Both in the world of traditional sports and eSports, mind-boggling upsets happen occasionally. When they do, people are shocked. Then, they pay more attention to the team that provided the upset. If that team does it again, people start rooting for it, they get on the hype train and ride it to the end, no matter if the team is ultimately successful or falls short. It’s just the nature of people to root for the underdog, once he gives a glimpse of hope for victory. In this year’s League of Legends Worlds, there were two underdogs, Albus NoX Luna from the CIS and INTZ e-Sports from Brazil. While the Brazilians still have an opportunity to surprise everyone on Saturday, Albus NoX Luna has done it already.
Playing in the same group as ROX Tigers, G2 Esports and Counter Logic Gaming, Albus NoX Luna was written off as a lamb for slaughter. Most experts strongly agreed that the two tributes to the Playoffs from Group A were sure to be ROX and G2, in that order. Well, that is NOT what happened.
While G2 struggled, Albus players rose to the occasion in a huge way, upsetting CLG first and then going on to beat G2 Esports as well in Week 1. Then, in Week 2, they brought the thunder against CLG once again and came out of the darkness, screaming WASAAAAAAP in ROX Tigers’ faces. The Korean superteam flinched first, surprising everyone, themselves included.
Before the first five minutes of the game were over and done with, ANX started targetting ROX Kuro, the weakest player (who could probably be one of the best in any other non-Korean team), Lee “Kuro” Seo-haeng in the mid lane. After not one but two ganks in the span of around two minutes, Albus was starting strong, only stopped when their Support, Kirill “Likkrit” Malofeev got caught on the Dragon side of the river. Following that, the teams skirmished all over the map, with ANX getting a big turret advantage 30+ minutes into the game, as well as an 8k gold advantage. Three barons (2 for ROX and 1 for ANX) and a ninja Elder Dragon later, the game was approaching 60 minutes, when ANX started pushing into ROX’s base. The attempt was thwarted.
A couple of minutes later, ANX, with a 5k gold advantage, were trying to get themselves a Baron for the final push they needed, however, Yoon “Peanut” Wang-ho turned on the Hero Modu and stole it. Remember the 2 Barons ROX had before? Yeah, one of them was stolen by Kuro with considerable help by Peanut. With both teams having around 100k gold, which means full builds for everyone and awfully long death timers, everyone played extremely carefully.
Once ROX’s Baron timed out, Albus NoX Luna mounted an offensive on the ROX base, getting numerous inhibitors at the cost of four of their people’s lives. With three inhibs down, and the only Nexus turret still standing on it’s last slivers of health, ROX couldn’t end the game. A couple of minutes later, while ANX’s Michael “Kira” Garmash was grandstanding in the middle lane on his Vladimir, the rest of his team took Baron once again. That spelled huge trouble for ROX. If you’ve ever played League of Legends, you know how hard it is to defend against five people with Baron, while two inhibitors are down. ROX Tried to push the Russians away from the top one, however, their efforts were unsuccessful. With only the Nexus and the ROX squad standing between ANX and its troop of Baroned up Super Minions, the CIS guys went for the Koreans’ throats. ROX tried their best to defend, they killed everyone except for Likkrit’s Taric and Dmitri “Smurf” Ivanov’s Poppy. Unfortunately for the Koreans and fortunately for everyone who loves surprising League of Legends scores, the Super Minions were too much. They brought the Nexus down. Albus NoX Luna won against ROX Tigers, the best team in the tournament.
Following this extremely surprising result, Albus NoX Luna, now in first place in the standings, played G2 Esports and lost, tieing for first place with ROX, which defeated CLG in their last matchup of the regular group phase. Now, the only thing left was to play the tiebreaker, to figure which team, ROX or ANX, would go to the Playoffs as the first seed in the tournament. Unfortunately for us, the Tigers learned their lesson from the first game and comfortably smacked the Russians around, winning the match in 29 minutes, with an 18k gold advantage.
Did ROX Tigers underestimate ANX in the first game of the day? Yes, probably. Did they CIS team deserve to win that first match? Yes. It was an hour long slugfest, where Albus NoX Luna outplayed the best team in the world in the extreme late game, where the Koreans shine the most. Would they win a best of five against ROX? Well… No. But it’s hella exciting when upsets like this happen. This was similar to Rocky IV, where Balboa earned the love of the Russian crowd by continuously standing up to the Russian Juggernaut. This time, the underdog was Russian and the Juggernaut was Korean, but the point stands. This. Was. Awesome.