This past Saturday, the groups were drawn for the 2016 League of Legends Worlds Championship. Sixteen teams, four groups, and only eight will make it to the next round of the tournament. Here are the initial thoughts and predictions of three of our writers, and what we think will be the matchups to watch in the group stage.
Matthew “Blackfooted Eel” Hubbard:
Group A a.k.a. the Group of Life
The ROX Tigers were the very first team drawn and immediately Group A became a No Fly Zone. Coming in as the number one seed from Korea, having finally beaten their rivals SKTelecom to get it, the ROX Tigers are looking like the clear favorites to win the whole thing. So naturally, when G2 Esports were drawn into the same group as this Korean powerhouse, people were not optimistic about the number one seed from Europe. However, as the rest of the group filled out, things got a little brighter. It’s become an unspoken rule that any Wildcard team is effectively cannon fodder for the major regions, barring the paiN Gaming vs. Alliance incident in 2014. That isn’t to say that Albus NoX Luna is a pushover, but they looked shaky in their final against Lyon Gaming, and unless they fix some of their issues, it’s unlikely that they’ll pick up a win during the Group Stage. Combine that with the fact that CLG has struggled quite a bit during the summer season and only made it to Worlds on Championship Points, and Group A becomes the group of life (for two teams at least). ROX Tigers should be very happy with this draw as they are all but guaranteed a first place seed coming out of the group stages.
After that things aren’t quite as clear cut, however I still believe that G2 have the advantage over CLG. Although Xmithie has a reputation for handling aggressive junglers such as Reignover and Meteos, Trick is a different beast. Two time European LCS MVP, and one of the driving forces behind G2’s success, Trick is going to run all over CLG. That and the fact that the CLG botlane of Stixxay and Aphromoo, normally one of their strong points, has become a bit of a liability since MSI, and will be going up against the powerhouse duo of Zven and Mithy, so I don’t like CLG’s chances in the match up.
Group A Predictions: #1 ROX Tigers, #2 G2 eSports
Group B a.k.a. the Group of Solo Laners
While the ROX Tigers may be the number one seed from Korea, the number two seed is still SKT. The only repeat World Champions, Faker’s team, there isn’t much to say about this absolute juggernaut of a team. All that being said, if there were a group to make SKT work for their first place seed, it could very well be this one. The number one seeded Flash Wolves are considered to be one of the weaker top teams, but then again, no one thought they were a threat last year and they ended up beating the KOO Tigers (now ROX Tigers) as well as a CLG with Doublelift in the bot lane. The real threat, however, will come from the number three seeded team, Cloud9. Despite being a third seed, Cloud9 looked very strong through most of the North American playoffs, with Impact in particular finally returning to the form he was in when he won the Season Three World Championship. What makes the match up even more fun is that Impact will be going up against his former teammates. It will be interesting to see what kind of effect this will have on his mindset going into the upcoming games. The unknown factor in this group is I May. The number three team from China, I May had to fight through the gauntlet to get to Worlds, and even then it was a hard fought battle against Team WE. I May are hard to predict because of how violently they swing between highs and lows. When they’re able to get a lead, they roll right over the competition, but if they fall behind, they struggle to stay relevant. Which I May shows up may very well be the deciding factor in this group. A big part of their success hinges on their solo laners and that’s where this group gets its name. Duke and Faker. MMD and Maple. Impact and Jensen. AmazingJ and BaeMe.
All four teams in this group rely heavily on their mid and top laners, with the junglers often focusing a lot of their attention on those lanes. These players are also very commonly draw a lot of target bans, particularly Maple, Faker, Impact and AmazingJ. The teams that make it out of this group will have to either shut down the opposing solo laners or turn their attention elsewhere on the map. While I still favor SKT to take the first seed, I don’t think it will be a clean sweep by any means. As for the second position, my vote actually goes to Cloud9. I think Impact will be able to outclass MMD from the Flash Wolves and Sneaky and Smoothie should be able to bully the I May botlane pretty easily. However, it’s not a strong prediction by any means, as I think it’s possible for any team in this group to make it out. I almost put this group down as my Group of Death, but in the end decided on Group D, for reasons I’ll get to later.
