Thanks to a stomach bug, I’m writing this article two days into Worlds play-ins. On the bright side, it means I have a little more to go on than just pre-tournament speculation.
We now know, for example, that G2 will be as shaky as we might have expected (not exactly news). We know that EDG will waltz through to the main event (probably could have guessed that one). And we know that Cloud 9 will have a dodgy start but go on to be America’s top performing team (er…).
Okay, so, honestly, Days 1 and 2 weren’t the most exciting. The highlight was Cloud 9 nearly losing to Detonation Focusme from LJL. Indeed, the Japanese team really should have closed out the game, but a huge throw or amazing flank (pick one) opened the door for the Americans to take advantage of the huge late-game death timers.
Sneaky’s infamous Worlds buff came into play as he popped off on Kaisa, putting up and impressive 6-1-4 stat line. He and Jensen’s Irelia really kept C9 in the game long enough for Licorice’s flank to turn things around for good.
Apart from that one blip, it’s been pretty much as expected thus far. Even G2’s disappointing defeat to Supermassive was, honestly, not a huge surprise.
G2 have looked fine all year, but nothing special. Even in the height of their domestic dominance in 2016 and ’17, they rarely set the international stage alight. This year, with a worse team and a worse run of form, I worry that Europe might only have one team to get eliminated in the quarter-finals.
I mentioned Sneaky’s Worlds buff above, but G2 seems to get the other end of the stick. They are famous for the inability to turn domestic dominance into international success. In a year of rebuilding, with none of that domestic dominance, international success seems like a pipe dream.
Vitality will have a hell of a time getting out of their group and G2 needs to turn things around quickly if they’re even going to make it that far. What worries me for G2 is not just the loss to Supermassive, but the manner of victory in their second game. I would have like to see them wipe the floor with Ascension Gaming, who, to be harsh but fair, looked fairly mediocre against Supermassive.
Instead, G2 trundled along and did what they had to do. It was a run-of-the-mill victory. It looked comfortable, but not particularly inspiring. Jankos was good on Camille, and Wunder had an easy time on Urgot (because, d’uh, Urgot is bonkers), but Perkz struggled on Ryze – a champion with which he has a history so mixed, there was even a song about it at one point. Sort of. A rhyme, anyway.
If we assume that Vitality has no chance of escaping a group with RNG and Gen G – and I do – that leaves Fnatic as the sole hope for European success.
Just to be clear, as a realist, I consider European ‘success’ as making it to quarter-finals.
Fnatic can pull that off, though. 100Thieves are a good team with solid leadership both on and off the rift, but they are just individually worse than Fnatic in every role, with the possible exception of support. Caps will run rings around Ryu in mid lane when the two go head-to-head, and the rest of the map doesn’t look much better for the Americans. Aphromoo might be a better support than Hylissang – might be – but Rekkles is better than Cody and Rikara combined.
Invictus Gaming is where things get a little hazier. The second best team in China, probably, is never going to give anybody an easy game. Well, except when they choke in the playoff finals against RNG, apparently.
IG lost just one game in the regular season, though, and probably should have won the playoffs, too. Whether or not Fnatic can take them down comes down to performances on the day. They are pretty evenly matched on an individual level, meaning that the two games between these teams should be some of the most exciting of the entire group stage.
Fnatic has shown a dogged determination over the years, even making it out of groups last year after an awful start. The fact that they turned things around after one of the most one-sided games in Worlds history (remember the dancing Rift Herald?) says a lot about the team’s mental strength.
Depending on who ends up in their group after play-ins, Fnatic should go at least as far as they did in 2017. Their odds of going even further are decent, too. If they top their group – a big if – they are likely to face MAD or Liquid in the quarter-finals. Either way, Fnatic should have the edge there.
A semi-finals appearance doesn’t look out of the question and, from there, who knows what might happen.
If IG edge out Fnatic in the group stage though, things are trickier. Second place in Group D is almost guaranteed to face KT Rolster in the quarter-finals. The Korean champions are among the favourites to win the whole thing, and for good reason – they would certainly be favoured against Fnatic and it would take one of the biggest upsets in Worlds history for Caps and Co to overcome those odds.
The solution is clear: beat IG in groups. Easy enough, right?