Here’s something few expected after the first day’s of action in Group C & D at Riot’s World Championship: North American sides are 4-0. But that’s only one small slice of the intrigue that developed after today’s six contests in Singapore.
Billed as a potential spoiler in Group C, North America’s LMQ rejected that role and seized control of their own destiny following an impressive pair of games. They only need two more wins out of their next four games to lock in a spot in the bracket stage.
Similarly, Cloud9’s thorough destruction of Alliance sets up a battle over the number one seed out of Group D when the North Americans battle Korea’s NaJin White Shield.
Even with the group stage results still unclear, there were several lessons to be gleaned from the action.
1) LMQ are Group C’s gatekeepers
Group C was labeled the “Group of Death” before the start of the tournament. Few gave LMQ much of a chance to advance, considering there were three other powerful teams in the group with them, not to mention the team’s recent internal problems. That notion was quickly put to bed following LMQ’s win over China’s OMG, and dominating performance over Europe’s Fnatic.
The most impressive part of their two wins is that there wasn’t a single player that carried the team to either victory. AD Carry Li “Vasilii” Wei-Jun was a tyrannical 10/0/9 against OMG on Twitch, but it was middle laner Yu “XiaoWeiXiao” Xian’s Syndra that was the star of the show. Yu neutralized OMG’s middle laner Yu “Coo1” Jia-Jun, considered OMG’s best individual player, throughout their contest.
While Yu continued his strong performance for LMQ against Fnatic, it was Xiao “ackerman” Wang’s turn to step up in that game. He played Rumble to a devastating 4/0/7 KDA against the Europeans, and his uncanny placement of Rumble’s ultimate ability, The Equalizer, on Summoner’s Rift caused Fnatic enormous issues. Whether it was used as a “zoning” tool to create a damaging wall of fire, or as a damage tool during a teamfight, Fnatic had no answer, and LMQ walked away victorious
The wins have catapulted LMQ to the top of Group C. But Korea’s Samsung Galaxy Blue is waiting in the wings for their shot at the surging team from North America.
2) Cloud9 Is Back In Form
The Cloud9 that competed in the North American Regional Finals was not the Cloud9 that many North American fans had come to expect. There made uncharacteristic mistakes galore in that best-of-five against Team SoloMid, which led to questions about their ability to handle top competition at the 2014 World Championship. The team quashed those questions with their performance against Europe’s Alliance.
Led by AD Carry Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi’s 3/0/3 Lucian, Cloud9 beat Alliance all over Summoner’s Rift. It was a stunning display against Europe’s best team. The team’s vision control, one of the biggest issues against Team SoloMid, disappeared. That translated into multiple neutral objectives that Cloud9 used to blow the game wide open.
Thanks to a calculated evisceration of Brazil’s KaBuM! e-Sports, Cloud9, like their North American brethren, sit at the top of their group with a 2-0 record. They’re the early leader in Group D after day one, but they are staring down the barrel of Korea’s NaJin White Shield heading into day two.
3) EU got some ‘splainin’ to do
In the annals of European League of Legends history, today will be among the most forgettable. Fnatic’s game against LMQ in Group C was a tactical mess. The team did have excellent map roaming from support Bora “YellOwStaR” Kim in the early game which got them off to a good start. But then it all fell apart.
LMQ smartly initiated advantageous teamfights against a fractured Fnatic on multiple occasions, particularly near Fnatic turrets. The combination of Rumble’s The Equalizer and and marauding Yasuo from LMQ put Fnatic at a major disadvantage, and that lost them the game.
The bigger EU disappointment was Group D’s Alliance. They have been the dominant force in Europe throughout the 2014 LCS Summer Split and through the Regional Qualifier, and that dominance was quickly put to bed by a surging Cloud9. Alliance appeared hapless throughout the majority of their contest, and Cloud9 quickly took advantage to deliver a decisive blow.
The most troubling part of it all for Europe isn’t its losses today. Instead, it’s the fact that both teams both have a date with a powerful Korean squad tomorrow. Lose those games, and there’s a real chance that no European team will make it out of groups.
4) GorillA cannot be allowed on Thresh
NaJin White Shield support Kang “GorillA” Beom-hyeon only played a single game on day one, but his Thresh was excellent. He posted a 0/0/11 KDA on thirteen kills against KaBuM! e-Sports. It wasn’t just that he was around for such a large percentage of his team’s kills—though that was impressive. It was his control that stood out.
Throughout the laning phase, when teamed up with AD Carry Lee “Zefa” Jae-Min’s Corki, the duo bullied their KaBuM! counterpart. Kang’s aggressive use of Flay throughout the laning phase forced advantageous damage trades between the duos.
Once the laning phase ended, Kang leveraged the lead that he helped secure into tremendous vision control, with 36 wards placed. That vision was a key component of multiple kills for NaJin White Shield. He was even consistently on-hand to save teammates (if they went too deep into enemy territory chasing a kill) through his Dark Passage.
The competition steps up in a big way for NaJin White Shield in day two. They face both Cloud9 and Alliance tomorrow. Kang’s performance on Thresh was powerful enough that both teams will need to consider taking it away from him going forward.
5) China’s OMG is in trouble
The number three seed out of China, OMG, took a major step backwards on day one. They suffered a pair of losses to LMQ and Korea’s Samsung Galaxy Blue, and are looking at a situation where they will have to win three of their next four games to even sniff a potential tiebreaker to make it into the bracket stage.
The games themselves were messy affairs. Even though middle laner Bae “dade” Uh-Jin’s Yasuo is an overpowering force on Summoner’s Rift, OMG decided to let him play it. On top of that, Blue AD Carry Kim “Deft” Hyuk-kyu had his way with the entire team on the way to an 11/2/6 KDA on Kog’Maw. It is tough to believe that OMG has much of a chance against Samsung Blue in their second match, which would mean that they will have to beat Fnatic twice, and avenge their loss to LMQ to secure even a chance at the bracket stage.
All photos via Riot Games/Flickr (used with permission)