The League of Legends World Championship group stage’s opening round robin is about to end. After the games in Group A for this weekend are finished, JD Gaming, Rogue, and Royal Never Give Up may have all secured at least a tiebreaker to advance to the quarterfinals by the end of the day.
On the other hand, in the same period of time, Evil Geniuses, GAM Esports, and 100 Thieves might join Cloud9 as the teams facing elimination.
Three best-of-one matches in New York City have taught us a lot and perhaps even generated more intriguing questions as Worlds approaches.
Let’s analyze some of them.
Team Rogue Gets It Done
Is anyone else having to swallow some pride since they didn’t really believe in Rogue to the extent that they ought to have believed in a top seed from Europe? The name value of G2 Esports and Fnatic, which carries greater weight and has the worldwide honors to support it, may contribute to some people’s skepticism.
Though it was thrilling and well-deserved, Rogue’s bullet run to their first LEC title did contain some elements of lightning in a bottle. This year, Greek AD carry Comp made a reputation for himself by creating lane-dominant, snowball-y bottom lanes. The most obvious example is probably Lucian and Nami because, not very long ago, they were essentially the soup of the day for the entire world.
Despite the fact that reports of the duo’s demise following the Electrocute nerfs had been greatly exaggerated, one could be excused for thinking Rogue might not be as effective given the fact that Comp and support Trymbi essentially won the LEC on the strength of that bottom lane, as well as the fact that the bottom lane meta still had a lot of room for Miss Fortune, Kai’Sa, and Aphelios—the three AD carries who have been played the most so
But, they’d be mistaken.
That AD carry statistic’s flip side is that Caitlyn and Kalista have the highest pick/ban presence in their respective positions. Teams don’t let lane bullies pass draft because of their extreme dread of them. The cards were also on the table for Europe’s favorite tournament surprise when Kalista and Soraka were allowed to go through for Comp and Trymbi.
Rogue rebounded and avoided the upset despite a tremendously tenacious midgame from GAM Esports that threatened to end this entire section.
The thing that surprises me the most, though, is Malrang’s steadfast preference for playing champions like Jarvan IV in a more “herbivorous” manner—one that prioritizes advancing his laners at the expense of his own nourishment. In the whole Play-Ins plus groups, Jarvan had only been used twice, both times ending in defeat. Everyone was anticipating the reveal of Malrang’s high-risk, high-reward jungle approach. Good news thus far.
The following test will undoubtedly be the hardest for the European champions. We will learn a lot about Rogue from their showdown with LPL runner-up Top Esports and their own top-tier bottom lane duo JackeyLove and Mark.
Even so, they would go to the quarterfinals for the first time in the organization’s history in their third straight Worlds trip if they defeated the teams “behind them” in GAM and DRX.
The North American Fiasco
It’s still early, yes, but heck, Cloud9 barely made it out of groups last year after starting the group stage 0-3 courtesy to an incredible meltdown by FunPlus Phoenix. Current groupmates Fnatic started 0-4 in 2017 but eventually made it to the quarterfinals.
It won’t be over until it is. But this is just nasty beyond belief.
What’s the general opinion every single year when, let’s say, Team Liquid goes 3-3? Man, we had the game versus [insert winnable game here] available for taking. Then they lose by one game in the quarterfinals. The group stage is quite harsh. If Evil Geniuses and 100 Thieves fail to advance past the group stage, their upset attempts against LPL champions JDG on Friday and Korean kings Gen.G on Sunday will haunt the two teams and fans in the region as a whole.
Then there are the matches where North American teams simply appear unprepared and frightened in front of their opponents. EG looked even worse versus G2 in their sixth(!) straight loss against their European MSI “rivals,” while Cloud9 looked much worse against T1 and Fnatic on Friday.
It would be wrong to count them out yet, but if North American teams don’t improve, terrible things will happen to the seeds for the international competitions of next year. EG defeated MAD 3-0 last weekend, and nobody can rob them of that, either.
For DRX, two junglers in two days meant one enormous upset victory over Top Esports. Many people still didn’t have full confidence in DRX despite their unbeaten performance during the Play-In Stage last weekend, which is probably even understandable given the relative level of competition there. And since 2014, only one Korean team has ever failed to get through the Worlds group stage, as everyone who has seen even a little of Jatt on the broadcast is aware of (Gen.G went 1–5 in 2018).
Rogue appeared to be in top form, Top Esports loomed dangerously close, and an unpredictable GAM put DRX’s near-perfect statistic in jeopardy.
The LCK’s delegates did not have a good day on Saturday.
A 0-3 performance brought the LCK’s tournament record to a dismal 2-4, making them four losses in a row—one for each of the teams—dating back to Gen.defeat G’s by RNG on Friday. The region returned to 0.500 after victories over 100 Thieves and Cloud9, but most impressively, Deft and the rest of DRX orchestrated the lone upset on a lackluster League of Legends day in terms of outcomes.
As they pushed TES AD carry JackeyLove’s Draven out of relevancy before sauntering into the New York City skyline with what ultimately turned out to be a one-sided victory, their victory over Top Esports brought the good feelings back to the Deft farewell tour.