After the play-ins, which were full of upsets and exciting underdog plays from teams that weren’t supposed to win games, it felt as though this World Championship might be more open than any before. And then, the Group Stage began, and it quickly became clear that that pattern was not going to continue through this stage.
When Suning and G2 Esports qualified on Thursday, it set the tone that the European and Chinese teams, the only regions that have four seeds at Worlds, were going to play very well. Going into Friday and the last day for Group B, which featured Damwon Gaming, JD Gaming, PSG Talon and Rogue, it was clear that Damwon and JDG were the favorites, and they gave statement performances.
PSG Talon did manage to win two games, one over JDG and one over Rogue, while Rogue won a single game over PSG. Damwon claimed first place in the group, and JDG slid into second. It was a second big victory for the Chinese teams, and a good start for the Korean powerhouse who are one of the favorites to win the whole tournament.
In Group C, things were similarly unsurprising. It was somewhat closer in the group, where Gen.G, Fnatic, LGD and TSM battled. TSM was as bad as they have ever been, losing all six games. Doublelift once again failed to get out of groups at Worlds, adding to his painfully rough history at the tournament despite being a top ADC for years. It is worth noting that Spica, TSM’s young jungler, did look relatively decent against some good teams.
The other three teams seemed relatively close in skill, trading games all week. Gen.G from Korea managed to squeeze out first place after only losing one game to Fnatic. Fnatic won some hard fought games, including ones over both Gen.G and LGD, to sneak into second place at 4-2, just above the 3-3 LGD. This was still a relatively good performance by LGD, considering that there was a time where it did not even seem that they would make the Group Stage, but going out before the quarterfinals is disappointing for any Chinese team.
The last group, Group D, was a bit of a wildcard because no one knew how the LCK second seed, DRX, would perform. DRX made it to second place after a miracle victory over Gen.G in a series that had a several hour long break and ended up switching to live servers and a different patch than what it had begun on, and got smoked by Damwon in the finals, but they played well in the play-ins, sneaking into second. The first seed was, unsurprisingly, TOP Esports, who lost just one game to FlyQuest. Fly was the best-performing North American team, ending up at 3-3 along with Team Liquid, but still couldn’t make it out of groups.
The matchups for the quarterfinals were drawn upon the conclusion of Group D’s play. TOP Esports will face Fnatic on Thursday, followed by Suning and JD Gaming on Friday, Gen.G and G2 on Saturday, and DRX and Damwon Gaming on Sunday. All four series are best-of-fives, so they will go on until one team has three wins. While the first-seeded Damwon, JDG, Suning and Gen.G may be the heavy favorites, the meta is still shifting and every team at this tournament has had games where they did not look like a good team. The question now is which of their opponents can make them do that three times.