LoL 2017 World Championships: Play-In Primer

Jess Carruthers Roar Guru

By , Jess Carruthers is a Roar Guru

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    The World Championships have reached the business end.

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    With all the teams now finalised for the 2017 League of Legends World Championships, Riot Games was finally able to start the World’s cycle on Tuesday night with the Group Draws.

    As with MSI, the format for this year’s championship will follow a different format to previous events, with representatives from all regions attending.

    The World Championships this year will be held in China, which at +8GMT is much friendlier for us Aussie viewers! Starting from the 23rd of September, we’ll get to watch six weeks of international play, culminating in the grand final on the fourth of November which will be played in the 80,000 capacity Beijing National Stadium.

    That is still some way off though. With games not starting for another week, today let’s look at how the draw for the Play-In stage worked out.

    The twelve teams in this part of the tournament were seeded into three pools reflecting their estimated relative strength, and drawn into four groups. After a double bo1 round robin, the top two teams from each group will be shuffled into random pairs, where they will play a single best of five; the winner will progress to the Group stage.

    Play-Ins: Group A
    Pool 1: Team WE (WE) from the LPL
    Pool 2: Gambit (GMB) from the LCL
    Pool 3: Lyon Gaming (LYN) from the LLN

    For those that have followed the professional League of Legends scene for a few years, all three of these teams will be familiar names. Each of them has a strong history in their local regions, and most people seem to have an opinion on them, positive or otherwise.

    WE attend Worlds as the third place team from China. They made it through to the semifinals at MSI this year, and have played at many international tournaments over the course of their six-year history.

    Unfortunately for them, the most memorable appearance is probably the disconnect-riddled semifinal against CLG.eu at Worlds in Season 2. This is arguably the strongest team in the Play-Ins; although they did not move into the finals in China, they played two close, five-game series in the semifinals and third place matches.

    GMB, the representative from the Commonwealth of Independent States have a similarly storied history. Back in Season Two when the team was Moscow Five playing in the EU LCS, they exploded into IEM Season VI, and soared through most of Worlds that year; they were only knocked out by the eventual winners of the tournament.

    In the following seasons, GMB slowly declined in strength until Team Vitality purchased their spot. For the last two years, GMB have played in the CIS with average results, however this split – with two team members who were on that original team – they ultimately beat out M19 in a finals that went to five games to represent their region.

    Finally, LYN represent Latin America North this year after winning the LLN for the ninth time running. Every finals they have participated in, they have won without dropping a game – in their region, they are absolutely dominant.

    Having no challenger presents it’s own difficulties however; with a lack of local opponents who play at their level, they’ve not been as challenged as other teams. Though they’ve played at plenty of international tournaments, they’ve had less-than-stellar results; they will be hoping to change that this year. Infinity esports was the most recent team to fall to LYN.

    This group will be interesting. We have three teams with long histories and truly solid fan-bases, but who look to be quite unevenly matched. I suspect there is a broad consensus on how this group will work out, but I look forward to keeping an eye out for any upsets.

    Play-Ins: Group B
    Pool 1: Cloud9 (C9) from the NA LCS
    Pool 2: Team oNe Esports (ONE) from the CBLoL
    Pool 3: Dire Wolves (DW) from the OPL

    This group has a range of teams, from C9 who are old hats at Worlds, through ONE who are an ex-challenger team with no international experience at all. This could be difficult for our very own DW to prepare for.

    (Riot Games)

    C9 scraped their way into Worlds as the NA LCS third seed, giving their fans everywhere multiple heart attacks. This is the third year in a row that they have run and won the gauntlet, as well as their fifth straight Worlds appearance. Their results have been mixed, sometimes making it into the knockout stage, and other times falling in groups. They made it this year after beating CounterLogic Gaming 3-1 in the final round of the NA Regional Qualifier.

    ONE are the surprise representative for Brazil after winning the CBLoL. This team has skyrocketed to the top; they only qualified out of the Brazil Challenger League at the end of April this year, and are now representing their region at Worlds only a few months later. It’s fitting that they’re in the same group as C9, with such a similar ascension story playing out five years later. They are in the tournament after taking out favourites paiN Gaming 3-1 in the finals.

