Brandon Sturak

Brandon Sturak

Brandon is a Niagara University graduate with a passion for esports. He writes about League of Legends and esports, with analysis and commentary on both. He is a founding member Niagara University Esports and the previous mid laner/coach for the NU Esports LoL team. Twitter @GhandiLoL

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League of Legends: Worlds 2019 | Main Event Group Previews

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The 2019 World Championship Main Event will soon be upon us! Sixteen teams are set to battle it out to decide who is truly the best LoL team in the world. The stakes have never been higher for these teams to prove themselves and defy all expectations. They come here from different regions and different circumstances, but one thing is for certain, they're here to win. There are four groups, each with their own relative power levels and histories, so its time to take a deep dive into every one of them in preparation for the biggest LoL event of the year!

Group A

G2 ESPORTS (“G2”)

G2 qualified for Worlds early in the Summer Split due to their year-round dominance of the LEC. While they were guaranteed at least the 3rd seed, the team pushed forward in the Summer Playoffs to secure the first seed. The team won the finals with a close 3-2 series against Fnatic. Unfortunately for their opponent, G2’s top laner Martin “Wunder” Nordahl Hansen later revealed they were saving picks for the World stage.

Even with what they’ve shown, G2 is considered the tournament favorite by many. Their hidden picks will only increase their likelihood of victory. Solo lane Pyke came from them at MSI, and nobody can predict what they have in store for the World stage. The team has no glaring weakness, holding the best of Europe in every position. Each of their players is reportedly able to play every champion in the game and they’ve done their best to prove it. Opposing teams should look out for their drafts due to many of their signature picks being capable of flexing to three or four positions.

Although every player has shown excellence, their mid-laner Rasmus “Caps” Borregaard Winthers has shown inconsistency. As recently as the LEC Finals, Caps has shown that his performance on stage is a coinflip. Additionally, G2’s unique playstyle revolves around constant rotations and opens them up to being picked off. Regardless, viewers should expect a dominant Group Stage performance and a deep run into the tournament from this team.

GRIFFIN (“GRF”)

Team Griffin LoL Worlds 2019
Qualifying through back-to-back first place regular season finishes, GRF is the second seed from Korea. Despite dominating the most competitive region in the world, many analysts predict them to flop. SK Telecom T1 crushed the in the finals both splits and its to GRF being labeled as a team of chokers. To make matters worse, the head coach that has led them since their academy performance has been kicked right before the tournament start.

Self-sufficiency is the name of the game for GRF’s laners. This leaves their jungler, considered the best almost unanimously, Lee “Tarzan” Seung-yong to play his unique strategy. He takes resources across the map with brilliant pathing and aggressive invades. Mid laner Jeong “Chovy” Ji-hoon also strikes fear into his opponents. He held a 100 KDA at the beginning of the year and has shown his ability to 2v1 the opponent mid-jungle more than once.

Rookie player Choi “Doran” Hyeon-joon is likely to be a weak point for the team. World-class top laners Wunder and Eric “Licorice” Ritchie are likely to find advantages against him. Preparations must be made by GRF to account for this discrepancy by pushing a fast-paced game to keep Doran out of reach. Regular season dominance may hint towards a strong Group Stage, but constant choking from the team points towards a disappointing showing from the team.

CLOUD9 (“C9”)

North America’s annual last hope, C9’s Group Stage blessing will be put to the test. Amazingly, C9 made it out of a group with Royal Never Give Up and Samsung Galaxy last year. But somehow they’ll have to perform an even larger miracle to make it out here. They qualified to Worlds through points, taking a 3rd and 2nd place finish in Spring and Summer, respectively. Each time they were eliminated, they took the series to five games, showing their strength but being unable to close.

Group A is almost impossible for their playstyle; they use their mid-jungle synergy to translate advantages across the map. Every other team in the group uses the same strategy, so it comes down to the players. Yasin “Nisqy” Dinçer has proven himself one of the best mid laners in North America. As of now, he’s still unproven on the international stage though. Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen, the North American MVP, will have to keep his previous form for the team to have a chance of victory.

The biggest fear for fans should be the bottom lane. Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi has found international success in the past, but his recent domestic performance has been a new low. Despite this, his proven ability to step it up on the Worlds stage should give fans hope. If C9 manages to make it out of this group in a convincing fashion, then they will have surpassed all expectations, and nobody will know their limits.