Group B Predictions: #1 SKTelecom T1, #2 Cloud9
Group C a.k.a. the Group of Second Place
I felt a little bad about when looking at this group because the one thing that jumps out at me is how lopsided it is in favor of Edward Gaming. The second seed from the LMS, the second seed from Europe and a Wildcard Region. While all three of those teams have shown moments of strength, I don’t believe that any of them can hold a candle to EDG. The number one seed from China, coming off a perfect regular season and EDG have never looked stronger. If there was a team to challenge Korea’s reign this year, it would have to be EDG. Comparatively, the rest of the group doesn’t really stand a chance, and as such I believe that it will be a battle for second place. Leading that charge is AHQ e-Sports Club. The only team to return to Worlds without changing their roster, AHQ looked a little shaky towards the end of the LMS summer split and it took a little bit of luck for them to even make it out of the gauntlet and get to Worlds. That being said, this is AHQ’s third time at Worlds and each time they’ve gone further in the tournament. While I don’t think they’ll make it past the Quarterfinals this run, it’s still too early to write them off just yet. The next team in the group is the second seed from Europe, H2k Gaming. Despite some inconsistencies during the regular season, H2K rallied under the banner of AD Carry Forg1ven. His mechanical prowess, combined with a shift in the meta that favored standard lanes, and H2K were able to pick up enough wins to take third in the EU Summer Playoffs and earn enough Championship Points to attend Worlds. While H2K have looked better recently, they haven’t looked dominating, dropping games to Splyce and Unicorns of Love during the playoffs.
The role of AD Carry is also a potential weak point, as it has not been confirmed whether Forg1ven will be playing, or if Freeze will have recovered from his wrist injury in time to play. Either way, H2K will have to bootcamp hard over the coming weeks if they want to have a shot at making it out of groups. Lastly is INTZ e-Sports, the second wildcard team in the tournament hailing from Brazil. Like Albus NoX Luna, INTZ barely made it out of the Wildcard Qualifier, beating Turkey’s Dark Passage three games to two. INTZ showed a lot of problems with closing games out during the entire Qualifier and it’s issues like that that will make them easy prey for objective and map focused teams like EDG and H2K. That being said, if they can shore up their weaknesses and the top laner and AD carry Yang and micaO bring their A game, then they could potentially take a few wins against the likes of H2K and AHQ. In the end, I think that AHQ will take the second seed over H2K, as Ziv has looked much stronger this year than at the last Worlds, and Westdoor has adapted to the new mid lane meta better than Ryu.
Group C Predictions: #1 Edward Gaming, #2 AHQ e-Sports Club
Group D a.k.a. the Group of Death
I mentioned earlier that Group B was a contender for Group of Death, but the reason I didn’t pick it was because SKT is still a clear favorite to win. In the case of Group D however, it’s entirely possible for any of the four teams to make it past the group stage. There are definitely teams that have a better chance than others, but nothing is for certain. The first team is the famous TSM. The only team to have been to every single World Championship, but despite their long history, they’ve struggled to get past the first few rounds. However, if ever there were a year for them to step it up and show that they have the skill to back up the history, this would be it. Coming off their best regular season to date and a dominating playoffs run, TSM are looking good, with the incredible double threat combination of Doublelift and Bjergsen, considered to be two of the best players in the world in their respective positions. They’re number one in the North American LCS, and they’re looking to show that NA can go toe to toe with the other major regions, and prove that NA doesn’t always choke on the international stage. Right on their heels however is Royal Never Give Up. The number two seed from China, RNG have been duking it out with rivals EDG for the last two splits to earn the right to sit atop the throne in China. Despite being swept the summer playoffs by their adversaries, RNG are no slouch, possessing their own powerful threats in the form of Looper in the top lane and Uzi in the bottom. If they can clean up their early game and their overall map presence, then RNG stand a very good chance of taking the first seed in this group. The next team in the draw is the number three seed from Korea, Samsung Galaxy. While no longer the dominant force they were in Season Four, Samsung Galaxy have reformed and were able to beat out KT Rolster to make it to Worlds and they’re hungry to prove themselves. Their victory over KT wasn’t an easy one, and it showed some serious weaknesses, such as their relative inability to play from behind, and their reliance on a very specific kind of team composition that revolves around CuVee on a strong team fighting champion such as Kennen. Still, when they’re allowed to play their game, Samsung Galaxy are a force to be reckoned with and I have a feeling that they’ll give the other teams in this group a run for their money. Lastly, we have the third seed team from Europe, Splyce. Along with I May and the two Wildcard teams, this is Splyce’s first appearance at Worlds and they have a tough road ahead of them. TSM, RNG and Samsung are all teams that prey on their opponent’s weaknesses and are very good at snowballing a game out of control.
