Sixteen teams entered the world championship with the desire to be the best, only eight have made it past the group stage. With crazy upsets, champions coming back into the meta, and history being made after the first wildcard team ever advance to the quarterfinals, worlds has been an awesome experience so far. But now it’s time to look past the group stage and focus on the knockout stage, and three of our writers are back again to share their quarterfinals predictions.
Corey “Mr Fidori” Boucher
Samsung Galaxy vs. Cloud9
Both of these teams may have qualified as the third seed for their respective regions, but one could make the argument that both performed better than their first seed counterparts. And yet this first matchup features two teams that could hardly be more different. In the spark of momentum that has taken over in the group stages, Samsung Galaxy boasts nearly the shortest average game time (32.2 minutes), and one of the best mid-to-late game ratings of the entire field at Worlds. Cloud9, by contrast, brings in an average game time 15 minutes longer, yet still statistically makes more moves in the early game. Both teams played in tough groups, but these facts suggest potential flaws: the susceptibility of Samsung to snowballing (as we saw in their loss to TSM), and Cloud9’s tendency to stall out in the mid-game (as in the win against Flash Wolves).
These are things that both teams will need to drastically change if they want to not only win this series, but to hoist the Cup as well. It’s hard to pick a specific player to watch, since all three lanes feature what should be exciting matchups, but one place to look is the mid lane. Crown has been praised (and rightfully so) as one of the best mid-laners in the world. This could be the early game tipping point against Jensen, who has been increasingly vulnerable to early-game ganks. On the other side, look for Impact to try and put early pressure on CuVee, if the aforementioned ganks happen with any frequency. All things considered, Cloud9 would have to snowball consistently to win this series, and Samsung’s ability to explode in the mid-game has been a bit more reliable.
Prediction: SSG 3-1 C9
SK Telecom T1 vs. Royal Never Give Up
Faker and friends have looked like the SKT of old, cruising to 5-1 in groups like they never heard anyone say the word “slump”. On the flip side, RNG advanced shakily on a tiebreaker rule, granting them a few more days to figure out their synergy woes. SKT showed miraculous objective control the past two weeks, snagging the first turret in 5 of 6 games, and getting the first three turrets in all of them. But RNG still showed flashes of individual talent, and whatever the outcome was, it happened quickly (in 32 minutes on average), but lacks acceptable ability to secure any of the objectives on the map.
I know, I know — it’s hard to stop talking about Faker — but all eyes should look bot lane in this series, as the incredibly hyped matchup between Bang and Uzi will likely tell the tale for each game. In the group stage, Uzi dealt an insane 35% of his team’s damage, while Bang racked up the highest leads at 10 minutes. Shutting down either one of these ADC’s would spell big trouble for both of these squads. As for who will win, however, it’s a numbers game. SKT has other members with high carrying potential, and tend to make more timely movements toward objectives. If RNG can play as well as they look on paper, they can make this interesting, but it’s hard to doubt the reigning champs.
Prediction: SKT 3-1 RNG
ROX Tigers vs. Edward Gaming
A team that was ranked as a contender to win it all, yet faltered to Wildcard and Western teams in groups, now hopes for its star player to shine in the knockout stage while they still have the chance. This is the story that surrounds both ROX Tigers and Edward Gaming. Of course, both squads still looked relatively strong, but this was not the group stage analysts expected for these teams. The slow-moving early game of ROX seemed even slower, taking first blood less than a third of the time, and taking 7 minutes longer to complete a game than they did during the season. Meanwhile, EDG almost never got first turret, and could not secure Dragon or Baron even half of the time. One has to wonder if there will be some very long games in this series, or if one team will take advantage of the lull to gain an uncharacteristic snowball.
