IEM IX World Championship; Early Thoughts
For me personally the IEM World Championship is a tournament I personally look forward towards every year. It's a great international tournament that although might not have as much cache as something like Worlds, I still think it's a great showing of the best teams in each region, and how they stack up together.
That was until we somehow have the weakest showing of teams in the world going to IEM this year. Before I go into how this happened, and how I think this tournament might go, here are the 4 teams that have qualified for the IEM World Championships
- - Team WE - IEM Shenzhen
- - Cloud 9 - IEM San Jose
- - Gambit Gaming - IEM Cologne
- - Yoe Flash Wolves - IEM Taipei
And now let's look at how these teams are doing domestically.
- Team WE - 11th place, 0-3-6 record
- Cloud 9 - 3rd place, 3-3 record
- Gambit Gaming - 9th place, 1-5 record
- Yoe Flash Wolves - 2nd place, 6-1 record
This really shows how lacking this IEM tournament is right now, with these 4 teams being the ones that have won the domestic IEMs, the only team that really looks like they deserve the title is the Yoe Flash Wolves who took down the number 1 team of the region TPA in a fantastic best of 5, that went all the way to that 5th game.
However in a way this doesn't surprise me that this is the team roster that is getting turned out, after all you only need to look at the time period, and what was going on for each of the domestic tournaments that lead to this result.
How did this misfortune happen?!?
First we look at IEM Shenzhen, in many ways it's not surprising that WE won this tournament. Yes EDG was the team on the rise in China, and were looking like that next team to take over China, but remember this was a different WE, this was still THE Team WE. This was the WE that still had Weixiao and CaoMei, the last two members of that WE roster that took over the world and dominated China. They were still close games, but this was still WE we're talking about, them, EDG, and OMG were the strongest teams in China at the time. So WE won and qualified, but that was 8 months ago. During those 8 months WeiXiao and CaoMei left, and the team went down hill trying to fill the void that they left, and now they are one of the worst teams in China, with a new roster that is struggling to find consistency and wins. However they are still Team WE, so the name alone means they get to be in the tournament, even though it's a very different roster.
With that in mind, again keeping in mind that IEM Shenzhen happened in July, we have an entire LPL, NA and EU LCS split, and worlds happen before we look at the next IEM event. Again I want to stress that by the time the next IEM tournament happens, we are in a new season, season 5, and for anyone who has been following LoL, we know that means this is a growing period. Teams are trying to put together new rosters, restructure and rebuild, and gear up for the next year.
So here we are, beginning of the Pre-Season, patch 4.20 just starting to blaze the scene, Azir is enabled but hasn't been played yet, and the only team that isn't dealing with a roster change is Cloud 9. Also if we look at the competition, Pain Gaming and Lyon gaming, and although I do enjoy watching the Latin America region, it really is not as strong as EU or NA, and on top of that Lyon gaming had to put in 2 substitutes. We had the big upset with Unicorns of Love beating a TSM that was struggling with a new roster, giving them the most hype of any team I've ever seen. In truth the only worth while set to watch was Cloud 9 vs Alliance, now Elements, however that was a semi final, and with Cloud 9 winning, they destroy UoL 3-0. However in the current league, they are struggling with inconsistency, whether it's adapting to the new meta or all the new talent in other teams they have been under-preforming domestically. They have been playing with new life recently and look like they are inching their way back into being the C9 of old, but they are still far from being that team.
Still in the pre-season, 2 weeks after San Jose we have IEM Cologne. Again we see teams who are just now forming new rosters and also teams having to use substitutes because they don't have the full roster made yet. Also keep in mind that half of the 6 teams that competed were fan voted in, 1 from the EU LCS, and both of the NA LCS teams, and also TSM and Cloud 9 were not allowed to compete since they competed in San Jose. So really the only logical choices were the only other teams with any history, CLG and Dignitas. Gambit looked good, but in retrospect the entire tournament, for lack of a better term, was a bit of a sh*t show. However how could this be competitive in any respect, teams are just now learning how to play with all these changes, they probably had little time to practice with the rosters they had and ones filled with new players. Yes Gambit won and qualified, but look were CLG and Roccat are now, doing better because they now have the rosters and have the practice, while Gambit only recently picked up their first win.
Now we get to IEM Taipei, and in truth, this is the only tournament that I think was actually a great representation of the region and the teams going. For context the teams that were invited were TPA, AHq, and the Yoe Flash Wolves from the Taiwan region, the 1st, 2nd and 4th place teams in the LMS, all of whom have been playing in a full competitive format for 3 weeks. The 2 GPL teams that qualified were chosen from a qualifier, one that took the 4 top teams in each GPL group, and in a double elimination bracket, the top 2 teams were invited to compete, the Saigon Jokers and Bangkok Titans, who have been doing very well domestically. I'd also like to bring up that at this point GPL spring had been going on for 4 weeks. The end of that tournament came down to an amazing best of 5, and the Yoe Flash Wolves getting the huge upset against the undefeated TPA. My point being that this was a tournament full of practiced teams, and was in many ways looked at to see which Garena league was better, GPL or LMS.
So after all this, it's not hard to see why as the list stands, the Yoe Flash Wolves are the only team invited that I think will win, they are only 1 game behind TPA the first place team, but qualified with a huge upset, while the other teams invited are all struggling domestically to find wins.
So if all these teams suck, why should I even bother watching IEM this year?!?!
Well the answer is simple, this is obviously not every team that is going to compete at the tournament. IEM doesn't just pit the teams that won 4 tournaments against each other, they also invite teams in the other regions who are currently sitting at the top of the standings. If last year is any tell, we'll have the Top team from Korea, NA and EU LCS, and LpL. By the time the IEM World Championships come around, we will be about 3/4 of the way done with Champions Spring and LpL Spring, and around 3 weeks away from playoffs in both LCS regions. This means that for the most part the standings will be close to locked, teams will be at their prime trying to hold onto the top spot, and hopefully at this point there are little to no synergy problems or lack of communication.
With that qualifier out of the way, here are the teams I think will be invited from each region, based on how the standings look currently.
- - Team Solomid, NA LCS
- - SK Gaming, EU LCS
- - GE Tigers or SKT T1, LCK
- - EDward Gaming or OMG, LpL
I would even be so bold to say that the best matches in this tournament, will revolve around those 4 teams, the Yoe Flash Wolves, and Cloud 9 if they continue to be on the upswing. Because everyone loves a good list, based on who I think is going to go, here is my very early prediction of how I think the tournament will go. For the sake of the list I'm going to go with GE Tigers and EDward Gaming as the Korean and Chinese representatives, since currently they are looking the best right now.
- GE Tigers
- EDward Gaming
- SK Gaming
- Yoe Flash Wolves
- Team Solomid
- Cloud 9
- Gambit Gaming
- Team WE
My concluding thoughts
Although it's very unfortunate that many of the "qualified" teams turned out to be some of the worst in the region, excluding the Yoe Flash Wolves, I do still think this will turn out to be a competitive tournament to watch. What I think I'm trying to say, and going in a very round about way to say it, is I think this current IEM will be one of the weaker showings, considering all the teams that qualified were beating teams that were restructuring and not up to current par. It's good that the top teams will be invited, and because of how early I'm writing this, we could see even more teams from other regions being invited. This has not been announced yet. Also to be fair, the teams I was talkong about above might get better, we have a month of games before IEM happens, so in that time we may see these teams come into there own. However for now these are just my early thoughts, it might be a sh*t show with a bunch of bottom tier teams, but with the teams I expect to be invited, we might still have a wonderful tournament with actual competition.