The Road to Worlds - EU/NA
The opening matches of the 2015 League of Legends World Championships are over 2 months away, but with summer split playoff races heating up, the teams contending for a spot in Paris this October are starting to become clearer. 16 teams will qualify for this years’ Championships with Korea, NA, EU, and China each sending 3 teams, Southeast Asia’s LMS providing 2 teams, and 2 additional teams to be selected via the International Wild Card tournaments. With Patch 5.13 yet to hit the competitive scene, there is still plenty of room for the landscape to change. As GoldPer10’s Ryan Tang articulated recently, patch and meta changes can greatly influence the competitive balance of a region. That said, we are able to get a good idea of which teams have realistic chances to still be competing come October. This is the first in a set of articles that will preview the teams vying for Worlds.
The EU LCS seeds will go to the winner of the summer split, the team with the most Championship points, and the winner of a 4-team gauntlet tournament.
The summer split of the EU LCS has been defined by Fnatic’s dominance, as they have yet to drop a game during this split. Combined with their spring split victory, it would require a dramatic collapse for them to not reach Worlds. Fnatic has clinched the #1 seed entering the playoffs, guaranteeing them at worst a 4th place finish. Fnatic needs to win only a single Bo5 to clinch their spot at Worlds, either in the semifinals of the summer playoffs, thus guaranteeing them one of the top 2 seeds, or in the finals of the Regional Qualifiers, since they can finish no lower than 4th in Championship points.
SK Gaming and the Copenhagen Wolves both earned points during the spring split, but have had extremely disappointing summer performances. With both teams unlikely to escape relegations, they stand to lose the Championship points they earned in spring unless they finish 7th or higher.
Origen can realistically only qualify for worlds by winning the summer split playoffs, or by winning the Regional Qualifier. The good news for the team is that they are well positioned to do so, currently sitting in 2nd place. It’s hard to predict any team topping Fnatic in the playoffs, but a 4th place or better finish in summer should be enough to get Origen into the Regional Qualifier. Finishing in 2nd would make Origen’s task significantly easier, as they would avoid having to win 3 straight Bo5s. Even if they finish 4th or 5th in Championship points, it would not be unprecedented for them to run the gauntlet in the Regional Qualifier, a feat most recently achieved by Najin White Shield in Korea to qualify for last years’ worlds.
H2k has struggled as of late, going 2-4 in their last 6 games. Despite this, they hold a 2-game lead on the teams in 4th place, and none of the teams below them look particularly strong. Assuming Fnatic qualifies as the top seed, a 2nd place finish in summer would secure the 2nd seed to Worlds for H2k. Should they finish in 3rd place, they would still receive the 2nd seed as long as UOL does not finish in 2nd.
Speaking of UOL, they currently are tied for 4th place but face an uncertain future with their jungler Kikis departing the team. UOL was unspectacular during the spring regular season, but demonstrated a prowess at Bo5s in reaching the spring finals and pushing Fnatic to a 5th game. With Kikis’ replacement uncertain, it will be interesting to see whether the team is able to perform at the same level. At least some of their performance in Bo5s can be attributed to Kikis’ ability to introduce off-meta jungle picks, as he utilized 6 different champions during the teams’ 14 playoff games. Their 70 points from spring guarantee them a spot in the Regional Qualifier as long as they avoid the relegation zone. With a solid playoff showing, they also could contend for the 2nd seed to Worlds.
Gambit has been a disappointment thus far, beginning the split 0-4 amid claims that the organization reportedly did not have proper infrastructure in place. Since that disastrous start, they’ve been a respectable 6-4, and currently are tied for 6th place. Their 10 points from spring mean that as long as they reach the playoffs, they should reach the Regional Qualifier.
Giants, Roccat, and Elements are all mathematically still in play for Worlds, but do not appear to be serious contenders. None of these teams hold any Championship points so they would most likely need to advance past the quarterfinals to even reach the Regional Qualifier.
It would be foolish to put anyone other than Fnatic as the top seed out of Europe. Despite H2k’s recent struggles, they have performed well in previous Bo5s and hold a sizeable advantage in Championship points over Origen. I expect Origen to emerge from the Regional Qualifier, as they have shown themselves to be a strong side in their rookie split. While they are untested in Bo5s above the challenger scene, the veteran makeup of the team should help them out.