HONG KONG ATTITUDE (“HKA”)

Hong Kong Attitude LoL Worlds 2019

HKA qualified as the third seed for the LMS and made it through the play-ins, beating Isurus Gaming 3-1. They showed their ability to win a series against a weaker team in the play-ins, but they also showed weaknesses. Mid laner Chen “M1ssion” Hsiao-Hsien and top laner Chen “3z” Han are the primary carries for the team. Unfortunately, in this series they were both solo killed and showed some weaknesses.

There’s little hope for this team to take a single game off their competition. This is mainly because every other team outclasses them in individual talent. Regardless, their strength moving forward will come from their flexibility. Although they aren’t G2 by any means, they’ve shown their willingness to flex picks and play varied strategies. Making it out of groups is nigh impossible. But, if they manage to upset any of the teams and avoid a 0-6 record, they’ll have done their fans proud, as well as thoroughly shaken up the group standings.


Group B

FUNPLUS PHOENIX (“FPX”)

Funplus Phoenix LoL Worlds 2019

The number one seed of the LPL, FunPlus Phoenix is making its World’s debut this year. Regardless of this being the first year for all their players, they look like one of the scariest teams going into the tournament. Indeed, many analysts see them as the second or third most likely team to win worlds. One of the many reasons to be excited about is the team’s star mid-laner Kim “Doinb” Tae-sang. Dubbed as ‘Super Carry Doinb,’ he’s known for his unique champion pool as well as obscure builds that facilitate his team to get advantages around the map. Gao “Tian” Tian-Liang is another of the important members of the team, coming in as the jungler he is one that focuses on helping Doinb early, that way the team can navigate around and fight around objectives or their carries.

At the end of 2017, FPX was formed, but it was not until this year where they made changes to their roster to challenge for the LPL title. In the regular season of both Spring and Summer, FPX dominated and made themselves be known as one of the best teams in the region. Sadly, in the spring split playoffs, JDG upset FPX, making them miss the finals. In the summer split, FPX came back with a bang going 14-1 in the regular season. They then beat BiliBili Gaming as well as RNG by a score of 3-1. The team seems to be the clear favorite for this group. Despite that, it is still a rather open group for the rest of the field. Will anyone have the opportunity to take down the LPL giants?

CTBC J TEAM ("JT")

J Team LoL Worlds 2019

The second team in group B is CBTC  J Team, the LMS first seed. J Team is another that we have not seen in the World’s stage before this year. With the news that the LMS is disbanding and joining forces with the GPL again, it will be hard to gauge if the LMS can compete against the other teams in the tournament. J team was close to making it to the 2018 world championship, but upon reaching the LMS gauntlet final; G-Rex defeated them in 3-0 fashion. J Team has been around since 2016 when they bought the Taipei Assassins’ roster. Since their creation, J Team has always found themselves behind the original three big teams, finally becoming the first seed is going to be big shoes to fill for this new international side.

The first half of the year was not kind to J Team as they finished fourth in playoffs. In the second half of the split, J Team completely ravaged the league. They finish the regular season 12-0 and only dropping one game to AHQ in their summer split finals. The thing that is deadly about J Team is that there isn’t a particular carry for the team, they all work together, and all have a strong chance of carrying in any particular game.

One of the names that has to be on your list is FoFo. The star mid laner is a stellar carry and has been part of the organization since its creation. J Team wants to show the world, that even though Flash Wolves is not around as the number one seed, they are the rightful owners of this spot. They want to demonstrate that they’re completely capable of demolishing any other team in this tournament, and specifically in this group.

GAM ESPORTS ("GAM")

GAM Esports LoL Worlds 2019

GAM Esports is the third team found in Group B; they are also the number one seed of the VCS. GAM Esports,  previously known as the Gigabyte Marines, is back in the international stage after a year and a half hiatus. GAM Esports made a lot of changes before the summer split, including the reacquisition of Levi, the all-star jungler, that became the highest-paid player in VCS history. Many that remember GAM back in the 2017 World Championship will see that the team has gone through many changes.

It is not the same team that brought us the five-minute Nocturne funnel comp against Fnatic. Still, the explosive style is there, just by taking a look at what Lowkey esports did against Damwon Gaming. We know Vietnam has shown us an overaggressive playstyle before, but this year might be the year they can finally advance past the group stage at an international event.

