A Closer Look: Worlds Group B Preview
The 2016 League of Legends Season World Championship is upon us. Groups have been drawn, and a flurry of predictions have come from many top analysts and not-so top analysts. To help the average fans, we’re taking a closer look at the teams in each group. If you missed the article covering Group A, check it out here. Up next, Group B.
This group is the subject of many debates, as all four teams have a realistic chance of making it out alive and advancing to the quarterfinals. Time to dive into the controversy and get a closer look at the squads.
- Top - Yu “MMD” Li-Hung
- Jungle - Hung “Karsa” Hau-Hsuan
- Mid - Huang “Maple” Yi-Tang
- ADC - Hsiung “NL” Wen-An
- Support - Hu “SwordArt” Shuo-Jie
Considered the weakest Pool 1 team in the tournament, the Flash Wolves are coming to prove their worth.
After coming into 2015 Worlds in Pool 2, FW shocked the world. Topping a group with the KOO Tigers of the LCK (now the ROX Tigers), Counter Logic Gaming of the NA LCS, and paiN Gaming of the CBLoL, FW made a statement: The LMS deserves a Pool 1 spot. The storybook run would stop short in the quarterfinals with a 3-1 fall to the EU LCS’ Origen, but the world saw their strength.
This team returned to the LMS with two goals: get the region a spot in Pool 1 and return to Worlds with a vengeance. The squad did not slow down. Taking the No. 2 seed in the Spring Split regular season was not ideal, but FW did not let it phase them. After all, a 9-2-3 record is still something to brag about. Just to note, FW was voted to have the best coaching staff of the split and Maple was voted as the best mid laner, even though the team did not win the regular season. In the Spring playoffs, the squad was absolutely dominant. After sweeping Machi E-Sports 3-0 in the semifinals, FW went on to also sweep ahq e-Sports Club in the finals and take the title. The team was on its way to the Mid-Season Invitational, ready to earn the spot in Pool 1 by facing off against the top teams from around the world.
A decent showing at MSI, including going undefeated in the group stage against a relatively struggling SK Telecom T1 side, saw FW exit the tournament in the semifinals after a 3-1 loss to CLG. Beating SKT twice was big, but many spectators put an asterisk next to that stat after considering how poorly SKT did during the group stage of the event. Still, FW beat the Korean powerhouse two times and secured a top-four finish, earning the LMS a spot in Pool 1 for the Worlds group draw.
The Summer Split saw a very similar performance from FW, as the team went 10-3-1 in the regular season to go into the playoffs with the No. 2 seed. This time, however, the playoffs were slightly more difficult. As newcomers, J Team managed to take the No. 1 seed away from both FW and ahq, the two regional monsters duked it out in the semifinals. After a hardfought series, FW walked away victorious 3-2 to face J Team in the finals. From there, things looked a lot like the Spring Split. In a clean 3-0 sweep, FW took down J Team and claimed the LMS’ No. 1 spot and Pool 1 spot for Worlds.
The LMS region as a whole is being counted out by most analysts, and a large number of people do not even expect FW to advance from this group into the quarterfinals. Most of the criticism surrounding the team is focused on NL, the marksman. NL will likely have a rough time going against some of the best marksmen in the world in Bae "Bang" Jun-sik of SKT and Zachary "Sneaky" Scuderi. The top laner, MMD, is another possible weak spot, if only because he will have to face off against superstars like Lee "Duke" Ho-seong of SKT and Jung "Impact" Eon-yeong of Cloud9.
If you want to watch an oddly underrated top seed placed into a strong group, you want to root for the Flash Wolves.
SK Telecom T1
- Top - Lee "Duke" Ho-seong
- Jungle - Kang “Blank” Sun-gu
- Mid - Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok
- ADC - Bae "Bang" Jun-sik
- Support - Lee “Wolf” Jae-wan
Did anyone expect SK Telecom T1 to be Korea’s No. 2 seed coming into this tournament? Actually, yes.
The defending world champions have had, to say the least, a strange year. In the regular season of the Spring Split, SKT got off to an usually slow start. It was evident that there were problems in the jungle, as Bae “Bengi” Seong-woong and Blank were splitting time for the first eight weeks of the split, with Bengi getting the majority of the playing time. In those eight weeks, SKT went 5-4. Barely having a positive record is almost unheard of for SKT, as the team is practically a dynasty at this point.
SKT received an invite to the IEM Season X World Championship (Katowice) and looked to regain their form at the international event. They did not disappoint. Blank was given the starting position outright during Katowice, and he was not going to let it go. The team steamrolled over the competition, not dropping a single map all tournament by sweeping CLG, the Qiao Gu Reapers, Team SoloMid and Fnatic. It seemed, from all points of view, that SKT was back.
