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5 thoughts to end Group Stage

In case you forgot amidst the wild ride that was #League10, there’s a pretty big tournament going on at the moment for League of Legends called “Worlds.” And it resumes tomorrow! The first round robin panned out mostly as expected, and everyone really loves Yuumi and Sona and Garen (who definitely die sometimes), so we’re all hoping to see more of those champions in the coming days. Here’s a brief 5 thoughts going into the second half of this Group Stage! 

1. Gamers 2 Gaming
Perkz: okay nice we are winning
Caps: but do you think we are winning by too much
Perkz: what
Mikyx has been slain
Mikyx: no i think it’s fine

Coming into the Group Stage, G2 was pegged as one of the pre-tournament favorites, and so far they’ve lived up to their billing… mostly. They’ve been dominant in their victories but not in a way we’re accustomed to seeing from top teams at Worlds — the wins aren’t exactly clean, which isn’t a surprise to anyone who has watched G2 all year. In any given game you might have one player (actually it is just Perkz so far) pop off and another player (or two) feeding their asses off. So what I am trying to say is Perkz is about to clone himself and play all five roles. I still think this is the most fun team to watch at Worlds, and they’ve made it clear that beyond the goofy memes and fun play style, they’re extremely damn good at League of Legends, which is absolutely a prerequisite for winning Worlds. As such, they remain the current favorite to take home the Summoner’s Cup.

2. Faker Faker Playmaker
SKT emerged from the first round robin in the vaunted “Group of Death” unscathed, which is entirely expected if you are someone who only watches Worlds and conveniently missed their dismal start to the LCK Summer Split. But this is a group that features (arguably) three of the top five teams in the world when you add FNC and RNG to the mix, so it’s absolutely still an impressive feat. Korea isn’t the same dominant power it used to be, but perhaps SKT can return them to the top. I see a lot of contrarians giving other people crap when they (or we) hype Faker, to which I say, FakerFakerFakerFakerFakerFakerFakerFakerFakerFakerFakerFakerFakerFakerFakerFakerFakerFakerFakerFakerFakerFaker! He’s good! He’s great! Literally the greatest player of all time! He didn’t die in two of the wins, and in his five deaths against RNG, he made the final call to backdoor the base to steal a victory from an RNG comp that would have won the game otherwise. He’s been dominant thus far and has lived up to his billing by our own Jatt and Vedius as the #1 performer at this Worlds. I know he hasn’t looked as good as some other players throughout the LCK Summer Split, so it’s nice to see that he can still shine on the biggest stage. And even after watching SKT drop their last two international Best-of-5 sets, part of me still feels like SKT wins are an inevitable truth. Part of that feeling, surely, is some sort of Stockholm Syndrome kind of mental reality where all I see is SKT confetti. Part of it is that they actually look to be one of the top teams here. No other team — not even G2 — projects an aura quite like SK telecom T1.

3. LMS woes
Including last year’s Worlds, the #2 and #3 seeds from the LMS have gone 0-18 through the first half of this group stage, which is a really bad stat if you just take a glance at it. And if you spend some more time staring at it, perhaps you’ll cascade into a pit of your own despair, triggering your own deepest and greatest strings of failure. Maybe you failed every test one semester in college. Maybe you, too, have lost 18 games of League of Legends in a row. Maybe you are a longtime LMS fan (bless your soul) counting down the days until your demise. It really does start to sink in that the LMS is about to be gone. The region’s depth has been in decline for a while now, but this is reaching critical mass when it comes to disappointment. I don’t think HKA and especially AHQ are playing as poorly as their 0-3 records might suggest, but results are the only thing that matters when your entire year (and, perhaps, the final moments of your leagues’ legacy) is on the line. Neither of them are likely to rebound in their groups, but at least J Team is carrying on spiritual torch the Flash Wolves left in their wake. At 2-1, they are in a good position to be the first LMS team to advance to the Quarterfinals (maybe even as the #1 seed) since 2015, which would keep the dream of one final miracle run from the LMS alive. They’ve already taken down the LPL’s #1 seed FPX, but I suspect FPX will be much better in their second go. If Fofo can lead J Team to another win, though, then I think J Team could become the immediate underdog darling of the Quarterfinals. 

4. Mage bots?
Why put your world class marksman main on a marksman when you could have them play [checks notes] Morgana. Fnatic and Cloud9 have long been linked — they even collaborated to release a new hoodie together. They’re both in groups that have been pegged “Group of Death,” and they both sit at 1-2 and solely in 3rd place. The two teams ahead of them were widely predicted to advance, even if general consensus on C9 and (especially) FNC is that they are good teams. They also haven’t played a single marksman yet despite Sneaky and Rekkles being the respective faces of their franchises. Is it weird? Absolutely — even if they’ve flexed these picks throughout the year. Is it wrong? I can’t say — teams have a lot more data than us when it comes to what works and what doesn’t, but it’s probably a little frustrating for fans to see them (especially Sneaky) struggle out of the gate on non-marksman. We saw Rekkles have very little impact as Morgana, and we saw Sneaky get blasted while playing Cassiopeia. That’s not really how you want your favorite players to go down, even if it might be working for them in scrims. C9 also has the added question mark of playing Blaber over Summer Split MVP Svenskeren the last two games — it really makes you wonder what’s happening in scrims. It’s just weird for me to see them bench the primary catalyst for their success all summer when every single game matters so much. Whether these two can bounce back or not, I think, will come down to how well they can adjust — are their struggles a problem with the pick/ban, or are they a problem with their execution? 

5. Understanding the 3-way tie atop Group D
First of all, yes. Pessimistic people will look at Liquid and say that they should have lost to AHQ and be 1-2 — that is fair. Optimistic people might look at the IG game and say that is one Liquid should have won (this is not as clear as the AHQ case, but it is a point you could make). So basically the glass is half Liquid. IG and Damwon are also far from perfect, which makes it difficult to parse. The worst case scenario for TL fans is that there’s a 3-way tie at 4-2 atop this group and Liquid somehow loses out on that exchange. Doublelift has barely missed Quarterfinals the last couple of years, and missing it after going 4-2 would be devastating. They’d become the first team in Worlds history to not make it out of Groups with a mark like that. Surely that won’t happen, though, right? IG hasn’t looked like the same powerhouse that dominated the world all the way through the MSI Group Stage — maybe a bit of redemption can come if they can beat Liquid again. It could serve as the bookmark to their long slump, or, perhaps, they’re just not that good without Ning in good form. Damwon hasn’t looked good either — if not for IG’s bot lane having a super bad game, they could be in a pretty dire situation. Even their win over AHQ took 40 minutes, and it just feels like this team’s pace is too uninspired for this stage. Clinching this group is going to come down to which team can actually evolve in the few days they’ve had off — otherwise we might be staring down the barrel of some more 35-minute team fights that can swing on whether or not you can kill Garen (you can’t).

Day 5 of Group Stage resumes tomorrow at 6:00 am PT and will see Group B to its conclusion!

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Champion Roadmap: October 2019