On Tuesday, the groups for the play-ins and group stage for the League of Legends Worlds Championship were drawn. Today, I’m going to take a deep dive into the more interesting situations that have been created to give some predictions on what teams will falter in the play-ins stage and which might surprise us.
The play-ins certainly have a lot of potential for surprises this year. With this year’s system, eight of the 10 teams will remain after the round robin, which means that underdog teams have a lot of chances to make a splash in potential best-of-fives. In Group A, the favorites to advance must be Team Liquid and the MAD Lions. As the European and North American representations in the play-ins, they are two of the four “major” region teams.
But that doesn’t mean that Legacy, Papara SuperMassive and INTZ should be ignored. While none of them can possibly be favorites against the North America third seed and European fourth seed, the new format means that even one upset is a huge victory. You only play each team once this year in the play-ins, so teams have no chance to redeem a bad loss to an underdog team.
In addition, both Team Liquid and MAD had some struggles in the playoffs. MAD only just qualified after edging out Schalke 04 in the lower bracket in Europe, and Team Liquid had some questionable moments en route to their third place. These are not invincible teams.
Group B seems to be much more dynamic. While it would be the shock of the decade if LGD didn’t get first in the group, there doesn’t seem to be a clear second-best team. Unicorns of Love, the LCL’s team, had a powerful performance last year, and if they can replicate that success, second place in the group could be theirs.
At the same time, the PCS’s PSG Talon have suffered a severe setback. Two of their players, River and Tank, who are both from Korea, will be unable to make it to Worlds in time for play-ins following visa issues. In addition, their ADC, Unified, will miss some games due to the visa requirements. PSG has borrowed AHQ’s jungler and mid laner, Kongyue and Uniboy, and will be using the substitute ADC of Machi Gaming, Dee. To get through play-ins with this situation, where only two to three of your players have played with your team, would be an incredible feat.
In the end, I think we will be seeing the Unicorns of Love join LGD, Team Liquid, and MAD Lions in the group stage. While there are many talented players in the play-ins, there can be no doubt that once again, the wildcard region teams are going to have a fight ahead of them if they want to make it to the group stage.