The 2016 League of Legends Season 6 World Championships has all the tools to be the closest we have seen yet, and the west’s best shot at the title since season two. Unlike in season four, with the untouchable Samsung White, and seasons three and five, featuring a dominant SKT, Korea does not have that one team that is on their own level, with the semifinals and finals of the summer gauntlet ending in competitive five game series. Although the LCK still comes into this tournament as the favourite region to take the title, the lack of a “god tier” team will create a healthy level of competition for the title – beneficial for both the viewers and the growth of LoL as an esport.
Group Stage: Bill Graham Civic Auditorium
Quarterfinals: The Chicago Theatre
Semifinals: Madison Square Garden
Finals: Staples Center
The tournament will follow the same format as last year’s World Championships, with the teams seeded into three pools (A, B and C) to be split into four groups of four, with each group containing one team from pool A and C and two from pool B. Additionally, the same inter-regional rules apply – one group may not contain two teams from the same region. The seeding into pools has slightly changed, with the first seed from the LMS replacing Europe’s former pool A spot, due to The Flash Wolves making it into the playoffs at this year’s Mid-Season Invitational.
This year’s pools are as follows:
Pool A: Rox Tigers (LCK #1) EDward Gaming (LPL #1) Team SoloMid (NA#1) Flash Wolves (LMS #1)
Pool B: SK Telecom (LCK #2) RNG (LPL #2) Counter Logic Gaming (NA #2) AHQ (LMS #2) Samsung Galaxy (LCK #3) I May (LPL#3) G2 Esports (EU #2) H2K (EU #2)
Pool C: Cloud 9 (NA #3) Splyce (EU #3) INTZ (IWC Br) Albus Nox Luma (IWC CIS)
The quarterfinals, semifinals and final will all be best-of-five matches in a single elimination bracket.
Prediction: 1: Rox Tigers 2: G2 Esports 3: CLG 4: ANX
Group A is likely the most straightforward group to predict, barring a large surge in CLG’s strength on an even higher level than their performance at MSI.
The Rox Tigers have been almost unanimously touted as the favourites of this tournament by a range of experts, coming into Worlds as Korea’s first seed after winning the Summer Split. Top laner Song “Smeb” Kyung-ho will likely face a lack of competition in this group, especially backed up by the aggressive jungler Yoon “Peanut” Wang-ho. This group will likely be a cruisy victory for Rox, should they play anywhere close to their LCK form. However, Rox are known to occasionally be a cocky team, and Peanut has played poorly in important matches in the past, so they should not be considered to be auto locked into first place.
G2 Esports have the potential to go deep into this tournament. While having a very lackluster performance at this year’s MSI, it should be assumed that the team has learned from their mistakes and has changed their preparation methods for the tournament. The raw talent on this roster cannot be ignored, with the aggressive double MVP Kim “Trick” Gang-yun and one of, if not, the best bot lane in the west with AD Carry Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen and support Alfonso “Mithy” Aguirre Rodriguez. While G2 is very unlikely to advance in second, if they are to challenge for first, it will likely have to be through Trick putting emphasis on snowballing the bot lane, while top laner Ki “Expect” Dae-han is left to try and mitigate the monstrous combination of Smeb and Peanut.
CLG are coming off a fairly disappointing Summer Split after their surprising success at MSI, finishing fourth in both the playoffs and the double round robin. If CLG wants to advance to the playoffs at Worlds, they will have to do so through smart map movements and double teleport comps – where mid laner Choi “Huhi” Jae-hyun seems to be the most effective. While CLG’s individual talent is somewhat lacking compared to the rosters of G2 and Rox, their potential to play incredibly well as a team, as they showed at MSI, makes it very unwise to underestimate them.
As it always unfortunately is for the wildcard teams, Albus Nox Luma are facing an uphill battle when it comes to escaping groups. If the wildcard team is to play spoiler or have the slightest chance at reaching the playoffs, it will have to be through surprising region-exclusive picks such as support Kirill “Likkrit” Malofeyev’s Brand – a champion that is considered to be a meta support pick to a certain degree in the CIS region.
