Worlds Quarterfinals Preview: H2k-Gaming vs. Albus NoX Luna
The last quarterfinal match of the 2016 Season League of Legends World Championship features a European No. 2 seed and the champions of the LCL. And no, I’m not kidding.
H2k-Gaming, Europe’s No. 2 seed, rampaged through the second week of group play with a perfect 4-0 record to earn the top spot in Group C going into the quarterfinals.
Albus NoX Luna, the wild card representative from the CIS region, stunned the world by taking upset wins over ROX Tigers, G2 Esports and Counter Logic Gaming in Group A to snag the No. 2 seed in the group and make history as the first wild card team to advance to the quarterfinals.
H2k is likely the favorite here, as the team is in almost perfect form, but ANX is a squad worth being afraid of. Both of these teams are underdogs, and both of them are out to keep proving everyone wrong. On Sunday, Oct. 16, the dark horses face off as one of them is guaranteed to make it to the semifinals of the tournament.
Let’s preview this matchup.
- Top - Andrei “Odoamne” Pascu
- Jungle - Marcin “Jankos”Jankowski
- Mid - Yoo “Ryu” Sang-ook
- ADC - Konstantinos “FORG1VEN” Tzortziou
- Support - Oskar “VandeR” Bogdan
- Coach - Neil “pr0lly” Hammad
“Everyone wrote us off… but that’s the best part, you get to actually remind people that you are still here, and you are still one of the best.” - FORG1VEN
FORG1VEN’s quote, in an interview with William "scarra" Li from theScore esports, epitomizes H2k. Hardly anyone, if anyone at all, expected this team to end up on top of their group. Quite a few people even didn’t have H2k advancing to the quarterfinals at all. The squad took advantage of that, and proved everyone wrong. But we’ll get to that later.
Prior to the 2016 Spring Split, H2k went through a roster overhaul. Jankos and VandeR joined from Team ROCCAT, while FORG1VEN came over from Gambit Gaming. For weeks three-five of the regular season, Ryu was sidelined by VISA issues, while Echo Fox mid lane substitute Marcin "Selfie" Wolski stepped in to take his place. During this time, H2k didn’t skip a beat, going 5-1 and only losing to eventual champions G2 Esports. H2k closed out the regular season with a 14-4 record, only one game off of the No. 1 seed going into the playoffs.
In the playoffs, the team struggled to break its postseason curse. In the semifinals, a resurgent Origen took down H2k 3-2, and the squad lost again in the third-place match 3-2 to Fnatic. After such a successful regular season, the failure to advance in the playoffs made a few things come to light. The H2k organization and its players ousted FORG1VEN from the team, as they did not think his style of play matched well with his teammates.
Going into the Summer Split, in FORG1VEN’s absence, the team brought in Aleš “Freeze” Kněžínek from Renegades of the NA LCS. After a rocky start, Freeze announced that he had been struggling with tendonitis for some time, and it was obvious in his play. In the meantime, FORG1VEN was struggling mightily with an Origen squad quickly falling apart. In the final week of the season, Freeze was moved to the bench in order to recover and FORG1VEN returned as H2k’s starting ADC. H2k won both of their matches that week, and the fourth-place tiebreaker over Fnatic.
In the playoffs, H2k swept Fnatic in the quarterfinals, but were upset by the rookie sensation squad of Splyce 3-2 in the semifinals. In the third-place match, H2k bounced back and made a statement. After taking down the Unicorns of Love 3-1, H2k secured Europe’s No. 2 seed going into Worlds.
H2k had a relatively lucky draw, being put in a sort of “Group of Life” that included EDward Gaming (LPL No. 1), ahq e-Sports Club (LMS No. 2) and INTZ e-Sports (IWC - CBLoL No. 1). Everyone expected EDG to come out on top in this group with relative ease, but the fight for the No. 2 seed was wide open. The first week of play was disappointing for H2k, but not particularly surprising from a viewer’s perspective. The squad began play with a close loss to ahq, then demolished INTZ. Going into the final game of the week against EDG, H2k had hope. EDG looked shaky, even dropping their first match against INTZ. H2k could win this. However, a stronger EDG side showed up and took down H2k, forcing the Europeans to go into the second week of play with a 1-2 record and a hill to climb.
They climbed the hill. In a display of pure dominance, H2k defeated ahq, EDG and INTZ relatively easily and ended the scheduled games in a tie with EDG for the top seed in the group. The tiebreaker game was the same story, as H2k dismantled EDG, went 4-0 in the week and locked up the No. 1 seed in Group C.
In the first three games, Ryu kept this squad afloat. The mid laner was phenomenal, keeping his team on his back until it was impossible to do so. In the final four games, the entire squad looked nearly perfect. In particular, FORG1VEN killed anyone and anything that stood in his way. During H2k’s 4-0 streak, FORG1VEN had an average KDA of 3.75/0.25/4.75. Overall, that’s 15/1/19. Yes, you read that right, he only died one time in all four games, total. To top it off, that death was in the first game. So he went the final three games, including two against EDG, without dying.
Whether this team will win or not likely depends on which version of H2k shows up. Honestly, even the first week version of H2k could beat ANX, but it’s a 100 percent victory if H2k comes to play like they did in week two.
Albus NoX Luna
- Top - Dmitri “Smurf” Ivanov
- Jungle - Aleksander “PvPStejos” Glazkov
- Mid - Mykhailo “Kira” Harmash
- ADC - Vladislav “aMiracle” Scherbyna
- Support - Kirill “Likkrit” Malofeyev
- Coach - Konstantin “Ansva” Chanchikov
Everyone loves the underdog story, and the boys at ANX are doing their best to keep the book from closing.
