Feature

2019 League of Legends World Championship: Group Stage

October is one of the best months to be a fan of League of Legends esports. Not only does CSL start back up, but the World Championship occurs as well! Worlds is the final and most important LoL competition of the year, with 24 extremely talented teams coming from all over the world to compete. There’s not a lot of international play in League, so Worlds is an exciting time to see teams from different regions compete for the title of World Champions. Although the level of competition obviously pales in comparison to the powerhouse teams we have here at CSL, the level of competition and storylines of these teams make Worlds a must-watch for any fan of LoL esports.

Worlds has already begun and is in full swing! The group stage ended only a few days ago, and the remaining 8 teams are gearing up for the quarterfinals. In this article, we’ll review the group stages and the final standings of the groups. We’ll also go over how and why teams placed the way they did, as well as discuss the knock-out stage of the tournament and who I think will be crowned the World Champions! 

MASSIVE spoilers up ahead. If you haven’t watched the Worlds group stage yet, this is your official warning!

Group A

Final Standings

1. Griffin (6-1)

2. G2 Esports (5-2)

3. Cloud9 (2-4)

4. Hong Kong Attitude (0-6)

Who got out of Group A shouldn’t be too surprising to anyone, but the order of them probably should! The two teams that were eliminated were Cloud9, the 2nd seed from the LCS, and Hong Kong Attitude, the 3rd seed from the LMS. The LMS as a whole is known as a weaker region, and they were never expected to be able to compete with the powerhouses of the group. Cloud9 has been known to make insane Worlds runs in the past, even making it to the semifinals after beating Korea’s Afreeca Freecs in the quarterfinals last year. However, both G2 and Griffin are extraordinary teams, and their placement at 3rd shouldn’t be a big surprise.

Let’s talk about the two superteams that were in group A: Griffin, the second seed from the LCK, and G2, the first seed from the LEC. Griffin in the LCK was considered the very best team for almost the entire year! Many fans will recall Griffin’s mid-laner Chovy and his 100KDA that he achieved, and Griffin’s dominant 15-3 regular season record. However, Griffin’s crux was always in the playoffs, where they stumbled both in spring and summer of this year to SKT. While second place is nothing to scoff at in the LCK, their immaculate regular season and lackluster playoff performance left much to be desired. Next we have G2 esports, one of the favorites to win the entire tournament. G2 are the reigning MSI champions after they defeated TL, and they’ve looked immaculate since picking up mid-laner Caps from Fnatic and shifting Perkz down to the ADC position. However, whether it be actual underperformance or overconfidence, G2 has stumbled a bit more than they should. Even so, they still claimed victory in the LEC after a 3-2 victory over Fnatic and are definitely one of the scariest teams at Worlds.

This is why Griffin 1st and G2 2nd is very shocking. G2 has Worlds experience, and all of the players on G2 are seasoned veterans who have played at this stage before. Alternatively, this is Griffin’s first time at Worlds, and not a single player from Griffin has ever played on the big stage before. Given Griffin’s history of choking under pressure, it seemed almost set in stone that G2 would be 1st and Griffin would be 2nd. However, Griffin proved the world wrong by not only beating G2 on the final day of groups, but winning the tiebreaker against G2 to secure themselves the number 1 seed in the group. They were able to overcome G2 through immaculate jungle pressure and control by Tarzan. Tarzan is considered one of the best players in the world, and he showed why by running over Jankos in the jungle.

Group B

Final Standings

1. FunPlus Phoenix (5-2)

2. Splyce (4-3)

3. CTBC J Team (3-3)

4. GAM Esports (1-5)

As a Western fan, Group B probably seems like one giant question mark. FPX has never been to Worlds before and hail from the LPL, J Team is another uncommon team from the LMS, and GAM is a team from Vietnam that few remember. The only team Westerners would be familiar with would be the LEC 3rd seed, Splyce. The two teams that ended up going home early were J Team and GAM. Some might remember GAM as the Gigabyte Marines, an explosive roster known for their unconventional and wacky strats; jungler Levi and his jungle Nocturne, who ended up joining the 100T academy in the 2018 preseason, are from the team. Despite their expansive history, GAM were not able to repeat this in 2019, with only a single win in the 2019 group stage. The other team eliminated was J Team, the first seed from the LMS. J Team won the LMS 2019 summer playoffs 3-1 against AHQ and were definitely looking like the best LMS team coming into the tournament. Although they had some star players like mid-laner FoFo, the fact they couldn’t stand up to Splyce and have since gone home goes to show how weak the LMS region is.

As for the teams that will progress, first we have Splyce. Splyce was the 3rd seed from the LEC and got a dream group. After the LEC season and the play-in stage, many thought Splyce had no chance to move on to the knockout stage, but the team proved everyone wrong. They even almost secured 1st vs FPX, but ended up losing the tiebreaker. Their opponent in the quarterfinals is SKT, and unless they have a massive upset occur, they should be going home soon enough. Finally, we have the number 1 team, FPX, the number 1 seed from the LPL. FPX looked absolutely dominant in the LPL this season, with a 14-1 record. FPX is a new team at Worlds, but with players such as mid-laner DoinB and marksman Lwx, this team was a favorite coming into the tournament. However, they have stumbled, and even had to play a tiebreaker against Splyce to secure the number 1 spot of the group, something nobody thought would have to happen. Although FPX is still an amazing team and should still be able to go far in the knockout stages, they are going to have to seriously up their performance from what they’ve shown so far.