There are some bright spots for these teams however. Peanut played out of his mind in his first international appearance, and has the third highest KDA of the field to show for it. Meanwhile, Deft has early advantages in both CS and gold, while Meiko participates in 81% of the team’s kills. Many hoped that this might be the matchup for the finals, but we’ll just have to see this collision of high-caliber talent earlier than expected. We’ll also have to see whether Smeb or Clearlove will improve upon the last two weeks first and really drive their team forward. Buckle up, because this could be exhausting.
Prediction: ROX 3-2 EDG
H2K vs. Albus Nox Luna
Two weeks ago. If you had told me I’d be needing notes about these two teams for their quarterfinal match, I’d have laughed heartily and never thought of it again. Yet here I am, talking about this in reality. This is my most-anticipated quarterfinal series, and it probably is for many fans. Though now, I’m sure many aren’t laughing about ANX anymore. These teams match each others profile pretty well: they have above average early game ratings, and mid-to-late game ratings that barely top the median, mostly because late game tends not to matter for them. Jankos has made a reputation as the “First Blood King” (and did so 71% of the time in groups), but PvPStejos managed to top him over that span (86% of the time).
Both of these rosters are unique, candid, and as such, fan-favorites. They fit nearly identical playstyles and have largely the same trends.Lack of comparable competition seems to hardly matter to Albus Nox. But there is one differentiation that could break this series open. H2K touts the highest survivability of all teams, dying the fewest times per game, even with an additional game under their belt. This has spiked them to the highest kill/death ratio as well. ANX can hardly say the same, as they are comparable to Splyce and INTZ on these metrics.These qualities are not terribly kind in Bo5’s, and could mean the end of the road unless they’ve worked up some new strategies and can be more efficient with their aggression. Which is possible, of course. It’s clear they won’t ever do quite what we think they will anyway.
Prediction: H2K 3-2 ANX
Matthew “Blackfooted Eel” Hubbard
Samsung Galaxy vs. Cloud9
Just going off the group stage play, this may be one of the bigger mismatched pairings. Cloud9 only barely made it out of their group, narrowly avoiding having to play a tiebreaker with the Flash Wolves. Samsung Galaxy on the other hand crushed all opponents in Group D, only dropping a single game to TSM, and even then it was a close match. The powerful duo of Crown in the mid lane and Ambition in the jungle were enough to overwhelm all competitors, even in a group stacked with exceptional mid laners like Bjergsen, Sencux, and Xiaohu. In order to win, Samsung just needs to keep up their current level of play and they’ll overwhelm Cloud9. One thing they might need to work on is their (so far) limited champion pools. Whether because they have a very specific comfort zone or they just haven’t had a need to branch out yet, Samsung Galaxy have shown very few unique picks, with only Ambition playing more than three unique champions. More specifically they’ve found the most success with Crown on a mid range mage like Ryze or Viktor and Ruler on a long range AD carry like Jhin or Caitlyn. It remains to be seen whether this will be a weakness for them. For Cloud9, they’ll need to fix their problems from the group stage. Meteos looked uncomfortable on any champion not named Olaf, so he’ll need to put in some practice before their game. Sneaky will also need to step up his game, as he didn’t have the same impact he normally did, barring their final game against I May. They have a tough road ahead of them, but it’s entirely possible that they pull out an upset. With that being said I still think that Samsung Galaxy are the easy favorites.
Prediction: SSG 3-1 C9
SK Telecom T1 vs. Royal Never Give Up
One of the must watch matches of the quarterfinals between the second seed from Korea and the second seed from China. This matchup will heavily depend on which RNG shows up on Friday. If it’s the RNG that lost three matches in a row, and especially got knocked around by Splyce, SKT will eat them alive without a second thought. However, if it’s the RNG from the first part of week one, it will actually be a pretty even playing field. A lot of it will depend on Looper and Uzi. Looper has had some ups and downs during the group stage, but if he plays at his best, he should be able to outclass Duke, who has been one of the few weak spots in SKT’s armor. Uzi will also need to be at his top form if he’s going to be the hyper carry that RNG need. Most importantly, RNG will need to iron out their shotcalling and communication so that they don’t run into the same problems with mismatched dives and engages. As for SKT, it really should be business as usual. They’ve been playing immaculately over the last two weeks, with only a single blemish on their record. The one thing they might have to worry about is Aurelion Sol, as he was a big factor in their loss, and Xiaohu has shown that he plays the champion. Otherwise, SKT just needs to keep up their level of play and they should proceed to the next round. That being said, I expect RNG to buckle down and practice hard over the next few days, and really show up against SKT. I think that that SKT will take the series, but RNG aren’t going to make it easy for them.
