At the risk of sounding dismissive, it’s finally times for the Worlds to start properly.
The play-ins were a nice warmup for the main event, but I found them a little difficult to get excited about for the most part. That’s not to say there wasn’t some great League played, I just wasn’t invested in a lot of it.
Following G2 seemed like it might be interesting after a shaky start against SuperMassive, but they quickly turned things around and went on a 4-0 streak to secure top spot in their group.
In yesterday’s knock-out match against Infinity Esports they followed a similar pattern, dropping game one of the series, despite being ahead on gold and kills. But they turned that around just as comfortably, sweeping the rest of the series 3-0, claiming a spot in the group stage.
Supermassive might be the sob story of the play-ins. After handing G2 their opening day defeat, they took second place in the group and had many pundits talking about it finally being the year for a Turkish team to have an impact on the international stage.
Indeed, the opening game of their play-ins match looked incredible for the Turks. They slaughtered their LMS opponents, with Zeitnot’s Kaisa putting up an absurd 12/0/1 score-line.
But G-Rex were just getting warmed up, and they battled back in game two, despite being down in gold till the very end.
Game three was another close one, but G-Rex got their revenge for game one in the fourth and final round. It was Stitch – again, the AD Carry – who popped off, this time on Xayah. His 9/0/6 performance was the highlight of a one-sided end to Turkey’s Worlds hopes for another year.
Speaking of one-sided, Edward Gaming gave their Japanese opposition a schooling they are unlikely to forget.
It was great to see the LJL representatives make it as far as they did, but they were outclassed by the Chinese team. All three games were stomps, and the entire series clocked in at under 90 minutes. A sorry end to the Japanese story at Worlds, but not an unexpected one.
The best games of the play-ins playoffs was, without doubt, Cloud 9 vs Gambit. In years gone by, you might have expected those two names to clash in the knockout stages of the main event.
Regardless they served up the match of the tournament thus far, leading to the only five-game series of the play-ins.
I must admit, I wasn’t sure who I wanted to win. Gambit brings back so many memories of League’s formative years – Diamondprox inventing jungle invades; Alex Ich goomba stomping fools with Kha’Zix; Darien’s AP Shyvana and so on. But it’s hard to root against Cloud 9 after their monumental turnaround in 2018, and the refreshing new approach of Coach Reapered, who has brought Korean-style use of substitutions to the West for the first time.
Luckily, I didn’t have to choose, since the games started at 5AM over here. I could watch the VODs when I got up, safe in the knowledge that my fingernails were safe and my choice of favourites was already moot.
The end result is that we have three North American teams in the main event, and that the region’s most successful Worlds team will get a chance to continue that streak.
A lot depends on which group they end up in, but I still fancy C9 to do better than both Team Liquid and 100Thieves. I’m not a superstitious man, but there is just something about C9, especially Sneaky, that means they always do better than their compatriots when it really counts.
Of course, their main rivals in that category – Team SoloMid – didn’t even qualify this year, so it’s really up to Team Liquid to try and match Cloud 9’s record.
That won’t be easy, to say the least. Liquid’s opening match is against the number one seed from Korea, KT Rolster. Talk about being thrown in at the deep end, and it doesn’t get much easier from there, since EDG claimed the play-ins spot for that group.
Cloud 9 themselves have, arguably, an even more difficult opener. They find themselves in Group B, with bookies’ favourites to win the whole thing, Royal Never Give Up and defending world champions Gen.G.
Their first game is against the Chinese team, who are looking to make it three wins out of three on the international stage. Historically, C9 always makes it to the quarter-finals, but I think that record might be, er, history.
Even Vitality, the other team in the group, is going to offer tough opposition for the American organisation. The second best team in Europe is rarely a pushover.
That leaves 100 Thieves as possibly the best hope for North America reaching the knockout stage. Honestly, there is a very real possibility that the region doesn’t get a single team out of groups this year.
In an easier group, I could see Liquid doing something, but 100 Thieves will have a wretched time trying to take wins off Fnatic and Invictus Gaming. Even G-Rex will be tough opposition, as they showed in the play-ins.
Anything can happen at Worlds (well, anything except a Western team winning the tournament), but it would take something extra special for 100 Thieves to come out ahead of IG or Fnatic over the course of a double round-robin.
Beating either of them once but be a huge upset, but beating them once isn’t even enough to qualify for the next stage.
Sorry, America. Better luck next yeah, eh?