Returning to the LCK, Blank kept the starting job in the jungle and SKT finished the second half of the split 7-2 to finish as the No. 3 seed going into the playoffs. Once there, SKT rampaged through the Jin Air Green Wings 3-1, KT Rolster 3-0 and the ROX Tigers 3-1. The champions were back on their pedestal and all was right, until it almost wasn’t.
As the champions of the LCK, SKT went to MSI. Ready to continue their international success, the squad started off the tournament 2-0 with wins over SuperMassive Esports of Turkey and G2 Esports of Europe. Then things got interesting. Over the next two days, SKT would go on a four-game losing streak. Falling to Royal Never Give Up of China, CLG, and twice to the Flash Wolves. The team was in shaky form, and did not look incredible even though they closed group play out on a 4-0 run to go into bracket play with a 6-4 record and the No. 4 seed. Bracket play brought a different monster. SKT demolished No. 1 seed RNG 3-1 in the semifinals and were met with little resistance in the finals as they swept CLG 3-0. After a shaky start, much like the Spring Split, the champions were still champions.
In the Summer Split, SKT held a 13-5 record and took the No. 2 seed into the playoffs, only behind the ROX Tigers. Poised to have a legendary showdown in the finals with ROX, SKT hit a snag in the semifinals as the team fell 3-2 to KT. SKT failed to advance to the Summer Split finals, and had to rely on a narrow ROX victory over KT to earn the No. 2 seed going into Worlds.
This squad has looked a bit inconsistent at times, but no one in the world counts them out. It would be foolish to count out the defending champions, or any team that has Faker on it. The only question is, who will start in the jungle? After both junglers have had their ups and downs throughout the season, it is currently unclear who the man for the job is. Blank, or Bengi, will need to show up in this tough group on the world’s biggest stage.
If you want to support a behemoth that is slightly faltering, but always shows up on the international stage, SKT is the team for you.
- Top - Shek “AmazingJ” Wai Ho
- Jungle - Fan “Avoidless” Jun Wei
- Mid - Kang “Athena” Ha-woon
- ADC - Xie “Jinjiao” Jin-Shan
- Support - Yun “Road” Han-gil
Even more so than G2 Esports or Splyce, I May is a rookie organization going to Worlds in its first split (not just first year, but first spit) of existence.
In the 2016 Spring Split, I May was still in the LSPL (China’s Challenger league), and was known as EDward Esports. The squad was EDward Gaming’s Challenger team, feeder team, bench… whatever you want to call it. After going 25-5 in the regular season and beating Young Miracles 3-2 in the LSPL Spring Split finals, EDward Esports automatically qualified for the LPL and had to redbrand, dropping from EDward Gaming because of the Riot rule regarding sister teams.
No one expected this team to do anything when the Summer Split started. Who would? After all, it was just a recently-promoted LSPL team. The players, though, had faith in each other. AmazingJ, the team’s only player with Worlds experience for EDG, stated immediately that the team’s goal was the World Championship. A bold claim for a young team, but AmazingJ believed in his words.
Avoidless and Zhao “Mitty” Zhi-Ming shared the jungle for some time, but Avoidless eventually took over the role permanently not too long into the split. The mid lane was where the real sharing was, as Athena and Kang “BaeMe” Yang-hyun shared the spotlight all split, practically 50/50. By the end of the split, I May had a 9-7 record and finished as the No. 3 seed in Group B. Heading into the playoffs, it would be a long road.
Clearly led for the most part by AmazingJ and Athena, I May flipped a switch during the playoffs and visibly became a better team. By defeating Invictus Gaming 3-0 and Snake eSports 3-1, I May managed to make it to the semifinals in its first split as a squad. The team fell just short of the Cinderella berth in the finals, dropping 3-2 to RNG. All hope was not lost, however, as I May defeated Team WE in the third-place match 3-1 and secured the top seed going into the Regional Finals.
The rookie organization was one series away from qualifying for Worlds. Yet again, the team faced Team WE and, though it was 3-2 this time, I May came out on top and snatched away China’s last spot at Worlds.
Throughout the playoffs and the Regional Finals, Athena cemented his position as the starting mid laner for the team, but BaeMe is still the squad’s substitute player for Worlds. When it comes to their group, I May is not very lucky. AmazingJ will have to stack up against the likes of Impact and Duke, while Jinjiao will be stuck in fights against high calibre marksmen like Sneaky and Bang. Although, it is hard to count this squad out after its Cinderella bid for Worlds.
