Worlds is here! The biggest League of Legends esports event of the year began on October 5th with a three-day group stage for the Play-ins. This introductory part of the tournament features the champions of the six minor regions and lower seeds from four of the major regions.
The format is the same as last year - teams are placed in two groups of five. After a single round robin, the top team from each group advances to the main event groups, while the second, third and fourth-place teams continue in a series of elimination best of five games. Each group’s third and fourth seeds face off against each other, with the winners taking on the second seeds from the other group for the remaining two main event spots.
The Worlds draw saw the two teams many expected to be the strongest - LPL and LCK fourth seeds LNG Esports and Hanwha Life Esports - sent to group A as the heavy favorites alongside Latin America’s Infinity Esports, Oceania’s PEACE and Brazil’s RED Canids. Group B, meanwhile, saw PCS runners-up Beyond Gaming and LCS third seed Cloud9 joined by Turkey’s Galatasaray Esports, Japan’s Detonation FocusMe and the CIS region representatives Unicorns of Love. So, what did the teams have to offer after three days of games?
Group A: Triumph for LNG
Unlike last year, which had LGD Gaming barely made it out, LNG showed very clearly that the LPL’s fourth seed was nothing to mess with. They took down Hanwha in the opening game of the event and proceeded to rack up three more decisive wins. With three main event groups already featuring a LPL team, LNG’s main group spot was clear - they will go to group D and fight against MAD Lions, Gen.G and Team Liquid.
Hanwha Life, meantwhile, had to settle for second after losing their opening bout. While they had some difficulties early on with Infinity, they found their stride the longer the tournament lasted and saw little trouble against PEACE and RED Canids.
The Oceania representatives had a hard stat, but for good and bad they had to take on the two group favorites first. In their games against Infinity and RED Canids, PEACE had a much stronger showing. Former Legacy mid laner James "Tally" Shute and his bot laner Vincent "Violet" Wong had a very impressive performance and PEACE deservedly got third place.
The last two teams of the group are Brazil’s RED Canids and :atin America’s Infinity Esports. While the CBLOL champions had some ups and downs, they do come in the best of fives as underdogs. Infinity, sadly, have to go home after a fairly disappointing event. The team had some flashes of talents but never quite looked on the level of their opponents.
Group B: Detonation Blow up our Plans
LJL champions Detonation FocusMe are the heroes of the Play-in stage- and they had to work for it. DFM were routed in their opening game against Cloud9 and looked a bit shaky in their first win against UoL, but they slowly ramped up and victories against Galatasaray and Beyond sent them to a rematch against Cloud9 after the LCS team dropped a game against UoL. The tiebreaker was close and DFM looked to be on the back foot for a while, but their ability to force teamfights against C9’s poke composition proved key.
Cloud9, meanwhile, were so close to an undefeated run through the play-ins - and until the last day, it looked quite deserved. Luka "Perkz" Perković was on point from the start and all around him the LCS spring champion was firing on all cylinders. However, C9 stumbled in their last game against a determined Unicorns of love, which forced the tiebreaker with DFM. In it, Cloud9 overcame a poor start and looked in control of the game before several poor decisions allowed DFM to come back - and win.
TCL representatives racked two impressive wins against initial favorites Beyond Gaming and Unicorns of love on day one, but they were unable to keep up the pressure. Losses to DFM and Cloud9 on the second day resulted in a 2:2 score for Galatasaray and they will fight in the elimination rounds.
The second team that will join them there is Beyond Gaming. Despite coming in as favorites as the PCS runner-up and flashes of brilliance in several games, Beyond were just not able to close most of their games up. Their two wins came against Unicorns of Love, where BG racked an early lead and managed to stay ahead. The team has one more chance in the Bo5s, but so far it has left fans disappointed.
Finally, Unicorns of Love must go home after another dissatisfying international tournament. They let DFM turn the first game against them and fell behind far too far in the early game against Galatasaray and Beyond. An inspired Senna/Sion bot lane helped them trip Cloud9, but their early game problems surfaced again in the rematch against Beyond.
LNG and Detonation FocusMe continue on to the groups and Infinity and UoL must head home. For the other teams, the play-ins enters its elimination stage. Friday will feature two best of five series, the first between Beyond Gaming and Galatasaray and the second featuring PEACE and Red Canids. The victors will take on Hanwha Life Esports and Cloud9 respectively on Saturday for the last two main event spots.
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