In a Saturday night game that shattered the records for “creep score” recorded in a pro match, Echo Fox and Dignitas played an exciting, sloppy, and quintessentially North American League of Legends match that demonstrated why the region is consistently entertaining and consistently disrespected. Neither team was competing for a good playoff seed, nor even a playoff berth. Instead, they were playing to avoid possible relegation to the Challenger Series at the end of this spring season.

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The “glass half-full” way of looking at their match is that it included a record-setting performance from Echo Fox’s midlaner Henrik “Froggen” Hansen in a game that went into the LoL equivalent of overtime, and it ended in a thrilling series of pitched battles that left the game in doubt until the last possible second.

The “glass half-empty” description of the match is that two middling teams demonstrated why they’re having a mediocre season, and Froggen entered the record-books because he went back to old habits while each team waited for League’s increasing death-timers to force a decisive outcome in a game that neither was capable of winning.

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Each perspective is completely accurate.

It’s rare to find games like Echo Fox vs. Dignitas at the pro level these days, because League of Legends itself is designed to avoid long stalemates. That made the 68-minute match a trip down memory lane for longtime fans, and it was perfectly fitting that Echo Fox’s Froggen would find himself at the middle of it with a creep score of 764. That means that he killed 764 of the little AI minions that run around the map in League of Legends, which translates to a staggering amount of in-game gold.

It was vintage Froggen. He came to prominence with a team called CLG.EU, and during their most successful season, they perfected an infuriatingly effective “stall, farm, win” strategy that confounded many of the teams they played. For several months in 2012 into 2013, Froggen and his old team realized that they could usually win games if they just dragged them out long enough, maxed-out their item builds, and then took a late team-fight victory. Because it takes longer for players to respawn the longer a match goes on, one good fight after an hour of play can decide an entire game.

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That strategy stopped working as League of Legends became a more up-tempo, objective-oriented kind of game… but apparently Echo Fox found some life left in that approach.

They could not have done it without help from Dignitas, who have developed a dismal reputation for losing games despite impressive leads and objective control. There might be no more damning verdict on Dignitas’ performance than the fact that they hadn’t won the game after 67 minutes when they had taken four Barons, had a nice lead on kills, and completely controlled Dragon. Or that, despite these advantages, they only had a trivial gold lead on Echo Fox at that point the game.

Usually, a team in Echo Fox’s position would have been forced into high-risk plays in order to start a comeback against a team in Dignitas’ position. That’s why most games end well before the one-hour mark. Teams playing from behind have to make risky plays, because otherwise they lose control of the map and, with it, the ability to safely farm creeps.

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Dignitas never put that kind of pressure on Echo Fox, so it’s little wonder that Froggen and his team would decide to run the clock on Dignitas.

Even then, it barely worked. Echo Fox got their teamfight victory late in the game, and raced across the map to win the game… and still didn’t manage to close things out. Dignitas defended their Nexus successfully, and it was only their tunnel-vision on knocking-out Echo Fox that opened the back-door to the surviving Echo Foxes.

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Dignitas’ passivity also means that the record-setting creep-score that Froggen earned last night was not as decisive a factor as it might otherwise appear. The statistic begins to lose some of its luster when it’s placed in context and judged against outcomes. Froggen’s numbers were impressive, but they a bit like an NFL quarterback who passes for 500 yards in a game… and turns the ball over four times and scores no touchdowns. After all, Froggen’s record was only about 30 CS higher than his teammate Yuri “KEITH” Jew’s score in in that game. If a game goes on long enough, that “creep score” number is just going to go higher.

Echo Fox’s hard-won victory also demonstrates the current limits of their potential. While the return of Froggen and Park “kfo” Jeong-hun to the starting roster following this seasons’ visa disaster put an end to Echo Fox’s death-spiral, they haven’t looked good against the better teams in NA LCS. Even against Dignitas, they needed a lot of help to secure the win.

At this point, it may not matter for Echo Fox. Their LCS spot is looking increasingly secure and they have the entire summer to get better. But fighting tooth-and-nail against a struggling Dignitas is probably not where the team wanted to find itself right now.

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Rob Zacny is a freelance writer and esports journalist. You can reach him at zacnyr@gmail.com

Top Photo: Froggen celebrates his team’s LCS victory, by Riot Games. Source