Some people might wonder why they should care about GAM, well the main reason is that we can expect the unexpected, this is a team that is known for unique picks and strategies, all geared towards being unexpected. While GAM might have two main region teams in their group stylistically they fit well with both those teams, and it feels like this can be the year they can make it into the knockout stage. The main player to look at is Levi. He is the biggest facilitator for the team and will be looking to dominate this group. GAM is lucky to be in a group that is looking for chaos, as they were born from the chaos. They will be looking to flex and show they belong among the top eight of Worlds.

SPLYCE ("SPY")

LoL Splyce Roster 2019 Worlds

The last member of this group is Splyce, the LEC’s third seed. They qualified to the tournament by winning their Play-Ins knockout series against Unicorns of Love. To start, Splyce was the only team forced to play all five games in the knockout of the play-ins. This should be praise thrown toward the CIS representatives because they showed to be the strongest team in play-ins from a non-major region. Splyce, however, did not have a great series, and this can put the group into question for the LEC side.

Splyce proved to be one of the best teams in the LEC beneath the super side of G2 Esports and Fnatic. With a distinct slow-paced game, this might be the toughest group Splyce could have asked for. This does not mean that Splyce should automatically feel like they can’t advance. It is important to note that the team will have an uphill battle to make it out as the theoretical second seed.

The talisman for this team is Kobbe. Thankfully for LEC fans, he is not the only carry the team has. But its crucial to note that he is the most consistent and important one for the team.  Humanoid is the other important player, and he proved himself in the first round of the tournament. Xerxe is another of the important threats due to his proactive jungling. Still, it seems like the world will be against Splyce if they do show that they can dominate these early-game focused teams. Then it could be a certainty to say that this team is part of the best region in the world.


Group C

SK TELECOM T1 (“SKT”)

SKT T1 LoL

Struggles in the Summer split plagued this team. A dominant Spring split finish left fans hopeful that the team would only continue to improve but they fell off a cliff after their MSI run. But failure is not an option for this historic dynasty. They clawed their way back playoff contention and ran through the entire Korean playoffs with dominant performances. Finally, they were up against Griffin, a team they crushed in Spring split. Nothing had changed in the matchup, SKT dominated with a 3-1 victory and took the Korean first seed.

SKT is a tournament favorite. Taking G2 to five games at MSI, this team has shown international strength this year. To build the hype of a potential rematch even more, this organization has gotten better at Worlds every year it has attended. The worst World’s performance this team has ever brought was second place. Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok is back to bring the title to Korea, and he’s brought Kim “Clid” Tae-min and General Park “Teddy” Jin-seong with him. Each of these players is easily on of the best in the world at their role, but together they bring game-winning plays from all over the map.

Weakness in this team will be found in the top and support roles. Kim “Khan” Dong-ha was considered the best top laner and player in the world in 2017. Unfortunately, as soon as he hit the international stage, he quickly lost that title. He will need to keep his aggression in check to keep himself from throwing games. Since MSI, the team has replaced Cho “Mata” Se-hyeong with Lee “Effort” Sang-ho. While the change led to playoff contention in the regular season, this will be the first time Effort has been to the international stage. If all of their players play to form, SKT should dominate the group and challenge for the title. However, the group of death is merciless. If Khan pushes too hard or Effort cracks under the pressure, they’ll be eliminated within the first games of the tournament.

Fnatic ("FNC")

FNC LoL

Playing catch-up to G2 all split has pushed FNC past their previous limitations. While they were decidedly behind G2, being beaten in two back-to-back best of fives, they have steadily improved all year. Crushing Splyce with a 3-0, the team qualified as the LEC’s second seed. This team is hungry to prove they don’t need Rasmus “Caps” Borregaard Winthers to replicate their 2018 World performance.

This team doesn’t play through any specific lane, but they play through specific picks. Gabriël “Bwipo” Rau’s Aatrox and Jax are strong enough to carry games by themselves. Tim “Nemesis” Lipovšek brings to the stage his AD Twisted Fate has only lost once. He’s shown FNC’s ability to raise mid lane talent and has solidified himself as a legitimate threat on the team. If opposing teams don’t do their homework and leave any of these picks open then FNC is certain to take them and leverage them into an easy win. What’s even more frightening is that they’ve had time to boot camp and practice new picks. If they bring more champions up to this level then FNC will be one of the most dominant teams in the tournament.