    DW won the Oceanic regional tournament for the second split running to qualify for Worlds. Although they’ve played in the OPL for several years, it’s only in 2017 that they’ve risen to the top; they represented Oceania at MSI this year, too.

    Between that and Rift Rivals, they do have some international experience – certainly more than ONE – but it’s not exactly their comfort zone yet. Like ONE though, they took out local favourites Chiefs esports 3-1 in the OPL finals.

    My two favourite teams are in this group, and are going to be challenged by a team that I’m very interested to watch. I don’t think this group is particularly evenly matched, but I do think we should have some really fun games.

    Play-Ins: Group C
    Pool 1: Fnatic (FNC) from the EU LCS
    Pool 2: Young Generation (YG) from the GPL
    Pool 3: Kaos Latin Gamers (KLG) from the CLS

    Similarly to group B, we’re seeing a wide range of teams in this group. FNC were the winners of the Season 1 World Championship, while YG, as the inaugural second GPL seed to go to worlds, will be entirely new to this. KLG have had some international experience, but only really in the context of qualifying tournaments, which to date they have not passed.

    FNC just barely made their way into Worlds as the third seed for Europe. They have a long history; not only did they win the World Championship back in the day, they’ve made it to the semifinals or further in more than half of the Worlds they’ve competed in. Although their dominance in EU has slipped over the past few years, they are still a very scary opponent to have in the Play-Ins. They came to the tournament with a convincing 3-0 win over H2K in the EU Regional Qualifier.

    YG came second in both the Vietnamese and then the Southeast Asian leagues, both times only losing to the auto-qualified Gigabyte Marines. This team’s name is very accurate; this team only formed in the last year, and have had a pretty good run so far. With Gigabyte Marines progressing so far at MSI, the door was opened for a second Vietnamese team to progress to Worlds for the first time, which they did after a close 3-2 win over Thailand’s Ascension Gaming.

    Legacy League of Legends OPL

    (Image: Riot Games)

    KLG is no stranger to representing Latin America North at an international tournament, with a couple of Wildcard events in their back pocket. The last couple of years has seen a trend where in split one they fall to the bottom of the event, play through the Promotion tournament, then win the end of the year. While the yo-yoing is not exactly an enviable position, they were convincing in their last split, winning both the regular season and going 3-1 against Isurus Gaming in the finals.

    For the many fans who didn’t really follow the Wildcard tournaments of 2014-16, the only point of interest in this group will be FNC. YG and KLG are both comparatively unknown, so watching them go up such a familiar team should be entertaining for eveyone.

    Play-Ins: Group D
    Pool 1: Hong Kong Attitude (HKA) from the LMS
    Pool 2: 1907 Fenerbahçe (FB) from the TCL
    Pool 3: Rampage (RPG) from the LJL

    In contrast to the others, group D has very little international experience. RPG was the LJL team at MSI this year, but this iteration of HKA is completely different to the one from 2013-14, while FB only have played at Rift Rivals.

    HKA are the first number three seed to represent Taiwan at Worlds. As Hong Kong Esports, they regularly had average results in the LMS, and after rebranding to HKA at the start of this year, they continued to do so through this summer. They’re attending Worlds this year having fought their way through two rounds of their regional qualifier, beating Raise Gaming 3-0 in their final match.

    FB comes in as the first seed representing Turkey. This is yet another fresh team, having only joined the league this year. Although they had a mediocre start, their second split performance was much stronger; they didn’t drop a single game at rift rivals, and they won the regular season of the TCL. They then proceeded to qualify for worlds after beating out regional favourites BAU Supermassive in a 3-0 series.

    RPG are our final team, who once again will be representing Japan. This team has always hovered around the top of the Japanese scene, and have seen a little international play over time. They and their regionmates won their Rift Rivals, and RPG represented Japan at MSI. They beat out their long-time rivals DetonatioN Gaming 3-2 to win the LJL finals and move on to Worlds.

    Although this is arguably the weakest group overall (a.k.a. the “Group of Life”, that anyone could get out of), this doesn’t mean the games will be boring. This is a diverse group of teams and could finish in almost any order; I’m hoping that this means we will see some teams taking more off-meta approaches to gaining victories.

    As much as I love the incredible high-level play that comes with the group and knockout stages of Worlds, the uncertainty and excitement of the Play-Ins very quickly became my favourite part of MSI. Which group are you most looking forward to?