We are now one day away from deciding just who will battle in the quarterfinals of the $2.2 million Riot World Championships. And right now, it’s anyone’s game.
Both Groups C and D show potential for two, three, or even four-way ties after a day packed with some of the most thrilling matches of League of Legends you’ll ever see.
All in all we’re heading to an explosive finish to the group stage of League’s biggest tournament ever. So far it’s certainly lived up to its billing.
1. Europe’s demise was greatly exaggerated
Two days through Group C and D, it looked like every European team would succumb and fall out of the tournament. Fnatic beat Samsung Galaxy Blue in surprising fashion, but fell to OMG and LMQ. Alliance struggled against Cloud9 and Najin White Shield.
Oh, the difference one day makes.
Fnatic may still be out of the tournament, but they were one auto attack away from likely advancing against OMG. They embarrassed LMQ with a masterful performance after their heartbreaking loss to OMG.
Alliance looked like one of the most dominant teams in the tournament. They beat Cloud9 showing off some unorthodox yet effective play, including a jungle Rammus, and then destroyed Najin White Shield in the most one-sided game of the entire tournament.
Europe is back.
2. Shook: the best jungler outside Korea?
When Henrik “Froggen” Hansen put together his super team Alliance, his selection for jungle was controversial. Everyone knew Ilyas “ShooK” Hartsema was a solo queue monster, capable of single-handedly obliterating teams with his aggressive and relentless ganking. But could he do it in the LCS, against some of the best teams in the world?
Today we learned the answer: a resounding yes.
First Cloud9 banned out Hartsema, taking away Kha’Zix and Lee Sin in an attempt to expose what was thought to be a weak champion pool. The Americans had faith their own jungler superstar, William “Meteos” Hartman, could perform without those jungle stalwarts. But it was Hartsema, with his surprise Rammus pick, that made a bigger impact on the game. He shut down Hartman by avoiding the trap the American set for him in the top lane.
Then Najin White Shield challenged Hartsema to play his favored Lee Sin, choosing to ban Rammus, the non meta champion they had little experience playing against, instead. Woops.
The European Jungler decimated the Koreans, putting up four quick kills and snowballing every single one of his lanes. It was an absolute slaughter. Hartsema was three steps ahead of Shield’s own jungler, Cho “Watch” Jae-geol.
3. Koreans need to respect the West
When Najin White Shield banned away Rammus from Hartsema, many on Twitter called it a “respect” ban, the Korean team wanting to avoid a pocket pick that they had little experience playing against. But in reality, it was a disrespect ban.
The Koreans believed Hartsema and Alliance were not as dangerous playing a powerful meta champion like Lee Sin—they thought the only way they’d lose was in a non-standard game. Boy, were they wrong.
The loss put Najin White Shield in real danger of failing to advance. A loss to Cloud9 tomorrow will send them into a three-way tie breaker, where another failure will fall them out of the tournament. The real question is, just how serious were they taking these matches? Did they want to hide what they’ve prepared for when they potentially face the Samsung teams later in the tournament?
That might be the case, but if they hold back any longer, Alliance and Cloud9 are good enough to eliminate them before they get to show their true colors.
4. Wickd’s Irelia needs to be banned
Alliance has won every game top laner Mike “Wickd” Petersen gets to play his signature champion. The difference in his play on Irelia and other top laners is night and day. Against Cloud9, for example, Petersen dominated what most consider an even lane battle against Ryze while playing Cloud9’s An “Balls” Le, someone many consider to be the best top laner in the Western scene. Petersen carried the game, preventing the late game power of Ryze from ever coming online.
Alliance had a few question marks coming in to this tournament—could the team succeed, if their captain Froggen was shut down? Did Petersen and Hartsema have what it takes to win matches when Alliance’s two carries struggled?
Today answered that question, at least when Petersen gets to play Irelia. He likely won’t get to the rest of the tournament, so he’ll need to step up on other champions. But for now he’s shown he can be a weapon in the right circumstances.
5. Everything we know is wrong
After the first two days in group, it looked like American teams LMQ and Cloud9 were destined to advance. Now LMQ looks like they may end up in last place and Cloud9 is on shaky ground, needing a win against the Koreans to make it through the tournament.
Everything that happened today will be different tomorrow as teams adjust and change tactics. On the World Stage, every little piece of information, every little change in play style, every champion pick and ban is analyzed and digested and used to
Maybe tomorrow, Cloud9 will be the dominant Western team. Alliance will face Irelia bans, and Petersen will falter. Perhaps LMQ puts together two more dominating game like the ones they opened the group with, and advances over an OMG team that’s seemingly on the rise. Maybe Fnatic somehow beats Samsung Galaxy Blue a second time, but then falls in a tie breaker.
Anything can happen tomorrow. And that’s one reason why the Riot World Championships are so great.
Image via Riot Games/Flickr