Trouble for this team starts when those picks are banned. While they’re never going to drop games against worse teams, there is a sizeable difference between Bwipo on Jax and Bwipo on Ornn. Additionally, their support player Zdravets “Hylissang” Galabov has shown a habit of randomly dying. He’s constantly pushing forward aggressively and if he isn’t playing perfectly, he’ll lose his team control of the game. FNC should be competitive in this group and any more signature champions could mean success in the Knockout Stage.

ROYAL NEVER GIVE UP (“RNG”)

Royal Never Give Up LoL

Finishing their playoff run with a 3-1 loss against Fun Plus Phoenix, RNG qualified as China’s second seed. They’ve kept the same strategy for years; they’re going to forget their solo laners are strong players and dump all of their resources into Jian “Uzi” Zi-Hao. With the strength of their opposition, RNG will be truly defining if a solo carry is still viable.

Uzi has been widely considered the best ADC in the world for years. He plays extremely aggressively in the laning phase, challenging his opposition for every minion. When mid-game comes, he begins to take jungle camps and farm from other lanes, taking as much gold as possible. Funnel compositions have been nerfed but RNG brings the modern version of the strategy.

While Uzi has been the best, times have changed. Too many resources on one player is seen as a huge setback to a team. Luka “Perkz” Perković has taken the title of best ADC in the eyes of many analysts and casters. Flexible picks and low economy play is highly valued in the bottom lane at the moment. Success for RNG in this group will either come from a diversification of their play, or through the sheer power of Uzi. Either way, if they make it out then it will have huge implications for the rest of the tournament.

CLUTCH GAMING (“CG”)

Clutch Gaming LoL

Rounding out the group, CG comes in as North America’s third seed. Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon is back on the world stage and, for the first time ever, he’s made it with NA. Coming in through play-ins, this team is warmed up and ready to upset teams in the beginning.

Sun “Cody” “Cody Sun” Yu adds depth to the team that Huni teams have lacked in the past. He’s arguably the second-best ADC from NA and he’s proven himself as solid late-game insurance. CG gains its leads through, with aggressive play from Huni, Nam “Lira” Tae-yoo, and Tanner “Damonte” Damonte. Teamfighting also brings the team easy leads with excellent vision control and position leading to flanks that can turn a certain loss to an easy win in an instant.

Despite being their strength, their aggressiveness is also their weakness. Huni has been known for his hyper-aggressive teams for years, and that means people know what to expect. Questions also surround Damonte, whether he will be able to stand against the best mid laners in the world or if he’ll fall like other NA mids. Map assignments are also a weak point with the team often struggling to play side lanes well. If they manage to make it out of the group then fans should be ready; the rest of Worlds will be broadcast in Tanner time.


Group D

TEAM LIQUID (“TL”)

Team Liquid Champions LCS

First off is North America’s first seed, Team Liquid. The curse of the number four continues to guide them as they won their fourth LCS title in a row and were slotted into Worlds’ fourth group. This seeding is mere coincidence, but their ability to win four back-to-back titles in a major region is a testament to this team’s strength. They couldn’t make it out of groups last year, and though there are doubts they will this year, TL is working to shut those perceptions down.

And they have the tools to do so. This year, TL has added legendary Korean support CoreJJ and iconic mid-laner Jensen to their lineup. As a result, this squad has reached new heights and has surpassed every NA time and time again. These two additions are stark improvements over their 2018 roster and give them a much better shot at making it out of groups.

The crux of this team is their bottom lane. Doublelift and CoreJJ are both strong in lane and know-how to carry in mid to late game team fights. Xmithie, their jungler, typically plays around the duo to ensure they get ahead too.

Though these two are in the spotlight, TL’s solo laners should be underestimated. Impact hasn’t been known as a carry-oriented player in the past, but this year the former World Champion has shown tremendous growth. In addition, Jensen is a very consistent player and capable of playing many different styles for his team.

It can be hard to fully commit to backing NA at Worlds, but TL might finally be the exception. This year, they went all the way to the MSI Finals and look on a level no other NA team has ever reached. This could be the year TL goes the distance.

