Worlds has always been a huge event for the League of Legends community, but this tournament seems like it's heating up more than ever. With not a single team getting a 3-0 in their games, it's clear that there's no guarantee as to who will be the victor, let alone who will make it out of group stages.
Let me say this as blatantly as possible. I haven't seen any professional League of Legends games that are quite as compelling or entertaining as watching these squads face off on the Rift. The sixteen teams were divided into groups of four, with the first and second place winners moving on to the knockout stages. If ever there was a time to jump in, it is now. Here's everything that you missed from the first week of competition.
If forced to choose which group is the hardest to predict the winners of, it would have to be this group. G2 eSports has let down Europe for a second time internationally, dropping every single game they played over the weekend. The other three teams have found themselves in a three way tie at 2-1. ROX Tigers were the obvious favorites going into the group stages, but after dropping a game to Counter Logic Gaming and struggling against Russian wildcard team Albux Nox Luna, their road to knockouts is no longer paved with gold.
Counter Logic Gaming have managed to live up to their name once again. After a thorough dismantling of G2 on the first day, they then lost to Albus Nox Luna, only to defeat ROX Tigers next. While some might say that this is evident of CLG's problems, they were adamant in the fact that they did not lose to Albus Nox through their own mistakes but because of the other team's skills. Indeed, Albus Nox is the team to watch in this group with one of the best showings from a wildcard team ever.
While not delivering the most explosive games, these teams run slow paces and smart strategies. Exploiting weaknesses is not looked upon nearly as highly as creating them. Counter Logic Gaming continues to impress with their impeccable early game, while ROX's players flex their incredible mechanics. No one can say for certain how Albus Nox Luna will fare, but one thing is certain: the fight to the top will be rough.
Games To Watch
ROX Tigers vs. G2 eSports: This is an intensely back and forth game, but one that gets closed out with a serious sense of finality. ROX Smeb has proven himself to be a mechanical god, currently claiming the award for best play of the tournament, and possibly good enough to be regarded as the best player in the world.
Counter Logic Gaming vs. ROX Tigers: Once again, I choose this game mainly to focus on the skills of one player. CLG Huhi has ensured himself that he will probably never be allowed on Aurelion Sol for the rest of the tournament, not to mention the impeccable playmaking of Aphromoo. This game shows CLG at their best, one that proves just how good they can be when they're at their best.
In a group with three members of the winning Season 3 SKT team and four from the Season 5 SKT team, it's evident that the skills that made them champions has not gone away. SKT T1 came in to the tournament amidst some doubts after the former world champions were unable to get first place in the LCK. While managing to easily handle IMay and Cloud 9, the team fell apart against Flash Wolves, a match that SKT was predicted to easily win. The team has managed to clinch first place by tying for first place at 2-1 against Cloud 9.
While IMay and Flash Wolves are individually very strong teams, they just don't seem to be able to keep up with the excellence of teamfighting that comes out of the C9 and SKT squads. It seems fairly evident that the North American and Korean teams will be the ones to move onto the knockout stage.
Games To Watch
SK Telecom T1 vs Cloud 9: This game was an incredible showing from SKT in knowing exactly how to handle their opponents. Faker absolutely destroyed the mid lane and maintained his spot as king, but the play of the SKT squad is just as big as the failures of Cloud 9. The North American team found themselves completely unable to hold their own, making for a very one-sided game. If this is anything to go by, there's no doubt that SKT will be the victors of this group.
SK Telecom T1 vs Flash Wolves: Just as with the previous game, this isn't so much about the win as it is about the loss. This was entirely SKT's game to throw away and they did exactly that. The Korean squad had shown itself to be a superior team in it's other matches, so there really is a lot of question that these seasoned international players went down so easily to the Taiwanese team.
Alongside Group B, this group is tied up where it potentially could be anyone's game. Edward Gaming and ahq e-Sports Club lead the pack at 2-1, while H2K and INTZ e-Sports follow close behind at 1-2. While Edward Gaming was the clear victor going in, that was all shaken up when the Chinese squad critically dropped a game against wildcard Brazilian team INTZ. The game became the biggest upset to ever occur on the international stage of League of Legends and raised some questions about how unshakeable their confidence and players are.
Meanwhile, Taiwanese team ahq has done surprisingly well. While many expected their top level play from mid laner Westdoor, he hasn't performed at the level that has been expected from him. Instead, his substitute Chawy was successful even during their loss against EDG. H2K has been performing slightly better than the rest of the European teams, but unfortunately that doesn't mean a whole lot for the region. Finally, despite INTZ's victory against EDG, it seems unlikely that they will continue to be able to take games in the same fashion that Albus Nox has been able to.
Games To Watch
INTZ e-Sports vs. Edward Gaming: This group's end results can be boiled down to just how well EDG can play. Edward Gaming has the potential to be one of the strongest teams in the tournament. While INTZ is one of the best squads that has come out of Brazil, they were completely unexpected to pull out a victory. Their dismantling of the Chinese team shows some incredible weaknesses in the EDG line-up.
Edward Gaming vs. ahq e-Sports Club: On the flipside of the coin, EDG was able to take advantage of a team that looked like the other clear favorite to win this group. This was a game where the EDG squad absolutely dominated ahq at almost every stage of the game, showing exactly what they are capable of when their mind is in the right place. Depending on which side of EDG we see for the rest of the tournament, they could be looking to do some real damage during the knockout stage.
Thanks to Splyce, the final nail in the coffin of Europe's international tournament record has been hammered in. The only team besides G2 eSports to go 0-3 in the first week led to an incredibly underwhelming performance. Samsung Galaxy, Team SoloMid, and Royal Never Give Up found themselves in a three-way tie at 2-1. SSG lost a game to TSM, TSM lost a game to RNG, and RNG lost a game to SSG. So just what is going on in this group?
In their loss against RNG and their win against Splyce, AD carry Doublelift got himself caught out many times. Top laner Hauntzer was unable to match up against the likes of former champion Looper. Most critically though, Bjergsen was unable to make a big impact on the game. If the side lanes are able to stay afloat, TSM has some very strong chances. Meanwhile, RNG's mid laner Xiaohu doesn't seem to be able to keep up against strong laners like Crown and Bjergsen. As TSM proves, funneling all of their resources into one carry is unlikely to work. Ultimately, all three of these teams have some incredible players, but their teamwork and macro play is what will decide these matchups.
Games To Watch
I couldn't reasonably pick only two games for this group. There's a lot to be said about the individuals, but every player shines in their own way in these three games. This may be the toughest group to call the winner of, but the matches this coming week will likely be just as close and climactic as those listed below.
Team SoloMid vs. Royal Never Give Up
Team SoloMid vs. Samsung Galaxy
Royal Never Give Up vs. Samsung Galaxy