LoL 2017 World Championships: Play-in predictions

Jess Carruthers Roar Guru

By Jess Carruthers, Jess Carruthers is a Roar Guru

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    A new season of League of Legends is dawning. (Photo: Twitter)

    The 2017 League of Legends World Championships is properly upon us. At 3pm AEST on Saturday, the Opening Ceremony will begin, kicking off six weeks of League at the highest level.

    Last week, we took a look at which teams were going to be involved in this first Play-In stage. From Saturday through Tuesday, these teams will play a total of 24 matches (six each day), between around three and nine at night our time. This week, we’re going to take a closer look at some of those match-ups and what we could see at the end of the first four days.

    With each team playing only four games total – two games against each of the other two teams in the group – every game counts. Do note, the game times are all approximations and will depend on the results of the earlier games – if any are especially important to you, keep an eye on the stream during the day!

    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

    WE are a scary team to be in a group with, even for two other teams with histories like GMB and LYN. While the latter two teams are recognised in their regions, the question will be how they stack up.

    WE are very strong all round. They have impressive, experienced players (Condi and 957 were both LoL-household names earlier in the year), and play as a unit both in lane phase and in teamfights. They go in hard in the early game, and simply don’t let up until they win. This team can of course be punished for their aggression, but in all cases, doing so requires a certain calibre of team that WE are unlikely to come up against until the Group Stage.

    The CIS region as a whole is one of the strongest minor regions, with a lot of EU overlap. GMB’s first iteration was in the EU LCS, and now with their regional dominance in Split 2, this team deserves a lot of respect. Like WE, they also tend to play aggressive, but with a bit less insurance; I’m not going to say their vision control is bad, but it could absolutely be better. This team needs to either secure themselves more before going in, or rein it in just a little.

    LYN is generally the more cautious team of the three, which in theory they can use to their advantage; caution and restraint around teams like WE and GMB means that they could, in theory, take advantage of any over-aggression. Their downfall is probably going to be in the macro, though; even if they can win a teamfight, LYN seem to struggle to decide on their next move a bit too often.

    I suspect this group has most people agreeing that WE will come out firmly on top, with GMB second and LYN being eliminated. I do think that GMB is one of the teams with the greatest potential for upsets, but it seems more likely for that to happen in the knockout round next week against one of the other three major region teams.

    Game to watch: GMB versus LYN, 5:30pm Saturday

    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

    In contrast to Group A, these three teams probably have the best chance at upsetting one another. I’m really glad to see that this group is going to play all their games on Saturday and Sunday, and not just because it has my two favourite teams; I’m really keen to see how these three match up.

    With the very notable exception of their loss in the NA LCS Quarterfinals, C9 have been looking increasingly strong since Rift Rivals. The meta has treated them well, and the team has performed admirably in some very high-pressure situations. I say some, but not all: Jensen still makes crucial mistakes that can lose fights, and with C9 playing best from ahead, it can cause them some serious setbacks.

    ONE are very much a wildcard team. On the one hand, they came out on top in Brazil, a region that is considered one of (if not the) strongest minor region. On the other hand though, their win in the CBLoL came after the team that was arguably going to win the whole tournament put up an unexpectedly poor performance in the semis and was knocked out. Because of this, it’s really quite hard to say how strong they really are.

    Our very own DW round out this group. This is a team that will fight, fight, and fight some more, and overall do pretty well out of it. Shernfire taking (somewhat measured) risks has been the key to this team dominating OCE for pretty much the whole year. The risks, though, don’t always pay off, and they don’t always respect their enemies. With opponents considerably stronger than the local talent, DW will need to make some changes to their playstyle if they want to succeed.

    I’ve seen this called both a group of life and a group of death. All three teams have a reasonable chance of making it out, in any combination; although I expect C9 to come out first, they only would need to drop a game or two to seriously jeopardise that. I tentatively think that DW will be the other team to progress to the knockouts, however most of that is based on their having substantially more international experience than ONE… and maybe a bit of wishful thinking.

    The LG Dire Wolves, ready to take on the world. (Riot Games)

    Game to watch: ONE versus DW, 7pm Sunday

    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

    This group has the most unknown quantities of the four. FNC is incredibly inconsistent at the moment, YG is basically unknown, and KLG haven’t played a competitive game since patch 7.15.

    I struggle a lot with FNC. As someone who slowly floated away from the EU tournaments in the last couple years, I still hold them in high regard as an org, and to some degree that is deserved – this is still a team with strong individual players and a lot of experience and game knowledge. The problem is, they just seem inconsistent; when they play well, they’re an incredible team, but too often they just fall flat.

    YG has some of the fairly typical mid-tier Play-In team strengths and weaknesses. They are good at fighting, and can collapse on the picks they make very convincingly. Their team fights are not the strongest, but they’re not at all bad. Their macro game suffers though; their vision control isn’t great, which means that they’re either playing risky without vision, or overly conservative with it.

    We’ve seen KLG at a couple of international tournaments now, although they’ve not had great success. This team plays in the same way as the OPL teams have in the past: bloody and aggressive games, which can win things for them, but when you’re playing against stronger opponents it can be easily countered. Although they’re not a strong team, they’re fun to watch, and I’m looking forward to hearing the casters call talk about MANTARRAYA again.

    Even though the teams here are not necessarily the easiest to read, they are still in somewhat distinct tiers. FNC should win this group, unless they have a very bad day of games, and I would certainly expect them to progress to round two. YG are likely to take the other spot; KLG can probably only progress if their opponents have not prepared for them.

    Game to watch: FNC versus YG, 8pm Tuesday

    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

    I’m really hoping this group works out to be as interesting as it appears. I don’t buy the assessment that HKA is a pushover in comparison to other major regions, FB is my dark horse of the Play-Ins, and RPG have had some fun games in the past tournaments I’ve caught.

    HKA are a very green team as far as international play, but that doesn’t mean that they are going to be some kind of pushover. They have had fantastic comebacks recently, and the ability to regain control from behind is something that many of their Play-In opponents are sorely lacking. It is worth remembering, however, that despite being around for some time, this iteration of HKA is relatively new, so they don’t always display the same level of teamplay you might expect.

    After GMB, I think FB have the best chances of causing an upset and getting to the Group Stage of World’s. They play well as a team, and their vision control is really solid, which could be a huge advantage over teams who often fail in that area. That said, this is a team that plays for the mid-late game; over the first two days of the tournament it will be interesting to see what sort of meta emerges, and if teams like FB can get away with losing early to win later on.

    RPG are no strangers to being an underdog, and at Rift Rivals they managed to beat their detractors to win the tournament. Although their play can look messy, they still consistently come out on top in it, which could work out well for them against other messy teams. Still, this is yet another team that suffers from poor vision control, and in this group that could well prove to be fatal.

    Although I think it may be close, I do still expect HKA to come out of this group on top, with FB a close second. If the groups had worked out differently, RPG could have been in with a chance at progressing, but against these two teams it is very much an uphill battle for them.

    Game to watch: HKA versus FB, 6pm Monday

    This is going to be so much fun, folks. Although we’re not going to be seeing the likes of SKT, RNG, or even TSM for a few weeks yet, there are a lot of great (or at least, fun) teams stepping up this weekend. What teams do you want to see progress? Do you think there will be any upsets?

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