Group Stage Day 4 Recap
We’ve reached the halfway point in the group stages. Every team has played each team in their group once, and potential paths to victory have started to form. In what was possibly the most exciting day of group stages so far, the upsets came back. We saw the toppling of two giants, and a third upset that, given the results of the last few days, may not even be considered an upset anymore. If things continue at this pace, the 2016 League of Legends World Championship could be one of the most entertaining and groundbreaking tournaments yet.
Ahq vs INTZ: Winner, Ahq
Both teams came into this game 1-1, both desperately looking for a win to make it easier to advance to the bracket stage. In terms of playstyle, both teams also rely on strong macro play and mid-to-late-game teamfighting to secure their leads. As such, it makes sense that the team that got ahead would come out on top, and that’s what happened. Unlike previous games however, this match wasn’t decided off of one big teamfight or bad baron call. Instead, the snowball started around the eleven minute mark with a gank from Ahq’s Mountain in the top lane and slight misplay from INTZ’s Revolta. From there, Ahq hit the gas and didn’t look back, taking four towers in two minutes, shooting out to a big lead. They controlled the map perfectly, with Ziv creating massive amounts of pressure in the top lane on his Jayce, forcing multiple members of INTZ to come deal with him while the rest of his team was free to take objectives. Try as they might, INTZ could not find a foothold to get back in, showing once again that they have a serious problem with playing from behind. If INTZ can find some way to fix that, then they still might have a shot of getting back to the top.
EDG vs H2K: Winner, EDG
On the first day of Worlds, EDG was upset by INTZ in a match that shocked viewers everywhere. A large part of that loss had to do with EDG’s top laner, Mouse, getting camped and becoming a huge liability for the team. Fast forward to day four and it appears as if EDG have learned their lesson. Just like INTZ, H2K tried to focus on the top lane to get Odoamne ahead and snowball the game from there. Unfortunately for them, EDG was ready to punish every time. Whether it was Scout roaming topside to turn a gank from H2K’s Jankos in their favor, or the whole team rotating bot to take a tower and dragon while three members of H2K were in the top lane, EDG played perfectly around Mouse. They turned what had been a weakness into a core component of their strategy, allowing them to create and maintain a gold lead for the entire match. As for H2K, they once again didn’t play badly, they just tunneled too heavily into the top side matchup and got nothing out of it. Odoamne actually ended the match 0/4/3, a rarity for the European top laner. If H2K want to get revenge in their rematch against EDG on October 7th, they’ll need to come up with some new strategies.
Albus Nox Luna vs G2 Esports: Winner, Albus Nox Luna
On paper, one might call this match an upset. A wild card team beating the number one seed from Europe? Despite this, Albus Nox have just looked stronger this entire tournament, particularly in this match up. Part of this has to do with the fact that they got a lot of comfort picks this time around, with Kira on Anivia and Likkrit finally getting to play his infamous Brand support. The high amount of damage over time that these two champions put out are part of what made it possible for Albus Nox’s strategy to work, controlling dragons and sneaking a baron at twenty-four minutes that allowed them to start snowballing. The other half of their team’s synergy was between Anivia and Smurf’s Poppy. The Heroic Charge from Poppy straight into the Anivia wall of ice set up a number of very important picks for Albus Nox and G2 didn’t seem to have an answer to it. Smurf also deserves credit for having a number of incredible ultimates, removing one or two G2 members from teamfights and allowing Albus Nox to win the skirmish. All in all, Albus Nox executed a very clean game of League of Legends, playing to their strengths and punishing G2 at every opportunity. G2 on the other hand, still have a lot to work on. It’s possible that they just hadn’t prepared for the Anivia or Brand, but even so they have not looked overly impressive in any of their games. Unless they want to end the tournament 0-6, something needs to change, whether it’s in the draft phase, the shotcalling or what. All I know is that they need to do it sooner rather than later, or else their reputation of choking on the international stage will persist.