Prediction: 1: SKT 2: Cloud9 3: Flash Wolves 4: I May
Group B is one of the harder groups to predict at this year’s World Championships. While SKT is the favourite to advance out of this group, it will likely not be through a comfortable group stage like last year’s Worlds. A main reason of this is due to SKT’s glaring weakness in the jungle position. Jungler Kang “Blank” Sun-gu will be facing very tough opposition, with the mid-focused Hung “Karsa” Hau-Hsuan of the Flash Wolves, William “Meteos” Hartman from C9 and even Fan “Avoidless” Jun Wei, who is often very unpredictable. Although SKT had a shaky end to their summer season, their international records, combined with the veteran coaching of Kkoma, will still make them the favourites to escape group B, as well as one of the teams likely to challenge for the title.
The choice between Cloud9 and the Flash Wolves was a very tough decision. However, after breaking down the players on both teams, this specific matchup favours Cloud9. Athough the Flash Wolves have an advantage in the jungle and mid positions, with Karsa and Huang “Maple” Yi-Tang still being the main threats of the team, the differences between the top lane and ADC positions are hard to ignore.
On the side of Cloud9, we have Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong, the top laner who almost carried C9 to a win against TSM and scored an impressive amount of solo kills in the NA playoffs and regionals, having the highest damage percentage on his team in the regional gauntlet – a very impressive achievement for a top laner. In contrast, the Flash Wolves have Yau “MMD” Li-Hung, a stable low economy top laner who often does not get much attention from Karsa and has a relatively weak laning phase in contrast to the other top laners at worlds. Expect Impact to get snowballed by Meteos or even straight up solo MMD in lane.
In the ADC position, Cloud9’s Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi will be a solid mid to high tier ADC at this year’s Worlds, with a relatively strong laning phase in contrast to Hsiung “NL” Wen-An, who some consider a liability to the Flash Wolves. This difference between the top lane and ADC positions has led to my decision of predicting Cloud9 to make it to the playoffs.
The final team of group B is I May, the chinese third seed who scraped into Worlds after a narrow comeback in game five at the regional finals against Team WE. I May is coming off an impressive journey to Worlds, making it through the promotion tournament in the spring split, then qualifying for Worlds in the regional qualifiers. They are a somewhat unpredictable team, composed of a lot of former EDG sub players. If I May is to be the dark horses of this group, it will likely be due to their star support player, Yun “Road” Han-gil, creating pressure plays around the map in an attempt to snowball the early game – most specifically the mid lane composing of ex Ever and EDG player, Kang “Athena” Ha-woon. While I May is considered to be the least likely to exit group B, they are definitely a team that cannot be ignored or counted out.
Prediction: 1: EDG 2: H2k 3: AHQ 4: INTZ
Group C is an interesting group. Apart from EDG, any of the other teams (even including to a certain degree, INTZ) has a chance of making it to the playoffs.
EDG is as close as it gets to an auto lock to come first in this group. The are coming off a dominant performance in this year’s spring season, finishing the split with a perfect 16-0 record and dominating China’s second seed, RNG, in the finals. With veteran jungler Ming “ClearLove” Kai and Kim “Deft” Hyuk-kyu, (who many people, including myself, consider as the best ADC in the world) leading the charge, EDG look like the most likely team to challenge the favourites, Rox Tigers, for the overall victory. Despite this, EDG does have a possible exploitable weakness, which is their tendency to leave their top laner Chen “Mouse” Yu-Hao out to dry, which could play into the hands of teams with strong carry top laners.
The battle for second place will likely be a fierce and unpredictable one. The decision was made to put H2k over Ahq due to the difference in individual talent between the two teams. While Ahq has a sizeable advantage in the top lane, with the legendary and on form Chen “Ziv” Yi, Ahq hasalmost no arguments across the other four positions when it comes to individual skill. This problem is compounded by the newly introduced standard lane patch changes. While Odoamne will likely be able to hold his own against Ziv, the bot lane matchup heavily favours H2K, with the talented ADC Konstantinos-Napoleon “FORG1VEN” Tzortziou and aggressive support player Oskar “VandeR” Bogdan against the mediocre duo of Chou “AN” Chun-An and Kang “Albis” Chia-Wei.
However, while H2k will likely escape the early game with a lead, their ability to cleanly close out games has proven to sometimes be problematic, as shown in their series against Splyce. Additionally, Ahq play a heavy team-fighting style, which could play into their hands should H2k fail to close sufficiently. Both teams must almost be wary of the Brazilian wildcard team, INTZ, who might play spoiler or even sneak into the playoffs.
