We’re finally here, the last day of the group stage. After these matches, the eight teams that will be moving on to the quarterfinals in Chicago will be decided. While nobody expects SKT to take anything less than the first seed, the battle for second is a maelstrom of emotions. Cloud9 is the last hope for a North American team to make it out of groups. The Flash Wolves are in the same position, but for the LMS. Meanwhile I May, a team that no one expected to be at Worlds, are eager to prove themselves as the third seed from China. The stakes are high and the tensions are even higher as we get even closer to the bracket stage.
I May vs Flash Wolves: Winner, I May
From the beginning, this promised to be an odd match. Due to repeated instances of verbal abuse and racial slurs on the ranked solo ladder, I May’s support, Road, was suspended for one game. This forced I May to bring in BaeMe, their substitute mid laner, and move their main mid laner Athena to the support role. However, what complicated things further was that I May sent Athena into the jungle and moved their jungler Avoidless to the support role. Despite the absurd role shenanigans, I May didn’t look too uncomfortable. While the Flash Wolves had superior objective control, mainly due to their jungler, Karsa, I May got all the kills. The powerful team fight of Ekko, Aurelion Sol, and Sivir ripped through the Flash Wolves. This was most evident at the fatal baron play that Flash Wolves made around thirty minutes. While the play itself was sound, Flash Wolves couldn’t kill the baron fast enough, and I May collapsed, getting four kills and the baron. From there, their superior team fighting composition was too much for the Flash Wolves to handle. This game was a huge warning sign for the Flash Wolves, as they lost to a team with two players in off roles. Even with good mid game map movements, they once again choked in the late game. They’ll need to fix something if they hope to survive the group stage.
Cloud9 vs SKT: Winner, SKT
An incredibly important game for Cloud9, as a win would put them comfortably ahead of I May and the Flash Wolves, the match actually started off well for the North American hope. They got first blood, made good early rotations, and picked up objectives, but once SKT’s composition came online, things went south in a hurry. As large scale teamfights started to occur, SKT showed just how nasty their team was, with a wide array of disengage and area of effect crowd control from Viktor, Jhin, and Zyra. Cloud9’s team composition on the other hand relied on the Kennen, Alistar, and Olaf being able to run into the enemy team and set up kills. SKT played the match perfectly, never giving Cloud9 an opening, and slowly grinding their opponents down over the course of fifty minutes. Overall, Cloud9 should be commended for their performance, as they held their own against one of the top teams in the world. As for SKT, this was merely another show of muscle, as they ran a unique team composition and made it work. It remains to be seen just how flexible the team can be, and if any other team at Worlds will be able to push them to their limits.
Cloud9 vs Flash Wolves: Winner, Flash Wolves
With both teams coming off of losses from earlier in the day, and the weight of their respective regions on their backs, this was one of the highest stakes games in the group. Unfortunately for Cloud9, the actual game didn’t quite live up to the hype. This was a match where the result wasn’t decided during the draft phase, but it was certainly slanted in the Flash Wolves favor. They took away Jensen’s Syndra, as well as Sneaky’s Jhin. They then revealed their hand by picking up Ryze and Caitlyn as their first two picks. With Ryze, they now had one of the strongest scaling mid laners, had banned one of the two marksmen that outranged him, and picked up the other one. Cloud9 were now forced into a position where they had to shut down this composition early or risk being bulldozed in the late game. They certainly tried to do so, with Jensen roaming with Meteos for ganks, but it just wasn’t enough. The Flash Wolves played to the strengths of their composition, always staying on the defensive and just waiting for their carries to start scaling. Unlike in previous losses, Flash Wolves didn’t make a rushed baron call or pick a bad teamfight. They stayed calm and showed that their macro game was still top quality. This was, after all, a team that had beaten SKT at their own game. As for Cloud9, they had the right idea heading into the match, but they funneled too much early gold into Impact and he wasn’t able to carry hard enough later on. Flash Wolves simply beat them at every stage of the game, all the way from the draft phase to the nexus being destroyed.
