With the 2015 World Championships only days away it's time for me to lay out my predictions for the group stage now that we have some more information on who is playing, who is not, and have had some more time with the metagame (at least in solo queue). Before diving into the prognostication I'd like to make a couple of points about the current state of the game, how it'll affect certain teams and players, and why all of this matters when making predictions.
When any game or competitive activity has been going long enough the level of competition at the highest level tends to grow closer. With more resources, more time, and more experience the overall player base improves at the game. The same applies to the professional scene. This means that the worst teams at Worlds this year are significantly better than the worst teams last year or the year before even if their record doesn't show it at the end of group stages. It also means that the best teams aren't as far apart as say SK Telecom was during Season 3. Try to keep this in mind when considering my rankings. When I say a team is the best and a heavy favorite to win the tournament it doesn't mean that the others don't have a chance or "are bad" or anything like that, simply that I feel one team is a heavy favorite.
Another thing that happens when the gap between the highest and lowest closes is that the game, in general, becomes significantly more team play focused. "But Gelati, hasn't it always been a team game?" Yes it has but the point I'm trying to make is that the game is significantly less about individual skills or outplays and more about team outplays and macro play. With a lot of the changes and popular strategies like lane swaps developing to a highly efficient level in the past couple of seasons the impact of a bonafide superstar, while still important, is much less so than in previous times. In other words, when everyone is incredible you need to be truly unbelievable to make a real difference. Because of this I placed much more weight on excellent team play, adaptation, and strategic diversity than I did on individual talent.
While I could start an entirely conversation about it, like it or not, this tournament is going to be played on 5.18 and there are a lot of drastic changes to what you've seen all year. I'll do my best to factor in these changes but the fact is, some teams adapt well and others don't. Some teams may have been completely dismantled by this patch and others might have been reinvigorated. There's a lot of variance here and a lot of people don't like it but I did my best to factor this into my thoughts.
With all of these factors taken into account to the best of my ability here are my 2015 World Championship Group Stage team breakdowns and predictions.
Group A - CLG, yoe Flash Wolves, Koo Tigers, Pain Gaming
KOO Tigers (Korea #2 seed)
Members: Smeb, hojin (formerly Lee of Najin Black), Kuro, Pray, Gorilla, Wisdom (sub)
- - One of, if not the best shot calling team in the world.
- - Great sense of the macro game.
- - Have shown a propensity for coming up with unique and innovative team compositions to attack a new meta game
- Subpar early game typically leaves them battling back from behind.
- Shallow champion pool on Kuro who's best two champions (Viktor and Azir) were nerfed both directly and indirectly in recent patches.
- Once teams figure out how to play against the specific team compositions they take a lot of time to readjust and come up with their next one. In a short tournament they may not have the time to adjust but at the same time other teams may not have time to figure them out.
- Smeb (world class): A diverse champion pool, stiff competition, and very consistent play tells us that Smeb is ready for the rigors of international play. May not be on a level as Duke, Ssumday, Zztai, or Flandre but is certainly close.
- Gorilla (world class): Played incredibly well for Najin White Shield during their crazy gauntlet run to qualify with outstanding play on both Janna and Thresh. One could make an argument for Gorilla as the best support in the world.
- Pray (world class): While he has his ups and downs the savvy veteran Pray has always shown well when it's crunch time. His top champions Twitch and Corki are trending up in strength in the current meta which could be a real boost.
The biggest question mark is Kuro's champion pool. His strongest two champions Viktor and Azir have dropped out of the premium status (although still viable) and he's really only shown one "new" champion recently which is, surprisingly, Fizz. Top lane still holds the biggest impact in the current meta although some of that power has shifted to mid. Top is deep enough and Smeb has a diverse enough pool that you can't really ban him out. Pray has his premium picks but you can't really ban him out either and support doesn't look to be a focal point for bans for the most part this tournament. Teams should try to attack Kuro's pool in the draft with bans and counterpicks. The way to beat KOO is to not let the games go to the late game where they thrive and the best way to do that is to attack the shallow champion pool and not be distracted by their strong outer lanes.
KOO need to have one of their spicy meta defining compositions up their sleeve to have a shot at eclipsing the premium Chinese and Korean teams in the tournament but I still think they'll emerge with the first seed out of Group A. They're a group of very strong, experienced veterans that won't let the international stage get to them even if they've shown some low points this season. While I think the CLG and potentially Pain could produce some matchup issues because of their strong early game play I can't see them losing two games to any team in this group.
