With six games played per day during the group stages of Worlds, it is more than likely that you are not going to have time to watch all of them, especially not live. The saving grace for eSports fans is the ability to watch VoDs, or Videos on Demand, allowing one to watch games after they happen at their own pace; however, even then, some people will not have the time to cover twenty-four games in a week. While it is difficult to say what matches will be the most entertaining before they occur, predictions can be made to make recommendations. Below is a list and explanation for which three games you should watch each day, thus cutting your viewing in half. The primary criteria for the selections are fairly simple. If two teams are predicted to be close in skill and therefore score at the end of the group stages, the match up between those two is likely worth watching. Games between historically clashing teams are likely worth watching. And when in doubt, expect the better teams in the group to put on a show for you.
A few notes: when discussing predicted outcomes for group stages, for example stating Rox Tigers and G2 are likely to exit Group A, it is not only my opinion. The predictions from a large variety of well known analysts and League of Legends experts have been taken into account with my own knowledge and predictions. Also, I highly recommend watching every game because these are the best teams from each region, and they worked hard to get to Worlds, thus deserving to be watched. This is just a way to explain what matches will likely be more impactful in the results of Groups. Lastly, for the sake of time and space, this series will be done in four installments of two days each, rather than having one incredibly long article.
On with the list for the first two days of the Worlds’ Group Stages!
Thursday, September 29
Our first match of the tournament is a battle of the westerners in Group A. Many people have decided to write CLG off for making it out of Groups altogether; however, if a team is going to
challenge G2 for that second spot behind the obvious group leaders, Rox Tigers, it will be CLG. During the summer split, CLG went 10-8, leaving them in fourth place in the regular season as well as in playoffs after suffering a 3-0 defeat at the hands of rivals TSM and a 3-2 defeat by Immortals. Getting to worlds as North America’s second seed from Championship Points, CLG had a fairly mediocre split. Compare that to Europe’s first seed, G2, who went 10-8-0 in the regular season, and were able to beat Unicorns of Love and Splyce both 3-1 in the playoffs to secure a first place finish in the tournament. G2 Went through the entire split without dropping a series, whereas CLG lost 10 when combining the regular season and playoffs. While the competition in each region is substantially different, this is still somewhat worrying to look at for CLG fans. On the reverse of this, CLG has the same lineup that took them to the finals of MSI, so there is always the chance of them performing exceptionally well at another international competition. While G2 is favored over the allegedly “slumping” CLG, this matchup will likely determine who gets the second spot out of this group. Overall, G2 is the predicted and likely winner, but can CLG pull it together to get the victory?
Again to determine the second spot to leave a group, the battle between H2K and AHQ is one worth watching. H2k finished off the summer split in third this regular season and playoffs going 8-6-5, and defeating Fnatic 3-0 and Unicorns of Love 3-1. Known for their early game power, H2K are predicted to join Edward Gaming out of Group C. AHQ looked fairly strong in the LMS this split finishing the regular season in third with a score of 9-3-2, and getting third in the Playoffs after beating Hong Kong eSports 3-0, but losing a very close series to Flash Wolves 3-2. While AHQ looked fairly shaky and unconvincing later in the split, their close series with Flash Wolves could be a statement that they are in much better shape now, but this match will tell us for sure. A lot of hype has built around H2K’s star ADC, Forg1ven, finally making it to worlds. Forg1ven lead the EU LCS regular season in KDA this split with a whopping 11.7, and placing second in CS per minute. AHQ’s ADC, AN lead the LMS with CS per minute, but had the seventh highest KDA at 7.5. Both carries have performed well this split, but can AN and Albis keep up with the relentless aggression of H2K’s early-game-dominant botlane? This will be a great game to watch, as it is between two teams that could either do quite well or quite poorly this tournament depending on what version of them shows up, and whichever team shows up more will be leaving groups, while the other goes home. H2K looks much stronger going into Worlds, and AHQ look rather underwhelming, so it is no surprise that H2K is the predicted winner, but there is definitely potential for AHQ to start the tournament off with a victory.
One of the most anticipated matchups for western fans is TSM-RNG. Being able to witness the best North American ADC facing the best Chinese one in Doublelift vs. Uzi has been a hyped battle fans have been looking forward to for a while now. Player for player, RNG looks stronger than TSM. Former world champion Looper outclasses Hauntzer, MLXG seems to be a stronger jungler than Svenskeren, and Mata has been considered one of the best supports in the world for years, and his experience makes him a much bigger threat than Biofrost. The closest comparison TSM loses is between Doublelift and Uzi. Both ADCs have proven themselves as incredibly talented throughout their entire careers, and while the edge leans in Uzi’s favor, particularly if his trend of always overperforming at Worlds continues. Doublelift has stated that after losing to Uzi in scrims, he is ready and excited to challenge him again. TSM’s saving grace is in Bjergsen being a stronger Mid Laner than Xiaohu. While Xiaohu is a phenomenal player and is constantly evolving, at this point in time, the advantage goes to the best mid laner in the west, Bjergsen. While RNG has stronger players individually, the team play by TSM this summer split has been incredible. Looking as strong as ever, and considered to be the best hope for the west this year, on a team level, they are significantly stronger than RNG. The general consensus is that TSM is going to win their group and that Samsung Galaxy and RNG are going to duke it out for second place, with Splyce being viewed as less of a competitor for the position. While we will not get to see those two teams collide until Saturday, this clash of TSM and RNG will still be entertaining. Will TSM continue their momentum and finally lead a group? Will RNG be able to utilize their strong individual play and work together as a team to close out the game? A lot may be on the line for the fifth game of the day, but it should come as no surprise that TSM are predicted to win this game.