SKT vs I May: Winner, SKT
A very important game for I May, as if they won, they would be that much closer to qualifying for the quarterfinals. In their way, however, was SKT, who once again decided to flex their muscles. Running a triple poke composition with Jayce, Varus, and Caitlyn, SKT’s goal was to become a tower shredding siege monster. In response, I May brought out two off meta pocket picks with Nautilus in the top lane and Kha’Zix in the jungle. While theoretically a sound plan, as SKT’s entire team consisted of physical attackers, and Nautilus scaled well with armor, the execution fell short. I May were able to get kills on the fragile SKT lineup, but they couldn’t transition into towers. SKT on the other hand knew the limits of their composition, never pushing further than necessary. Although Avoidless did slow down SKT’s systematic turret destruction with a clutch baron steal, it wasn’t enough to pull out a win. Much like Cloud9, I May certainly put up a fight against SKT, showing that they weren’t afraid to pull out strange picks in order to win, but it just fell short. With this win, SKT secured their spot in the quarterfinals as the first seed from Group B, and I May were one loss away from being eliminated from contention.
I May vs Cloud9: Winner, Cloud9
Here it is, do or die time for both Cloud9 and I May. Both teams sitting at 2-3, both teams one game away from a possible quarterfinals spot or being knocked of the tournament. I May once again brought out some pocket picks, with the Maokai top lane and Kennen support, to create an absurdly strong team fighting composition. Cloud9 had to beat them early before they became overwhelmed, and they certainly got off to a good start. With Sneaky and Smoothie playing better than they had all day, Cloud9 shot out to a three thousand gold lead at eight minutes. They picked up kills and objectives very quickly, but struggled to close the game out. Even when they were up eight thousand gold with baron, Cloud9 couldn’t quite finish things off, as I May’s double tankline, plus high damage carries made finding a good teamfight a daunting task. At one point I May even won a big fight and took baron for themselves, but Cloud9 held strong, waited out the buff and then went in for the kill. While only one team could advance, both teams played their hearts out in what was probably the closest game of the day, despite what the gold lead might say. For I May, this loss took them out of bracket contention, whereas for Cloud9, their fate now lay in the hands of SKT.
Flash Wolves vs SKT: Winner, SKT
The last regular game of the group stages, SKT versus the Korean killers themselves, the Flash Wolves. If SKT won, they would knock Flash Wolves out of the tournament and punch Cloud9’s ticket to Chicago. If Flash Wolves pulled out another upset however, it would mean a tiebreaker between Cloud9 and the Wolves. With no room for error, both teams went for standard picks, with not a pocket pick or hyper specialized composition to be seen. The game also started out quite slowly, with both teams content to farm up. This time however, SKT wasn’t about to lose the macro game to the Flash Wolves. The Korean juggernauts had something to prove: that they were still the top dogs when it come to map control, and that’s exactly what they did. Besides a single turret and an unfortunate baron steal, SKT didn’t let the Flash Wolves have a single objective, systematically denying them gold and map pressure at every turn. While the baron steal was a heroic effort by Karsa, it only delayed the inevitable, as SKT just waited it out and finished the Wolves off when baron has respawned. It was quite the statement from SKT going into the bracket stage, and it let North America breathe a sigh of relief, as they didn’t have to play a tiebreaker to get to the quarterfinals.
Surprising no one, SKT looked very dominant during most of their games in Group B. It still remains to be seen whether they will continue this dominance and defend their Worlds title, as well as make history by winning Worlds in back to back years. As for Cloud9, they’ll need to seriously step up their game, as they looked a little shaky in their last games. For Flash Wolves and I May, both teams gave it their best shot. I May in particular, a team that wasn’t even expected to even do well in the regular season, broke all expectations by going all the way to Worlds and performing pretty well against some very tough opponents. They can return to China with their heads held high. With the conclusion of these games, the eight quarterfinalists have been selected. ROX Tigers and Albus Nox Luna from Group A, SKT and Cloud9 from Group B, H2K and EDG from Group C, and Samsung Galaxy and RNG from Group D. From here, each team will play a best of five series against one opponent, with the winner advancing and the loser being eliminated. Things are only going to get more exciting from here on out, and there’s still a lot of things that could happen on the way to crowning the next League of Legends Worlds champion.