If Splyce even want to have a hope of making it to the quarterfinals, they’re going to need to up their game to a level that wasn’t shown during the European Summer Playoffs. The lane to watch in this group will certainly be the bottom lane. With big name AD carries like Doublelift and Uzi alongside playmaking supports like CoreJJ and Mikyx, and I expect a lot of bloodshed on the bottom half of the map in all of these games. While it’s very possible for any team in this group to win, I think that it’s actually TSM who will take the first seed. While all four teams have strong bot lanes, I believe that Bjergsen outclasses Xiaohu, Crown and Sencux. He is able to create so much pressure in lane and through roams, that teams will either have to focus him down and risk leaving Doublelift unattended or else hope their mid laners can hold out against the Danish powerhouse. For the second seed, I believe that RNG will be the second team to advance to the quarterfinals. Just like Bjergsen beats the rest of the mid laners in the block, I think that Looper is easily the best top laner in the Group D. While CuVee has shown the ability to carry his team and Hauntzer has some of the best teleport plays in North America, Looper is the best of both worlds. He has the champion pool and the experience to punish his lane opponents and create opportunities for his team to succeed.
Group D Predictions: #1 TSM, #2 Royal Never Give Up
Corey “Mr Fidori” Boucher:
- ROX Tigers
- G2 eSports
- Counter Logic Gaming
- Albus NoX Luna
Two teams from last year’s Group A return to the group this year, in ROX Tigers and Counter Logic Gaming, and are once again joined by a wildcard team (Albus NoX Luna), as well as Europe’s number one seed, G2 eSports. It should come as no surprise that I’m predicting the Tigers to make it out of the group, and handily too. The second spot out of the group stage could easily be a toss-up (or could be affected by ANX playing spoiler), but I’m predicting G2 to take second in this one.
The Tigers defeated CLG in both group stage games last year en route to the finals, and this time there’s no Flash Wolves in the group to hand the Tigers any losses. They’ve looked extremely strong this season, and led by their dominant top laner Smeb, they should beat up on everyone pretty handily on their way to the knockout stage. The matchup between G2 and CLG will depend on just how hard CLG works in Korea. If they can pull out of their slump, they can maybe have a fighting chance. But G2 has swapped out three members from their MSI lineup, and have casually cruised to the EU Summer Split title. Watch for the matchup bot-lane between these two, with hotshot duo Zven and Mithy taking on upcoming star Stixxayand support superstar Aphromoo. This matchup could tell the fortune of these games early on. Of course we don’t have expectations for Albus NoX, but they can at least try to affect who makes it through.
- SKTelecom T1
- Flash Wolves
- I May
Cloud9 once again finds themselves in Group B with the Chinese third seed and a Taiwanese team. If history doesn’t repeat itself (and it won’t in this instance), Cloud9 can at least atone for the tragic second week. We will however likely have some deja vu as SKT ends up first in the group, despite being Korea’s second seed this time.
That being said, this is as close to a group of death as I think we come this year. SKT comes in after a disappointing summer split placing 3rd, and we are probably seeing the team’s weakest version since 2014, but that isn’t saying much. Assuming the inevitable, Cloud9, Flash Wolves, and I May could all fight it out for that second spot, and it really could go any way. But when you consider the matchups, individually speaking, Cloud9 seems to come out on top of these three and they’re working with a lot of momentum coming into the tournament. Assuming all teams are playing their best, I’d expect them to join the reigning champions in the knockout stage. But Flash Wolves have been known to slay a giant or two, and they have downed SKT this year. Those facts considered, and with I May being a complete unknown on the international stage, this may be the hardest group to predict. If you want to look for the fun matchups, look no further than top lane, as Impact faces off against his former team and their top-laner Duke. And throw in AmazingJ for added fun. Or you can watch Jensen go to toe-to-toe with Faker, since he’s already started throwing shade.
