If the League of Legends World Championships proved anything, it’s that international competitions are where the sparks truly fly. Unfortunately for fans of the world’s largest esport, these competitions have become limited to an occasional showcase and the annual main event.
This year, however, Christmas is coming early.
With devotees nursing a post-Worlds hangover, Intel Extreme Masters is stepping in to fill the off-season void. Early this December, the SAP Center in San Jose, California will play host to some of the world’s best League of Legends, including fan favorites Team Solomid and Alliance, who qualified as champions of their respective regions.
The remaining participants, one from North America and Europe respectively, will be determined through a fan vote, opening October 29. Two South American teams will also attend, pending the results of a regional qualifier.
The unique nature of the event, simultaneously international in scope and third party in sponsorship, harkens back to some of League of Legends’ most historic moments. In 2013, the international competition of IEM Katowice event saw Gambit Gaming beat out the world’s strongest Korean side in front of a raucous European crowd. In 2012, the IGN Proleague saw Moscow 5 beat Korean side Azubu Blaze in what nostalgists believe to be the best event in League of Legends history.
In addition, the event will likely feature the first true look at currently re-shuffling sides TSM and Alliance. Shortly after Worlds, TSM jungler Maurice “Amazing” Stückenschneider stepped down from his role amid criticism over his lackluster play. Current odds lie with Lucas “Santorin” Tao Kilmer Larsen as his replacement, whose stint on Team Coast was indicative of a player ready for the big leagues.
While TSM looks to the Challenger leagues, Alliance look to bolster their ranks with a high-profile acquisition in the form of Martin “Rekkles” Larsson. The Fnatic player has allegedly “had enough” with his squad and has already spoken with Alliance management regarding a move. With Larsson demonstrating his proficiency on an international level at Worlds, the change would do well to cement Alliance at the top of the EU table for some time.
The pre-season test will likely lack the polish of the World Championships, but for fans, the event is the perfect opportunity to alleviate the off-season drought. TSM fans will vet their new jungler, South American fans will test their luck, and Alliance fans will pray that Kabum! isn’t in attendance.