- vs CLG: This should be the worst matchup in the group for the Tigers. CLG excels at the early game which is where KOO struggles. CLG also has their strongest players in the same roles as KOO. I give a slight edge to KOO both strategically and individually even considering these potential mismatches. The pressure is on CLG to snowball and close because if they don't then KOO will take over the game with their excellent macro, shot calling, and team fighting. Slight edge to the Tigers and while I feel they're the better team I think CLG with their lineup issues resolved can likely snowball at least one of the games. 1 - 1
- vs yoe Flash Wolves: Flash Wolves absolutely need to find a way to hide Steak from Smeb while also enabling Maple and Karsa to put pressure on Kuro. While I can imagine a scenario where that happens I just don't feel it's likely. While I have much respect for the Flash Wolves I think KOO outclasses them enough for a 2 - 0.
- vs Pain Gaming: As good as Mylon and Kami are they just don't stand up to the likes of the tried and tested Koreans. Should be an easy 2 - 0 for KOO.
Total Record: 5 - 1, 1st in Group A
Counter Logic Gaming (North American #1 Seed)
Members: ZionSpartan, Xmithie, Pobelter, Doublelift, Aphromoo, Huhi (sub)
- Excellent early game both as individual lanes and as a team in lane swaps.
- Creative openings and fast push strategies.
- Strong in all 3 lanes with diverse champion pools.
- Tendancy to make critical mistakes in longer games
- Shallow champion pool on Xmithie. Will have to show more than Gragas and Ekko at highest levels of play.
- Until very recently, have had troubles performing in high pressure situations. (READ: Choke artists)
- Doublelift (world class): Doublelift quietly had the best season of his career in both results and statistics. Has shown proficiency on many champions in many styles all at a level that far exceeded his NA competition. Versatility, playmaking capability, excellent 2v2 laning, and experience (although not on the world stage) should combine nicely with a player that's hungry to prove people wrong.
- ZionSpartan: Has always been a strong prospect and finally, this season, made it happen with a ton of domestic success. He's perhaps the most important player heading into a tournament where the top lane will dictate a lot of games but I'm skeptical of his ability to keep up with the completely stacked pool of elite top laners that will be present.
CLG broke the curse and they're finally here. Perhaps with the monkey off their back they can ride the morale wave into and through groups. While I don't think there will be a Super Bowl "hangover" type affect in this group I wouldn't rule out the possibility of a little "hey it's all just gravy now anyway" attitude either. They need to do what they do best which is excellent draft planning, early game scripts, and snowballing their games to decisive strategic victories. They have enough individual talent to at least keep up with MOST of the players in this group but what they don't have is something that worries me. CLG does NOT teamfight well. They do NOTmake sound strategic decisions in the mid and late game. They do NOT play well from behind. All of which makes this a pretty simple discussion. Can they get enough of a lead to make up for their discrepancies? My guess is that they will in a couple of games and they won't in others.
- vs KOO: Much like I said for the KOO side, this is about the best possible matchup CLG could have drawn for a Korea or Chinese team. KOO's weaknesses lineup with CLG's strengths but I simply feel the players and overall teamwork on KOO will outclass them overall. 1 - 1 and if this happens to go to a tiebreaker I think KOO would take it.
- vs yoe Flash Wolves: Much like FW needs to do vs KOO they need to find a way to hide Steak from ZionSpartan. That being said I think Karsa is a significantly better jungler than Xmithie so CLG needs to not let his jungle pressure foil their strong early game which I honestly think will happen in one of these games. The Flash Wolves are an excellent team fighting and skirmishing team, something CLG has trouble with and combined with the playmaking of Karsa I think they can stall CLG's early game long enough to win the race in at least one game. 1 - 1 but this will likely comedown to a tiebreaker. Honestly the tiebreak is a coinflip to me. If CLG tilts from a Pain loss or rallies will be a big factor but I think FW and CLG are pretty evenly matched. If I had to bet money on it I'd say CLG takes the tiebreaker.
- vs Pain Gaming: I'm going to catch a lot of crap for this but I think Pain take a game off CLG and here's why. CLG have shown a propensity for choking in high pressure situations. CLG, much like Alliance last year, will play Pain as their last game in groups. Assuming they got 1-1 with both KOO and Flash Wolves this will become a must win game to advance. Psychologically this is a really favorable spot for Pain who have absolutely nothing to lose and can play as such. All of this is going against CLG without even factoring in that Pain are actually a good team. I feel they're the strongest IWC to ever attend Worlds and EXPECT them to win at LEAST one game. Kami would be a high end LCS mid laner and Mylon I feel is on par with the top LCS top laners (like Zion). This has upset written all over it. 1 - 1
Total Record: 3 - 3, win in tiebreaker vs Flash Wolves to advance with 2nd in Group A
yoe Flash Wolves (LMS / Taiwan #2 Seed)
Members: Steak, Karsa, Maple, SwordArt, NL and Kkramer splitting ADC duties?
