A Closer Look: Worlds Group D 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 previews over the first two groups, you can check out Group A here, Group B here and Group C here. Finally, Group D.
If you are a fan of the North American League Championship Series (LCS), then you know all about this group already and I don’t need to explain anything. This is the “Group of Death,” and inside this group lies North America’s hopes and dreams in the form of Team SoloMid. Without further ado, let’s get to know the teams.
- Top - Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell
- Jungle - Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen
- Mid - Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg
- ADC - Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng
- Support - Vincent “Biofrost” Wang
This is almost certainly the best team North America has ever fielded, and they want to win it all in front of the home crowd.
This is the most storied organization in all of North American League of Legends, and possibly all of North American esports, but this isn’t about the history of the team. This is about their past year or so leading up to becoming one of the top teams in the world.
At the 2015 Season World Championship,Team SoloMid was actually a bit of an underdog squad. Placed in the Group of Death with LGD Gaming of China, KT Rolster of Korea and Origen of Europe, TSM was the clear odd man out as North America’s No. 2 representative. The team’s performance reflected it. A 1-5 performance saw TSM only manage to take a game off of LGD, and the team went through a complete roster overhaul going into the new season.
It was a bold move, but every player on the starting lineup was moved off of the team. All, except Bjergsen. The plan? Rebuild a roster around the best player North America has ever seen. The result? Hauntzer, Svenskeren, Doublelift and Bora “YellOwStaR” Kim. When fans saw this lineup, they rejoiced. YellOwStaR was a legend in the EU LCS, known as the best support player the league had ever produced. Doublelift was the best ADC in North America, and the move seemingly weakened TSM’s rival in Counter Logic Gaming as Doublelift left the team. Svenskeren was a famous carry jungler from SK Gaming, who had played with Bjergsen in the past on Copenhagen Wolves and Ninjas in Pyjamas. Hauntzer was considered the “weak” link coming from Gravity of the NA LCS, but fans were ecstatic. The first split, however, did not leave fans very happy.
In the 2016 Spring Split, with a fully revamped roster, TSM looked ready to dominate the league. Quickly, though, the team’s issues became apparent.
The superstars never seemed to mesh. Hauntzer did not seem comfortable surrounded by new teammates and big names. Svenskeren struggled greatly to convert from a carry jungler to an enabler. After all, no team needs that many carries. Bjergsen’s form suffered with the drop in jungle form and team synergy. Doublelift and YellOwStaR clashed in the bot lane, as their styles were polar opposites. The team was in disarray, but somehow, they made it into the playoffs with the No. 6 seed after a 9-9 performance. In the playoffs, TSM became a different monster.
The entire team dynamic changed. The players understood their new roles, meshed and looked like a unit. It wasn’t the most beautiful thing, but with their individual skills and improvement as a team, this squad was a force to be reckoned with. In the quarterfinals, a shocked No. 3 seed Cloud9 was taken out 3-1 by TSM. From there, TSM would sweep the regular season leaders in Immortals 3-0 in the semifinals and have a date with destiny against CLG in the finals. The miracle run was cut short, as CLG and a Rageblade Tristana from Travor “Stixxay” Hayes beat TSM 3-2 and brought the team back to reality. It seemed like, for the most part, things were getting better and that the team would be even stronger going into the Summer Split. In a move shocking most TSM fans, YellOwStaR decided to return to Fnatic in the EU LCS and TSM was left holding tryouts for support players.
This is where Biofrost came in, and Doublelift could finally play the way he had wanted to the entire Spring Split. YellOwStaR’s passive style did not mesh with Doublelift’s aggression, but Biofrost’s ability to stay at the same pace as Doublelift allowed the duo to reach new heights and become North America’s best duo lane. Hauntzer got comfortable and became one of the best top laners in the league. Svenskeren was finally comfortable not carrying the team, playing more of a utility role. Bjergsen’s incredible form returned, and he was once again heralded as the best mid laner in the league, and one of the best in the world. The team figured it out, went 17-1 in the regular season and secured the No. 1 seed going into the playoffs, with Bjergsen earning the regular season MVP honors.