NA operates on the same system as EU in determining its’ seeds for Worlds. While EU is characterized by a clear top-3 followed by a more muddled playoff picture, NA has its’ largest divide between the playoff teams and the rest of the field. Due to the 3-game gap between 6th and 7th place, Team 8 and Enemy are all but eliminated from Worlds, with Team Dragon Knights already mathematically eliminated.
Cloud 9 is the only playoff team from spring that sits outside the current summer playoff picture. They are not mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, but a single Dignitas win or C9 loss would officially end their hopes. The good news for C9 is that their 70 points from spring are enough to secure a spot in the Regional Qualifier as long as they avoid relegation. Currently a game behind Team 8 for 7th place, C9 has a realistic shot to reach that mark due to a favorable schedule relative to Team 8. Both teams are slated to play TDK and CLG, though C9’s matchups with TSM and Enemy appear more manageable than Team 8’s schedule that pits them against Gravity and Liquid, the top two teams on the split. C9 would still need to win a tiebreaker against Team 8 in that scenario. Even if C9 reaches the Regional Qualifier, their current level of play does not lend optimism to reaching Worlds.
Team Dignitas stands to lose the most should Cloud 9 maintain their Championship points. As the only current playoff team without any points from spring, they would be the odd man out in such a scenario unless they advance past the quarterfinals. Even if Dignitas makes the Regional Qualifier, their chances at Worlds are slim, with their current 3-game losing streak doing little to inspire confidence.
Team Solo Mid has struggled as of late, falling to a 3-way tie for 3rd place, though they still hold a solid position to reach Paris due to the points they accrued during the spring. A top 3 finish in the summer playoffs would be enough to secure TSM the 2nd seed to Worlds. Should TSM finish 4th or fall in the quarterfinals, they would still have a chance to earn the 2nd seed depending on where Team Liquid and Team Impulse finish. Even if TSM fails to qualify via one of the first 2 seeds, they are almost guaranteed to finish at least 2nd in circuit points, meaning they would only have to win a single Bo5 to qualify. Despite their troubles, TSM has more experience in Bo5s at this level than any other North American team, and has also demonstrated an ability to react and adapt over the course of a series at a higher level than the rest of the region. Across the 2014 summer and 2015 spring playoffs, TSM failed to win a single game 1, but went a combined 15-4 during games 2 through 5.
Gravity has risen above the field during the summer split and shows no signs of coming down. They likely will not have enough points to qualify as the 2nd seed, so their Worlds’ chances rely on them either winning the summer split or the Regional Qualifier. If they continue to play at their current level, their chances of doing so are high, though it remains to be seen if they can perform over a Bo5 series.
Counter Logic Gaming also lacks enough points to have a realistic shot at the 2nd seed. Unlike Gravity, their play as of late does not warrant the same level of confidence. CLG should finish with enough points to participate in the Regional Qualifier, though a strong showing in the playoffs may be necessary to give them a reasonable chance at Worlds.
Team Liquid is the team most likely to challenge TSM for the most Championship points and has several avenues to qualify for Worlds. They are guaranteed at worst a spot in the Regional Qualifier with a minimum of 70 points even if they lose in the quarterfinals.
Team Impulse will be in contention for the final spot, though a 2-5 record against the other likely playoff teams calls into question their ability to compete in the playoffs. Impulse has a difficult schedule to finish the season, so a strong showing over the next two weeks would do a lot to inspire confidence in their chances at Worlds.
2. Team Solo Mid
Gravity will have to show that their regular season success is not a fluke, but no team in the region is playing at a higher level right now. If they can maintain the strategic advantage they have shown this split, they are the favorites to emerge victorious in the playoffs. TSM will have to rebound from their recent slump, but their solid Bo5 record as well as their current points lead should be enough to secure their place. Team Liquid looks like solid contenders in the region, with 2 of their 4 losses coming via late game throws. That said, they have struggled when facing Gravity, which is why I have them slotted in at 3rd.