One of the funnier quirks of being an esports journalist is that, oftentimes, the world is a better place when you are made to look like an idiot.
Like many, I had RNG and KT Rolster as favourites for Worlds this year. But, in what many have referred to as ‘The Dankest Timeline’, Cloud 9 of North America will take on Fnatic of Europe in the semi-final of the World Championship and all Korean teams have been eliminated.
Let me just repeat that: no Korean teams will appear at the semi-final stage of Worlds and only one Chinese, who is not RNG, will be there. I realise that, as esports fans, you already know this, but I have to keep reminding myself that this is really happening.
Isn’t it great, though? I’ve never been happier to be wrong. Better yet, although I may feel silly for getting so much wrong (to be fair, I was in the top five per cent of pick-‘ems after group stage) about this tournament, there are a million different stories to keep me busy.
In fact, I find myself with a whole new problem for this week’s column: which of the seemingly-countless angles to I go with?
I wrote about Cloud 9 last week, but it would be remiss of me to not at least mention their absolutely ridiculous demolition of Afreeca Freecs.
Time zone issues – coupled with the fact that it was a clean sweep – meant I missed seeing the series live, but wow. I went to bed on Saturday night, consoling myself that I would see the match I really wanted to watch and probably wouldn’t miss much in the C9 match, assuming it was a foregone conclusion.
Similarly, a lot has been written about the decline of Korea already, and there is plenty more to come, I reckon. Alas, there are only so many interesting ways to say this is the worst Korea has performed at Worlds since they first joined in season three, so I’ll just leave that one for now.
“Oh, I guess I could write about G2,” he said, grinning.
There are a lot of interesting comparison points between the two European semi-finalists. Most glaring is the fact that Fnatic were expected to make it past EDG but G2 were given no chance against RNG.
How far can G2 go? (CHRISTOPHE SIMON/AFP/Getty Images)
Watching Fnatic close things out in game four left me with a sense of relief, but watching G2 dominate RNG in game five of their series made me giddy. It’s not a feeling I’m particularly well acquainted with, but I enjoyed it.
It was a dizzying mixture of disbelief and excitement. Every time Perkz’ LeBlanc picked off a squishy Chinese player I started to think the impossible was possible.
I’m not even a G2 fan, but if you’ve ever supported any underdog sports team going up against superior opposition, you will know this feeling.
Your team is slightly ahead early on – in League of Legends this could be a couple of kills or a tower, in other sports maybe it’s a single try or a lucky goal from a corner.
As the game drags on, your team is still ahead but the lead hasn’t grown and a sinking feeling sets: not again. The miracle team fight that turns the game around is coming any moment, you just know it.
Faker or Uzi or Crown is going to pop off and your dreams will be crushed for another year.
But in the RNG game, that turnaround never happened. G2 just won. Let me rephrase that: they didn’t just win the deciding game, they dominated it.
They dominated to the point that I was left wondering if this was the most one-sided defeat in RNG’s history.
It’s typical that in G2’s worst year since joining the LCS, they go into Worlds with no expectations and make their way to the semi-finals.
After two years of struggling internationally while dominating domestically, they decided to switch things up at just the right time.
While Fnatic got through their quarter-final with an underperforming mid-laner who people expected to perform magic, G2’s Perkz played with no pressure at all and it showed.
His Aatrox play in game four was as crisp as a winter morning, but his game five LeBlanc defied description. He went 11/0/4 against the team considered best in the world.
How can you explain how impressive that is? All you can do is put it in context and leave it there for people to get their own heads around. It was a masterclass.
Last week, I said C9 should go into the knockout stage without fear. The same is true of G2 from here on out. They have already beaten the team everyone thought would win the tournament.
It doesn’t always work out like this, but you have to think they can beat IG if they were able to beat RNG. I just hope they don’t realise it, because playing without the weight of expectation has clearly helped G2 to do their own thing.
Now I’m off to dream about next week’s column, where I preview the first all-European final since season one.