We are now two days into the IWCI and each team has played at least four games, giving us an initial indication of their relative strengths and weaknesses. So, as we head into the third and final day of group stage play what have we learned and what remains unresolved?
What We Know:-
INTZ and BJK have not carried their domestic dominance over to the international arena. Both teams have looked unexpectedly vulnerable against supposedly inferior competition, with INTZ getting upstaged by The Chiefs on day one and Hard Random on day two and BJK looking mediocre at best in losses to BKT, INTZ, and Hard Random. INTZ will most likely still qualify for the playoffs given that all they need is a win against KLG in their final game to ensure their place, but their pre-tournament aura of invincibility has definitely vanished. BJK are even worse straights, needing to defeat Det FM and hope that The Chiefs go no better than 1-1 against Det FM and BKT to scrape into the playoffs. It’s unclear whether these teams are underperforming or are simply not as good as they looked before the event, but neither has lived up to the hype.
Consistency is a real problem for most of these teams. On day one The Chiefs beat KLG, blew away INTZ, and played BJK close, looking like one of the best teams at the event. On day two they fell flat against Hard Random, who themselves had just lost to KLG, who then ended up losing to Det FM! Some of these results are explained by the similar strength levels of many of these teams, but some of them are simply bizarre. When they’re at their best teams like The Chiefs and Hard Random look very strong, but they have valleys that are at least as deep as their peaks are tall and until then can get better consistency they will likely remain a step below most professional teams from the major regions.
Despite their aforementioned inconsistency, Hard Random look formidable heading into the playoffs. When they’ve managed to get out of the early game unscathed they have looked solid, with solo laners Smurf and Kira looking particularly strong. Given their history of good performances in best of fives in the Starladder Star Series they look poised to make a run at winning the coveted spot at the MSI, though to do so they will have to avoid falling into the same traps that led to their losses against KLG and BKT.
What We Don’t Know:-
Who the heck is going to win this event. There are no unbeaten teams, no consistent domination, and very little clarity. Hard Random have looked good, but they have also lost to one of the weaker teams at the event in KLG and were unable to overcome BKT’s early game aggression. INTZ handed BKT their only loss so far but have looked very underwhelming against The Chiefs and Hard Random. BKT looked imperious against everyone until they fell flat against INTZ, raising questions about whether they would be capable of beating them in a five game series. Only one team, Hard Random, has clinched their spot in the playoffs and no teams have been mathematically eliminated. As we head into the final day of group play there remains everything to play for.
What on earth is going on at the tournament site. Repeated delays, client issues, and long pauses have characterized the IWCI’s first two days, making for a very frustrating viewing experience. I really hope whatever has been causing these technical issues is resolved before the conclusion of the tournament, though honestly it doesn’t look likely. Assuming one of the goals of the IWCI is to shine the spotlight on the wild-card regions and give them some additional prestige, this sort of trouble will do Riot no favors.
Day three won’t resolve all of the outstanding questions at the IWCI, but it will give us a much clearer picture of how strong the teams are heading into the playoffs. Can BKT recover from their defeat at INTZ’s hands and take the top spot? Will BJK pay for their poor performances on day two and miss out on the playoffs entirely? After winning their first matches at the event can KLG or Det FM spring another surprise? There are no shortage of storylines for this final day of group play, and if the teams bring the same intensity we’ve seen thus far it should be a real brawl over the remaining playoff spots. May the best teams win!