CLG vs ROX Tigers: Winner, CLG
Here we have it, the first of the proper upsets. After dropping a game to Albus Nox on day two, CLG were not expected to do well against the number one seed from Korea. Huhi however, had other plans. With the Aurelion Sol bug fixed, the champion was available for play and Huhi snatched him up immediately. Starting with a level one roam to the bottom lane, Huhi was all over the map, picking up kills and applying an absurd amount of pressure to ROX. The other person who got a comfort pick was Aphromoo, who locked in his signature Alistar. Much like Huhi, Aphromoo became an unstoppable playmaker on the cow, setting up kills, defending objectives, and being a general nuisance for ROX. Between these two players, ROX couldn’t find a single avenue to comeback, only taking a single tower and dragon in the game. What ROX need to take from this game is that they can’t disrespect their opponents in the draft like that. Their in-game skill is certainly impressive, but it’s not enough to just rely on that for every game. If they are to have a shot at the title, they’ll need to buckle down, focus, and treat each team with the proper amount of respect and preparation. As for CLG, they need to come up with some new picks for Huhi, as it’s highly unlikely that he’ll be allowed to play Aurelion Sol for the rest of the tournament.
SKT vs Flash Wolves: Winner, Flash Wolves
Here it is folks, an upset that I would consider even less likely to happen than CLG beating the ROX Tigers. Despite being the number two seed from Korea, SKT have looked much better in their games than ROX, showing much better early game control and closing out their games swiftly and cleanly. Flash Wolves on the other hand haven’t been able to close out either of their matches so far, despite having leads in both of them. So really it was no surprise to anyone when Flash Wolves jumped out to a lead against SKT around twelve minutes. Nothing to worry about, they’ll just throw it again, right? Well that would have been the case if not for a few key picks. MMD had a fantastic teleport in the top lane that lead to Maple picking up two kills and Flash Wolves taking the baron. The game slowed down after that, until Blank was picked off and the Wolves got their second baron. From there, the Flash Wolves just needed to win a few more skirmishes and they had done the unthinkable. They had finally conquered their nonexistent mid game shotcalling and were able to transition their lead into a win. Speaking of nonexistent, Blank will need to use this game as motivation to improve throughout the tournament. He looked much less confident on Olaf than on Nidalee, and had virtually no impact on the game. Faker also had an uncharacteristically bad game, getting caught out of position multiple times and just not respecting the Aurelion Sol pick. While it’s unlikely that this marks the end of SKT, they will need to improve on some things before their rematch with the Flash Wolves on October 9th.
Cloud9 vs I May: Winner, Cloud9
Another very important game for both teams, especially with SKT’s loss just minutes before. C9 had barely managed to scrape out a win against the Flash Wolves, and I May were coming off of a hard loss against SKT. It was C9, however, who jumped out ahead and stayed ahead. Impact played like a monster, turning a dive against him into a double kill and picking up another double kill just five minutes later. This early lead forced I May to devote a lot of resources into shutting the Rumble down, but that left big holes in their defense for C9 to exploit. They systematically took down objective after objective until they were five thousand gold ahead and were able to take baron and take the rest of I May’s base with minimal bloodshed. This is the kind of C9 that people were expecting to see coming into the tournament, and it’s a encouraging sign for their fans. As for I May, they played decently from behind, working to stall out the game while their Vladimir and Jhin scaled up, but it wasn’t enough. They’ll need to work on their early map movements and laning phase so that they aren’t always fighting back from a deficit.
As I mentioned earlier, this is the halfway point for the group stages. The next four days begins on October 6th and unlike the previous days, will only have one group playing per day, with each team replaying all of their matchups. It will be a test of endurance for all the teams, and it remains to be seen how the tougher schedule will affect the games. The other exciting thing is that there are still so many teams that have a very good chance of making it out of groups. The Koreans are doing well as per usual, but it’s not a complete domination like in previous years. It’ll be very interesting to see who will survive this gauntlet and advance on to the bracket stage. I have some predictions of course, but if there’s anything I’ve learned from the last four days, it’s that at this Worlds, you can’t predict anything.