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League of Legends: Group Stage Week 1 – Worlds 2017

League of Legends Worlds 2017

Ni Hao! It’s October and you know what that means. No, not Halloween, Pumpkin Spice Lattes, or the changing of the seasons, think bigger. Think Worlds.

The largest and best tournament in eSports has begun! The top 16 teams from across the globe have fought tooth and nail to compete in China for their chance at the Summoner’s Cup, eternal bragging rights, and piece of that monumental prize pool.

The Guantlet
But before we crown a champion, we need to play out the groups stages. Basically, there are 4 groups made up of 4 random teams. Over the course of two weeks, each team will play each of the other teams within their group twice. Then, the top two teams of a particular group will move onto the single-elimination quarterfinals.

If you’re worried about another Korean vs. Korean finals, don’t be! Regardless of how high quality those matches will eventually be, Worlds is all about the journey to that point. Get ready for jaw dropping plays, inspirational speeches, love ‘em or hate ‘em egos, newsworthy controversy, and so much more. Get ready, for League of Legends Worlds 2017.

Need to Know Info
Needless to say, this is one of Riot’s biggest events of the year and will draw in a lot of people. Many of which probably won’t know the competitive landscape all that well. However, to alleviate that gap in knowledge, I’ve assembled a short list of a few key points and narratives to keep in mind while you’re watching.

  • SK Telecom (SKT) is a team from Korea and the reigning three-time world champions. Their midlaner is Faker, unanimously referred to as the greatest eSports player of all time. Their bot lane, Pray and Wolf, as well as the coach, Kkoma, are also notably talented.
  • The other teams from Korea, Longzhu and Samsung Galaxy, are also exceptionally strong.
  • Hailing from North America, Team Solid Mid, Immortals, and Cloud 9 have a lot of hope riding on them every year to do well at Worlds, but usually aren’t able to go very far. However, this may very well be their time to shine.
  • Conversely, the EU teams, G2/FNC/MSF, are quite possibly at their lowest level of expectation and competitive power in recent history.
  • To my knowledge the other regions, China included, haven’t had much major discussion surrounding them thus far. It could be they don’t want to overhype them, it could be they’re just worse off this year. But it doesn’t matter who it is or where they come from, when it comes to Worlds, you can expect big upsets in the most unlikely of places.
  • And one last major point, this is the first year with the new draft system (pseudo snake draft featuring 5 bans per team). It’s highly likely this year will have the highest amount of champion diversity because of it.

Highlight Clips
With that out of the way, let’s take a look at some of the most incredible highlights of the week.

SK Telecom vs. Cloud 9
The Unkillable Demon King once again lived up to his namesake.

Flash Wolves vs. Team Solo Mid
A great example of the adrenaline-pumping plays you can always expect out of Worlds.

1907 Fenerbahce vs. Samsung Galaxy
From being down 7K gold, to winning the game in about 20 seconds, you can never count out the Korean team so long as they have a nexus.

Royal Never Give Up vs. G2 Esports
Uzi locked, loaded, and gunned down the enemy team in no time at all.

Must Watch Matches
Not everyone has time to watch the dozen+ hours of content, so here’s my personal picks for the most entertaining games of the week.

Edward Gaming vs. SK Telecom
Based on their reputations alone, this was a pretty unusual game. Starting out, Faker not only died once in lane, but a whopping two times! EDG then went on to push that lead by controlling the map and winning skirmishes as if they were the reigning world champions. I started to think we may be seeing the downfall of SKT, but I couldn’t be more wrong. All they needed was a single fight at the right time.

Fnatic vs. Gigabyte Marines
Kassadin mid, Nocturne jungle, no flash Lulu, and a laneswap, what year is it? And if that wasn’t interesting enough, they got a kill on the opposing Karma at 5 minutes in with a Nocturne ult. You can’t make this stuff up.

Off the back of that tremendous early lead, Nocturne continued to make plays around the map while his teammates, Tristana and Kassadin, pushed turrets and farmed freely. Every single time FNC rushed to answer the nightmarish jungler, they would hemorrhage an advantage somewhere else on the map. By the late game, the then extremely fed Tristana and Kassadin annihilated FNC quite easily.

More to Come
The first half the group stages are over, and man what a ride it was. Even though I don’t play or watch League as much as I used to, I can still always get excited for the ridiculous games, clips, speculations, memes, and analytics that come out of this incredible experience.

While it’s a bit preemptive to start making predictions based only on their first performance, it can be said for sure that RNG (is it Uzi’s year at long last?) and the Korean teams (SKT playing a bit wobbly, but they always do that early on) will be the top contenders for the finalists spots.

Similarly, but to a lesser extent, NA played surprisingly well and may even have 3 out of 3 of their teams make it to the quarterfinals. Otherwise, to my surprise, the unmentioned teams and regions seem to be worse than ever. Has the gap between them and everyone else increased, or is just first week nerves?

Regardless, the battle continues next week where we’ll see how this whole preliminary stage shakes out.

You can find all the matches and their Twitch/Youtube links here.

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