The Final Group in our Hype Series features Three Titans fighting for Two spots, and a Wild Card team looking to live up to its name and play Spoiler to one of the prestige teams in the Group.
When Alliance qualified for the World Championship, it was the culmination of an entire year of effort and planning on the part of their star mid-laner, Froggen. After his team failed to qualify for the Season 3 World Championship, Froggen set out to craft a team around himself that was capable of not only qualifying, but competing against the best teams in the world. To this end, he took fhis former teammate, Wickd, along with former Lemondogs ADC Tabzz, former Copenhagen Wolves Jungler Shook, and eventually, former SK Support player, Nyph and formed the first ever Western Super Team. And while the initial results were less than encouraging (they famously started the Spring Split with an 0-4 Super Week), they arrive at this year’s World Championship fully formed and ready to prove they belong at the top.
As the impetus for all this change, the leader of Alliance is without a doubt Froggen, a stone cold killer of a mid laner whose unwavering confidence in himself sets the tone for a team that plays hard from start to finish. It is extremely likely that this mentality, one shared with former EU heavyweights, Gambit Gaming, is the primary reason why EU teams have had considerably more success on the World stage than their North American breathren, who are prone to an inferiority complex when it comes to the Koreans. At Froggen’s side are some of the very best player’s at their positions in the EU region.While prone to stubborness, Wickd remains a capable force in the top laner. Shook, arguably the most hyped jungler in the West entering the 2014 season, has slowly become the player we all thought he would be, and together with Nyph, exudes exceptional Jungle control, and an ability to play any number of Junglers well. Tabzz and Nyph form one of the two best bot lanes in Korea, and represent one of Alliance’s biggest advantages in group with by far the weakest players at the position, comparatively speaking.
Alliance is not the team that rides their emotions to a better than expected finish. They are just flat out, and consistently good. Arguably the most balanced of all the Western teams, Alliance stands as the Western Team most likely to make a deep run into the playoffs.
Najin White Shield
This team, one of the founding fathers of the Korean League of Legends scene, might want to swap names with their sister team after driving a knife through the heart of every fan hoping to see Faker on the World Stage. If someone had posted on Reddit two months ago that they thought NJWS would make Worlds, they would have been laughed off the internet. Afterall, this was a team that barely escaped the Group Stages of OGN Summer,finishing in the 5th-8th bracket. Their performance in the NLB Diamond League was equally dissapointing, as they got 3-0’d by their sister team, Najin Black Sword, who was then 3-0’d by SKT1 in the finals. Yet, less than a month later, NJWS ran the gauntlet through the Korean Regionals, ending their arduous trek by 3-1ing of SKT1 to secure Korea’s final spot at Worlds.
Looking back at the history of competitive League of Legends, NJWS’s performance in the Korean regional might be the single greatest three days of play ever. But make no mistake, NJWS is not your run of the mill flash in the pan. Every now and then, a team just clicks. They figure something out, and go on a historic run of excellence. It happens in every sport. It’s hard to pin point a single reason why NJWS exploded at the Korean Regionals only because literally everything improved. They consistently out-picked every opponent. Their strategical understanding of the game coalesced, and previously iffy mechanics were suddenly rock solid. But if you wanted to pick a single player, look no farther than Save.
Save is the latest in a tradition of true carry top laners that extends back to the early days of the scene, and the last of a dying breed. He is without a doubt the best Top Laner in the entire World Championship, and likely the world, and brings a threat that no other team has. Most teams are content with letting the top laners duke it out, believing that their opponent’s top can be managed later on, and choosing to focus attention on either the Mid or Bottom lane. Against Save, that just won’t do. He’ll overrun your base by twenty minutes. And with both Cloud 9 and Alliance relying heavily on their ever dependable top laners, Save may prove the weight that tips the scales in a Group that is looking increasingly difficult to predict.
How is it possible that this team enters its second World Championship as one of the biggest unknowns in the Tournament? After storming through the 2013 Summer Split, and brooking no challengers from their Regional competition, Cloud 9 went one and done at the 2013 World Championships after losing 2-1 to Fnatic in their first series of the tournament following the inexplicable decision to not ban Kassadin against xPeke. Since then, they’ve competed in multiple Smaller international Events like the All-Star game, but never at full strength against any Eastern Team. Thus, the most strategically sound Western Team has yet to have the opportunity to prove their metal against the Region they so closely mirrored when they burst upon the scene last year.
This Cloud 9 team has faced substantially more adversity than they did the first time around, having struggled in the face of improvedf competition throughout the past Summer Split before closing take first place in the standings via holding a head-to-head advantage over LMQ. After wiping the floor with a suddenly improving Curse Gaming, Cloud 9 faced off against TSM, who also struggled throughout the Summer Split before heating up in the Playoffs. Then, the unthinkable happened. Cloud 9 lost their first playoff game ever. And then their second. And then their third. And suddenly it was TSM that would enter the World Championship as the number one seed from North America.
Would you believe that Cloud 9 is better for it? The Cloud 9 team that entered the World Championship as freshman had never been really pushed. Never been forced to adapt. They played the same strategy every game, and it worked, so they kept doing it. But predictability is the precursor to defeat. Having had to battle their way through a rapidly improving Region, Cloud 9 was forced to adapt their play style on the fly, and arrives at this years World Championship a much more well rounded team. Gone are the days of the Meteos solo carry. In its place comes the rise of Sneaky, whose taken his new role as the primary carry of Cloud 9 and run with it. But the greatest threat on Cloud 9 isn’t known for exceptional mechanics, he’s known for his mind. Lemon Nation is the coach on the field that every team wishes they had, possessing an uncanny ability to adapt his teams picks on the fly to fit any composition and any opponent. For all intensive purposes, Cloud 9 is effectively surprise proof.
If your first response was, “who?”, than you wouldn’t be alone. The gamepedia article on these guys lists two of their players on the wrong team, and shorter captions than most tombstones. Their Support freely admits that he never practices his role in solo que. Their ADC is the first openly gay player to compete on the World Stage (which is quite possibly the coolest fact about any player participating). And like most Brazilian Players, they all seem to have played for Pain Gaming at one time or another (slight exaggeration). But the the story of KaBuM eSports isn’t the team, but the region they represent.
Make no mistake, the Brazilian Region is bonkers for League of Legends. It’s not uncommon for a random BR Pro Player to hit 20,000 viewers on Twitch, taking the top spot over the likes of Doublelift, the Odd One, and Nightblue. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more passionate region, nor a faster growing one. These guys are already dropping big money on infrastructure, bringing in Korean Coaches and Players in attempt to excelerate the growth of a Region that’s yet to make any type of impact on the World Stage. But handed zero expectations, and the chance to show their unique style of play to the masses, these guys might just play spoiler to one of the three titans above them. A single victory against either of the other teams in the group could turn the entire group on its head.
Whatever the outcome, one thing is guaranteed. It’s going to be a wild ride. (P.S. If they win a game, we get to hear Montecristo and Thorin call Crumbz Lord)