- Experience together as a team since Gamania Bears in Season 3.
- Great skirmishing and solid large team fighting
- Incredibly strong jungle pressure creates early game snowballs with which they tend to hammer home victories with good map movement and vision control
- While not weak, laning phase rarely develops explosive leads on an international level.
- Rely heavily on Karsa to jumpstart the game. Typically fail when that doesn't happen (think Team Impulse and Rush).
- Karsa (world class): Karsa is, by a pretty large margain, the best jungler in this group. He plays a variety of styles and champions but often accomplishes the same goal; getting his team rolling. Would almost certainly be the best jungler if he came to the west and would warrant a spot on most of the top LPL teams as well.
- SwordArt (world class): SwordArt is simply one of the most underrated players by Western fans who typically don't watch the LMS or previously the GPL. Creative, incredibly high in game intelligence, mechanics, and the experience to boot make SwordArt the complete package. Maybe not quite the beasts that Gorilla and Pyl are, he's on a similar level to Yellowstar and Meiko.
- Maple: While he may not be one of the premium mid laners in a tournament full of them, he's got experience and playmaking potential. Still a top player looking to make a statement before a likely retirement.
Flash Wolves are a solid, veteran team that had a relatively disappointing performance at IEM Katowice earlier this year. They play really well with a lead showing an ability to consistently close games with even the slightest advantage but they've also shown an inability to make comebacks when they get behind. They're actually quite similar to CLG in that they tend to push the advantages well but instead of relying on a solid game plan and excellent lane swap strategies like CLG does, Flash Wolves leave it all in the hands of their superstar jungler Karsa. I can't say enough about how much of a beast this guy can be. He might be able to single handedly carry this team out of groups. I don't particularly feel they are so far outclassed individually in this group like a lot of people do but their inability to make comebacks is concerning. Flash Wolves are actually a very strong macro team with decisive veteran shotcalling and great vision control. Unfortunately that's only when they're ahead which is what I feel will be their downfall.
- vs KOO: If Karsa is going to make his case for the rest of the world it'll have to be here. KOO tend to get behind early and if Karsa can get his team rolling I think there is a shot they can steal a game here. With that said, I doubt it'll happen. 0 - 2
- vs CLG: Similar team with a far inferior jungler but a superior top laner. This series depends solely on who gets the early lead. I happen to favor game scripts and planning over individual skill that early on. See also what I wrote for CLG about this matchup. 1 - 2 loss in tiebreaker
- vs Pain Gaming: I actually think Pain could take a game here too which would likely boost CLG directly into groups without a tiebreaker. While I feel the veteran experience and stronger competition make this a 2 - 0 for Flash Wolves, I wouldn't be surprised if Pain takes a win. 2 - 0.
Total Record: 3 -3 with a loss in the tiebreaker vs CLG for 3rd in Group A
Pain Gaming (International Wildcard: Brazil Seed)
Members: Mylon, SirT, Kami, brTT, Dioud (former aAa)
- Strong sense of carry mindest in top and mid lane players. Ability to create large advantges out of small ones.
- Allocation of resources, team philosophy, and player champion pools all align very well with the expected metagame.
- "Nothing to lose" mentality heading into the tournament. (IWC teams typically struggle at Worlds)
- Tend to lose control of games, even the ones they're winning sometimes.
- Rarely punished for their mistakes. Will have to adjust to this happening against good teams.
- Play a very high risk style in attempts to snowball that can often fail, and likely will against most international competition.
- Mylon: While he might not be a world class player at a tournament that is completely stacked in the top lane but certainly better than some of his peers. Large champion pool, carry mindset, and, much like Kami, a player that very aggressively pushes his advantages. Sometimes that backfires but often it can create huge advantages. Meta should favor him and his style. For comparison, would probably be as good or better than ZionSpartan and Impact in NA and around players like Soaz and Cabochard in EU.
- Kami: This guy is a straight up playmaker. Very gifted mechanically, instinctive approach to the game, pushes his advantages very aggressively compared to most. Will often buy Mejai's and play champions that snowball incredibly hard. While I assume he'll be a bit of a boom / bust candidate the guy has the skills to tilt other players and create immense advantages seemingly out of nowhere. For comparison, would probably slot into the top 4 mid laners in NA or EU LCS.
