History of the World Championship groups of death
The World Championship has had many groups of death. We look back at their highlights, and which groups make the cut.
In season 4 a new structure was introduced for the World Championship. This time there would be 4 groups rather than just 2. Suddenly the most powerful teams found much smaller groups of victims.
The original “group of death” term was a group that had the best teams from different regions that could take a game off each other. Now, the definition has altered to be a group that no Western team can escape from.
During the 2014 Season World Championship, the first Group of Death was Group C. The group contained Samsung Blue as Korea #1 seed, Fnatic as Europe #2 seed, OMG as China’s #2 seed, and LMQ as North America’s #3 seed. All four teams in Group C were their region’s best team at one point in the year, and it showed in the games. There were many incredible moments during this group, and it remains my personal favorite brawl of all time. LMQ had an incredible beginning by destroying OMG and Fnatic the first two games, but Fnatic stole the spotlight by taking a game off of the juggernaut Samsung Blue. By the half-way mark, every team had suffered at least one loss against another team.
However, that hot streak came to an end as the Western teams did not progress to the quarterfinals. The NA curse was born, and LMQ suffered an 0-3 record the second week. Fnatic played their hearts out with the incredible xPeke duel, but could not finish OMG’s nexus with one final hit. When the dust settled, Samsung Blue and OMG proceeded to the quarterfinals while Fnatic and LMQ were left behind.
The 2015 Season World Championship introduced the juggernaut meta, which introduced four reworked champions that were the center of things. If we continue the original term of Group of Death, Group B earned the title. Fnatic returned as the Europe’s #1 seed, ahq e-Sports Club the LMS’ #2 seed, Invictus Gaming China’s #2 seed, and Cloud9 NA’s #3 seed. While the spotlight was on Fnatic for their undefeated 18-0 record during the Summer Split, Cloud9 shined bright by going 3-0 during the first week and getting the first pentakill vs. Fnatic. The other three teams went 1-2 with Fnatic defeating IG, ahq defeating Fnatic, and IG defeating ahq.
Unfortunately, the NA curse kicked in once again. Cloud9 fell short, going 0-3 after a strong early performance. Fnatic destroyed Cloud9, and Invictus Gaming had a close game against ahq, securing themselves the #1 spot in the group. The LMS representative went on a tear, beating Invictus Gaming and Cloud9 ruthlessly, then beating Cloud9 again in the tiebreaker, which allowed them to move on.
The 2016 Season World Championship did not have a standard Group of Death like the other groups did. While the competition was competitive, the groups were not near equal in skill like the other seasons. It was around this time that the definition of Group of Death changed to become a group near impossible for a Western team to get past. Group D was the first of three times that Royal Never Give Up and Samsung Galaxy played together as China’s #2 and Korea’s #2, but TSM led the Group as NA’s #1 seed and Splyce as Europe’s #3 seed.
TSM, Royal Never Give Up and Samsung Galaxy proved equal in skill by going 2-1, but Splyce did not do well and went 0-3 after the first week. TSM had defeated their second Korean team in a dominating game, RNG beat TSM down to secure a victory and Samsung Galaxy bopped RNG to get their own win. During the second week, Samsung went on a rampage, running through TSM, RNG and Splyce in short order to secure first place in the group. Splyce defeated RNG for their first win, but it was not enough as RNG defeated TSM and secured second place in the group with their head-to-head records.
The seventh World Championship was the most intense tournament by far. All the groups that year were close, and no one was certain which team would make it out in the Worlds Pick’em. While Group A, B and C had a Korean team, Group D was the closest in skill. RNG and Samsung Galaxy were in Group C together and may have been regarded as the “Group of Death” in terms of raw power, but the Turkish team 1907 Fenerbahçe did not win a single match in that group. With the original definition in mind, the true Group of Death in Season 7 was Group D.
In Group D, Flash Wolves represented the LMS as #1 seed, TSM as NA’s #1, Misfits as EU’s #2, and Team WE as China’s #3. Flash Wolves, TSM and Team WE fought each other at the Mid-Seasonal Invitational that year and prepared for the ultimate rematch. The first match was an explosive game between TSM and Flash Wolves with both teams trading killing blows. Despite Flash Wolves trying to claw their way to victory, TSM would take the match. Team WE ripped Misfits apart and did not suffer a single death in one of the most dominant Worlds performances in history. TSM and WE would battle the next day, but TSM took the victory without a struggle as well. Even though the expectations were against Misfits, the team managed to not suffer a single death against Flash Wolves. The situation was grim for Flash Wolves after they suffered a third loss against Team WE, but TSM suffered their first loss in the group to Misfits. Team WE, TSM and Misfits finished the first week with a 2-1 record, but Flash Wolves were down and out at 0-3.
