ShiauC, along with his lane partner Chao “Shunn” Ying-Shun, were a bright spot for a Flying Oyster team that stumbled to a 2-7 record during the second round robin.
Given their poor run of form leading up to the playoffs, it’s surprising that CFO managed to make it to the finals at all. Fortunately for them, they managed to right the ship just in time. Newfound mid-jungle synergy allowed Tseng “JimieN” Hao-Chun to thrive, going 9-3 while playing the mid-lane staples of Azir, Jayce, and Ahri. Top-laner Hsu “Rest” Shih-Chieh also bounced back, carrying games on strong side champions and holding steady when playing weak side, reminding viewers why he has long been considered one of the best top-laners in the PCS. As the seventh seed, CFO started playoffs in the lower bracket and had to play through a gauntlet of seventeen games before making the finals.
In comparison, top-seeded PSG Talon had to work very little to reach the finals, playing only eight games over the course of two BO5 series. PSG has largely inherited the title of perennial favorite from Flash Wolves despite a high rate of player turnover in the past few years. Between Maple and former EDward Gaming jungler Yu “JunJia” Chun-Chia, PSG boasted the strongest mid-jungle duo in the league, allowing them to set the game tempo to whatever the rest of the team needed.
PSG Talon entered the finals as heavy favorites, and they certainly played like it in Game 1. PSG drafted a standard poke composition with a Jayce/Kai’Sa core, with extra damage provided by a surprising Lillia pocket pick from JunJia. CFO tried to respond with a standard front-to-back composition, but neither Shunn’s Xayah nor JimieN’s Azir managed to consistently find safe positions from which to deal damage. CFO matched PSG in a series of early skirmishes around the bottom lane, but were sloppy in their approach to fights around the dragon pit. An awkward retreat around 20 minutes gave PSG a 5-1 ace, giving them a lead they would not let go. An extended Baron dance allowed the PSG poke composition to chip away at CFO health bars until support Lin “Woody” Yu-En found a 3-man Rell ultimate, leaving PSG with both the Baron buff and another 5-1 ace around the 27th minute. From there, PSG was able to march into the base and destroy the Flying Oyster nexus following a 4-man Lilting Lullaby from JunJia.
Between the game-ending engage and a perfectly placed Swirlseed from range at 24 minutes, JunJia was able to show off his individual expertise with Lillia. By the end of the game, JunJia held a five level experience advantage over his counterpart in the jungle, deservedly receiving the MVP of Game 1.
CFO entered Game 2 with a similar draft to the first game, returning to the same core of Azir and Xayah. By banning Jayce away from Maple, they forced PSG to respond with a new style of team composition. Although PSG top-laner Huang “Azhi” Shang-Jhih played a quiet game of weak side K’Sante in the first game, in the second game they gave him both a carry in Jax and the tools to empower him in a Sejuani and a roaming mid-laner in Taliyah. However, an early first blood for the CFO bottom lane and a series of attempts to punish missing summoner spells drew all jungle attention away from the top lane. While Jax and Sejuani eventually managed to convert a dive top into a kill and first turret at 14 minutes, at that point JimieN on Azir already had a pair of kills of his own and was well on his way to a second item Nashor’s Tooth. Playing with the vision advantage in the PSG top-side jungle, Azir was able to heavily damage Woody’s Rakan, letting CFO start a 23-minute Baron sneak. JunJia’s Sejuani was able to get vision on the Baron’s low health, but in what appeared to be a misclick, he took a Hexgate deep into CFO territory rather than Arctic Assault into the Baron pit for a chance to steal the buff. PSG found an opportunity to slow the Baron push down thanks to a pick on Azir in the top lane followed by a 2-for-2 skirmish in the bottom lane, but CFO’s carries were ultimately too strong and too well-protected to give PSG an opening. At 28 minutes, PSG attempted a desperate deep teleport flank that sent Azhi’s Jax behind CFO’s top lane push, but the flank was denied by a slick hook from ShiauC’s Nautilus onto PSG bottom-laner Tsou “Wako” Wei-Yang’s Aphelios that took the PSG marksman down before Jax could reach the CFO backline.