- Edward Gaming
Moving on to a potential “group of life”, we see a similar situation to Group A, with Edward Gaming potentially having the easiest possible route to the knockout stage, and everyone else fighting for second. This group could go either way in terms of grabbing second, and I expect to INTZ to have a role in who gets there, as each of the Brazilian teams from the last two years have come up with surprise wins. But if the tale comes down to the games between AHQ and H2K, I expect AHQ to take the spot.
EDG has looked absolutely terrifying this summer, going undefeated in summer split matches and only dropping two games in the playoffs. Bolstered by veterans Clearlove and Meiko, as well as former Samsung Blue standout Deft, this team will have no trouble. Meanwhile the fight between AHQ and H2K lies in a battle between early game snowballing off the back of Jankos and late game macro prowess, held together by Westdoor. And any matchup featuring Revolta and the high-octane INTZ wlll be fun, as a loss or two to them could spell disaster for one of the other teams.
- Royal Never Give Up
- Samsung Galaxy
Group D once again features TSM, but this time from Pool A. And as good as they’ve looked this year, they’ll have to work for what I eventually think will be the top spot. While many believe the feel-good story of Samsung Galaxy will continue, I think RNG is getting slept on despite a monster lineup — and it takes a lot to say that about China’s second seed. I think they’ll use their individual experience to dismantle SSG, continuing the relative consistency they’ve shown all season long. Splyce has said that Worlds will be a learning experience, and that it will be, as this group will teach them a thing or two.
TSM will see some old, familiar faces in former Dignitas ADC Core JJ acts as support for SSG, and the former Samsung White champions Looper and Mata in RNG uniforms. Once again, the bot lane will be extremely fun to watch, with Uzi, Doublelift, and Ruler all taking part in this group. Also look for Trashy and Splyce to have something to say about who advances.
Kristiyan “midrift” Tsankov:
- ROX Tigers
- Counter Logic Gaming
- Albus NoX Luna
The perfect prologue! That’s how one can best describe Group A right after the draw. There is so much depth to who and why makes these 4 teams ideal to settle old scores, spring new banter and at the same time allow both the regular fans and the complete newbies to the scene immerse themselves in the magic that is League of Legends. The Korean powerhouse, Rox Tigers, are obviously the clear favorites to win the group. Being the strongest team in the strongest region definitely has it’s perks, but a Croatian youngster has already taken this word and wants to etch it into competitive history and, as some might say, even into the coveted Summoner’s Cup. Yet, a seemingly weakened North American stalwart in CLG, is in the way and has something to prove after a shaky last few months. And then there is the complete unknown, the odd one in the group, Albus NoX Luna. Can a team that has made its way to the strongest tournament, that has gotten over so many opponents without a backup plan if they were to fail, be disregarded so easily?
In my opinion the answers to all these questions lie in turning your back on tradition and looking towards the future. I put Rox first, G2 second, followed closely by CLG and Albus to wrap up the standings. Rox Tigers finally managed to do the unthinkable and win the LCK. Their sheer strength as a unit easily puts them on top of this group in my mind. The so called “outcasts” work so well together, both in and outside the game, that neither the best botlane in the West in G2’s Zven and Mithy, nor the history and determination of CLG will be a challenge. And the Wild Card team can only hope to learn something out of the matches with them. But the seconds place could be a bit more interesting, not because the EU and NA team are evenly matched, but because G2 is yet to prove themselves on the international scene. The cold shower they got at MSI this year, however, should be enough of a wake up call to put them to good work. It would be interesting to measure a jungler like G2’s Trick to an improving Xmithie. Another interesting aspect would be to see how the new guys in Stixxay, Huhi and Expect measure up to monsters such as Pray, Kuro and Smeb.
- SKTelecom T1
- Flash Wolves
- I May
The overall consensus in everyone during the group draw seemed to be that no one wants to get SKT in their group. The reigning world champions continue to write history as the first team to successfully qualify for Worlds right after winning it. Yet, there are other players in that group who have lifted the cup before. Ironically, C9’s top laner Impact did that exactly with SKT back when they won it for the first time. This will be a reunion to watch closely, especially knowing that the other teams in the group will be fighting tooth and nail to edge over one another. And if for the Flash Wolves, this wouldn’t be the first time they make it out of groups, a completely new brand like iMay would look for any opportunity to use the experience and hunger for redemption of AmazingJ to get as far as possible.