The second week was when Group D became intense. Team WE beat all three of their opponents to proceed to Quarterfinals with the 1st seed, but the other teams had no such luck. While TSM pummeled Misfits in their rematch, Flash Wolves fought with all their might against TSM and upset them. With TSM and Misfits having the same score, the two fought in a tie-breaker. Despite being underestimated throughout the entire tournament, Misfits styled on TSM and won the tie-breaker in a clean game, redeeming their kill-less loss in week 1.
The first four days of the 2018 World Championship were intense and exciting without a doubt. Europe impressed with great wins, and the Chinese teams showed why they are now the #1 region in the world. However, North America proved an early disappointment. The LMS teams (except Flash Wolves,) came in with no expectations to win their games, and KT Rolster was the only LCK team to show solid results. Wihtout a doubt, this tournament’s group of death was Group B.
The Group comprised of RNG as China’s #1 seed, Gen. G as LCK’s #3, Team Vitality as EU’s #2, and Cloud9 as NA’s #3. Like Season 4, this group contained teams regarded as the best in their region at one point. RNG was one of three teams regarded as the favorites in the LPL, Gen.G shared a 13-5 record in the LCK Summer Season with three other top LCK teams, Vitality went 7-1 with a new jungler and finished Summer split in 2nd place, and Cloud9 went from last place to 2nd place across the Summer Split, tearing through the gauntlet. These teams were strong and ready to use their opponents as a stepping stone for the Worlds trophy.
RNG began the first half of the tournament with a 3-0 and hardly showed a single weakness. Despite being the favorite to win this tournament, none of the other teams blocked the aggressive playstyle the LPL teams had honed. Things were going according to predictions until Vitality vs. Gen.G. Vitality used split pushing to their advantage and were not afraid to fight the previous Worlds champions head on at all turns. The match was close, but Vitality snuck a backdoor to secure their win. Cloud9 vs. Vitality was another great game. With Vitality in the lead and pushing for fights against the American team, it was Cloud9 Licorice that singled out the Vitality carries with precise Orrn ultimates to securenvictory for his team. Then Gen.G got their first victory against Cloud9 with the fastest win in Group B at 24:41, stealing some of North America’s momentum.
While RNG sat on the throne comfortably in 1st place, the other three teams schemed on how to knock the crown off their heads. All four teams played this meta differently. RNG was aggressive and played around ad carry Uzi, Vitality showed their love for teamfights and split pushed to pressure the enemy, Cloud9 showed good macro and a wonky champion pool, and Gen.G was a time bomb with incredible late game power. With RNG looking like the final boss, these three teams went into Day 5 intending to win.
And boy did the West show the world that things were different this year.
The first match between Vitality and RNG blew everyone’s mind with Vitality being pulling off the unthinkable upset. Cloud9 vs Gen.G was the next, where Cloud9 smashed Gen.G with a unique Hecarim/Nocturne combo and without losing a single objective. In case Eastern fans thought the victories were a fluke, the Western teams proved this just as wrong. Vitality struck Gen.G’s weak early game by making aggressive plays to get yet another victory, and Cloud9’s Svenskeren got his revenge against Uzi by destroying RNG to follow it. The west proved nothing was chance.
Then came the match between Cloud9 and Vitality, where the victor would secure a quarterfinal spot. Cloud9 pulled out unique Singed and Zilean picks, but Vitality countered with their own Ekko and Draven. Both teams traded blows against each other, but Cloud9 arose victorious after the smoke cleared.
The final match was an unlikely pairing, RNG and Gen.G, where each team would fight for their pride. LCK fans wanted their team to finish the day with one win, EU fans wanted a tie-breaker match with RNG, and NA fans wanted to avoid a tie-breaker match with RNG. After all the hype, the LCK team fell to the LPL juggernaut in a depressing match, leaving one more match, the tie-breaker. RNG vs Cloud9 was close throughout its’ 39 minutes, but an unfortunate misclick from C9 Jensen made him trigger the Zilean passive on C9 Zeyzal’s Thresh, locking him in place long enough for RNG Ming’s Rakan to pull the trigger on the initiation. With a solid ace, and without losing a single member, RNG tore down Cloud9’s towers and finished the nexus, locking in the #1 seed.
The start of Group B made RNG look like titans, but the rest of the group changed the environment and meta of the tournament, even breaking the understanding all fans had of where exactly the region’s ranked in comparison to one another. RNG was suddenly mortal, and Gen G. proved outmatched across the board. After perhaps being the most exciting set of matches the World Championship has ever produced, these teams truly earned their title of 2018’s Group of Death.