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League of Legends World Championships 2018 Preview

24 September 2018 11:05

It’s almost time for the biggest event in the League of Legends calendar: the 2018 World Championships. Set to take place in South Korea, this year’s tournament will be notable for some extraordinary absences and some fan-favourite teams making their Worlds debuts. The Championship play-ins will start on October 1st, with the main event set to kick off on October 10th. We take a look at how Worlds is shaping up so far and see which teams are predicted to lift the trophy.

The Story of Qualifying

In one of the biggest shocks of qualifying, former world champions and last year’s runners up SK Telecom failed to make it to this year’s tournament, missing out for the first time since 2014. They lost in round one of the LCK regional finals to last year’s World Championship winners Gen.G (formerly named Samsung Galaxy). The absence of SKT’s superstar mid laner Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok and the rest of his team leaves the door wide open for the other competitors.

China’s Edward Gaming maintained their five-year streak of Worlds qualification by beating rookies Rogue Warriors, but the play-ins will provide an extra hurdle for them to overcome. They qualified behind first seeds Royal Never Give Up, who won their second LPL title of the year when they beat Invictus Gaming to take the Summer Split in a closely fought 3-2 series. IG complete the lineup at Worlds as China’s second seed.

Qualifying in North America was a story of firsts. Team Liquid swept Cloud9 3-0 in the finals of the NA LCS Summer Split en route to their first ever World Championships appearance. TL bot laner and Worlds veteran Yiliang "Doublelift" Peng was instrumental in winning his team’s place in the competition in his first year since transferring from NA rivals Team SoloMid. He and former world champion Jung "Impact" Eon-yeong put on a clinic in the closing stages of the NA LCS to make a big statement heading into League of Legends’ premier tournament.

TSM may be regretting the loss of their highly-skilled bot laner, as they failed to qualify for the World Championships for the first time ever. They fell in the NA regional qualifiers to a Cloud9 team who had to regroup quickly after their disappointing loss to Team Liquid in the LCS Finals. It capped the end of a poor season for TSM, who will have serious questions to ask themselves before the Spring LCS commences.

Fnatic’s level-headed play and headline-grabbing counterpicking led to their seventh EU LCS title and qualification for the World Championships as Europe’s first seed. AD Carry Martin “Rekkles” Larsson featured heavily in their 3-1 series victory over Schalke 04 in the LCS Finals, and he will be one of the players to watch at Worlds, as will mid laner and summer MVP Rasmus "Caps" Winther. Team Vitality qualified as second seed to win their first ever appearance at the World Championships, and the last spot in the EU roster was filled by G2 Esports, whose lineup changes after last year’s Worlds didn’t prevent them from qualifying for this year’s tournament.

Tournament Format

Twelve teams have qualified automatically for the Worlds group stage, but before that another 12 teams will battle it out in the play-ins to fill the last four spots in the main event.

The 12 play-in teams are drawn into four groups. They will compete in a double round-robin format, with the top two teams from each group advancing. In round 2, each group winner will be randomly drawn against a second-placed team, and the winner of each of these best of five matches will advance to the main event of the League of Legends World Championships 2018.

The group stage of the main event also takes a double round-robin format, with the top two teams from each group advancing to the knockout stage. For the Quarterfinals, each group winner will again be randomly drawn against a second-placed team. All matches after that point take a best of 5, single elimination format.

