Tue October 17 2017
by Tyler Erzberger, ESPN Esports
The League of Legends World Championship leg in Wuhan, China, has come to an end. After three weeks of play, the field of 24 has been whittled down to the final eight. Of the five No.1 seeds from major regions who qualified for the tournament, only the South Korean representative Longzhu Gaming remains in contention for the Summoner’s Cup.
Four days of action. Four best-of-fives. Four clubs moving one match away from the ultimate goal: playing in the Summoner’s Cup Finals. Here are the winners, losers, and narratives to keep your eye on as the stage shifts from the group stages in Wuhan to the start of the knockout rounds in Guangzhou.
(1) Longzhu Gaming vs. (2) Samsung Galaxy
(1) SK Telecom T1 vs. (2) Misfits
(1) Royal Never Give Up vs. (2) Fnatic
(1) Team WE vs. (2) Cloud9
Biggest winner(s): Cloud9 and Team WE
The easiest team Team WE could have drawn was Cloud9. The easiest team Cloud9 could have drawn was Team WE. Both teams should be ecstatic at their draw, as the pair who began their journey in China at the play-in stage almost a month ago will have a chance to qualify for the semifinals and a Hail Mary chance at getting into the final.
This will be the first time since 2013 where C9 will not have to face a South Korean team in the quarterfinal, and it will be North America’s best chance at getting into the semifinals of the competition since that year when C9 narrowly lost to Europe’s Fnatic. C9 didn’t have the best Week 2, only salvaging the final day of group play with a win over Taiwan’s ahq e-Sports Club, but it did catch itself before it was too late, and the adaptation it showed will be important if it wants to turn what appeared to be the worst-ever Worlds for North America into its best.
Biggest loser(s): Longzhu Gaming and Samsung Galaxy
Where WE and C9 will be celebrating their draw, the South Korean duo that will be forced to face off in the first round will be feeling swindled.
Longzhu and Samsung are two of the best teams in the world, burt Samsung’s slip-ups in groups against Royal Never Give Up mean Samsung has to face the odds-on favorite in the quarterfinals. For Longzhu, any of the other matches it could have drawn would have been easier. While Samsung’s rigid, defense-first yin should be run over by Longzhu’s aggressive yang like it was in the last match of the League Champions Korea summer regular season—when Longzhu clinched the top seed in the region going into the playoffs—it doesn’t always work that way.
South Korean teams are far and away the best when it comes to preparing for a best-of-five, and Samsung possesses something that not even the all-powerful Dragons have: Worlds best-of-five experience as a five-man unit. Samsung can roll out the same five players that were a game away from winning the entire tournament last year, and although Longzhu went 6-0 in the group stage, there were hiccups that can be exploited by better teams like Samsung.
Team with nothing to lose: Misfits Gaming
Misfits was counted out even in what was considered the weakest foursome of the group stage, and it defied all odds by snatching the second seed from Team SoloMid’s hands and eliminating the North American champion from the event. Now, pitted against three-time world champion SK Telecom T1, Misfits is playing with house money. If it goes 0-3 and loses each game in less than 20 minutes, the tournament as a whole will still be seen as a resounding success for the rookie organization that entered the tournament with a starting lineup of five players who’ve never played at Worlds before.
Misfits can’t lose, regardless of how the games shake out. A single victory—one, miraculous, crazy win—would put Misfits in a class of some of the most legendary Western teams in League of Legends history. Drawing blood against SKT, even if its just a scratch, puts your far ahead of most clubs to ever touch the ground at the World Championship. SKT’s flaws in the laning phase and slow uptake, coupled with Misfits’ love of putting on the pressure early with unique compositions, mean there is a legitimate chance for the European underdog to get a flash knockdown of the world champion and make it a series.
Team with the most to lose: Royal Never Give Up
It’s easy to argue that a South Korean team losing would cause the most shockwaves, but the team who has the most on the line is the one with the best chance to lift the Summoner’s Cup in front of its own fans. RNG, an all-Chinese team, won the “Group of Death” by unseating both Samsung and Europe’s G2 Esports, and if it can get past Fnatic in the opening round, it’s slated to meet old rival SKT T1 in the semifinals.
Getting knocked out in the quarterfinal would deflate the crowd as well as the momentum the team in black and gold has stirred up over the last two weeks. RNG team is playing like a contender for the title alongside the three South Korean teams, and if there was ever a time for China to win its first world title, it would be at the Bird’s Nest.