It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to state that China’s first seed and fan favourite team Royal Never Give Up are miles ahead of the other teams in this group – and any other group in this tournament for that matter. Whether you take this to mean individual player skill or superior macro decisionmaking, it would take nothing short of complete disaster to see them finish anywhere other than first in this group – and the man in the botlane himself, crown prince of the LPL Jian “Uzi” Zi-Hao isn’t about to allow that to happen.
With RNG sitting comfortably atop their group with a 3-0 win/loss record after the first round robin, they are one more win away from being a sure lock-in for the first seed. On the other side of the equation, we have three very hungry teams mere hours away from duking it out for that coveted second seed – all of them showing wildly varying degrees of form over the past few days’ games. How prestigious the organisations are (or aren’t) aside, the three underdogs that fill out this group are each looking to turn the tables tomorrow.
In terms of potential upsets – emphasis on “potential,” because this seems unlikely – outside of a sudden return to form for Korea’s World Champion squad in Gen.G, hopes should mostly lie with the EU LCS rookies of Team Vitality. Esteemed for their first game win against Gen.G, all-star midlaner Jiizuke and his surrounding support acts will have to bring their signature volatility and all-out aggression to the table in droves if they hope to snatch another win (or even the second seed) away from the giants in their group.
Gen.G‘s intact 2017 World Championship-winning roster will look to use the dearth of experience these two upstart teams have in comparison to themselves to their advantage; however, it is this same disciplined and almost hesitant style that has resulted in them being in the position they find themselves in now. If fortunes are to change for the former prodigal sons of Samsung Galaxy, aggression switches are going to have to be ready to be flipped on without erring too much to the side of caution. The player to watch here will be Crown, as not only has he not looked up to par compared with the other midlaners he’s faced, but Gen.G made the decision to leave his substitute (Fly) at home in favour of bringing Haru.
The final team in this group, rounding out a lineup comprised of teams featuring both legendary players and rookies alike, are no strangers to the international stage – North America’s Cloud9 look to redeem themselves slightly after a tumultuous year. Benching star players left and right, before settling with a roster featuring both old and new faces – and yet the rookies look even better than the veterans this World Championship. Licorice solokilled RNG’s stalwart tank player Letme in his international Worlds-main-stage debut and proved that giving the Cloud9 toplaner access to a powerpick like his now-signature Urgot is ill-advised to say the very least. By contrast, Cloud9’s franchise botlane player Sneaky looked utterly lost in his game versus RNG – regardless of how amazing Uzi is compared to other AD carries, there is a level of consistency fans expect from their favourite streamer-turned-professional-cosplayer and critical eyes should be towards the bottom side of the map whilst Licorice does whatever he can wherever he can.
Underperformances, overperformances. We’ve seen it all so far and no doubt we will see some more tomorrow – but who will walk away with the single second seed, assuming Royal Never Give Up secure first with relative comfort? Tomorrow afternoon we’ll find out just which one of NA or EU is the superior region (in Group B, anyway…), or if the West as a whole could make a statement in this group – but I think that the general consensus is that Gen.G are just slow starters, and are looking to make at least a claim for the throne again.If there ever was a time for the former World Champions to turn it on and start winning again, now would be it. It’s do or die.
Images Via: LoL Esports Flickr