Group C is wide open and other lessons from today at Worlds
Where North America dominated Group C & D yesterday, it was Korea’s turn to cement its hold on the top spot in both groups. Korea’s number three seed NaJin White Shield came through unscathed, but not before being stiffly tested by Europe’s Alliance. In a shocking display, Korea’s top seed, Samsung Galaxy Blue, fell to Fnatic, loss that's thrown Group C into chaos.
Things are slightly more uniform in Group D. NaJin White Shield sits atop the standings at 3-0, with a one game lead on North America’s Cloud9 and a two-game edge over Europe’s Alliance.
With only three games left, the four teams that will advance to the quarterfinals remain as clear as mud. But there were several lessons learned from today’s wild set of games.
1) Group C is anybody’s game
Samsung Galaxy Blue hung as a harbinger of doom over Group C as the tournament commenced. They were the top team in Korea for months, winning the OGN Champions Spring and placing second in OGN Champions Summer. Their loss to Fnatic tightens up the race to get out of Group C.
The most disturbing part for Korean fans is how Blue lost. They are known for exceptional decision making and fighting throughout the later stages of the game. But they appeared listless against Fnatic.
Blue’s loss was only the first step in tearing the group open. Fresh off their win, Fnatic promptly got annihilated by OMG. After their 2-0 day one, LMQ ran into an angry Samsung Blue and was viciously disposed of.
As a result of every team beating up on each other, LMQ and Samsung Blue sit at 2-1, but OMG and Fnatic are only one game back at 1-2. Every game matters in this Group going into day 3.
2) Even overlords can bleed
A popular joke among League of Legends fans is some derivation of the phrase “Bow to your Korean Overlords.” That's thanks to SK Telecom T1 K’s Season Three World Championship win, but also a pair of undefeated performances by the KT Rolster Bullets at IEM Katowice and SK Telecom T1 K at the 2014 All-Stars.
The region’s status as overlords took a hit during day two. Samsung Blue was beaten, and NaJin White Shield had to mount a major comeback against Europe’s Alliance.
Korea still looks like the strongest overall region thanks to Samsung White’s evisceration of Group A, and the impressive responses from NaJin White Shield and Samsung Blue, but they are no longer unstoppable monsters. They can bleed just like any other team.
3) Do-or-die for Alliance
Alliance received a lot of praise for their performance during the European Regional Finals, particularly team captain Henrik “Froggen” Hansen. And that led to increased expectations from many Western fans.
The team has yet to live up to those expectations, however, despite Henrik's excellent performances. Alliance played a great game against NaJin White Shield, but they could not find a way to close it out even though Hansen’s Twisted Fate had a 4/1/2 KDA and sixty-eight more creep kills than anyone else.
The team rallied to grind out a win against Brazil’s KaBuM! e-Sports, but they need to knock off one of the two teams ahead of them to get back into the thick of the playoff race. They get both Cloud9 and NaJin White Shield tomorrow, and they’ll be battling for their tournament lives throughout the day.
4) Will the real Cool please stand up?
OMG’s mid laner, Yu “Cool” Jia-Jun, had a forgettable day one. He was demolished in the first two games and posted an anemic 5/12/6 KDA combined against Samsung Blue and LMQ. For OMG to break out of their 0-2 hole, Yu had to step up on day two and beyond.
What a difference a day makes. Yu improved markedly today against Fnatic. He whalloped mid laner Enrique “xPeke” Cedeño Martínez throughout the early part of the game, and then transitioned into a roaming terror on Zilean. When OMG desperately needed a win to stay in contention, Yu delivered that victory with a 7/0/4 KDA.
OMG remains a game behind first and second in Group C, but if Yu plays the way he did against Fnatic, OMG’s in-your-face style will have one of its pillars back. The number three seed from China leads off day three’s action against Fnatic, and the burning question for everyone will be “will the real Cool please stand up?”
5) Blue side dominance portends wild weekend
Thirty seven games have been played thus far in the 2014 World Championship, and the blue side has come away victorious twenty-seven, or 73 percent, of the time. On its own that doesn’t mean much except a potential knock on how the game is currently balanced.
Couple that with the realization that both NaJin White Shield and Samsung Blue have only played on blue side thus far, and the weekend gets more intriguing. Both two teams will have to overcome a trend to continue their winning ways.
On top of the difficult road for the Koreans, their main adversaries have multiple games on blue side over the weekend. LMQ has a pair of them, as does OMG in Group C. In Group D, Alliance has a pair of blue side games as well. If the blue side trend continues to hold true, Sunday could be a long day with tiebreakers galore.
All photos via Riot Games/Flickr (used with permission)