Group C

Final Standings

1. SK Telecom T1 (5-1)

2. Fnatic (4-2)

3. Royal Never Give Up (3-3)

4. Clutch Gaming (0-6)

The definition of a group of death. 3 teams in this group (SKT, Fnatic, and RNG) could realistically go all the way and win Worlds. Unfortunately, only 2 can get out, and one of these teams had to go home early. This group was ruthless, ferocious, and sadly, we had to say goodbye to RNG at the end of it all.

Clutch Gaming, as the 3rd seed from the LCS, never stood a chance. They had to go up against SKT, Fnatic and RNG. Despite going 0-6, they still had some close games against some of the best teams in the world. CG was never going to get out of this group, and the fact they had some competitive games should make them happy. Next, we have RNG. RNG are no strangers to the Worlds stage; they’ve been to the finals twice and have made every Worlds, aside from 2015, since 2012. This team, captained by ADC Uzi, is an absolute powerhouse, and them going home in the group stage should in no way take away from this tremendous group. In any other group, RNG would almost certainly find a way out of groups, but they just so happened to be placed in group C.

Moving on to the two victorious teams, we have Fnatic. Fnatic is the second seed from the LEC, and them moving on instead of RNG shows how dominant of a region the LEC is and how the west (Europe) is truly catching the teams in the East. With the loss of Caps in the offseason, everyone though Fnatic was going to struggle greatly, but Nemesis has proven to be a spectacular player who is more than capable of replacing Caps in the mid lane. Alongside Nemesis are skilled players and veterans like Rekkles and Hylissang, making this roster a deadly combination. Finally, the number 1 seed was claimed by SKT. SKT demolished their roster in the offseason and has created a truly terrifying team. All 5 spots on the roster are filled with extremely talented players. Clid has been phenomenal in the jungle, Faker is being Faker, and ADC Teddy is proving to be a valuable pickup from Jin Air. Alongside FPX and G2, SKT are the 3rd and final favorites projected to win the tournament, and after their showing in group C, they seem the most likely to secure yet another championship.

Group D

Final Standings

1. Damwon Gaming (5-1)

2. Invictus Gaming (4-2)

3. Team Liquid (3-3)

4. AHQ Esports Club (0-6)

An interesting group of death/group of life. Aside from AHQ, who went 0-6, the other three teams all had the skill and opportunity to get out of the group. All three had obvious strengths and weaknesses that were exploitable. Again, though, only two were able to make it out, and TL ended up being the outsider.

Let’s start with AHQ, who hails from the LMS. Though they have a ton of history, their current roster proved they aren’t strong enough to compete at Worlds, and they lost every game they played. Moving on to the other eliminated team, Team Liquid. TL was the LCS’s number 1 seed, and being honest, they should have absolutely made it out of this group. Their competition was a Damwon squad who, like Griffin, have never been to Worlds before and are experiencing it for the first time. The other team who placed above them was Invictus. Although Invictus are the current World Champions, they are much, much weaker than when they won, especially after a jungle swap has Leyan starting over Ning. TL had the talent, they had the experience, they had everything - and they still fell short, just like the LCS continues to do year after year. TL should be very disappointed they didn’t make it out, and it should call into question the actual legitimate strength of the LCS as a major region.

Regardless, I don’t want to take away from the two teams that did make it out. The real difference-maker that placed Damwon and Invictus above TL and AHQ in this group was their solo laners. Invictus won the 2018 Worlds off the back of their solo laners TheShy and Rookie. Both of these players are highly skilled individually, and this talent is what drove them to be last year’s champs. On the other side is Damwon. Although inexperienced, they have arguably the strongest top-mid duo in the entire tournament in Nuguri and Showmaker, who are unbelievably talented. The top-mid duos of Invictus and Damwon are what allowed these two teams to progress over Liquid and AHQ.

The Knockout Stage

The group stage brings us to here: the knockout stage of the tournament. This year’s knockout stage is shaping up to have some incredible series. Aside from SKT vs Splyce, which should go SKT’s way, Griffin vs Invictus, FPX vs Fnatic, and Damwon vs G2 could go either way. In all three of these series, I could see either team realistically moving on and even going further. This is definitely the first time in Worlds history that we have had so many excellent teams in the quarterfinal stages, and it just goes to show how absolutely stacked this World Championship is. Even with excellent teams like RNG and TL not making it past groups, we still have 8 amazing teams in the quarterfinals. I’m not going to speculate on every series and every possibility that might occur, but I will speculate on who I believe will be crowned the winners of Worlds this year.

I believe that SKT will be the winners of the 2019 World Championships. Out of the favorites coming into the tournament - G2, FPX and SKT - SKT performed by far the best. G2 didn’t even place first in their group, and fell down to second place after losing to Griffin twice. In by far the easiest group in the tournament, FPX lost twice and even had to play a tiebreaker against Splyce to secure their spot at number 1. Despite being in the hardest group at Worlds, SKT was still dominate and secured number 1, only having lost a single game. Additionally, SKT has the easiest quarterfinals matchup, giving them time to warm up in the playoffs before facing off against the likes of either Damwon (whom they’ve conquered in the past) or G2 (who have looked rocky this tournament). SKT has Faker, who is the best player in the world and always shows up when it comes to international play. They also have immaculate players in Clid and Teddy, who have proven to be some of the best competitors in their respective roles. It isn’t going to be easy, but as of now, it’s looking like SKT is the most likely to come out on top and win themselves their 4th World Championship!

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