The playoffs were a cakewalk. TSM swept a struggling CLG in the semifinals to set up a fight with Cloud9 in the finals. TSM knocked C9 out in the Spring Split playoffs, and the two organizations had already met in the NA LCS finals four times, with both squads splitting the victories. This was the time for C9 to get revenge, and the end of a very long best-of-five. TSM won handily, only dropping the first game of the series en route to a 3-1 win. After one of the most dominant splits in NA LCS history, TSM secured the No. 1 seed going into Worlds. This squad is considered by most major analysts to be a top-four team in the world. Now, on home soil, they have to show their strength.
If you want to see a North American team go all the way, TSM has a very realistic chance of making that happen.
Royal Never Give Up
- Top - Jang “Looper” Hyeong-seok
- Jungle - Liu “Mlxg” Shi-Yu
- Mid - Li “xiaohu” Yuan-Hao
- ADC - Jian “Uzi” Zi-Hao
- Support - Cho “Mata” Se-hyoung
A year ago, Royal Never Give Up was fighting in the LPL Spring Promotion tournament after an abysmal 3-12-7 performance in the 2015 LPL Summer Split. Staying true to its name, the team never gave up.
After adding Looper and Mata to the starting roster and bringing on Kim “Fly” Sang-chul as coach, RNG was a different team. In the regular season of the 2016 Spring Split, RNG finished as the No. 1 seed in Group B. Boasting a 13-3 record, the team finished above the powerhouse of EDward Gaming and looked poised to win it all. Adding Looper was a major factor, as he ended the regular season tied for third in the MVP race.This team was not looking to slow down.
In the playoffs, it was business as usual for the reinvigorated squad. After narrowly taking down Team WE 3-2 in the semifinals, RNG walked into a finals series against EDG. This was it. Would EDG stay on top of the region or would RNG knock the giant from its throne? Proving its strength, RNG dethroned the giants and won the series 3-1. With this win, the squad managed something huge. The Mid-Season Invitational was held in China this year, and RNG was ready to represent and show up on home turf.
To the surprise of many international fans, RNG ran the tournament in the group stage. An 8-2 record was enough for the team to take the No. 1 seed going into bracket play and secure China a spot in Pool 1 for the Worlds Group Draw. However, the semifinals brought a daunting enemy. SK Telecom T1 of Korea had a sluggish tournament, even going on an 0-4 run at one point, but this was an international monster. This was the defending world championship squad, and the players were getting back into form. If RNG wanted to defend its home turf and show the world China’s strength, this was the time. Alas, these giants were too big to tumble. SKT won the series handily 3-1 and went on to win the finals 3-0 against North America’s Counter Logic Gaming. RNG lost only three matches the entire tournament. Two to SKT, the champions, and one to CLG, the runners-up. It was a solid international showing, but the team was not satisfied.
Just two days after RNG was eliminated, the day of the finals between SKT and CLG, the team announced a roster change. Wang “wuxx” Cheng would be moving to the bench, as Jian “Uzi” Zi-Hao joined the squad and became the starting ADC. Looking at the starpower on this team, they were expected to be able to compete for the Summoner’s Cup and have a chance at winning Worlds. Uzi was a major improvement on paper, adding onto an already impressive lineup with excellent teamwork, so this squad looked scary.
The regular season of the Summer Split went exactly the same as the Spring Split, with RNG finishing 13-3 and holding the top spot in Group B. In the semifinals, it was another 3-2 victory, this time over upstart I May. This set up another fight with EDG in the finals. A little odd how similar the two splits were, but this is where everything changed. What was supposed to be one of the best series of professional League of Legends in history ended up being possibly the most embarrassing final in history. In a decisive, clear-cut victory, EDG swept RNG 3-0. The defending champions were stunned, and the world did not know what to think. Still, the squad qualified as China’s No. 2 seed at Worlds due to Championship Points.
Looking at the numbers, RNG feeds an exorbitant amount of gold to Uzi. Who gets less because of this? Everyone aside from Mata, and that is likely just a repercussion of being in the same lane as Uzi. The thing is, though, it works. Uzi is a madman, holding a 6.4 KDA over the Summer Split with 72.5 percent kill participation. He gets a ton of gold, but none of it goes to waste.
So what happened in the finals against EDG? A lack of synergy across the board, but more specifically in the duo lane between Uzi and Mata. Known for both their individual talent and macro play at MSI, RNG has lost the most important thing in League of Legends: teamwork. Of course, we can’t go without mentioning that the solo laners are simply not having as big of an impact anymore. Specifically, xiaohu has looked out of sorts as the meta shifted away from his preferred champions.