If you want to support the underdog rookies in a very tight group, I May is the team for you.
- Top - Jung "Impact" Eon-yeong
- Jungle - William “Meteos” Hartman
- Mid - Nicolaj “Jensen”
- ADC - Zachary "Sneaky" Scuderi
- Support - Andy “Smoothie” Ta
Cloud9 may be North America’s No. 3 seed, but this team is on such a tear that no one should want to take them on.
This season did not start out very well for C9, however, so let’s take a look back. This team had a completely different roster in the Spring Split, and a different coach on top of it all. An “Balls” Le filled the top lane, while Lee “Rush” Yoon-jae occupied the team’s jungle. At support, Michael “Bunny FuFuu” Kurylo and “Hai” Du Lam shared the position for two weeks until Hai was given the spot outright because of his shotcalling abilities.
The squad was good, without a doubt, and finished the regular season as the No. 3 seed with a 12-6 record. This split was the Jensen show, as the mid laner proved just how good he was by dominating practically everyone in lane. Unluckily for C9, though, a resurgent TSM stood in their way in the quarterfinals. C9 was wiped aside 3-1 by the No. 6 seed TSM squad that would go on to lose 3-2 in the finals to CLG. A bad result, but mostly bad luck. Still, a top-six placement did not give the team very many Championship Points and the roster was almost completely overhauled going into the Summer Split.
In the offseason, Impact, Meteos and Smoothie joined the starting roster. Impact was just coming off of a struggling NRG eSports squad, but the former world champion was not done yet. Meteos was coming off of a yearlong break from competitive play, but he never left his organization and never lost the drive to compete. Smoothie was a bit of an oddball pick-up, as he came from Challenger squad Team Dragon Knights. With Hai moving to C9’s Challenger team, Smoothie was brought in to split time with Bunny FuFuu at support.
With a daunting new roster in tow, C9 was ready to take on a stacked NA LCS, facing the star-studded Immortals, revamped TSM, defending champions CLG, and many more. The regular season ended and C9 was the No. 3 seed with a 12-6 record. Sound familiar? Same result as the Spring Split. In the playoffs, however, the team got hot. Impact was playing so well that people started referring to him as “SKT Impact” in a reference to his days as a world champion on SKT. The team demolished Team EnVyUs 3-1 in the quarterfinals and won a nailbiter 3-2 against Immortals in the semifinals. At the center of that match was a top lane fight for the ages between Impact and Heo "Huni" Seung-hoon. These two were almost undoubtedly, aside from maybe Kevin "Hauntzer" Yarnell of TSM, the two best top laners in the NA LCS. The giants fought, and Impact and crew came out on top. This set up the rivalry fight for the ages in finals: Team SoloMid vs Cloud9. The two teams had already met in the NA LCS finals four times before, with both teams winning twice. This was the final series of a very long best-of-five. Many professional players who had been scrimmming with the squads before the finals (Immortals and CLG) actually picked C9 as the better team. The final was going to be a fight for the ages.
In the end, C9 could not stand up to the power of TSM and the squad lost 3-1 in the finals. Because CLG won the Spring Split and advanced to the semifinals of the Summer Split playoffs, CLG had more championship points than C9 and claimed the No. 2 seed for NA. So despite having just made it to the finals, C9 was forced to play in the Regional Finals, not even as the highest seed, to claim North America’s final spot at Worlds.
The team dominated. Earning a bye to the second round, C9 awaited the winner of EnVyUs and Team Liquid. EnVyUs made it through, but no further, as C9 delivered a 3-0 thrashing to the squad and set up a fight with Immortals for North America’s last spot. The rematch from the semifinal series was supposed to be close and thrilling, but C9 hardly skipped a beat and won the series 3-1 to qualify for Worlds.
What can we attribute this good form to? Most, if not all, eyes fall on new head coach Bok “Reapered” Han-gyu. A former player for powerhouses like SKT and Jin Air, and a coach for EDward Gaming during the team’s impressive showing last year, Reapered knows League of Legends. This roster may have worked and been good without his help, but he likely had a major impact (pun intended) on everyone on the team.
Impact’s resurgence has many analysts calling him a top-two top laner in the world, and the talent surrounding him is hard to deny. If you want a strong, big potential underdog story with personalities galore (see Meteos, Jensen and Sneaky), C9 is the team for you.
What do you think of Group B? Who are you rooting for? Let us know you thoughts by commenting below or tweeting us @GAMURScom.