On Monday, the last two teams qualified for the bracket stage of the League of Legends World Championship.
Group D, which was comprised of Team Liquid, the MAD Lions, Gen.G and LNG, ended up being the closest of the tournament, although MAD and Gen.G eventually scraped by.
Going into the day, the group was already close. The four teams were relatively evenly matched in both round robins, concluding that part of the stage with a 3-3 record for every team for the first time in Worlds history.
Gen.G had a rough day on Monday, winning only a game against MAD Lions before losing to both Team Liquid of North America and LNG of China. The Korean team bounced back, managing a win over Team Liquid in what wasn’t the most competitive game ever, before narrowly scraping out a win against MAD to claim the first seed.
That loss is all the difference for MAD. They could’ve been a No. 1 seed, immune from facing off against the likes of DAMWON or T1 in the first round with a chance of an easier opponent like Cloud9. Instead, they found themselves drawn into a best-of-five rematch against DWK.
It’s a situation MAD almost succeeded in last time. The European first seed, now the only European team left at the tournament following the struggles of Fnatic and Rogue, were up 2-1 against the Koreans at MSI before eventually losing two in a row and falling out in third/fourth. But this is a bigger stage, a bigger moment, and MAD has not looked like the team they looked like in Spring. This one is harder.
On the other side of the bracket, the other Western team that remains in Cloud9 got very lucky. They fell into a matchup with Gen.G, who only narrowly scraped out their last win to be a No. 1 seed at all. While Gen.G has certainly looked better than Cloud9, who qualified with just two wins before tiebreakers, they are without question the weakest No. 1 seed, and probably the only one the last North American team had an okay chance against.
On the other hand, Chinese fans are likely frustrated that their two surviving teams, RNG and EDG, are set to face off in the first round. RNG has looked exceptionally good, especially compared to the collapse of the LPL first seed in FPX, and feel like the favorites heading into this matchup although EDG has certainly had highlights this season.
The final matchup is T1 vs. Hanwha Life Esports. HLE, which had a very questionable summer into a semi-concerning performance this week before eventually falling head first into the quarterfinals basically entirely on the backs of Chovy and Deft. It’s worth noting that jungler Willer had a much better day on Sunday than he did during week one. It’s a stroke of painful irony for Chovy, which has played and lost four best-of-five’s to T1 since 2019.
Most recently, T1 beat HLE in the last round of the regional qualifiers in Korea, which means HLE had to go through the play-ins in order to get to this point. That game was at least the closest Chovy has come to claiming victory over T1, with them getting two wins versus T1’s three.
With Korea making up half of the remaining teams, although one of them will have to be eliminated this round, this year could mark the return to full on Korean dominance. While DWG won last year, it wasn’t dominant. It wasn’t Korea being the only region, it was versus China. Now, North America and Europe have just one team left fighting.