2015 League of Legends World Championship – Group A Analysis & Predictions
The dust has settled from playoffs around the world, and the teams to participate in the World Championship this year have been locked in once and for all. The group stages this year are identical to last year’s in form: Each team is drawn into 1 of 4 groups that consist of 4 teams each. The format is double round-robin, with each team playing a total of 6 games. The top 2 teams from each group advance, and if the record is tied, tiebreakers are played to determine the final 2 to advance.
Teams are drawn into the groups on the basis of 2 criteria:
1) The “pool” they are in: Pool 1 consists of the first seed from each “premier” region, consisting of NA, EU, LCK, and LPL, Pool 2, consisting of the 1st and 2nd seeds from the LMS, the 2nd and 3rd seeds from LCK and LPL, and the 2nd seeds from EU and NA, and Pool 3, which consists of the 3rd seeds from EU and NA, and both seeds from the IWC tournament. This infographic available on the lolesports.com webpage does a great job of breaking this down in a more digestible way:
2) The second criteria on which teams are drawn into the groups is that no 2 teams from the same region can be drawn into the same group. So, for example, since the KOO Tigers were drawn into Group A, KT Rolster could not be drawn into that same group, despite being in Pool 2 as well.
Now that the methodology has been explained, let’s move on to how the groups could potentially play out.
Counter Logic Gaming
yoe Flash Wolves
The clear frontrunner in this group has to be the KOO Tigers. Despite their domestic struggles, dropping to KT Rolster and taking 3rd in the LCK playoffs, that series went the distance to a full 5 games. Considering how advanced Korea is as a region relative to all the other regions represented in this particular group, and the team’s own respectable domestic showings, KOO is by far the favorite to advance from this group in first place. The one question most analysts and fans of the game might have in mind over this placing hearkens back to KOO’s abysmal performance at the IEM World Championship in Katowice earlier in the year. They handily made it out of the preliminary stages of the tournament, but then dropped the ball entirely and went out without even a fight against World Elite, an admittedly improved but still weak side from the Chinese region.
The team took a great deal of flak for this placing, but there were several factors that led to this placing, including, but not limited to, the state of the meta at the time, the lack of appropriate coaching staff and provisions for the players at the venue, and a lack of respect for the teams participating. The players and staff probably assumed they would run over the other teams there, given the KT Bullets’ dismantling of the competition at that event in the prior year. It is likely that such a poor performance will not be repeated, as KOO has once again found their footing in the metagame, will have a wealth of support staff and time to practice for the teams in their group, and will be forced to respect the other teams due to the pedigree of the event: It’s the World Championship, after all.
First place: KOO Tigers
The tough placing to call in this group has to be 2nd place. While Counter Logic Gaming looked impeccable in the 6 games they played in the NA LCS playoffs, not dropping a game to either TIP or TSM, circumstances have changed since their triumph in New York. Visa issues have forced CLG to bring on HuHi, a substitute Korean mid player who has not seen a single game of LCS play over the split, in lieu of their jungler, Xmithie. Xmithie’s status as a Filipino citizen and a green card holder in the United States has made his visa to the Schengen Area impossible to obtain. This is incredibly unfortunate for this organization’s chances at the event, and raises significant questions for the potential of this team to advance from the group stages. With Xmithie in the jungler position, CLG definitely had an edge on both paiN and yoe, both in terms of the relative strengths of their laners, and in the maturity of their macro gameplay. With HuHi, however, we simply do not know how well the team can perform. Certainly, it is hard to expect the team to be playing on par with their performance in the LCS playoffs, but it is simply impossible to tell at this point in time, without inside knowledge of how scrims are proceeding against the other teams. Let’s place CLG on the back burner for a second and talk about the yoe Flash Wolves.
This team placed 2nd overall in the LMS regular season, dropping sets regularly only to ahq, the undeniable frontrunner from the region, and split the sets they played against Hong Kong eSports, probably the most closely matched team to yoe in that particular league. They then proceeded to the summer playoffs, going out 3rd to HKE in 4 games, and then beat HKE 3 to 2 in the LMS regional qualifiers final, dashing Toyz’ chances of returning the world stage and punching their own ticket to Worlds in the process. yoe is, generally, a bot-lane centric team that revolves around how their star marksman player, NL, performs. In the regional qualifier, Maple, yoe’s midlaner, stepped up big time and brought home tremendous statistical performances. This shows a dynamic side to the team that has perhaps not been as evident in the earlier portions of the LMS season.
It is safe to say that the mid and bot matchups are unlikely to snowball ridiculously in favor of either team given the recent stellar performance of those roles for both teams. The crucial component of this matchup will be the toplane, Zion on CLG versus Steak on yoe. Steak has consistently offered poor performances throughout all part of the LMS season, posting extremely low KDA and damage percentages for his role at nearly every turn. If Zion is allowed to dictate top lane and to project this pressure onto the other lanes in the game, CLG will crush yoe. If Zion’s champion pool is controlled and jungle pressure is adjusted accordingly, especially with HuHi on guard duty for Zion, yoe matches up well with CLG and has the potential to win both games. Still, given, how difficult of a time both TIP and TSM had with performing this triage on the top lane, yoe has their work cut out for them, especially when TIP and TSM are both arguably better teams than yoe, both in terms of individual roles and in the strength of their support staff. Given this information, CLG has an edge on yoe, but the X-factor of HuHi in the jungle is a facet of CLG’s gameplay that remains untested and unproven. The game will hinge on his ability to protect Zion and to facilitate Zion’s dives and pressure around the map. If HuHi is able to perform this role, CLG will advance. If he is unable to do so and Steak is able to split the lane with Zion, the result may swing yoe’s way.
Second place: Counter Logic Gaming
Third place: yoe Flash Wolves
Much to the chagrin of Brazilian fans, it is unclear if paiN will pick up a single game at Worlds this year. It is my opinion that they have an outside chance to pick up a single game against either CLG or yoe, but is almost certain that they will fall 0-2 to every other team in the group. Perhaps a bootcamp will do them some good, but anything short of a miraculous set of circumstances will see paiN exiting this group in last place. They could perhaps play spoiler to a potential tiebreaker between CLG and yoe, but anything beyond that is pure speculation and is not supported by any trends or unbiased analysis.
Fourth place: paiN Gaming.
That’s all for now. If people enjoy this article, I will do writeups about the other groups at Worlds this year. Please feel free to write or tweet to me with criticism, advice, or props for my articles. You can follow me on twitter @Mordrethar if you want to hear me tweet about eSports events or the quality of the pizza I am currently eating.