The 12 qualified teams converged on Mexico City to kick off the 2022 League of Legends World Championship at the Play-In stage on Thursday with eight games and lots of takeaways.
Thanks to late positive COVID-19 tests almost all across the Play-In camp, the day’s end was delayed by nearly two hours as Riot worked to get players relocated to remote setups while maintaining the competitive integrity that the year’s most important tournament calls for. Thankfully, DRX and Royal Never Give Up delivered a game high on skill and entertainment value to end the day. It was arguably the biggest upset of the day, as every other match went how analysts predicted, other than Brazilian squad LOUD’s bounce-back win over Japan’s DetonatioN FocusMe.
The meta also started to take shape, with added variance in every single position. Some picks we saw coming, while others not as much. Here are some of the storylines to follow as the tournament progresses from day one of the Worlds 2022 Play-Ins.
It’s deja-mumu all over again
Kind of. It was just a little more difficult to make a Miss Fortune pun, which is a shame because she was the star of the Newcomers to the Rift show. Last year, Miss Fortune-Amumu was the bottom lane wombo-combo dream pairing. Amumu ended up falling out of favor, but Miss Fortune stuck around to the tune of the fourth-highest pick-ban rate at the tournament (81 percent). This year, right around the same time, compositions are being built around her and her high-value ultimate. Amumu is her obvious bot lane buddy, but Leona, Jarvan IV, and even Zac mid (we missed you, Vietnam) are being drafted to facilitate the team-wiping damage Miss Fortune can pump out.
Otherwise, the meta has shaped up more or less how people thought it would given the patch notes and Champions Queue games. Hecarim is good but not problematic (and has a plethora of build paths apparently), engage supports like Leona and Nautilus are fully back, and Kai’Sa is extremely strong again. MAD Lions AD carry UNF0RGIVEN put together one of the most statistically impressive performances of the first day, notching 14 kills on the champion in a win over İstanbul Wildcats.
Subs? More like dubs
It looked like it was going to be two straight World Championships of COVID-related underperformance for Fnatic. But thanks in part to Fnatic TQ support Rhuckz, Hylissang’s day one absence was hardly noticed (or very apparent, depending on who you ask). He put on a masterclass on Leona in a slaughter of Evil Geniuses and performed almost as well on Nautilus in the team’s win over Chiefs Esports Club later in the day. Oh, and he died zero times the entire day. Upset obliged with the tournament’s first pentakill in the win over Chiefs. Hylissang will rejoin the team on Friday against Detonation FocusMe at 3pm CT.
As mentioned above, UNF0RGIVEN announced himself to the Mexican fans with a truly awesome Kai’Sa performance despite having tested positive for COVID just hours before the match. Wunder was another highlight for Fnatic in the top lane, playing a near-ubiquitous Aatrox pick like the frustrating draintank he is, as well as Maokai in one of his two roles on the day. Support Maokai could also easily rear its head as the tournament goes on.
COVID delays extend eight-hour day two additional hours
A day that should have seen marquee matchup DRX vs. Royal Never Give Up start at 10pm CT instead kicked off just after midnight. Seemingly out of nowhere, players across most of the teams were testing positive for COVID left and right. Riot had a backup plan, allowing players to play in isolation rooms at the adjacent hotel where the teams are staying, but getting players there and set up in appropriate environments took up to 30 minutes depending on how many players tested positive and how much notice the news was delivered with.
Obviously, we don’t know all the details. But with eight games a day, one can only hope that these sorts of delays are better worked around as the tournament goes on and remote setups are better integrated.
Worlds 2022 is back with eight more games from Mexico City tomorrow at 3pm CT, beginning with Fnatic (2-0) vs. DetonatioN FocusMe (0-1).