After the first rotation through Group Stage matches at the League of Legends World Championship, clear leaders have emerged from Groups A, B, and C. But a three-way-tie has Group D locked in apprehension.
Good For The Gander
One of the clearest things at Worlds this year is the formidable skill of the LPL. China’s best and brightest have proven that they are in the same general regard as the LCK, and just like at Rift Rivals, one (or two) of their teams could just as well emerge with the title of World Champion.
But despite making that obvious, EDG has due and rightly botched the beginning of their 2017 Worlds run, sitting at 0-3. They were there at Rift Rivals Red and defeated SSG “convincingly,” in the words of Dot Esports‘ Adam Newell. But their performances at Worlds have lacked professionalism. For an organization who has shown at Worlds since 2014, their games have often seem like they expected their opposition to roll over.
The position has to feel good for Repeared, who left EDG in 2016 to coach C9. One of NA’s oldest dynasties, C9 sits above EDG in Group A with a sturdy 2-1 record. C9 dismantled their opposition in Play-Ins and now have defeated ahq and EDG. The whole team looks good, with C9 Contractz showing little apprehension on his first World’s stage. He’s managed to continue the same sort of scrappy mechanics and often clairvoyant map pressure he’s shown in the NA LCS. And at the same time, C9 Impact, who has been in and out of the roster domestically in 2017, seems to have found his footing again in the World’s meta.
Maybe EDG received an earlier version of the script from Riot. Meanwhile, RNG remains undefeated after playing through each of their group opponents once. RNG Uzi continues to prove his weight in gold value, and the communication between the entire team makes for some very decisive team fights. Just watch, for example, as his Twitch appears a finger’s breadth away from G2 mithy just after the fight breaks out. RNG mlxg soaks just about as much as he can take before he performs a Flash-Arctic Assault to safety. What is G2 to do when their Ardent Censer support pops to pieces in 3 autos with Flash, Heal, and Wild Growth all up?
NA = EU?
Group B has Longzhu unsurprisingly rising above the chaos at 3-0. But just behind them is Immortals, who have bested both Fnatic and the Gigabyte Marines. The Marines absolutely obliterated Fnatic with a crazy, neo-classic game plan that involved Archie power leveling Levi’s Nocturne to achieve level 6 at a chillingly early 5:08 game time. GAM was not without hype going into Worlds, after their series of upsets at MSI. The most amazing thing about GAM is that they don’t seem to play to win tournaments, just games. The Nocturne composition was incredible (and attributed to GAM Archie in the post-game interview with GAM Levi), but it really only works once. It does make for raucous, entertaining League of Legends, but LG and IMT both exhibited enough level-headed competence to wrestle control back from the charming and talented maniacs of Vietnam.
Immortals holds second place in that group, having taken down GAM and proven once again that matches between NA and EU often balance on a knife’s edge. This time, IMT Cody Sun got the better of FNC Rekkles, but next time it could just as easily be the other way around.
Indeed, Misfits is the only team to have toppled TSM in the first round of matches for Group D. That brought them up to 2-1 and TSM down to 2-1, while WE was already 2-1. Things are bound to get spicy in Group D’s second matches, especially between the NA and EU representatives. It wouldn’t be a Riot script if TSM’s advance in an international tournament hinged on their performance against an EU team. The rivalry is just too juicy. Meanwhile, poor Flash Wolves seem like they’re sitting this one out.
WE really shows much like the C9 of the LPL, or maybe C9 is the WE of the NA LCS. Both teams were only allowed into Worlds proper after their performances in the Play-Ins, but why? They seem at least as strong, if not stronger at times, than the other teams from their regions. You might think LPL fans would be relieved WE is there as the 3rd seed, with the disappointing performance from EDG. But LPL fans seem happy to root for anybody, so long as the games are fun. The West still has much to learn, both in and out of game.
Worlds is constantly refining its format, and Riot should be careful not to let major/emerging region dynamics outpace their own logistics. Half the Play-In winners are 0-3 in Groups. 1907 Fenerbahçe may have gotten a tough group, but it’s unlikely they’ll secure a single game. Fnatic potentially could, but it won’t come from Longzhu. IMT is an exceedingly smart team, so expect them to take precautions against letting Rekkles snowball the second time around. That only leaves GAM, and so it comes down to whether or not Garena’s darlings have enough tricks in their kit.
A Brave New Meta
Standings aside, Worlds has already given fans plenty of interesting meta choices. Ardent Censer certainly continues to be a highly coveted strategy, but with that as the base line, teams have had to move to other innovations to get an edge over their opponents. Caster/analyst and Worlds Style Queen Froskurinn pointed out a few unusual itemizations in Week 1 of the Group Stage.
And we’re talking about Ardent Sensor. WAKE UP TO THE REAL META PEOPLE
— Froskurinn (@Froskurinn) October 7, 2017
At a certain point, meta becomes whatever nobody has an answer to yet. Some of the kudos in this conversation have to go to Riot, who have crafted, supported, and tuned their MOBA to allow for this level of finery. Even if Ardent Censer is broken.
Hauntzer may not have gotten MVP back in Spring, when he shoveled up his teammates (who were busy either missing Doublelift or being WildTurtle) and carried them in a Nautilus-shaped wheelbarrow to first place in the regular Split and eventually the Split Championship. But at least he got Best of the Rift for Week 1 in his group.
— lolesports (@lolesports) October 8, 2017
As an added bonus this week, Faker showed the entire world that he actually is human, when he sneezed at a question about EDG Scout. Fun fact: Koreans don’t feel the need to offer a benediction after an involuntary expulsion of air due to nasal irritation. But who would resist the chance to bless Faker?