Although the least likely team to make it through is INTZ, they cannot and most likely will not be viewed as a punching bag by the other teams. Jungler Gabriel “Revolta” Henud’s ability to pull off some unexpected invades to snowball INTZ in the early game could be utilized to steal some games. The top laner, Felipe “Yang” Zhao, also proved at this year’s IWCQ his ability to hard carry INTZ to a win, although it will be tough to repeat against the strong top laners of Ziv and Andrei “Odoamne” Pascu.
Prediction: 1: TSM 2: Samsung Galaxy 3: RNG 4: Splyce
Group D has been deservedly touted as the “group of death,” as every team in this group has the chance to make it out in first place. Team SoloMid started the spring season as a super team, with very strong players in each position, but failed to achieve good synergy. This has finally changed, shown by their summer results, finishing the summer split with a good 17-1 record then finishing the playoffs with a 6-1 win loss score.
Every player on TSM is very close to the best in their respective positions, especially the jungler Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen, mid laner Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg and ADC Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng. The addition of the playmaking rookie support Vincent “Biofrost” Wang has also had a positive impact on the bottom lane, matching Doublelift’s aggressive laning phase.
A lot of TSM’s success will revolve around how the bot lane performs against the strong lanes of Jian “Uzi” Zi-Hao and even Samsung with Jo “Core JJ” Yong-in now in the support position. While TSM is probably worse talent-wise than RNG and not quite on the same level of Samsung’s team play, they are the best all-around team in this group and the most likely to escape groups in first.
Samsung Galaxy are coming off a fairytale run in the Korean Regional Finals, beating the heavy favourites KT in a close 3-2 series. While Samsung spent the majority of the LCK split hovering around the upper middle pack, never quite challenging the top-three, their sudden surge of level in the gauntlet is due to the implementation of former ADC CoreJJ into the support position, who played a major role in the victory. Additionally, Samsung’s veteran jungler Kang “Ambition” Chan-yong played one of the best series of his jungling career, bouncing back in game one after a very smart KT invade. A lot of Samsung’s success at Worlds depends on which team shows up; the mediocre round robin Samsung or the gauntlet Samsung. Also an unknown is if CoreJJ can sustain his level of play, or if it was a fluke.
RNG draws parallels to TSM in the spring split. While the individual talent on this team is very powerful, they have failed to achieve an adequate amount of team synergy. RNG seem to fight without much thought towards power spikes or surrounding terrain. These problems have led me to believe that RNG will not be escaping group D, especially against the more well-rounded TSM and an on-form Samsung. Despite this, RNG could escape groups purely on individual talent, especially through the aggressive gank heavy jungler Liu “Mlxg” Shi-Yu combined with the scary bottom lane combination of Uzi and Korean support Cho “Mata” Se-hyeong. RNG could also be helped with the recent “first brick” patch changes, forcing the other teams to play in standard lanes against Uzi and Mata. If RNG wants to make it to playoffs, they will need to play to their strengths and frequently force team fights in order to assert constant pressure against the other teams.
Splyce are the “feel good” team of the European LCS, qualifying for the main category through the summer qualifiers and improving over the season. In contrast, however, to most former challenger teams, Splyce are quite a well-rounded team without a large emphasis on a specific player or lane. Despite this, Splyce is facing an uphill battle when it comes to making it to playoffs, facing some very tough opposition across the group.
Additionally, although Splyce beat H2k in the summer semifinals, it was not entirely of their own volition, with H2k failing to close out a successful early game in some of the games. Splyce, however, could well be the dark horses of this group and be underestimated by the other teams. Splyce’s success will certainly require jungler Jonas “Trashy” Andersen to assert early game pressure, as well as top laner Martin “Wunder” Hansen to outmatch the other relatively strong top laners in this group.
Here is a ranking of the individual strength of each team participating at this year’s Worlds. These rankings are not based on who is more likely to win worlds; they do not take into consideration the group draw or seeding of the teams.
1. Rox Tigers
2. EDward Gaming
3. SK Telecom T1
4. Team SoloMid
5. Samsung Galaxy
6. G2 Esports
9. Flash Wolves
11. Ahq Esports Club
13. I May
14. Counter Logic Gaming
15. Albus NoX Luna
What do you think about these predictions and power rankings? Let us know by commenting below or tweeting us @GAMURScom.
Follow me on Twitter @patsimenz.