Prediction: SKT 3-2 RNG
ROX Tigers vs. Edward Gaming
The second of the Korea vs China matchups, this time between the number one seeds from their respective regions. That being said, although they were the number one seeds coming into the group stage, both teams showed some glaring weaknesses that could be exploited by future opponents. For ROX, their early game was a little sloppy in some games, even in their wins. They would fall behind in the laning phase and then have to fight their way back into the game. The reason they did as well as they did is because their mid to late game teamfighting is frankly absurd. Their coordination and ability to read a situation and know exactly how to play it were unmatched in their group, and frankly throughout the whole tournament, with the exception of SKT. However, we’re past the group stage. Now is when things get tough, and ROX won’t always be able to rely on brute forcing their way to victory. At some point they’ll have to start playing smarter. As for EDG, they don’t have a weak laning phase so much as a slow one. Much like ROX, they rely on their mid game teamfighting to get ahead and stay ahead. In their three losses, they fell prey to stronger laners, especially in the top lane. Which brings me to the most talked about weakness on the EDG lineup: Mouse. The most commonly exploited member in EDG’s losses, Mouse has shown that he is susceptible to early pressure and against a terrifying duo like Smeb and Peanut, this is even more worrying. Widely considered to be the best top laner in the world and one of the best junglers, Smeb and Peanut are poised to run all over EDG. I don’t expect it to be an easy series by any means, but the teams just don’t match up well, as EDG’s biggest weaknesses are ROX’s biggest strengths.
Prediction: ROX 3-1 EDG
H2K vs. Albus Nox Luna
For me, this is going to be the most fun series to watch. The last hope of the European LCS against the first wild card to ever make it out of the group stage. To add an extra layer, Albus Nox is from the CIS, considered by many to be the top representative of the eastern half of Europe. The winner of this match will be the true representative of Europe, and the matchup itself is interesting to say the least. H2K are the dictionary definition of a lane-focused team, relying on Odoamne, Ryu, and Forg1ven to hold their own against their opponents until Jankos, the First Blood King, swoops down to rain death upon his prey. The strategy itself is sound, but it has two glaring weaknesses. The first and most obvious is H2K’s laners losing. If they fall behind too early and Jankos can’t bail them out, then H2K has trouble playing from behind. The other problem is that the team’s mid and late game shotcalling has been suspect on multiple occasions. They have been known to throw big leads with bad baron calls, and it’s openings like this that Albus Nox will need to exploit. Unlike H2K, Albus Nox’s strength is not in the lane phase, but in their coordination and teamfighting. They showed during the group stage that they are incredibly adept at taking objectives and outsmarting more mechanically proficient opponents. They’ll need to be at their best however if they want to survive H2K’s early game. One big factor to keep in mind is that Albus Nox’s support, Likkrit, announced that he had contracted chicken pox earlier this week. That being said, he has stated that this is not his first time, and he fully intends to play during the quarterfinals. Even with that potential obstacle, I still believe that Albus Nox will prevail, using their unique champion pools and strong mid game to grind H2K down, although it’ll definitely be a close series.