AHQ E-SPORTS CLUB (“AHQ”)

ahq e-Sports Club LoL

Next up is ahq e-Sports Club. AHQ is a relatively lesser-known name to Western fans, but as they’re the second seed from the LMS, they can’t be underestimated.  The LMS has been dominated by J Team this year, but despite that, AHQ has managed to stay right on their heels. They finished second in the Summer Split, then met J Team in the Finals. Here, they lost the series but did manage to take a game off of the LMS giants, which is a notable feat.

AHQ doesn’t have the same pressure put on them that many other teams in Group D do. Instead, they’re looking simply to make a name for themselves and prove there isn’t as big a discrepancy between them and J Team as most believe there to be.

The main player that will be able to make this happen is Wako, AHQ’s AD Carry. Among his team, he has the highest damage percentage and kill participation numbers, meaning his impact on games is tremendous. He’s a reliable mid-late game insurance policy and a member AHQ can put their faith in.

The other star on AHQ is Apex in the middle lane. Though the team entirely devotes itself to enabling Wako, Apex has the ability to carry himself. He has a varied champion pool that allows him to adjust to different situations. In addition, he is great at roaming to help his team find successful early-mid game skirmishes and will be another key member if AHQ is to find success.

AHQ is a tier below J Team in the LMS but will have a decent chance in Group D. It isn’t expected that they make a super deep run in the tournament, but with Wako on their team, anything is possible for this squad.

INVICTUS GAMING (“IG”)

Invictus Gaming LoL

Invictus Gaming is a name every League of Legends fan should know. Last year, they entered the World Championship as a dark horse but ended up crushing their competition to become World Champions. Hoisting the trophy once is a high honor, but doing it twice is remarkable. IG will be looking to do so this year and defend their title against the other best teams in the world.

But this will not come without difficulty. Though IG dominated in the LPL’s Spring Split, their Summer Split was quite lackluster. Because of this, IG had to fight through the Regional Qualifier to qualify for Worlds. This recent underwhelming performance is cause for concern, but it’s clear that this team has an incredibly high peak and can win it all again if they reach it.

The strongest points on IG are their solo laners. TheShy, their top laner, and Rookie, their mid laner, are massive carries. The pool of top lane talent at Worlds this year is stacked, but TheShy stands out above them all. His Aatrox play against G2 Esports last year says everything you need to know about him.

Rookie is the other solo lane threat, and he’s as threatening as ever. He’s been in the conversation for being one of the best mid laners in the world and has repeatedly shown why. It’s rare to see him fall behind, instead, he’s known for hard carry performances on a variety of assassin picks. He’ll be a great asset to IG in this year’s Worlds.

Though it’s hard to tell what form of IG we’ll get in the group stage, they’re more than likely to make a splash. They have the ability to do great work and will be an important team to watch develop.

DAMWON GAMING (“DWG”)

Damwon Gaming LoL

Last but certainly not least is the LCK’s third seed, Damwon Gaming. For the first time in history, the LCK had to send their third seed to the Play-In Stage, but it wasn’t a big deal for DWG.  They absolutely crushed the competition, losing only a single game throughout the entire Play-Ins. They weren’t the cleanest but were clearly a tier above the other teams they played against.

This team has high expectations to live up to in the Main Event. Their Summer Split was their breakout split, as they finished second in the regular season and ended up defeating Kingzone DragonX in the Regional Qualifier. Like IG, the main threats of this team lie in the solo lanes.

Nuguri is DWG’s top laner and is a fantastic player. He plays Vladimir in a very unique way and favors scaling mages to outscale and crush his competition. Though he’s the type to give over some early advantages, his late-game carry potential is insane. He’ll need to be focused by his opponents if they want any chance of victory.

But they can’t forget about Showmaker. Residing in the middle lane, Showmaker is the other star of DWG. Where Nuguri is the late game carry, Showmaker is the one who wants to make an impact early. He’s darn good at doing so too. He enjoys aggressive picks like LeBlanc and Renekton that roll over opponents early on. This dynamic duo is extremely powerful and quite exciting to watch.

Though they’re not that highly seeded, DWG has a definite chance to move past Group D. If they can clean up their play from the Play-In stage, they will be a fearsome squad indeed. With such flashy carries, DWG will surely be a rousing team to watch.


WORLDS BROADCAST INFORMATION

Watch the 2019 World Championships here at ESTNN TV. For more information on the tournament, teams, standings, and players, visit www.lolesports.com. Stay tuned here at ESTNN and follow us on Twitter and Facebook for more League of Legends news, articles, opinions and more.

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