The biggest event of the year in League of Legends, the World Championship, will start on Saturday, Sept. 23. If you’re anxious to see teams like SK Telecom T1, Longzhu Gaming, Royal Never Give Up, Immortals, G2 Esports, or Team SoloMid play, you’re out of luck. The tournament will start with a Play-in Stage.
How will the Play-In work?
The Play-In is made of 12 teams sorted into four groups of three. The teams will play against each team of their group in best of 1 matches twice. When all matches are done, the two best teams out of each group will advance further.
Then, the eight teams which made it to the Round 2 will be randomly paired off against each other. The #1 seeds will play against #2 seeds. The winners of these matches will qualify for the Group Stage of the World Championship.
What do the Groups look like?
Group A features Team WE, Gambit.CIS, and Lyon Gaming.
Obviously, Team WE is the overwhelming favorite to win this group. This season alone, they won the LPL Spring Playoffs, made the Semifinals in the Mid-Season Invitational, and defeated South Korea in Rift Rivals – Red.
Gambit.CIS is the most likely second-best team in the tournament with old-school veterans Danil “Diamondprox” Reshetnikov and Edward “Edward” Abgaryan making their World Championship return, supported by last year’s Worlds surprise, Albus NoX Luna’s Alexander “PvPStejos” Glazkov and Michael “Kira” Garmash.
Group B has Cloud9, Team oNe eSports, and LG Dire Wolves.
Cloud9 is obviously favored to come out of the Group Stage of the Play-In as the #1 seed, despite the problems they’ve been having following the 2017 NA LCS Spring Split Finals. Even though they aren’t what you’d call dominating, the relative weakness of the regions their competition comes from makes it more than likely that C9 will make it out of Group B.
After all, CBLoL, which was won by Team oNe eSports, the Brazilian League of Legends league, hasn’t been known for its competitive power. The Australian champions, LG Dire Wolves are also unlikely to challenge C9’s right to the first seed, though the battle for the second seed might be entertaining if not the best example of quality League of Legends. We confess we don’t know much about either the Brazilian league or Australia, so the winner of the #2 seed is a guess at best. We do think that Team oNe eSports is slightly favored, though.
Group C features Fnatic, Young Generation, and Kaos Latin Gamers.
Obviously, Fnatic is the favorite in this group. Even though they placed third in the 2017 EU LCS Summer Split Playoffs after sensationally losing to Misfits, the team recovered well in the Regional Qualifiers.
Probably the biggest threat and the most likely candidate to make it to Round 2 of the Play-In are Young Generation. While we confess to not knowing enough about both the GPL and CLS, where YG and KLG come from, it seems like Young Generation might be a bigger threat, going simply by the GIGABYTE Marines’ streak of upsets at the 2017 Mid-Season Invitational. While Young Generation lost to the Marines in the GPL Finals, it’s possible that they could be stronger than the Latin American Kaos Latin Gamers.
Group D features HK Attitude, 1907 Fenerbahçe, and Rampage.
This group should be more entertaining than the others, simply because it doesn’t have a team from one of the Major regions to take the spot of the favorite. This group represents what the Play-In Stage is meant to be—a chance for the less popular regions to show their in-Rift chops against the World Championship audience.
With that said, even this group has its likely favorites in HK Attitude and 1907 Fenerbahçe. HKA qualified for Worlds from the LMS, one of the more respectable outsider regions, while 1907 Fenerbahçe actually has a couple of South Korean players, former Unicorns of Love Jungler Kang “Move” Min-su and former Longzhu Gaming Mid Laner, Kim “Frozen” Tae-il. In the face of this, Japanese Rampage’s chances to make it to Round 2 seem a little bit slim. After all, the Japanese aren’t at all known for their League of Legends prowess, unlike their neighbors China and South Korea.
If everything goes as expected, here are the teams we expect to make it into Round 2:
#1 Team WE
#2 Team oNe eSports (with reservations)
#2 Young Generation
#1 1907 Fenerbahçe
#2 HK Attitude
What does this leave us with?
Team WE would play against either Team oNe, Young Generation, or HK Attitude in Round 2. There’s no way they could lose barring some major upset.
Cloud9 would face either Gambit.CIS, Young Generation, or HK Attitude. If Gambit gets matched against C9, Gambit’s return to the World Championship might be over before it could begin.
Fnatic will most likely face Gambit.CIS, Team oNe eSports, or HK Attitude. Personally, we would be quite happy about a matchup between Gambit and Fnatic, if only to see a classic matchup once again. Hell, some players, like Paul “sOAZ” Boyer, Edward, and Diamondprox, actually played this matchup as the LCS Europe Season 3 Spring Finals! To be clear, we don’t really expect Gambit.CIS to win. All we’re saying is that it would be awesome for nostalgia.
1907 Fenerbahçe will face either Gambit.CIS, Team oNe eSports, or Young Generation. Honestly, getting seeded into a match against the #1 seed from Group D, no matter what it is, is Gambit’s best chance to make it into the Group Stage of the World Championship.