Although the teams switched sides for Game 3, each drafted essentially the same strategy as the previous game. Flying Oyster once again selected Xayah and Azir for damage, and PSG picked a Taliyah to help Azhi’s Jax get an advantage over Rest’s K’Sante. For the first time in the series, early bottom lane brawling did not lead to a first blood before the clock hit 3:00. Instead, a top lane gank from CFO initially succeeded in getting Jax’s flash and forcing Azhi back to base, but the CFO duo overstayed their welcome by trying to shove the wave into the turret, giving JunJia the chance to wrap around behind them as Azhi teleported back to lane. A clean flash into 2-man stun from JunJia’s Rell set up first blood for Jax. Taking advantage of his early lead, Azhi was able to destroy a handful of turrets, spreading global gold to the rest of his team. At 15 minutes, it looked like CFO might have caught PSG out of position in mid after Wako stopped damaging the mid-lane turret too early, but Woody’s Alistar proved to be too tanky to take out without Rest over-extending deep into the PSG jungle with his All-Out, resulting in a 1-for-1 fight. Although it didn’t lead to anything, this fight was also notable for culminating in a 5-man Moonlight Vigil root from Wako’s Aphelios. The next five minutes were fairly quiet, with the exception of JimieN’s Azir making a magical escape away from the combined forces of Jax, Rell, and Taliyah. Just after 20 minutes, PSG sent a four-man stack to hide in the red-side bush behind the Baron pit. While CFO avoided the first two ambush attempts, their jungle and support eventually got caught out allowing PSG to take Baron. At that point, PSG was simply too far ahead and soon wrapped up the game, bringing them to match point.
Down to their last life, CFO pivoted their Game 4 draft strategy to a much more aggressive Rumble/Sejuani/Yone top side. With the Xayah/Azir pairing finally not taken by their opponents, PSG opted to pick it for themselves. Although there were still skirmishes, this game started far less bloody than the previous three. When Baron spawned, there was only a single kill in the game, but that soon changed when Shunn started a well-coordinated combo with a three-man Moonlight Vigil, immobilizing both of PSG’s backline carries for the Equalizer from Rest’s Rumble. That fight transitioned into a scuffle in front of Baron, in which Rest was again able to lay down a Rumble ultimate on an frozen Azir, letting CFO take both the battle and the Baron buff. Shunn and Rest each stepped up in this game, although JimieN was also a threat that could not be ignored, executing deep dives onto Wako’s Aphelios that removed much of PSG’s damage before a full teamfight could even begin. With a dominant Game 4 win, CFO managed to push the grand finals to a deciding last game.
Sadly for CFO, they could not finish their dream run through the lower bracket. In what was the most one-sided game of the series, CFO drafted a confusing team that featured the same poke composition core of Kai’Sa and Jayce that PSG found success with earlier, but they failed to provide a supporting cast of champions that would allow the carries to flourish. PSG chose a composition that committed to late-game scaling, featuring a Gnar, Azir, and Zeri. While both teams played a risk-averse style through the early game, a fight in front of the second Rift Herald was won decisively by PSG: although CFO got the game’s first blood on Aatrox, that would prove to be the only kill the team got all game. From that point, the CFO poke composition simply could not contest any ground held by PSG, and the fantastic turn offered by JunJia’s Maokai allowed PSG to force fights on their terms against a CFO team that was not meant for teamfighting. CFO’s defenses quickly crumbled, leaving only a nexus that PSG Talon destroyed to become the 2023 PCS Summer split champions.
CTBC Flying Oyster will surely be disappointed in their Game 5 performance, faltering in their 22nd playoff game of the summer. However, the year is not yet done for them, as a second place finish in the PCS is still good for a play-ins spot at the 2023 World Championship in Korea. In the meantime, PSG has much more to celebrate: fan-favorite players like Maple and Finals MVP JunJia whose careers have taken them abroad have returned to their domestic league to show, once again, that they are among the best players the region has ever produced.