Over the last four days, more than 20 matches have been played at the 2017 League of Legends World Championship. Sixteen teams fought to start on the right foot and earn themselves a spot in the Playoffs and a chance to lift the Summoner’s Cup. While some teams are going through the opposition like a freight train, just as expected, others are struggling out of nowhere. There are also those teams which perform way above expectations, leading us to expect four days of League of Legends excitement when the matches continue on Thursday.
In Group A, the biggest surprise is the performance of one of the favorites, EDward Gaming. The Chinese legends were expected to not only make it into the Playoffs as second seed from Group A, but maybe even to challenge the reigning World Champion, SK Telecom T1 for the first place in the standings. And yet, EDG is sitting in last place with three losses out of the same number of games.
EDG’s trouble started in their first match against ahq e-Sports Club, where they fought their opponents on an even footing for a very long time, eventually managed to build a huge lead, but then lost a single team fight, giving Chou “An” Chun-An and the rest of the ahq team a huge opening, which eventually cost them the game despite the great gold advantage they had. In their match against SK Telecom T1, EDG dominated for the majority of the game, even reaching a 10k gold lead at 29 minutes but then, the Koreans found an opportunity and started coming back, eventually winning the match in a soul-crushing fashion. After the two frustrating losses, their match against Cloud9 may have come as a bit of a relief. No, EDG didn’t win, but at least they didn’t have a huge lead and blow it this time; in fact, C9 were ahead for most of this match.
The rest of the standings in Group A make sense, ignoring the EDG abnormality. Cloud9 lost to SK Telecom T1 but won against ahq, getting second place in the standings, while ahq lost to both SK and C9, taking third with a 1-2 record.
Fnatic’s woes is the biggest story of Group B. While the European LCS’ third seed team wasn’t really expected to make it into the Playoffs, they were at least supposed to place higher than GIGABYTE Marines. In fact, GAM was FNC’s first opponent on Day 1 of the Group Stage. The game was a bit weird, to be honest. Fnatic picked Karma and Elise, two champions which aren’t really known for their popularity in the professional scene right now, while GAM ran with Nocturne jungle and Lulu support with Ignite and Heal as its Summoner Spells. In a 24 minute game that had start growing a lead past 10 minutes more or less reliably, Fnatic lost and had a big challenge on their hands.
The match against Immortals was soul-crushing for Fnatic. They had a mediocre lead for most of the game but their NA opponents successfully stopped them from snowballing it out of control. This match was especially crushing for Fnatic’s star AD Carry, Martin “Rekkles” Larsson because he was by far the strongest player on Fnatic and lost his team the game after an aggressive Flash. With Rekkles down, Immortals capitalized and ran down the map to the Nexus. The last match against Longzhu Gaming was… Let’s just say that nobody but the most die-hard Fnatic fans expected the EU team to actually win. Indeed, win they did not. Longzhu was done with Fnatic around the 20 minute mark.
The rest of the Group Stage went more or less like expected. GIGABYTE Marines lost to both Immortals and Fnatic, Immortals lost to Longzhu Gaming despite being ahead by 1-2k gold for a big part of the game.
Group C was the ones that didn’t have any great surprises. Just like expected, Samsung Galaxy and Royal Never Give Up are on top after four days of play, with only the order in the standings just a little bit unexpected. After all, most people would have bet on Samsung Galaxy as the first in the standings instead of RNG. Still, it’s not like the games in this group were without drama.
The most interesting moments in the group came in the games where 1907 Fenerbahçe Esports tried to upset their opponents. Despite handily losing to both RNG and G2, 1907 Fenerbahçe came close to winning against Samsung Galaxy. For the first 32 minutes of the game, they actually held a gold lead and looked to be a more cohesive team despite having to play with a replacement jungler, Vici Gaming’s Lee “Crash” Dong-woo. But then, Samsung found their opening and took off, closing out the game in the next 10 minutes or so.
I freely admit to having PTSD from last year’s World Championship, where Team SoloMid failed to make it out of the Group Stage despite being predicted to belong in the top 4 of the event. Last year, they were incapable of winning unless they won the early game. This year, it’s completely the opposite. In all three games they played over the last four days of Worlds, they were behind early. Two out of three times, they actually managed to recover and come back. They were down 5.4k gold at 34 minutes against Flash Wolves but won, they played against Team WE more or less evenly and won, they were down 2-3k against Misfits… and lost. Why did they lose? Misfits took away Tristana and Lulu, which was one of the best bot lane combos for TSM. Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng was left playing Kog’Maw, an immobile late game hyper-carry with only Nami for protection.
While Nami can disengage pretty well, it can’t really protect Kog’Maw. With Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage fed on LeBlanc and playing it almost to perfection, Team SoloMid lost. Group D is very interesting currently because three teams have 2-1 records. When Worlds Group Stage comes back on Thursday, we will have to watch and see how it turns out. There could easily be surprises, especially if Misfits keeps exceeding expectations.