Cards on the Table - Part 1: The Bottom 4 at the 2016 IWCI
The first International Wildcard Tournament was held in 2013 at Gamescom, in Cologne, Germany. In it, was the chance for the newer server regions (Brazil, Turkey, CIS, Oceania and Latin America) showcase which of them was most deserving of playing at the Season 3 World Championship. At that time, none of these regions had professional, Riot-implemented leagues. GamingGear.eu, from Lithuania (CIS), won the tournament, and ended up winning only a meaningless game against Team Solo Mid at the world championship, as both teams were already eliminated from the quarter finals. Despite GG.eu shortcomings, the wildcard teams were set to prove to the world they were worth noticing.
Two World Championships have passed since GG.eu stunt, and now, entering the 2016 Season, the wildcard regions have expanded to eight fully professional, riot-backed leagues. Surviving through the calls of removal of wildcard teams from Worlds during the 2014 World Championship, and snatching a few hard-earned victories against major-region teams, Wildcard teams are finishing their most competitive season yet, with their level of play expanding at a steady pace.
As the 2016 International Wildcard Invitational held in Mexico City crowned their champions a couple weeks ago, I take a quick look at each region performance at 2016 IWCI, their previous history, and what to expect in the future. For the first pat of this article, I take a look at the bottom 4 placed teams at 2016 IWCI, Lyon Gaming, Isurus Gaming, The Chiefs eSports Club and Detonation FocusMe.
Despite being one of the original participants in the 2013 International Wildcard Tournament, Lyon Gaming has continuously been overshadowed by their South American counterparts, failing to participate in any of the subsequent wildcard tournaments. This season, however, Latin America North and South finally received spots of their own, giving a new chance for the Mexican-side to play their first international tournament since 2014's IEM San Jose.
If you look at the standings in the 2016 IWCI, you'll quickly notice home-team Lyon Gaming at the bottom, with a single victory to claim for themselves. With a few glimpses of hope during their early game, Lyon Gaming unfortunate run at home soil was nothing less than predictable. Latin American teams have failed time and time again to produce significant performance at international events, and their play shows it. With only 6 teams, the LAN Opening Cup lacks a highly competitive environment, and Lyon Gaming continuous domestic domination, despite international failure, shows there may be still a long way to go until the region is able to achieve good results.
LAN hopes and dreams still rest on the shoulders of adcarry Seiya, once a midlaner and #1 on NA's ranked ladder during a few moments in 2013, he's well regarded as Latin America's best player. Undoubtedly a player with lots of international potential, his region seems to lack the talent to support him on this quest.
Despite having their league of Legends division since 2013, Isurus Gaming never stood out on major or premier tournaments. Having found basically no success after their first year (winning a series of minor tournaments in Argentina, their home country), Isurus gaming was usually found on the middle or the bottom of their own league.
Likewise, LAS has rarely placed highly on international events, with their best ever being the final between Kaos Latin Gamers and PaiN Gaming, where KLG lost 3-0, despite a good performance versus Hard Random on the group stage.
Isurus Gaming revamped their roster for 2016; players changed positions, and through hard work were able to secure themselves a spot on IWCI. After the traditional win against their LAN counterpart, Isurus went on being defeated, with a surprising victory against Saigon Jokers to ease their pain.
For LAS, the future is bleak. The South American scene looks stagnant, and their win against Saigon Jokers probably not that big of a deal, considering that team's own inconsistency. Already importing Brazilian coaches and analysts, importing Brazilian players could be an option to increase their league strength, and increased scrimming against top Brazilian teams could help their play.
The Chiefs eSports Club
From the depths of Oceania, the Chiefs emerged for their third consecutive wildcard event with cautious hype around their level of play. Despite a very lackluster performance at last years' IWCI, their 4-2 finish at the group stages of the 2015 International Wildcard Tournament qualifier for the 2015 World Championship indicated some improvement in their play, despite a 1-3 loss to the Bangkok Titans in the finals.
Oceania is often seen as a region that display glimpses of brilliance in a moment, only to crush the hopes of the oceanic community in the next. Keeping the tradition alive, Oceania managed to defeat every Latin American team, including 3rd place INTZ from Brazil (striking them with one of their only two losses in the group stages), but failed to defeat any other team from the top 5 for the remainder of the tournament.
With their shortcomings, the Chiefs still fluctuate in the realms of international inconsistency. While they might not be able to outplay most of their opponents, they show that the potential is there for something to happen. With Oceania's small player base, and a lot of the regions challenger players constantly banned for either boosting or toxicity, the few teams that can challenge the top of Oceania simply aren't able to. The Chiefs perpetuate themselves at the top of their region, despite mixed international results, making it hard to know if they will ever find what it takes to sink the other wildcard teams and claim themselves a place among the top.
Sink! Get it?
With their server finally up and running, Japan's LJL received a boost of attention from western observers, and great expectation arose that Japanese teams would come with force for international events in 2016. Like the Chiefs, Detonation qualified for their third consecutive wildcard event after a 13-0 unbeaten run on the Japanese league, but fell short of their home soil performances when it came to the international stage.
The main forces behind the team's domination of LJL came from their Korean duo, former SBENU Sonicboom players, jungler Catch and support Eternal (previously known as viviD), whom, paired with strong solo laners in Yutapon and Ceros, showed dominance through every stage of the game in Japan's domestic league, especially when it came to macro decisions.
Detonation's dominance, however, didn't show up against the better level of the different wildcard champions. Displaying a good understanding of macro play and the overall metagame, Detonation managed to grab a few victories, as well as close defeats, but ultimately failed against some of the more stablished league teams, like Supermassive and the Saigon Jokers. Their loss to Lyon Gaming was just another of Japan's misfortunes throughout the tournament.
DFM displayed a good level during the 2016 IWCI, even managing a win against vice champions Hard Random. One could argue they deserved a semifinal spot much more than their Asian counterparts of Saigon Jokers, but that's another matter as DFM failed to win against the Jokers in their very first match of the tournament.
Japan's rising sun is shining brighter after every wildcard, but their troubles remain. Having very inconsistent play at IWCI, much like last years performance, DFM and LJL remain side by side with the Chiefs, trying to find a place for themselves under the sun.