At this point, everyone has at least heard of League of Legends. It's one of the most popular video games in the world, with millions of daily players. It's big enough to have professional teams with corporate backers. And it's even gained enough of a fanbase to sell out the Staples Center for their third season finals in the international tournament.
The tournament has returned to North America again, with just as strong of a fanbase as ever. But with the news that the 76ers picked up two popular League teams, not to mention NBA legends Shaquille O'Neal and Rick Fox getting involved, it's likely that these events are only going to grow in coming years.
So since the games might become front page news in the coming year, might as well get a head-start. This is everything you need to know to watch Worlds 2016.
Even if you've heard of the game, maybe you've never played. League of Legends is the most popular MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) game in the world. What this means is that teams of five use champions to battle each other to capture neutral objectives, take down defensive turrets, and destroy the enemy base. Each team consists of five players: Top laner, Jungler, Mid laner, AD Carry, and Support.
Each role has their own specific traits. A top laner is typically played with a skirmishing champion and one that often fights on its own or flanks the enemy team. Junglers roam between lanes to create pressure and "gank" enemy champions to score a kill. Mid laners are usually mage champions and often the star of a team. AD Carries are played with ranged champions and high damage. Finally, Supports help protect and enable the AD Carry.
The game is updated every few weeks with a patch, where certain champions are given stat adjustments to balance the game. This results in a "meta", putting some champions as higher priority than others. This is shown best in the opening of the games, when each team picks and bans champions while making their team compositions.
Who Are The Teams?
There are five premier regions in the world, meaning five different regions that automatically have their teams qualify for the international tournament. The means of earning their spot on the international stage is different for each region; what always stays the same is that North America, Europe, South Korea, and China each send their three best teams. Taiwan sends two more and two "Wildcard" teams qualify through an outside tournament, making sixteen teams.
The Wildcards are the top teams from each of the non-premier regions, such as Brazil, Turkey, and Japan. While generally seen as not on the same level as the other five regions, the gap between this group has steadily been closing over the years.
Counter Logic Gaming
A team that only recently earned its place on the international stage, Counter Logic Gaming came off hot from its debut at MSI with strong play from all of their players. The team relies on their top laner Darshan and AD carry Stixxay to carry games, with strong support from jungler Xmithie and support Aphromoo. Their weakness lies in their mid laner Huhi, who is known for his disappointment in mechanical play. The team is often regarded as an underdog due to some surprisingly poor play at times.
The second place team over the summer, Cloud 9 sports an impressive roster. With each position being among the best in their roles respectively, a particular strong point is world champion top laner Impact, one of the most recent additions to their roster. They also bring with them a great amount of experience from prior international competition, arguably more than any others in the region.
Long-time rivals of Cloud 9, these two teams often find themselves neck and neck at the head of the pack. Their mid laner Bjergsen is recognized as one of the most talented players of all time and a huge example of North American talent. They also bring with them Doublelift, a particularly prominent AD carry. With both of these two entering the tail end of their careers, a high placement in this tournament would be a testament to their play.
H2K, or Hard 2 Kill, has often been the opposite of their name. With fairly disappointing international play, they are by no means a bad team. But when it comes to their matchups, despite sporting big name mid laner and AD carry Ryu and FORG1VEN respectively, they don't seem to stack up to the competition.
G2 is praised as one of the best teams that Europe has produced, but they haven't shown their skill internationally due to their decision to vacation rather than practice before the Mid-Season Invitational. They certainly have the ability to hold their own, but only time will tell to see if they have truly proved themselves.
One of the newest teams, many were surprised to see that Splyce had made it to an international stage. With every member of their team being either a rookie or one that hadn't previously found huge success, the mentoring by head coach YamatoCannon played a huge part in their victory. With their struggles, it is unlikely that they will go very far without some particularly large surprises.
The only two-time world champion team, they are led by mid laner Faker, globally known as the best League of Legends player in the world. Although there were almost no changes to their roster after their season 5 victory, they struggled in the current season and ended their season in second place. If ever there was a year for SKT to make it or break it, it's this one.
The first place team in Korea, this team is regarded as the most likely to win the tournament before going in. Their top laner Smeb has been vocal about his desire to dethrone Faker and be regarded as the best player in the world. Almost every one of their members is regarded as part of the top 20 players at the tournament, making them a serious force to be reckoned with.
The weakest of the Korean teams, this squad formed after the exodus of the world champion team Samsung White. While their team is largely unproven and regarded as rookies, they've also garnered a lot of attention for the strong play of their mid laner Crown.
Royal Never Give Up
A team consisting of a number of proven players on the international stage, it's hard to pinpoint just one strength. Typically, the team is known to funnel resources into their all-star AD carry Uzi. This can be a fault at times, letting other teams take out their weak spots by pressuring solo lanes or aiming for Uzi.
The third seed from China, IMay is a team that has faced a lot of underestimation. Many regard the team as significantly less threatening than their counterparts. However, their team still sports some impressive rookies and veterans, which could lead to any number of surprises.
Even in a region known for AD carries, Deft manages to stand out with his particularly aggressive plays. Alongside their jungler ClearLove, this team is one that loves to fight. While this can be a serious low point for the team, they are also more than able to squash their enemies with their aggressive plays.
ahq e-Sports Club
ahq is perhaps most well known for their mid laner Westdoor, a player who has proved himself to be in the upper echelon. But it's fair to say that if Westdoor doesn't get going, neither does the team. Coming in third place during the summer season, only time will tell if ahq still has what it takes.
The first place team from Taiwan, Flash Wolves are also an international stage mainstay. Sporting some fairly impressive players in all lanes, there are no real stand out members of the team. This is not a group that should be underestimated.
Albus NoX Luna
The Russian team has already proved itself to be much more powerful than anyone expected, giving some frontrunner teams a run for their money. With some incredibly strong play from support Likkrit, this team looks to make a name for their region.
Brazil has been getting stronger every year and INTZ seems to be continuing that trend. With previous teams pulling off some of the biggest upsets in the history of the game, INTZ has already topped that only a day into the competition. No one can say for certain just how much stronger they will prove themselves to be.
The second week of group stages will begin on Thursday and end on Sunday, starting at 6:00 every day.