Starting from day five, there’s a shift in the schedule. The previous four days had teams from different groups playing, spreading things out, with no team playing more than once per day. Days five through eight however, are all group focused, with one group playing through all of their remaining matchups in rapid succession. The first group up is Group A with CLG, ROX, ANX, and G2. Originally thought to be a straightforward group, it’s become a lot more complicated, with ANX no longer looking like a wild card team, and G2 quite frankly disappointing a lot of people. It’s becoming harder and harder to predict what will happen next, and the best part is that we’re not even in the bracket stage yet!
G2 vs ROX: Winner, ROX
Coming into this matchup 0-3, this was G2’s last chance to make it out of the group stage. After underperforming in their last three matches, being forced to fight for their survival against one of the favorites to win the whole tournament seems like an impossibly tall order. G2 did get a strong composition with a lot of comfort picks like Trick on Nidalee and Mithy on Braum. Unfortunately, this wasn’t enough to stop ROX, as this was the start of their return to form. The game was stalled out until the mid game where ROX could teamfight better. Around the sixteen minute mark, ROX executed a perfect tower dive in the bot lane and from there it was just a slow, methodical chokehold. ROX took objective after objective, steadily building up their gold lead. G2 made one last ditch effort at the baron pit and managed to get a few kills, but ROX still secured the baron and they used it to finish the game. In the end, it was all too little too late for G2, both in terms of the game and the tournament. As for ROX, this win helped stabilize their standings and increase their chances of advancing from the group.
Albus Nox Luna vs CLG: Winner, Albus Nox Luna
This was a very important matchup for these two teams and one that would heavily dictate how the rest of the group would go. Both teams were 2-1, with Albus Nox holding the head to head record against CLG. Coming into the match, CLG had a somewhat questionable draft, first picking Jayce for Darshan and ending with Nami for Aphromoo over something like Alistar. With mostly passive lanes, CLG were unable to put any pressure on Albus Nox, and as such, the CIS team could play their game, building up farm until they could start skirmishing in the mid game. The roaming duo of PvPStejos and Likkrit set up kill after kill until Albus Nox could start taking turrets and dragons. Even so, CLG held out up until a great flank by Likkrit and Smurf. They won the fight, took baron and it was all downhill from there. This was great news for Albus Nox as they now won any potential tie with CLG. It also reinforced the notion that they shouldn’t be treated as just another wild card team anymore. Their wins were no longer just upsets, but very legitimate victories where they outplayed their opponents. It’s a great sign for future wild card teams. As for CLG, they’ll need to find something other than Aurelion Sol that works for them if they want to pick up some more wins.
CLG vs G2: Winner, CLG
Albus Nox must have lit a fire under CLG, as they came into their match against G2 swinging hard. At this point, G2 was just trying to play spoiler for other teams, but CLG was having none of that. Getting key picks like Poppy for Darshan and Vladimir for Huhi, CLG hit the gas at four minutes with an early gank from Xmithie in the top, and they didn’t let up once. Only giving up four kills, one tower and one dragon, CLG looked much more comfortable, whereas G2 still looked like they were running around the rift with their heads cut off. The only member who looked decent was Perkz, who tried his hardest to keep his team in the game, but to no avail. This was the CLG that needed to show up against Albus Nox, the CLG that rotated well, took objectives, and outsmarted their opponents. They’ll need to keep up this level of play if they want to win against ROX in their last game of the day.
Albus Nox Luna vs ROX: Winner, Albus Nox Luna
If you had told someone before the tournament that Albus Nox Luna and the ROX Tigers would both be 3-1 and fighting for first place in Group A, they would have laughed at you. Yet here we are, and the game certainly lived up to the hype behind it. It was an all-out brawl, with the game lasting sixty-six minutes, involving five barons, six dragons, fourteen turrets, nine inhibitors and thirty-four kills. ROX certainly didn’t roll over and give Albus Nox a free win, coming back from behind twice with a key baron steal by Kuro at thirty-six minutes and a big team fight at forty-six minutes. It wasn’t quite enough however, as ROX could never seem to break into the Albus Nox base. The Russian team did an incredible job of managing minion waves and keeping the ROX inhibitors down, constantly forcing their Korean opponents to defend their base when they could have been taking objectives elsewhere. This kind of map play is what has kept Albus Nox going throughout the group stage, and it was their saving grace in this matchup. With this win, Albus Nox Luna made history by becoming the first team from a wild card region to advance from the group stage, and they’ve gathered quite the fan base while doing so. The world will be watching with baited breath to see just how far this Cinderella story will go.