Pain are the strongest international wild card team to ever attend worlds in my opinion. They absolutely bodied their qualifier and much improved region on the backs of Mylon and Kami. For comparison they're both high level LCS players but playing in a weaker (but not by as much as people think) region. While Pain lack the macro game and experience that a team like Flash Wolves has or the international level teamfighting and shotcalling that the best teams have, they certainly have a handful of high quality playmakers, and, perhaps the most important aspect of all, NOTHING TO LOSE. This team has enough skill to upset somebody. They're significantly better than the Kabuum roster that upset an Alliance team that had just scored a perfect game on Korea's Najin White Shield. They're better than some LCS teams and have a couple of players that would likely be at the top of their position in those regions. The rest of the roster, while not on the level of Mylon and Kami, are certainly not bad either. I EXPECT Pain to take at least one game this year at worlds. I think there's a decent chance they could take 2 but realistically this is still an IWC team that suffers from the same problems all IWC teams do. Inferior competition.
- vs KOO: The Tigers simply outclass you in every possible way. maybe 2% chance of Kami just going crazy on Kuro? I doubt it though because Kuro has made a career out of "not losing" to far superior mid laners. 0 - 2
- vs CLG: This is where Pain get to reinact the legendary Kabuum upset from last year. See what I wrote for this in the CLG section. 1 - 1
- vs Pain Gaming: There is an outside chance that Mylon just runs wild and Pain rally to steal a game here in a matchup that is probably closer than people think. I still think it's more likely FW take both. 0 - 2
Total Record: 1 - 5 for 4th place in Group A
Group B - Fnatic, Invictus Gaming, AHQ e-Sports, Cloud 9
Invictus Gaming (Chinese #3 Seed)
Invictus Gaming (Chinese #3 Seed)
Members: Zzitai, KaKao, Rookie, Kid, Kitties, Time (sub)
- Very strong, versatile solo laners.
- Kakao is the best jungler in the world
- Press advantages very aggressively off of strong early game pressure.
- Bottom lane is comparitively weak.
- Team fighting leaves something to be desired.
- KaKao (world class): Kakao is the best jungler in the world, the best jungler in the tournament, and has no real competition at this tournament other than Clearlove. His versatility and in game decision making are incredible and he seemingly always finds the weak spot in the armor in other teams.He provides a huge advantage and if Invictus does well it will be on his back.
- Rookie (world class): Prior to leaving for China, Rookie was one of the top mid laners in Korea. He's versatile, proactive on the map, and punishes mistakes better than almost anybody besides maybe Faker. You could make an argument for him being the 2nd best mid on the planet and in a meta where the mid champion pool is pretty wide open he'll thrive and create opportunities for IG.
- Zzitai (world class): The veteran top lane carry is poised to make a massive impact at worlds this year. The meta is heavily in his favor and he is among the top players at his position in the world. He also has the best jungler in the world to help him.
Invictus are heavily reliant on their solo lanes and jungler to win games because their weak bot lane is just too unreliable. I made a point to discuss the concept of teamwork being more valuable than individual play than it has in previous seasons heading into this tournament but I think IG are one of the exceptions. Their individual talent at top, jungle, and mid are just so unbelievably strong that they will likely overpower this group in the draft and early in games to the point where it'll be difficult to make a comeback. That being said, this team is a bit two-faced. They can look like the best team on the planet and immediately afterwards look like a solo queue game. I'm not sure if it's a patch dependent problem or a psychological one but I think Invictus are coming into this tournament playing the best they have all year and with superstar players where it matters and their weakest players (bot lane) where it matters least in the current meta, I think they're poised for a good run at this tournament.
- vs Fnatic: I think Fnatic can come close to matching Invictus in the top and mid lanes but Kakao is a huge advantage over ReignOver, but Fnatic also has the significantly stronger bottom lane. I think Rekkles and Yellowstar will make enough of a difference in at least one game and this should be a pretty close 1-1.
- vs AHQ: I feel that AHQ match up particularly well with IG. Their solo lanes should be able to hold their own even if they're not quite better, and Mountain is a solid, underrated jungler. I think An is a significantly better ADC than Kid is and even in an underpowered ADC role I think enough of a difference can come from the support and ADC play and Invictus' tendancy to be inconsistent that AHQ should be able to take a game. 1-1
- vs Cloud 9: IG are just too damn good individually for Cloud 9 to keep up. I have a lot of respect for Hai's miracle playcalling ability but in a meta where ADC has a limited impact I'm not sure Sneaky and Lemon can carry hard enough against IG's weak bot lane. 2-0
Total Record: 4 - 2 and win in tiebreaker vs Fnatic for 1st place in Group B
Fnatic (European #1 Seed)
Members: Huni, ReignOver, Febiven, Rekkles, Yellowstar, Shylaya (sub)
- Strong sense of carry mindest in top and mid lane players. Ability to create large advantges out of small ones.
