It has been a week since the Play-In event of Worlds 2017, and the main event is almost here. The top analysts were correct to call that the #1 seeds (Cloud9, Fnatic and Team WE) would make it through, and were excited to see a wildcard team upset the #1 seed Hong Kong Attitude and proceed. Despite a Wildcard team lowering Group D's chance of having the powerhouse Team WE from 100% to 66.7%, the final slot of Group D was still locked by Team WE during the third group draw.
And with that, the battle lines were drawn.
With the first match of Group D starting on October 6th, let's take an overall look at the group, and narrow down just what makes everyone so dangerous.
Pool 1: Flash WolvesPool 2: MisfitsPool 2: TSMPool 3: Team WE
Each team in this group has to either redeem themselves for their past failures or have something to prove to the world in their performance in Worlds 2017.
Flash Wolves emerges from Pool 1 as the #1 Taiwan seed for the fifth time, but will have to perform exceptionally well for its region since ahq is in its toughest group and HKA has been eliminated already. Flash Wolves left Worlds 2016 with the sour taste of disappointment, finishing 3rd behind SKT and Cloud9 in their groups.
Misfits joined the EU LCS in Spring 2017, and is taking part in its first Worlds this year, much like Splyce did last year. But Misfits do not want to repeat the mistakes Splyce made in their own debut, and there is plenty on this team's plate on the international stage.
Especially since TSM is here and playing like mad. After not making it out of groups last year despite all the hype flowing around the team, TSM has approached groups with a more humble perspective, with no overconfidence clouding their vision.
But if TSM wants to make it far into the tournament, they have to play against higher ranked teams. This includes going head-to-head with Chinese powerhouse Team WE.
Despite Team WE having to play in Play-Ins before qualifying for groups, the team is ranked 4th on the ESPN Power Rankings and has shown what they can do against the Wildcard regions. With home-field advantage on their side, taking down this behemoth will be a challenge for any international team.
Despite coming into Group D riding the Pool 1 wave, the Flash Wolves squad is not favored to be leaving the groups stage.
The wolves crushed ahq in the Summer Playoffs, but were shaky at the end of summer season. While Maple and Karsa continue to be main carries on Flash Wolves, the main concern is on veteran SwordArt for a complex reason.
SwordArt typically plays champions that are melee and engage. With the support meta being dominated by Ardent Censer, this could become a bad habit in the long run since it puts more pressure on top lane MMD and Karsa to engage and follow up. With Ardent Censer and playing around the AD Carry position becoming a new Worlds meta, the newbie Betty will have to shine again, or else the team will fall.
Besides these concerns, Flash Wolves will be fine.
Each member has shown that they can play their champion pools well, and their laning phase is complimented by Karsa's aggressive roams and ganks. Maple is a top mid laner who has a deep champion pool, and Betty has shown that he can perform well in international events.
Misfits are entering Group D from Pool 2, but nobody is excited for this European team looking at the rest of this group. Even though the team has the second seed, finishing 6-7 in the summer split has taken its toll on confidence. As well, Maxlore replaced legendary player KaKAO, and hasn't quite filled his shoes just yet. And Ad carry Hans sama needs to improve quickly if he wants to secure his team victories.
Everyone on this team is new to Worlds, but that's not what's keeping this team down.
They were the worst team to enter summer playoffs, yet they took apart Unicorns of Love and Fnatic to secure the second seed. There is hype surrounding Alphari after he placed high on the Korean SoloQ ladder, PowerOfEvil always has some interesting build up his sleeve, and Ignar has a deep champion pool for a support player with a counter for every team composition the opponent wants to play.
But this team is looking to be the weakest in this group. I wouldn't put it past Misfits to take a game or two off of the other teams in this best of 1, but that's looking at the bright side of a pretty dim spot.
TSM comes into Group D in the Pool 2 slot, and were the last team to be chosen. Despite Doublelift leaving TSM after last year's Worlds, he's returned to the team after the MSI, and won his third Summer trophy.
All of TSM's members are proficient in their roles, making this a very dangerous squad from multiple angles.
Hauntzer is a good laner, but gets punished repeatedly for his aggressive positions. Svenskeren and Biofrost are both the main engagers and tanks of TSM, but the team occasionally has a problem with how they utilize both players around their three carries.
But while it hasn't all been sunshine and rainbows for this North American juggernaut, TSM has few problems that the team hasn't addressed already.
Bjergsen is still the star of the team. With his mid lane knowledge and deep champion pool, Bjergsen is a monster heading into groups and is ranked 5th best mid laner heading to Worlds. That's not too shabby internationally. As well, Doublelift is there to pick up whatever slack the team drops. This TSM bot lane destroyed it's NA competition during the summer split. And with his incredible plays in Korean SoloQ during the TSM boot-camp, it's hard not to get hyped for Doublelift for Worlds.
TSM have many things going their way, and they've improved tremendously on their flaws. With this in mind, TSM is a heavy favorite to escape Group D.
Finally, the last seed heading to Group D is Team WE.
Heading to Play-Ins, the team had high praise from the LPL casters as the best Chinese team heading to Worlds. Leaving the Play-in stage, Team WE left many spectators scratching their heads. What went wrong?
The Team WE roster is full of veterans and strong players. Jungler Condi is notorious for stealing the most barons in the LPL, Xiye is one of the most consistent players in China and Mystic is one of the best AD Carries going to Worlds. Top laner 957 has been abused early in his games against the Wildcard teams, though, and support players Ben and Zero have shown glaring weaknesses.
Team WE struggled with their first match against Lyon Gaming, especially in the early game. Despite being down in kills, Team WE made it up by taking macro objectives before each team fight, which severely limited what the Mexican team could gain whenever they won. Lyon Gaming failed to turn this snowball into a victory, and Team WE won through a comeback, and brought it back from a bad spot.
Team WE also had a second game where they showed weakness, which was Game 2 of the Team WE vs Young Generation match. Team WE struggled before the 20-minute mark by getting unofficially aced, and were behind in towers and kills. But then Condi stole two barons in a row from Young Generation despite the odds being against him, which secured Team WE's survival and the victory.
Both games were won by WE because the Wildcard teams lacked macro objective knowledge and the ability to convert leads into victories, which is what teams build by playing over time and under a great coach. But WE's next three opponents all know how to snowball their lead.
This is my prediction on how Group D will end up by the end.
I expect a bloodbath whenever these teams face each other and none of these teams will get out without a victory or loss. MSFAlphari will show up at group's and will contest TSM Hauntzer as the best top laner in the Group. Flash Wolves and Team WE will tie, but the wolves will win the tiebreaker.
But in the end, it will be TSM and Flash Wolves rounding out the top 2.
How do you think Group D will look? Will Misfits show up at Worlds or will TSM repeat last year and fail to? Tell us in the comments below!
(Images courtesy of Riot Games)