There is no doubting the talent on this team. In fact, the ceiling for this squad as a whole may be the highest in the world. They just aren’t getting up there right now. Nonetheless, this is a strong squad and one of the top teams in the world.
If you want to watch a darkhorse pick that could potentially win it all if the players actually remember how to be a team, RNG is the team for you.
- Top - Lee “CuVee” Seong-jin
- Jungle - Kang “Ambition” Chan-yong
- Mid - Lee “Crown” Min-ho
- ADC - Park “Ruler” Jae-hyuk
- Support - Jo “CoreJJ” Yong-in
This is one of the most famous organizations in the game. Expectations are high. Only time will tell whether or not those expectations are justified as Samsung comes in as the No. 3 seed from Korea.
Once the greatest organization in League of Legends, Samsung has fallen from the days of having two of the best teams in the world. After raising the Summoner’s Cup in 2014, all 10 players from the two starting rosters left in search of new horizons and Samsung fell. Now, a stronger squad has been rebuilt. Some people say this squad could win it all if they fire on all cylinders, but that theory certainly has many naysayers.
At the start of Season 6, Samsung was still in a bad place. An inconsistent Spring Split saw the squad not even qualify for the playoffs. Two weeks prior, it seemed like a sure thing. Then the squad lost both of its series in Week 12 and the upstart Afreeca Freecs stole the final spot on a tiebreaker. Samsung was, understandably, devastated. The one shining light was jungler Ambition, who finished top-three in the race for regular season MVP, a shallow accomplishment for a player who has been just on the edge of qualifying for the World Championship for the past four years. Ambition is one of the most well-known names in Korea, but even just attending Worlds has evaded him since the beginning of his career. It was time for the drought to end.
Going into the Summer Split, Samsung made a single change that made all the difference. CoreJJ, the starting ADC at the time, was moved to the bench in favor of Ruler. Ruler’s team-fighting ability and mechanics far surpassed CoreJJ’s, and the benefit was evident. Along with adding Ruler, Samsung had new strategies. To put it simply, it’s all about objectives. Kills matter in League of Legends, but objectives are what really count. If you control the towers, the dragon, the Baron, you win. Samsung knew this, and placed a heavy focus on controlling objectives during the Summer Split. It paid off.
After going 12-6 and securing the No. 4 seed going into the playoffs, Samsung was ready to reclaim its former glory. Things seemed to be on track after easily dispatching the Afreeca Freecs 2-0 in the first round, but results went downhill quickly. All season long, Samsung consistently beat every team below them on the standings, but the team could not find consist wins against the ROX Tigers, SK Telecom T1 or KT Rolster. In the second round of the playoffs, Samsung needed revenge. KT Rolster was the team’s first major obstacle, and they were not ready.
Samsung exited the playoffs after being swept 3-0 by KT, and it was back to the drawing board.
The Regional Finals, Samsung’s last hope, were up next. The team’s performance all year was enough to earn the No. 2 seed going into the event, but the road ahead was rough. First up was yet another rematch with the Afreeca Freecs. After losing game one, Samsung fans were panicked. It seemed, once again, that the organization would fall short and that Ambition would be kept from attending Worlds. In a surprise twist, CoreJJ was subbed in for Kwon “Wraith” Ji-min at support. The former ADC was exactly what the team needed.
With strong play on Bard and Braum, CoreJJ helped Samsung to three straight victories over Afreeca to take the series 3-1 and advance to the finals. Once there, Samsung faced a familiar opponent. Just a few weeks after being swept 3-0, Samsung was set to face KT Rolster again. This time, the stakes were higher as a spot at Worlds was on the line.
The back-and-forth series went all the way to game five, with CoreJJ playing an impressive Bard and Tahm Kench the entire time. It was clear that Samsung made the right choice by starting CoreJJ, but the series was long and arduous, and many people were not sure if CoreJJ’s inexperience in the position would be a problem the longer the series went on. Spoiler alert: Samsung won. In the final game, KT was beaten down without mercy. The key matchup in Samsung’s final two game victories? CuVee’s Kennen versus Kim "ssumday" Chan-ho’s Gnar. Kennen counters Gnar, and KT seemingly did not recognize this or did not care. In game two, ssumday won the matchup and KT allowed CuVee to pick the champion in games four and five. In those matches, CuVee locked ssumday out of the game and Samsung ran with the lead.