Qualified Teams

The live draw for the World Championships Play-Ins and Group stage took place on 23rd September. Below you can see which teams were drawn against each other:

Play-in Group A

  • Edward Gaming
  • Infinity eSports
  • Dire Wolves

Play-in Group B

  • G2 Esports
  • BAUSuperMassive
  • Ascension Gaming

Play-in Group C

  • Cloud9
  • KaBuM! e-Sports
  • DetonatioN FocusMe

Play-in Group D

  • G-Rex
  • Gambit Esports
  • Kaos Latin Gamers

Main Event Group A

  • Flash Wolves
  • Afreeca Freecs
  • Phong Vu Buffalo
  • TBD

Main Event Group B

  • Royal Never Give Up
  • Gen.G
  • Team Vitality
  • TBD

Main Event Group C

  • KT Rolster
  • MAD Team
  • Team Liquid
  • TBD

Main Event Group D

  • Fnatic
  • 100 Thieves
  • Invictus Gaming
  • TBD

The Meta

Patch 8.19 will be rolled out shortly before Worlds commences and will mainly offer some small balance changes. Elise’s Rappel (Spider E) will receive a cooldown decrease, undoing a nerf from last year’s Worlds patch. The champion has seen very limited play this year, but the buff could encourage some more creative team comps at this year’s tournament.

Tahm Kench, on the other hand, has seen plenty of action this summer and receives a balance update for Worlds. The champion’s base HP will be decreased from 610 to 540 and HP gain per level will increase from 95 to 102, nerfing his early threat slightly but helping to extend his effectiveness into the mid- to late-game. Thresh’s Death Sentence (Q) will also be buffed with a mana and cooldown decrease, increasing the potential for some highlight reel plays.

The patch also features the Kha’Zix Championship skin and a bunch of new chromas, as well as a new Hextech skin for Malzahar. The official patch notes for 8.19 are expected to be released soon on the official League of Legends website.

Championships Preview

Is South Korea’s dominance on the League of Legends circuit coming to an end? The unexpected absence of SK Telecom from this year’s tournament could give teams from other regions a huge chance to take the title, or it could just pave the way for Gen.G to retain their crown. It certainly won’t be easy; Korea's KT Rolster head into the tournament as the favourites, with Royal Never Give Up as second favouries.

Bookmakers certainly don’t have high hopes for the teams from the Western leagues, to the extent that play-in qualifiers EDG are favoured over all seeded EU and NA teams, even though they have more games to play to win the Championships. The LCK and LPL teams are the top six favourites to win, followed by the Taiwan-based Flash Wolves.

After the Worlds live draw, attention will no doubt be on main event group B, which sees LPL winners and tournament second-favourites Royal Never Give Up drawn against defending world champions Gen.G for the third year in a row. Those two teams are a shoo-in to make it to the Quarterfinals, but their group game against each other is a scintillating prospect. It could also be a rehearsal for the Finals, as that is the only other stage at which they could face each other. Team Vitality, drawn third in that group of death, have a big hill to climb to make it to the Knockout Stage.

There are a few teams that will be watching the play-ins closely. In their first appearance at Worlds, Team Liquid already have the tough prospect of competing against tournament favourites KT Rolster, and they face the very real possibility of seeing Edward Gaming drop into group C as their last opponent. If they can avoid EDG, TL have a good chance of making it through to the Quarterfinals.

If they get through the play-ins, TL’s North American rivals Cloud9 have a tough challenge ahead of them. They can’t be drawn in a main event group with another NA team, which means that they can only land in group A alongside Flash Wolves, Afreeca Freecs, and Phong Vu Buffalo, or in the dreaded group B, with RNG, Gen.G and Vitality. C9’s Worlds could be a short one.

It is difficult to see any team overcoming the contenders from the LCK and LPL. Everything at the moment is lining up for a Finals matchup between RNG and Gen.G, but it is by no means a foregone conclusion. Of the EU and NA teams, Fnatic surely have the best chance of progressing deep into the tournament. They’ll avoid the biggest danger from the play-ins – EDG – as they already have Invictus Gaming from China in their group. Instead, they’ll see an outside chance from one of the smaller regions occupy the final spot in their group, so they should at least make it to the Knockout Stage.

Whatever happens, this year’s League of Legend World Championships has all the makings of a classic, and all it takes is one big upset to split the tournament wide open.

Pulished on:
Updated on: 2018-11-27

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