On Tuesday morning, the groups for both the play-ins and group stage of the League of Legends World Championship were drawn. The play-ins are slightly different this year; as Vietnam was unable to send either of their two teams, there will be two groups of five. Each team will play a single round robin within their group. The first seed in both groups will move to the Group Stage while the fifth will be eliminated. The third ranked team in each group will play the fourth in the same group. The winner of this best-of-five plays the second seed from the other group and the winners of those matches make it to the group stage.
In Group A of the play-ins, we have Team Liquid from North America, MAD Lions from Europe, Legacy from Oceania, Papara SuperMassive from Turkey and INTZ from Brazil. In Group B, there is LGD from China; PSG Talon from the PCS, which includes Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macao and Southeast Asia; Japan’s V3 Esports; the Unicorns of Love from Russia and Rainbow7 from Latin America.
In Group A, TL and MAD are undoubtedly the favorites, but both have struggled with consistency in playoffs which could make them struggle in best-of-ones and give underdog teams a solid chance to at least get some wins, even if they don’t advance out of the group.
In Group B, it would take a small miracle for LGD to miss out on Groups, but the other four teams all have solid chances of second. UoL missed out on the group stage last year, losing 2-3 against Splyce in the series that would’ve taken them to groups, and this year they have a legitimate shot at making it.
In the group stage, the first three members of each group are confirmed. The final member will of course be added when the play-ins are over, though the groups are already looking very interesting. Group A, which so far has G2, Suning and Machi Esports, could be a relatively easy road for the European favorites, while Group B, which has Damwon Gaming, JDG and Rogue, seems to be this year’s group of death.
In Group C, TSM will face off with Fnatic and Gen.G. This is potentially the best case scenario for Doublelift and his team; Fnatic looked like not even the second best team in Europe after the finals, and Gen.G played well but is still the third seed from Korea which means that it could be worse for TSM. The fourth team will make or break this group, because they would be the group that gets LGD if LGD qualifies, since no group can have more than one team from one region.
Group Four has the remaining three teams: Top Esports, FlyQuest and DRX. This group is the one that will get the MAD Lions if they qualify, and it seems like a death kiss for both Western teams. TES and DRX were both very good in Summer; TES is the number 1 Chinese seed and DRX is the number two Korean seed. To make it past Groups, FlyQuest would either have to present us with a much better performance than they ever have, or see both TES and DRX falter, neither of which seems likely.
No matter how likely or unlikely a team’s success might seem, Worlds past has taught us that no success or failure can ever be a guarantee and, until the teams step out onto the rift, we can’t possibly know who will fall and who will rise.