- Allocation of resources, team philosophy, and player champion pools all align very well with the expected metagame.
- Well coached with good adjustments from game to game.
- Great playmakers in every lane and the ability to make comebacks.
- Often get behind in games and have to comeback with superior team fighting or skirmishing.
- Rarely punished for their mistakes domestically which could tilt them when it happens at the highest level.
- ReignOver never needed to do much because his lanes weren't challenged domestically.
- Huni (world class): I actually do think Huni is a world class player. He hasn't had the chance to show it yet and his competition domestically is rather weak but I think he'll earn his stripes at Worlds this year. He has a massive champion pool, pushes advantages very aggressively, and more or less carried his team even with 2-3 bans thrown at him every single game. I don't think he's quite on the level of some of the other top laners at worlds and he'll probably have trouble against Zzitai and Ziv who are both in his group but that doesn't make him not a world class player at his position. It'll be interesting to see how he handles some real competition.
- Febiven (world class): I'm off and on with how I feel about Febiven. In much the same way as Huni he wasn't really tested domestically (although mid lane in Europe is significantly better than top lane). He showed at MSI that he could hang with the best (Faker) and although I feel that was sort of a fluke event, I will give respect to it because of how rare it actually is. I think Febiven and Huni are both world class players but I'm less sure about them adapting to superior competition.
- Yellowstar (world class): He's been around forever. He's played multiple roles, carried multiple players, makes plays, and and shown time and time again that he's one of the best supports in the world and, in all likelihood, the best Western player to ever play the game. Yellowstar has a chance to make a huge impact this year with the position being relatively weak in his group (Kiddies, Lemonnation, Albis/GreenTea) and if he can we could see Fnatic emerge first in their group.
- Rekkles: I'm not going to give him the world class designation but he has experience and seems to have his head on correctly this year from a psychological standpoint. He can hang with the best but he doesn't really proactively take advantages and drive them home like the best players do.
With Fnatic there is no question that they are a good team. It's not easy to go undefeated in any league no matter how weak. The question is just how much will their weak competition bring them down. Historically I'm the guy that would take a mid tier Korean team over anybody else in the world because the level of competition in Korea breeds stronger players and teams and this creates a level of consistency and tenacity that teams in weaker regions rarely show. While this strength of competition concept is something I normally adhere strongly to, and while I feel the West typically overrates their best teams going into international competitions, I actually do think the Fnatic is potentially the best chance the West will ever have at taking down a world championship. This team is the real deal. They've done pretty much everything they could possibly do to prove it. They lost two games in the entire Summer split, took two games off of SK Telecom (for my money the best team in the world), and have shown the ability to comeback even in games where they were losing. What else could you want? There is more, but realistically they've done everything they can possibly do to prove they're legit. The challenge is that this is a tough group with teams that can match them in positions they're strong at. AHQ and IG have world class junglers and tend to play around early leads very well which is something that Fnatic have not had to deal with domestically. Their tendency to get behind early in games could bite them because international level competition might not give you the same comeback opportunities as domestic teams did.
- vs Invictus Gaming: As I said in the IG section, I think Yellowstar and Rekkles can create enough of a mismatch and the solo lanes can hold down the fort well enough to take advantage of IG's tendancy to be inconsistent to take a game. I think IG is the better team overall and that Kakao poses an even bigger matchup, but I think Fnatic can manage to take one. 1-1
- vs AHQ: AHQ, IG, and Fnatic are all similarly built teams so these matchups should be pretty close. I don't think Fnatic is so much better than AHQ that they take this 2-0 but it wouldn't surprise me. I think Ziv and Westdoor are as good if not better than Huni and Febiven while Mountain is big advantage over ReignOver. The bot lane slightly favors Fnatic but I think Westerners are underrating An. AHQ are also a strong early game team that could actually punish Fnatic's tendancy to get behind in games. Should be a close 1-1.
- vs Cloud 9: This should be an easy 2-0 for Fnatic who just outclass Cloud 9 in almost every way. Even the shotcalling advantage you could argue that Hai brings could be limited by veteran Yellowstar. 2 - 0.