G2 vs Albus Nox Luna: Winner, G2
Alas, just as there is a hero to every story, there must also be a villain. G2 already had a bit of a reputation for playing spoiler in the EU LCS, mostly by taking down fan favorite Fnatic on multiple occasions. They solidified that status when they took down Albus Nox Luna to earn their one and only win of the tournament. Fans from Europe already weren’t happy with the number one seeded European team, as G2 were supposed to be their big hope at Worlds, so this win only added fuel to that fire. The most frustrating part of this game was that this was the G2 we expected to see the whole time. Expect went wild on Irelia, Mithy was making plays all over the map on Alistar, and Perkz was outplaying his mid lane opponent. Albus Nox on the other hand were way off their game, whether it is because they were tired from the grueling match they had just played, or because they picked champions that were out of their comfort zone. Whatever the reason, they didn’t look like the Albus Nox that was 2-0 against CLG and that took down the ROX Tigers. They looked like just another wild card team, rather than the true Worlds contenders that they had shown they could be. We can only hope that they’ll be able to regain that strength in the upcoming matches.
ROX vs CLG: Winner, ROX
With their loss against Albus Nox, ROX was tied with CLG at 3-2. This was the deciding match to see who would move on to the bracket stage with Albus Nox and who would be knocked out of the tournament. Just from the draft, I think that CLG put themselves at a disadvantage. They let Peanut’s Elise through, one of his favorite champs, and then first picked Malzahar for Huhi, rather than taking Alistar away from GorillA. While Kuro did play Malzahar during the Summer Split, it was not a favorite of his by any means and certainly not worthy of a first pick. These two crucial picks ended up being CLG’s downfall, as Peanut had his best game of the tournament, going 10/1/8 and roaming all over the map, making Huhi’s life particularly miserable. GorillA supported this aggression with key picks on the Alistar, and never letting CLG find their footing. It’s not as if CLG played poorly, as they still found some good fights even while behind, it just wasn’t enough. Huhi simply didn’t have the same impact as he would on champions like Aurelion Sol and Vladimir, and the team didn’t have any kind of good hard engage outside of Aphromoo landing a Tempered Fate. Overall, it was a disappointing finish for CLG, but a huge relief for the ROX Tigers, who by winning the game, would have to play a final tiebreaker game against Albus Nox to determine the final seeding.
ROX vs Albus Nox Luna: Winner, ROX
Since Albus Nox and ROX had a 1-1 record going into the last game, and both ended up 4-2, a tiebreaker game was necessary. Another vital game for both teams and another game that, in my opinion, was decided during the draft phase. Albus Nox used their third ban on Olaf, despite Peanut never having played Olaf in his professional career. This allowed Peanut to once again get his hands on Elise and once again he snowballed out of control, this time going 7/0/6. PraY also had a standout game on Ezreal, going 6/0/8 and getting a lot of important picks both in the laning phase and in the mid game. All in all, ROX just had Albus Nox’s number, preying on their passive early game and out-maneuvering them in the mid to late game. They may have started out rough, but in the last few games of day five, ROX finally started to look like the top World’s contender that everyone expected them to be. As for Albus Nox, they still have some problems that they need to work out, particularly with their early laning phase. Even so, Albus Nox Luna came to Worlds ready to play and they defied everyone’s expectations.
At the end of the day, the two teams that advanced from Group A were the teams that played the best, and no one can deny that. While ROX and Albus Nox looked good, both teams still have a lot of hard work to do over the next week before their first bracket matches. For ROX, they’ll need to keep up the form they had towards the end of group five, although they should be ready for the possibility of teams taking Elise and Alistar away from them and will need to come up with replacement strategy. As for Albus Nox, I think their biggest problem is stamina. They looked shaky at the end of day five, and if they want to survive a best of five series against a strong team like TSM, EDG, or SKT, then they’ll have to be at the top of their game the entire time. With that though, one group is finished and there are three still left to fight it out and see who the remaining six teams will be to make it to the bracket stage.