Samsung did it. Ambition did it. The org was back at Worlds, and Ambition finally made it to the big stage. If you want to follow two underdogs, CoreJJ (who has struggled since his time on North American side Team Dignitas) and Ambition, on a storied organization with big potential to upset the competition, Samsung is the team for you.
- Top - Martin “Wunder” Hansen
- Jungle - Jonas “Trashy” Andersen
- Mid - Chres “Sencux” Laursen
- ADC - Kasper “Kobbe” Kobberup
- Support - Mihael “Mikyx” Mehle
This rookie organization is stuck in the “Group of Death,” but this team isn’t scared of a little competition.
To get to the origins of this squad, we have to go back to Team Dignitas EU. In the 2015 Summer Split, Team Dignitas EU was stuck in the Challenger Series. After taking second in the regular season and winning the playoffs, the team automatically qualified for the European LCS. Before the 2016 Spring Split began, Team Dignitas EU’s spot was acquired by Follow eSports. At the time, Wunder (known then as Wunderwear), Sencux, Kobbe and support Nicolai "Nisbeth" Nisbeth were kept on from Dignitas’ roster and Trashy was acquired. Follow eSports rebranded, and Splyce was born.
The success story ended, very quickly. In the 2016 Spring Split, Splyce went 5-13. With this, the team ended the split in eighth place and was forced to play in the Summer Promotion tournament to keep its spot in the EU LCS. In a nailbiter, Splyce defeated Giants Gaming 3-2 to stay in the LCS, but the team knew that a change was needed. Kobbe was picked up and made the starting ADC, as Nisbeth moved to the substitute position and eventually left the team entirely. Wunderwear renamed to Wunder, and the team was ready for business.
In the Summer Split, Splyce took the EU LCS by storm. A 9-6-3 record was enough to secure the squad the No. 2 seed going into the playoffs. Throughout the split, Wunder stood out above his entire team, and above every other top laner in the league. By the end of the regular season, Wunder earned his spot as the top laner on the All Pro team. On top of that, head coach Jakob “YamatoCannon” Mebdi was named the league’s best coach. In an unstable EU LCS, Splyce was constant. You always knew what level of performance to expect from the squad, and they never let you down.
As the playoffs approached, some of the other teams began to heat up. One of the hottest teams in the league, H2k-Gaming, happened to be Splyce’s first match in the playoffs. For the first time, the team was forced to show its resilience on a major stage against a top opponent. Again, they were constant. In a 3-2 victory, Wunder shined once again. The top laner dominated, having an average KDA of 2.79 on Gnar, the only champion he needed to play the entire series. A dominant force in and out of the lane, Wunder was the key to Splyce’s success. In the finals, the team finally faltered. Facing a rampaging G2 Esports, Splyce fell 3-1 and was forced into the Regional Finals to fight for the final EU spot at Worlds.
Theoretically, Fnatic was Splyce’s biggest competition at the Regional Finals. No other team in the league even looked decent, but of course, there was an upset story. Unicorns of Love, after a rocky season, came into the Regional Finals with the No. 3 seed out of four teams. In the first round, the squad won 3-0 over Giants Gaming. This was nothing major, as Giants had been looking weak for some time, so no one paid much attention to it. After UoL swept Fnatic 3-0, people took notice. The final immediately became harder than it was expected to be, and Splyce was in for a fight.
Before the Summer Split, Splyce (as Team Dignitas EU) beat Giants 3-2 to retain its EU LCS spot.
In the Summer Playoffs, Splyce beat H2k 3-2 to secure the top seed in the Regional Finals.
In the Regional Finals, Splyce beat UoL 3-2 to qualify for the World Championship.
Wunder did not lead the charge this time, however, as Trashy took control over UoL. A combined 4.31 KDA saw Trashy play Rek’Sai, Nidalee, Elise and Gragas, showing his champion pool versatility and leading his team to the series victory.
These guys are Europe’s No. 3 seed, placed into the hardest group in the tournament, but they know how to clutch when it matters. If that sounds like something you want to watch, Splyce is the team for you.
What do you think of Group D? Who are you rooting for?
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