Total Record: 4 - 2 and a loss in tiebreaker vs Invictus for 2nd place in Group B
AHQ e-Sports (LMS/Taiwan #1 Seed)
Members: Ziv, Mountain, Westdoor, An, Albis/GreenTea
- Strong solo lanes and jungler
- Aggressive playmakers in Mountain and Westdoor create opportunity to defeat superior teams.
- Play their style of team comps very well and have a great macro game sense when playing them
- Excellent in small skirmishes.
- Not very versatile often playing the same style of team comps that revolve around Westdoor over and over. Predictable.
- Ziv, although a world class player, hasn't had to show much domestically and in a patch where the top lane is so important his small champion pool could become an inhibiting factor in the draft.
- Tend to play the same 4 - 1 split strategy without much diversity.
- Westdoor (world class): Another guy that's been around forever and while he hasn't had the showing at worlds that he'd like the guy has shown that he deserves to be there over and over. Much like last years Dade, has a limited champion pool that often contains a couple of off meta picks but his individual ability on those handful of champions (TF, Fizz, Ahri, etc), is so incredibly high that teams must have a game plan to deal with them.
- Mountain (world class): Mountain will be one of the most underrated players at this tournament heading in. This guy should be on a top tier Korean or Chinese team. Reminds me a lot of Dandy in his prime although not quite on that level. I think he's as good as Clearlove which would make him the 2nd or 3rd best jungler in this tournament and in a field where there are only a couple of world class players at his position this could create a huge advantage.
- Ziv (world class): Although he hasn't shown us much diversity and his champion pool might be suspect, Ziv has shown brilliant teleport plays time and time again and has found creative ways to manage being left out to dry by his team in lane swap scenarios and rough matchups. Ziv is more or less everything Dyrus wishes he could be. He does a lot with very little and opens up his teams resources to An, Mountain and Westdoor. Reminds me a lot of Looper from Samsung White.
I think both LMS teams are being severely underrated by the West. The region is significantly better than it used to be and both AHQ and Flash Wolves are stacked with both great veteran players and excellent up and coming talent. They're not quite good enough to have my confidence to win a tournament like this but they're certainly able to take games off of the second tier of teams. I have both AHQ and Flash Wolves not escaping groups but they're certainly not the push over that people seem to be treating them as. Both play excellently early and have the individual talent to hang with most of the teams at this competition. The only reason I'm not rating them higher is because I haven't seen anything to differentiate them from the other mid tier teams here.
- vs Invictus Gaming: AHQ matchup favorably with IG seeing as their solo lanes and more importantly their jungler can actually hang with IG's immense talent at those position. This will be one of the few times that Kakao is challenged in this tournament and I feel that AHQ's strong early game and IG's inconsistency will lead to AHQ taking a game. 1-1
- vs Fnatic: As I said in the Fnatic section these two teams are built similarly and while AHQ is predictable, they play the early game much better than Fnatic does and unlike Fnatic's domestic competition, I think they can hammer the advantage home and close one of these games. 1-1
- vs Cloud 9: This should be a relatively easy 2 - 0 for AHQ unless Cloud 9 find a way to cheese or something.
Total Record: 3 -3 for 3rd place in Group B
Cloud 9 (North American #3 Seed)
Members: Balls, Hai, Incarnation, Sneaky, LemonNation
- Shotcalling savant Hai can make miracles happen.
- Mostly veterans with some worlds experience.
- New player at jungle position.
- New player at jungle position that has two of the best junglers in the world in this group.
- Only made it to worlds on a miraculous run through the domestic gauntlet after an abysmal showing during the first half of the summer.
- Sneaky (world class): I may be rating him a bit highly but I think Sneaky is an excellent player that straight up carried this team last year at worlds and for almost all of their wins in both splits this season. In a role that is diminished in impact, he makes plays and finds ways to carry where others often can't.
The run is over people. I hate to burst your bubble but this team shouldn't even be here and it's pretty sad that they are. Was it entertaining to watch them run the gauntlet in crazy comeback fashion like they did? Sure. But the fact is this team was almost relegated. On the year they have a combined game record of 19-19 during the regular season and 4 - 4 in the playoffs. During their gauntlet run to get here they went down 0-2 to both Gravity and Team Impulse before reverse sweeping and then also dropped a game to Team Liquid in the Regional Final. This team is a basically a .500 team. They're not good. They struggled greatly in a region that's relatively weak. They won't be able to hold up to the rigors of international competition unless they miraculously get good overnight or successfully cheese. I don't even think this team is good enough to take advantage if another team makes a critical mistake.