This team has made history as the first wild card squad to ever advance out of the group stage at Worlds, but the way they did it was even more impressive. Before we get to their incredible performance at Worlds, let’s take a look at this team’s year as a whole.
The LoL Continental League (LCL) was just created this year in Russia, and ANX was determined to represent the new region on the international stage. In the Spring Split, ANX (then known as Hard Random) demolished the LCL, going 11-3 in the regular season and taking the top spot into the playoffs. All five players were either the best or second-best in the league in their respective positions, but Smurf stood out above the rest. When he played in the top lane, Smurf’s KDA in the regular season was a staggering 10.19. If you include his one game at support, in which Likkrit played in the jungle and PvPStejos played top lane, Smurf’s KDA drops to a 9.44. This game was likely just for fun, as it was the final game of the Spring Split and the team had already locked up the No. 1 spot going into the playoffs.There may have been an element of strategy here, as HR was playing the No. 2 team, Team Empire, and likely did not want to leak any strategies going into the playoffs. Whatever reason they did it, it was a comical result.
The squad flew threw the playoffs, sweeping their semifinal opponent and taking down Team Empire 3-1 in the finals. This secured HR’s spot in the 2016 International Wild Card Invitational and gave the team a chance to qualify for MSI.
HR tied for the top spot in the group stage at the International Wild Card Invitational with SuperMassive eSports and INTZ e-Sports. A set of tiebreaker games was obviously necessary, and the team ended up with the No. 2 seed going into the knockout stage of the tournament. From there, HR swept INTZ in the semifinals but fell just short of MSI by dropping 3-1 to SuperMassive in the finals.
Going into the Summer Split with a renewed determination, HR renamed to Albus NoX Luna. The name may have changed, but the domestic dominance continued. In fact, the Summer Split was even less of a challenge than the Spring Split. The team went 13-1 in the regular season, just a step away from perfection. This season, Smurf slowed down a bit and aMiracle was the team leader in KDA. In the playoffs, ANX swept RoX (not the Tigers, but we’ll get to that match later) in the semifinals and took a narrow 3-2 victory over Vega Squadron in the finals.
The team had another shot at international representation for the LCL, as earning the top seed entered ANX into the International Wild Card Qualifier for Worlds. In a close group stage, ANX went 5-2, tied for second place with INTZ e-Sports and Dark Passage. However, because ANX lost to both of these teams, the squad walked into the Worlds qualifying match as the No. 4 seed against No. 1 seed Lyon Gaming. In five grueling games, ANX completed the upset and locked down on of the two wild card spots at Worlds.
ANX was placed in group a with the ROX Tigers (LCK No. 1), Counter Logic Gaming (NA LCS No. 2) and G2 Esports (EU LCS No. 1). No one gave ANX even the slimmest of chances to escape the group, and many analysts even expected the squad to be the worst of all 16 teams in attendance. Obviously, they were all wrong.
ANX opened their tournament by putting up a fight against ROX, performing extremely well in the early parts of the game, but cracking later. Most people watching the game thought nothing of it, and attributed the closeness to ROX having a slow start to the tournament. In ANX’s second game, people started to pay attention. In a nailbiter, the wild card squad took down CLG. People were still skeptical, pointing to CLG’s recent lack of skill and making fun of them rather than praising ANX. They were just fine with that, and went on to beat G2 Esports as well. Going into the second week of play, ANX sat with a 2-1 record, tied for first in the group. Still, no one expected them to make it out.
Relishing in the underdog story, ANX began the second week of play with another win over CLG. At this point, people finally believed in the team’s strength. Still, they had to face ROX next. There was no way they could win that. And yet, they did. In a 66-minute thriller, ANX pulled off what is likely the biggest upset in the history of Worlds by defeating the ROX Tigers, Korea’s best and the favorite to win the tournament before it started. ANX was sitting at 4-1, fully in control of their own destiny and in place to win the group. Their final game was against an 0-5 G2 Esports, so what could go wrong? Well, a lot. In a surprisingly dominant victory, G2 took down ANX and left the squad with a 4-2 record. Now tied for first with ROX, ANX had to face the giants again in order to determine which team would get the No. 1 seed. This time, ROX took the game without hesitation and destroyed the underdogs.
There’s no doubt that ANX has had an incredible year and an incredible Worlds, but cracks are showing in their armor. It’s becoming slowly evident that in order for ANX to have the best chance to win, Smurf needs to be on a tank/utility top laner and Likkrit needs to be on a playmaker support that can provide constant pressure and deal damage. There are still questions around aMiracle’s champion pool as well, as the ADC has only played Lucian and Sivir so far in the tournament.
That being said, this squad looks good. They lost twice to ROX, but that’s ROX. The majority of the teams in this tournament would lose to ROX. They also beat ROX once, so there’s that. They lost to G2, but that was literally minutes after a 66-minute emotional rollercoaster win over ROX. The players were inevitably drained, emotionally and physically, and G2 played extremely well. Not to mention the fact that Smurf played Kennen, not a tank, and Likkrit played Braum, not a damage dealer or a champion with major pressure.
Each of these teams has a player that knows how to get the crowd's attention. We've all eard Likkrit's motivational speech for G2 Esports, and we've grown to love the man after each and every interview he gives us. On H2k's side, FORG1VEN may not be the motivational speaker, but people always stop and listen to what he has to say. These two influence the fans, and they are the biggest influencing factors in the game for their teams.
This is going to be a good game, and either team could take it. This could easily be the closest quarterfinal match.
Who do you think will win this matchup? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below or tweet us @GAMURScom.
Images courtesy of Riot Games Flickr