KT Korea’s only hope?!; it doesn’t seem so MAD to say that this group is close; RNG looking set to round out the perfect year; not sure which of Heimerdinger or Jiizuke is the more iconic face of the EULCS; C9 claiming one back for NA.
KT Rolster's dominating performance over Team Liquid was a surprise to no-one, though the early game could have been cleaner for Korea’s 1st seed and prime candidate for taking the crown this time around. TL needed to wait until late-game for AP Kaisa to truly become relevant, and KT weren’t about to give them that luxury.
MAD Team were the recipient of many criticisms and questions from the community; however, they very much surprised coming into the game versus Edward Gaming. Kongyue in particular read Haro like a book - frequent counterganks and superior map movements from him and K put MAD into the drivers seat for most of the game. iBoy’s reckless play-style actually paid off for EDG, however, and ultimately it was off the back of the promising botlane talent that the Chinese team secured victory over MAD this time around.
China’s All-Star squad Royal Never Give Up look dominating in their wins - comfortably crushing their botlane matchup versus NA hopefuls Cloud9 in particular. Sneaky has often been praised for his international form and consistency, but laning versus Uzi is another story when compared to domestic NA AD carry talent. Despite Licorice’s solokill topside, it was the disadvantage the rest of the map faced as a result of their botlane’s shortcomings that took any chance C9 had of coming up victorious away. On top of this, they snatched away a win from World Champions Gen.G - putting the former Samsung roster at a disastrous 0-2 start.
RNG aren’t the only ones to knock a Korean team down a peg; Europe’s Team Vitality also systematically confused the reigning champions, outplaying them at every turn in a game that concluded with a beautiful backdoor facilitated by Italian stallion Jiizuke. Not to be outdone, struggling former Kings of the EULCS G2 Esports completely smashed their way through LCK 2nd seed Afreeca Freecs, largely in part due to Hjarnan’s signature Heimerdinger before dropping a game to Vietnam’s Phong-Vu Buffalo and breaking their group wide open... the second seed, anyway, given Flash Wolves’ confident dominance and dominion over the top spot.
With North America’s seeds 1 & 2 struggling to even come away with a win during the first two days (granted, they’ve each only played one game, versus the KR and EU first seeds respectively), it was up to Cloud9 to ensure their region didn’t give as poor an impression as possible - claiming victory over a Vitality still riding a wave of confidence following their victory over Gen.G.
Upsets are definitely possible across the board here, in part thanks to the volatility of the best of 1 format but also due to sheer inconsistencies and disrespect from teams people expect more from - for the first time in many years, it looks like at least one of the Korean teams might not make it out of groups this year.
KT, Flash Wolves, and RNG are all thoroughly entertaining to watch play, and look like favourites for three of the four semifinals slots at least. We haven’t seen enough of IG to decide the last, and there’s always a chance Korea’s other teams bounce back. We would be foolish to discount Fnatic and their rising star in the midlane as well, and after all - group stage is only a quarter of the way through.
Bring on the rest of the games. Let’s go.
RIP my Pick ‘ems...