- vs Invictus Gaming: C9 just can't hold up to the individual skill disparity here. 0 - 2
- vs AHQ: Not even on the same level as AHQ but if C9 somehow wins a game it'd probably be here. 0 - 2
- vs Fnatic: Not on the same level here either. 0 - 2
Total Record: 0 - 6 for 4th place in Group B
Group C - SK Telecom T1, Edward Gaming, H2k-Gaming, and Bangkok Titans
SK Telecom T1 (Korean #1 Seed)
SK Telecom T1 (Korean #1 Seed)
Members: Marin, Bengi, Faker, Bang, Wolf, Easyhoon (sub)
- Very strong in every lane, especially solo lanes
- Veterans Faker and Bengi already have a world championship.
- Probably the best macro game in the world. Rarely take fights that they aren't a high percent to win. Take necessary and calculated risks to push advantages or to comeback in a game. Always seem to have the right answer.
- Nearly unbeatable draft versatility and huge depth of champion pools throughout the team.
- Ability to play drastically different strategies and team compositions from game to game while maintaining the highest level of play.
- While certainly not weak, teamfighting is not quite up to the level of other top Korean or Chinese competition.
- Bengi can be a streaky player but has been playing at his highest level the most recently.
- Faker (world class): He's the best player in the world people. Incredibly deep champion pool, aggressive, proactive on the map, perhaps the most punishing player ever to play this game. Quietly had what I feel is the best seasons of his career this year and the meta is also shifting in his favor which is frightening.
- Marin (world class): While he may not be the best carry top laner in the tournament he's one of the best. He's also the most versatile of the top laners at this tournament. Has shown great success against the best in the business in his region (Ssumday, Duke, Smeb, etc) and has shown the consistency to be considered one of, if not the best in the world as his position.
- Bang (world class): Doesn't typically play the risk taking, hard carry style of players like Uzi or Imp but has shown the capability to do so when called upon. Rock solid in lane and positions well to cleanup the work that Marin and Faker put in.
- Bengi (world class): He can be streaky but at the moment Bengi is playing the best I've ever seen him play both mechanically and strategically.
- Easyhoon (world class, sub): Interesting to me that they'd bring Easyhoon and not Tom as a contingency for Bengi playing poorly but the fact is the Easyhoon is one of the best mid laners on the planet and is just stuck behind the best player to ever play this game in Faker.
- Wolf: Not quite world class at a tournament where Pyl, Yellowstar, and others are running around but can certainly hold his own against them.
SK Telecom T1 are my pick to win worlds this year. They're simply too good at too many positions with too many compositions that you can't ban this team out or escape the draft with any sort of advantage whatsoever. They have superstar playmaking ability in Faker and Marin in the positions that matter the most (mid and top) and veteran presence to keep things reeled in if things go wrong. Kkoma is an incredible coach that will put them in positions to succeed. The only way to beat this team is to first get them to teamfight you without an advantage which rarely happens, and then to out teamfight them which is a feat only a handful of teams can even come close to doing. All of this while shutting down the world's best player. Unlike at MSI where they were hampered by jet lag and having played a final days before, SKT will be laser focused and ready to take on the world at this tournament and with their ability to adapt and a patch where adaptation will be key I just can't see any reasonable scenario where they lose without another team vastly overperforming and SKT dramatically underperforming. Also due to the format they cannot play one of the only teams that can potentially beat them (EDG) until the Finals because they'll be placed on a different side of the bracket.
- vs Edward Gaming: This should be a good series. My gut tells me SKT take care of business and 2-0 this but EDG is one of the few teams equipped to handle SKT with Pawn (the Faker slayer) and their myriad of star players. EDG also teamfights quite well which could be an advantage. Should be close but I think SKT 2 - 0.
- vs H2k: Every year there is one group that is super top heavy and this is it this year. H2k don't have a chance in hell at beating SKT. 2 - 0.
- vs Bangkok Titans: The worst team in the tournament vs the best team in the tournament... I wonder if we'll see Faker's Teemo? 2 - 0.
Total Record: 6 - 0 for 1st place in Group C
Edward Gaming (Chinese #2 Seed)
Members: AmazingJ, Clearlove, Pawn, Deft, Meiko, Koro1 (Sub?!?*)
- Incredibly strong, world class players at every role except top (If Koro1 was playing I'd say at top as well)
- Play a variety of strategies and team compositions which make them a nightmare to draft against.
- Excellent macro game
- Play equally well from ahead and behind.
- Well coached by Aaron and Reapered.