Prediction: ANX 3-2 H2K
If there’s one thing I learned from the group stage, it’s that you can’t predict anything. We saw upsets in every group, and we could very well see some more in the coming weeks. The major difference is that these will be best of five series, which means that the teams will have to adapt on the fly and show just how deep their skill reservoir goes. Another thing that will be tested is stamina. Potentially five games in a row is a lot for players to handle, and teams like Cloud9, Albus Nox Luna, and EDG must show that they still have what it takes to play out an entire series without crumbling under the pressure. Needless to say, things are only just starting to heat up, and I look forward to seeing the upcoming fireworks display.
Samsung Galaxy vs Cloud9
This match is not looking too good for the boys in blue. While Cloud 9 did advance as the second place team in their group, they haven’t looked particularly good. While their laners are fine, Cloud 9 as a team hasn’t been able to grow heavy leads through lane like H2K or RNG. They also aren’t looking very clean, and very often make mistakes that can be punished by a more consistent squad. And that’s exactly what this match-up might turn into. Samsung Galaxy may have dropped one game to Team SoloMid, but aside from that one game, they have looked very solid and consistent. Barring any underperformance or any upsets, Samsung is the expected winner of this match. Cloud 9 does have a chance. If they can clean up their macro play and find a way to get leads in their lanes while also snowballing them even further, they can make this match competitive at the very least.
SK Telecom T1 vs Royal Never Give Up
After dominating Group B with a 5-1 record, SK Telecom was drawn to face Group D’s Royal Never Give Up. Contrary to SKT, the Chinese squad was largely inconsistent in the group stage. Losing in one-sided fashion twice to Samsung Galaxy and once to Splyce, RNG has been classified as a “wildcard” in the sense that they can be amazing if the right RNG shows up or awful if the wrong one does. On the other side of the match-up, SKT’s jungler problems haven’t been as troubling as initially expected. With Bengi getting some playing time alongside Blank, and both junglers looking fine, SKT is poised to win this match and advance to the Semifinals. RNG’s biggest win condition is their bottom lane but they are likely to have a hard time against Bang and Wolf. However, if Mlxg is able to help out Uzi and Mata, the RNG duo could very well snowball their lane out of control and lead RNG to victory. The only problem with this is that in a Bo5 scenario, this seems unlikely to happen in more than one game.
ROX Tigers vs Edward Gaming
Both of these teams were heavy favorites coming into the tournament. And in a similar fashion, both of them have been heavily underwhelming so far. ROX did win their group but they had to do it by winning a tiebreaker against Albus Nox Luna. For a team that was considered to just cruise their way through groups, this is a troubling sign for ROX. In most of their games, they showed a very weak early game that can be easily exploited by strong laning teams such as RNG or SKT. On the other hand, EDG’s early game also hasn’t been too strong. But even more troubling than that is their top laner, Mouse’s, performance. He has been a constant target for enemy teams due to his weak laning and because of how ClearLove likes to prioritize bottom lane over his solo lanes. Considering how Mouse will be playing in lane against Smeb who is widely regarded as the best top laner in the world and Peanut who is also one of the top junglers in the world, EDG will have a tough time salvaging Mouse’s lane while trying to also win other lanes.
H2K vs. Albus Nox Luna
ANX did it! The LCL squad did what no other wildcard team has done before. They made it out of groups, and not just by a fluke. They looked great in all of their wins, playing standard comps and just showing good individual skill and macro play. With that said though, they are about to face an even tougher challenge in terms of lane. H2k is one of the top teams at this world championship when it comes to laning. If they are able to get a gold lead and grow it even more into the mid game, H2k can destroy their opponents. With that said though, if Albus Nox can survive the laning phase and not let H2k gain a gold lead, H2k hasn’t shown an ability to play from behind. This should give the LCL team a fighting chance and is sure to make for a competitive match.
We are in for some great match-ups when it comes to the quarterfinals! And while the left side of the bracket looks significantly stronger than the right one, all matches can be competitive and close if every team shows up and plays to their best. Be sure to tune in starting this Thursday at 3 pm PST.