Throughout the history of League of Legends, North American teams have always gotten the short end of the stick when it came to World Championship Group Draws. The tables have turned, and now European teams find themselves in a similar spot.
Do any of them have what it takes to make it to the Knockout Stage?
The Fnatic Path
Group Draw for the Play-In Stage of the 2017 World Championship.
We’ll kick things off with Fnatic. As the third team that qualified from the EU LCS, they’re all the way down in Play-In Group C together with Young Generation and Kaos Latin Gamers.
Young Generation are coming from the GPL where they secured a second-place finish right behind Gigabyte Marines. In fact, it’s the Marines’ stellar showing at the MSI that made it possible for Young Generation to get to Worlds.
But there’s a huge Rift between the #1 and #2 teams in GPL. And while Marines have had one of the most dominant domestic showings to date, Young Generation had to play through the loser’s bracket and win a hard-fought Bo5 against Ascension Gaming to clinch their Worlds slot.
As for Kaos Latin Gamers, their story was a bit less dramatic, ending with a fairly confident 3-1 victory in the finals against Isurus Gaming. That being said, the org’s history is filled with turmoil, and it’s not uncommon to see KLG fall all the way down to the relegation only to appear in the finals of the following split. This is their first World Championship showing, so it’s hard to expect them to outperform the veterans.
But what about Fnatic themselves? Coming into the playoffs, they looked like the best team Europe had to offer, but—ultimately—they fell short against Misfits in the semifinals. Still, Fnatic were quick to fix the issues that led to their downfall. This team is built around the trio of veterans, which makes them no strangers to Bo5’s and high-pressure scenarios. Of course, there’s always a chance of Fnatic getting blindsided by a cheesy strategy, but they’re still looking like the favorites in this group.
The real challenge awaits them after the Play-In stage.
As a EU LCS team, Fnatic are only eligible to qualify for Group A or Group B. Considering that Group A is the home for SKT T1 (LCK’s #2) and Group B houses Longzhu Gaming (LCK’s #1), Fnatic’s best bet would be going for second. But even that’s not a given, since they’ll be competing with the likes of Edward Gaming, ahq e-Sports Club, Immortals, and Gigabyte Marines.
Looks like Fnatic are in for quite the ride.
The G2 Journey
Group Draw for the 2017 World Championship.
Things aren’t much better in the G2 camp either. After finishing 1st in the EU LCS, G2 were rewarded with Group C—one of the strongest groups of the tournament. Both Samsung Galaxy and Royal Never Give Up pose a threat to G2, albeit for different reasons.
As a #3 LCK team and last year’s Worlds finalists, Samsung Galaxy are masters of defense. They utilize a measured approach that doesn’t include many early game risks and emphasizes their late game decision-making and teamfighting. You might notice that this is very similar to G2’s own playstyle. Except Samsung do it better. Much better.
And then we have Royal Never Give Up, the wildcard of this group. With LetMe showing up as a carry-oriented top laner, Xiaohu putting on a clinic in the mid lane, and Uzi being the AD carry legend, this team has a ton of firepower. But it doesn’t always know how to use it. RNG have the potential to blow both SSG and G2 out of the water, but they can just as easily fall flat on their face.
In the end, G2 aren’t likely to beat Samsung at their own game, so their goal is to overcome Royal Never Give Up and clinch the second-place finish. They can definitely match RNG in the mid and bottom lane—after all, Perkz and Zven have proven themselves as top-tier carries—but the top lane remains a glaring weakness for their lineup. A weakness that RNG are very likely to exploit.
For now, G2 are looking like the third-best team in their group.
The Misfits Route
The #2 EU LCS team—Misfits—finds itself in Group D, widely considered as the weakest group of the tournament. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean things are going to be easy for them. Both TSM and Flash Wolves have already made a name for themselves on the World Championship stage.
TSM are entering the tournament with a well-rounded lineup and potential carries in every single position. Their early game is decent enough, but it’s in the mid and late game that TSM really come online thanks to their potent teamfighting and veteran shot calling. And then there are the actual players. Sure, Hauntzer and Svenskeren aren’t perfect, but challenging carries of the likes of Bjergsen and Doublelift is a tall order for most teams.
Flash Wolves also pose a massive threat. Maple and Karsa have established themselves as one of the strongest mid/jungle duos in the world, and SwordArT routinely breaks open games with his playmaking. And even though they’re on a downswing when it comes to international showings, there’s a reason why Flash Wolves are referred to as the Korean Slayers.
Misfits are the greenhorns of this group. They don’t have the experience or the raw strength to beat their adversaries at their own game, so they’ll have to come up with some special tactics to make up for it. Fortunately, that’s exactly what they’ve done in the EU LCS against Fantic, so there’s a chance they might be able to do it again.
Even so, Misfits are clearly outmatched here.
So that’s it for the European teams at the 2017 World Championship! Almost every EU LCS org has ended up in do-or-die situations where a single misstep may very well cost them the tournament, and their performance will come down to a lot of ‘ifs’. If they can prepare well, if they cover their weakness, if they show up with their A-game, they might reach the knockout stage.
But as it stands, European teams are the clear-cut underdogs.
All Images courtesy of Riot Games.
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