Last week, Riot Games announced that the groups for both the play-ins and the group stage of the League of Legends World Championship will take place on Wednesday, Sept. 22 at 10 a.m. ET.
The 10 play-ins and 12 group teams have been divided into groups for the draw: Groups A, B and C for the group stage and Groups A and B for the play-ins. This keeps the higher-seeded teams from the major regions from facing off against each other in either of these early stages.
The goal of this method for group creation is to make relatively balanced groups in which the top teams will successfully move on. The problem however is that historically, there’s been fluctuation based on the randomization of the groups, leading to some groups being more difficult or easier than others. In my column today, I’m going to look at some of the crazier potential groups and see how this Worlds could end up being very, very strange.
For the purposes of these groups, I will be assuming that the four A-seeded teams advance from the play-ins, though that is certainly not a guarantee. Just last year, we saw the MAD Lions fail to advance.
The first point worth mentioning is that PSG Talon from the PCS was promoted to group A after they successfully made the top four at MSI, demoting 100 Thieves, North America’s top seed, to Group B. That makes the path to the playoffs a lot easier for PSG, given they now can’t face off against the first seeds from the LPL, LCK or LEC.
PSG’s group could end up being one of the easiest (at least on paper) groups in history. The only restriction besides the A-B-C distribution is that no two teams from the same region can end up in the same group. This means that PSG can only not go up against Beyond Gaming if the PCS runner-ups make it through the play-ins.
Far and away the craziest group could belong to DAMWON gaming, the defending World Champions. As the LCK’s first seed, they could be grouped with the LPL’s second-seeded team, the ever-intimidating FunPlus Phoenix, which won Worlds in 2019. This group could then add Rogue (the LEC’s third seed) and Cloud9.
Despite Cloud9’s struggles this summer, this is still the only North American team to advance from groups in recent memory, and they cannot be underestimated on that stage. This could be a real group of death this year with only two of these teams advancing.
And yet, this might not be the craziest possible group. With that established as a possibility, let’s look to group B. This could be capped by the LPL’s EDward Gaming, who looked very frightening this season. Then they could add the LCK’s second seed, Gen.G, which made it to the quarterfinals last year.
But that’s not what would make this group scariest, because they’d then have to have Team Liquid, which has looked a bit meh. This group would be far scarier if instead, they took 2018 runner-up Fnatic, who was iffy this season but which ended it playing very well.
Then they could add the LCK’s T1, which needs no introduction and cap the group with Beyond Gaming. Even with the PCS in the final spot, this group would be absolutely insane, with some of the most accomplished teams in the game facing off for just two spots.
However, these groups would leave C and D substantially more odd. Group C, MAD Lion’s group, for instance, could be rounded out by the LCK’s Gen.G, Team Liquid from North America, and LNG from the LPL. Despite this group still having teams from the four major regions, it has teams who have either surged late in cases like LNG or lost a bad final in Team Liquid.
Then there’s PSG Talon, who is already kind of the oddballs in the first seed position. They did very well at MSI and that’s why they’re above North America but people will still not be expecting a ton given their status as a minor region team. Their group could add the final three teams, 100 Thieves from North America, RNG from the LPL and Hanwha Life Esports from the LCK.
Hanwha making it so far is surprising in itself. They had many struggles this summer, and 100 Thieves were good for North American standards, but many fans still argue that they are not that strong overall. In a group like this, PSG would actually have a decent shot at advancing, probably alongside RNG, but there’s no way this group would be considered as strong as the others.
Of course, there are numerous ways these groups could come together in some crazy combinations. Even more intrigue could come in the play-ins stage as teams try to repeat last year when the MAD Lions lost. However the groups come together, this will be one of the most stacked Worlds ever. To know just how stacked playoffs will be, though, we’ll have to wait for the groups’ reveal on Wednesday.