Friday, September 30
The undisputed likely victor in this matchup is SKT. Now that that is out of the way, we can move on to why you should watch this game. SKT losing to KT Rolster in the LCK Semi-Finals does not make them a bad team. SKT are coming into this tournament looking like the third strongest team behind ROX and EDG. As two-time world champions, SKT will be able to demonstrate great League of Legends play throughout Worlds, and their biggest competition in their group is Cloud 9. Some will argue that Flash Wolves are the real threat, but this is simply not the case. Cloud 9 have finally found a solid, consistent form for the first time since their original roster that qualified for the LCS in 2013. With former world champion Impact leading the charge in the latter portion of their playoffs run, Cloud 9 are looking like a pretty big threat, and Impact is looking to take down his former team. This bit of history is one of the reasons it will be a fun match. A victory for Cloud 9 may be the evidence the community needs to show that he is truly C9 Impact and not SKT Impact, as he once said in an interview that he feels he is stronger now than in 2013. Another reason this will be a great match is in the Mid Lane matchup. Seeing the best Mid Laner in the world in Faker playing against Jensen, one of the strongest in the west, is something the fans know will be exciting to watch. Jensen has been playing quite well lately and was the real consistent force this split as Cloud 9 were finding themselves. SKT are clearly the strongest team in their group, but Cloud 9 could be the second place team we expect them to be. SKT is the predicted winner of this game, can Cloud 9 pull off an upset?
Flash Wolves- IMay
This game is less exciting than the other two on this list for Friday, but considering half the games of this day should be pretty one-sided, and arguably less entertaining, this game makes it to the top three. Another reason this is worth watching, is that IMay are coming into the tournament as somewhat of an unknown and untested team from China. Because this is their first game at Worlds, we will get to see just how they perform on the international stage. Flash Wolves performed well enough in groups last year to make it out, but lost in the quarterfinals to Origen. The LMS region as a whole looked somewhat less impressive this year, but the Flash Wolves are still the Flash Wolves, and they are the number one seed in this group. They are still a world class team that has a history of somewhat strong performances in international competition. IMay has none of this experience, except for AmazingJ who is formerly of Edward Gaming. The team placed third in the LPL this split after a solid run throughout the season. While SKT and Cloud 9 are considered the favorites in the group, both of these teams have potential to fight for second place, but this game in particular will tell us who is more likely to do so. Flash Wolves are predicted to win this game, but IMay has been known for quick adaptations to changes in the game, perhaps with several weeks on patch 6.18 they have perfected their gameplay with more time than they usually have and can pull out a win.
The matchup of TSM and Samsung Galaxy is similar to that of TSM and RNG in a sense that TSM are the likely group leader, but Samsung Galaxy is still a threat to their success and have potential to take them down. TSM’s dominating season was both impressive and well deserved, placing first in both the regular season and the playoffs. Samsung Galaxy on the other hand placed fourth in both, albeit in a more competitive region. One of the biggest differences between these two teams is consistency. I hate using that word, as most writers use it as a buzzword to seem credible, but it is so applicable in this scenario. TSM was completely dominant the entire split from regular season through playoffs. Samsung Galaxy has no real trends set for better or worse. If they play like they did against Afreeca Freecs where they stomped 3-0, they could very easily win this entire group, or at least take this game and put themselves into position for a second place finish in the group. However, if they play like they did against KT Rolster two days later and get taken down 0-3 they will struggle to find success at Worlds. Cuvee has struggled a lot this split against Korean top laners, and while Hauntzer is not quite at the Korean level, he is still a strong player. Also, Ruler being a rookie player may lead to some problems with nerves on the international stage. He also has an extremely small champion pool consisting of Sivir, Ashe, and Ezreal, only recently adding Jhin with a few games in their run to qualify for Worlds. Putting him against an aggressive and experienced Doublelift may spell trouble for the rookie ADC. Throughout their respective seasons, TSM posted dramatically higher KDA ratios across all players than SSG, but on the reverse of this, SSG had better CS per Minute in every position. TSM are the favored team, but to many, Samsung Galaxy is the team closest behind TSM, and a victory for the Koreans is definitely not out of the question.