SKT should have no problems in this group. They are easily going to be in the first place, even though their jungler, Blank, is not exactly the flashiest or most productive player they’ve had in that position. It would be interesting to see if he can hold up to Flash Wolves’ Karsa, be it by himself or with the help of his team. C9 should be able to clinch the second place in the group, but we have yet to see what Steak’s replacement on Flash Wolves, MMD, will do to challenge Impact. Another interesting clash of the titans will be between none other than SKT’s Faker and Jensen. There will be a pretty high potential of bodying in the matches between the two, but will that make a difference? I doubt it. SKT is probably going to crush C9. Yet, it’s not the first time Faker would face an up and coming European midlaner (be it, in a North American team) and it didn’t go so well for his Azir the last time around, not counting G2’s “vacation” at this year’s MSI.
- Edward Gaming
The Chinese teams didn’t do so well during the last World Championship. Yet, they don’t seem to have lost the hype around them. And watching what EDG does to its opposition, it’s not hard to imagine why. Dumpstering anyone and anything they encounter, Deft and co. will need to overcome an AHQ squad that hasn’t made any changes for a while now as well as the only returning European team and a bunch of international unknowns in the brazilian INTZ lineup.
Similar to groups A and B, there is a clear favorite. And it’s no surprise that it’s once again an Asian team with history of domination in EDG. Both AHQ’s Westdoor and H2K’s Ryu, however, are mid laners that can proudly say they have faced the best and put on a show. And while Ryu’s Zed keeps dying again and again every few seconds, just because his skirmish with Faker is that symbolic, there is fresh blood in the face of one of the best junglers Europe has to offer in Jankos. The big question mark here is whether the most hyped marksman in his region that hasn’t been to Worlds yet, Greece’s prodigy Forgiven, will be able to compete at this event. The latest rumours suggest that the guy he replaced due to an injury, Freeze, is the first choice. The Czech Draven main just departed for a Korean bootcamp with the team while Forgiven is once again left out. Every true European League of Legends fan hopes that this is not the whole story and that the two will both be available and performing at the grandest stage of them all. This controversy sway the scales in the favor of AHQ for the second place in the group, but H2K is still favored over INTZ and their up and coming star, Revolta. And if this is not the “group of death” by definition this tournament, it is not the easiest to predict for sure. It sure smells like the group of the ad carries to shine, however, given that another prodigy in the brazilian micaO enters the picture, too.
- Samsung Galaxy
- Royal Never Give Up
Team Solomid has always been hyped as one of the best Western teams, but it’s never been so close to unifying everyone around that opinion as it is with the current iteration of the roster. Yet, is that going to be enough to battle through Korea’s 3rd seed and the 2nd seed from China? Both these regions are known to be unreachable, one in skill and the other in the ability to lure top players and have the best to work with. In my opinion it’s going to be close, but the most successful team in NA’s domestic history cannot yet make the run they are so eager for internationally. And then there are the “mostly Danish wonder boys” of Splyce, who managed to repeat Origen’s success from last year so far and go from a Challenger team to a Worlds contestant. But repeating Origen’s international success is a task that seems impossible at that time.
Even though Samsung is labeled as the number 3 team from Korea, they definitely make a strong statement for winning the group. Royal Never Give Up have a roster that contends for not only the most hyped amongst the 4 teams, but possibly in the entire tournament as well. Their latest results, however, leave a lot to be desired from those stars. Will the duo of world champion Mata and the all-time great Chinese ad carry Uzi stampede NA’s hopes in veteran Doublelift and young, but promising Biofrost remains to be seen. Can Bjergsen carry TSM on his back on the international stage? Will Splyce play spoiler to someone and truly justify this group as the “group of death” or will their toplaner Wunderwear fall prey to hungry and capable individuals such as CuVee and Hauntzer? And then there’s also another world champion in the face of Looper who will not stand idle and might poison all their minds, just as he would do before with his favorite champion, Singed. One thing is certain, this will definitely be one wild ride not worth missing! So tune in starting September 29th and see if the limits of your imagination have been tested yet!
You can head on over to the Worlds Pick’em site to cast your own predictions for the group stages. And tune in for the start of all the action on September 29!
Break The Game
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