- AmazingJ is still an excellent player but is arguably the only weakness on this team.
- Clearlove (world class): Kakao and Clearlove are the two best junglers at this tournament and will create a huge advantage for their respective teams. Has fixed a lot of his issues and lack of aggression and early playmaking that haunted him earlier in his career. Clearlove is the full package.
- Pawn (world class): Last years world champion mid laner is back for another go this time and with the meta shifting in his favor people will have to find a way to deal with him. Has shown well against Faker in the past.
- Deft (world class): Deft was solid last year at worlds but not at his peak. Has fixed the main problem he had as a player which was weak early laning phase. During the Spring he was likely the best player in the world and has somehow gotten better than the colossal expectations placed on him from last year. Arguably the best ADC in the world.
- Meiko (world class): It certainly helps when you're playing with the superstars but Meiko has shown a knack for playmaking and pressing advantages. He sees openings a lot of players miss and capitalizes.
- Koro1 (world class, sub): It appears (as of this writing) that EDG will be going with AmazingJ and NOT veteran Koro1. I guess they feel AmazingJ is better suited for this patch but much like with SKT, Edward Gaming have a world class bench player if necessary.
The elephant in the room is how much of an effect can AmazingJ have on this team. He's new to the worlds stage, generally considered an inferior player, albeit not by much, and this is a relatively late substitution. There is a chance this ruins EDG's chances at a title. There's also a chance that it helps them. Koro was dealing with an injury which could also be the reason. This team has enough talent elsewhere to get the job done in groups and most of the bracket. The only teams I can really see beating EDG are SK Telecom, LGD, and KT Rolster and even still they'd be favored of KT. My concern is that this will put a limit on their ceiling. I'm not quite sure they can actually beat SK Telecom without Koro1 but if you can't beat the strongest team in the world and that's it then that's a pretty good problem to have. This team is still excellent.
- vs SK Telecom: I think this series is close and that EDG has the tools to win but SKT will still take this down in 2 close games. 0 - 2
- vs H2k: These teams aren't even in the same ballpark. 2 - 0
- vs Bangkok Titans: Again, not even close to the same ballpark. 2 - 0.
Total Record: 4 - 2 for 2nd place in Group C
H2k-Gaming (European #2 Seed)
Members: Odoamne, Loulex, Ryu, Hjarnan, Kasing
- Strong strategic team that usually game plans well.
- Well coached by Prolly and will likely have some unique picks planned to try to upset the top teams in their group.
- Weaker recently than earlier in the year.
- New jungler??
- No particularly strong individual talents means they are going to be behind in most games.
- KaSing: Not quite a world class player but a solid, playmaking support that will find windows of opportunity.
- Ryu: Not quite what he used to be but had a strong showing this year overall. Will be fun to see the Ryu vs Faker rematch although we all know how it's going to end.
I like H2k as a team and that they are a strong strategic team in a recent meta where that matters more but for some reason they've been performing weaker lately. I'm not sure if they're just in a slump or what but even if they were playing at their best level they just don't have the tools to compete internationally. They should be able to 2 - 0 Bangkok Titans but this was just a brutal draw to get EDG and SKT in the same group effectively ruined their chances. That being said they could be the team to watch for cheese. Prolly comes up with some crazy ideas and they have nothing to lose. Perhaps they could play spoiler?
- vs SK Telecom: No chance. 0 - 2
- vs EDG: No chance. 0 - 2
- vs Bangkok Titans: They should be able to 2 - 0 what I consider the worst team in the tournament.
Total Record: 2 - 4 for 3rd place in Group C
Bangkok Titans (International Wildcard: Southeast Asia Seed)
Members: Warl0ck, 007x, G4, Lloyd, Moss
- So ridiculously aggressive they could catch somebody off guard?
- Recklessly aggressive
- Weak individual players compared to the competition
- G4: He's not a world class player but he's the linchpin to this team. Plays dedicated assassins for picks and split pushes.
The Titans just don't stand a chance. Sorry to say because they're a fun team to watch but they just have no business competing here. They play so insanely aggressive that they throw other teams off their game and there is a long shot that they maybe just get in the heads of a team like H2k and take a game but they're too inconsistent and lack the individual skills to pull that style off on an international stage.
- vs SK Telecom: Best team vs Worst team... 0 - 2
- vs EDG: Not a chance... 0 - 2
- vs H2k: I think H2k 2 - 0 this but there is a chance the Titans ridiculously aggressive style just throws them off for a game. 0 - 2
Total Record: 0 - 6 for 4th place in Group C