It’s typical really, isn’t it? You write one slightly gloating article about the struggles of your rival region and they go and qualify ahead of your second seed just to get back at you. Still, it could be worse: I could be a Gen G fan.
Seriously, though, what a day Sunday was. It had everything. The best game of the tournament so far (Cloud 9 vs Vitality), a North American qualifying from groups ahead of Korean opposition, and so many upsets that they ceased being upsets after a while.
Dubbed the group of death, Group B delivered drama in spades. Of the four teams’ final outcomes, only RNG finishing top came as no surprise, but even they lost two games en route to the quarter-finals.
Neither of them came against the defending champions from Korea, however.
Vitality got the crazy train rolling early on, with a huge win over the tournament favourites to start the day.
Cloud 9 countered with a win over Gen G, and it was at this time we all started to realise that anything was possible in this pool.
Vitality countered C9’s counter with a win over a Gen G team that looked out of ideas. With C9 set to face RNG, things looked good for the buccaneering Europeans, but we should have known better. Cloud 9 continued to defy the odds, handing the Chinese team a second loss.
C9’s win meant that the head-to-head with Vitality was crucial. The winners would stamp their passport for a top-eight appearance, the losers would have to rely on Gen G beating RNG.
In an absolutely absurd game (seriously, if you haven’t watched it, stop reading this and go watch it), the North American team somehow emerged victorious and continued their impressive streak of being their region’s most successful team at pretty much every Worlds ever.
For Vitality, it wasn’t meant to be. Gen G were unable to rouse themselves from the rut they had fallen into and put up almost no resistance against RNG in the final game.
I must admit, I had written off Vitality’s chances of making it out of their group as soon as it was drawn, but they were a joy to watch. The fact that they came so close, only to sort of throw it away at the final hurdle will sting, but I hope this team stays together for another run in 2019 because they made Group B so much fun to watch.
Both Western teams proved that you can succeed in League of Legends without copying the Koreans.
Indeed, the Korean team in this group – defending world champions, no less – were, frankly, awful. On the one hand, they had nothing new to offer but worse still, they didn’t really execute properly on the old-fashioned stuff either.
It’s bad enough for the defending champions to go out in groups, but the manner of their exit must be even more galling.
The worst performing Korean team in history; more losses in the group stage than all Korean teams combined since they first joined the game in season three; first Korean team to exit at the group stage since 2015. All-in-all, Gen G will need quite the trophy cabinet to house all their Dubious Honour awards.
For Western fans, though, Gen G’s insipid performance played a huge part in making Group B what it was. Opening up a knockout spot that everyone had assumed was closed is what made the other games so exciting.
Cloud 9 will be particularly thankful, of course, but let’s not kid ourselves: they earned their way. You can joke all you want about the EU/NA fiesta of the Vitality game, but Cloud 9 beat the tournament favourites and the defending champions, too. The latter of those two wins may have be less impressive in retrospect, but a win against RNG is nothing to sneeze at.
We might have seen C9’s success coming if we weren’t blinded by the Gap narrative. For starters, previous line-ups of C9 have always managed to make it out of groups somehow.
It always comes as a surprise, but they always do it anyway. Then there’s the fact that the second half of 2018 has seen them perpetrate one of the biggest turnarounds in League history.
From a lowly tenth place finish in the Spring Split to a quarter-finals berth at Worlds is staggering.
It is impossible to overstate the impact of coach Reapered on this 180 shift. His Coach of The Split award was the most obvious decision since Mr Bean won Greatest Ever Briton a few years ago*.
His roster changes earned him a great deal of ire from the infamously knowledgeable r/leagueoflegends subreddit, but the evidence that it worked out is now undeniable.
Cloud 9 now goes into the quarter-final without fear. They have already exceeded expectation, yes, but they have also shown the ability to compete with the best in the world.
They will be underdogs against anyone at this stage, but that means they can play without pressure. In fact, they’ll probably spend their break winding down with some Fortnite.
*Yes, I made this up.