Meet the teams fighting for a spot in the main event through Group A of the Play-Ins.
After a year of intense action, the League of Legends 2020 World Championship is set to begin. Twenty-two teams fought through their regional league and now prepare to fight for international prestige and glory. The lower seeded teams of the major regions along with the best teams of the minor regions first must battle through the Play-In stage though. There are two groups here, each with five teams, and today we're taking a look at Group A, featuring Team Liquid, MAD Lions, Legacy Esports, Papara Supermassive and INTZ.
Read more: Worlds 2020 | Play-Ins Group B Preview
First up on the list in Team Liquid, hailing from North America's LCS. They've been a dominant force in NA for the past few years and are hoping to finally find international success. This time though, TL doesn't have the #1 spot so they'll have to play through the Play-Ins, but this shouldn't bother them all too much. They've truly come together during the Summer Split and look like a great team. In addition, the team won a host of awards in summer, including the Coaching Staff of the Split, Rookie of the Split and Honda MVP. This team will have high expectations for themselves, but they should be able to deliver in Play-Ins.
When talking about Team Liquid, the first name that comes to mind has to be Jo "CoreJJ" Yong-in. From the support role, CoreJJ has consistently enabled his team to shine and even carries games himself. Many of his highlight plays from the Summer Split are on the likes of Bard, but there's no champion this former World Champion can't pilot to perfection. He's been a great mentor for rookie Edward "Tactical" Ra too, giving him the experience and confidence to be a top tier AD Carry. Nicolaj "Jensen" Jensen is another player who's had a stand out split. His play has been very consistent and at peak level. He's no stranger to the Worlds stage, and in this form, he can at least keep up with the other best mids in the world.
For those who have watched TL in the past, expect much of the same style from them. They're a largely bottom lane focused team that relies on scaling champion picks. Team fighting and objective skirmishes are where they’re most proficient. And they’re sure to be honing their style to ensure they make it to the main event.
Second in the group is the LEC's very own MAD Lions. This split, European fans and fans all around the world came to know MAD Lions' name due to their huge upsurge. Throughout the regular season, they absolutely demolished the LEC competition and fought with Rogue for the #1 spot, well above famous names like G2 Esports and Fnatic. In all honestly, many people believed them to be the best team going into playoffs. However, their run fell short of expectations and they ended up taking the fourth seed. Now, they're hungry to show that they really are a serious contender.
Its also important to note that, besides for Marek "Humanoid" Brázda, this squad is filled with rookies. They all have varied experiences playing in regional leagues and things like EU Masters. But this is their first year playing with the big dogs and they've done outstandingly well. Perhaps most impressive among them is Zhiqiang "Shad0w" Zhao. He's the jungler for MAD and a lot of the success of the team can be attributed to his early game impact. Shad0w is best known for his Lee Sin, which he's amazing on, but he's also great on other carry junglers. In addition, the aforementioned mid laner Humanoid is a key player for the team. As the squad's veteran, he's a solid rock for them and a consistent player overall.
As for their playstyle, MAD Lions likes to play fast and loose. They’re similar to G2 in the way they pick a lot of early game fights and don’t hesitate to pull the trigger. Some of that aggression seemed to fall away in playoffs, which could be the result of nerves, but if MAD rekindles it they’ll be a menace in this group.
Coming in from the OPL is Legacy Esports. Looking to cement a legacy this year, LGC is a fiery squad with a lot to prove. They crushed Split Two with a 17-4 record and pretty handily dispatched their opponents in playoffs. ORDER, who was just behind them the entire time, did give them some difficult games. But in the end, Legacy beat them twice in the playoffs in 3-1 fashion. The OPL is always an exciting region to watch and viewers will want to keep their eyes on Legacy.
And if you're keeping your eyes on Legacy, you'll undoubtedly be watching their bottom lane duo. Quin "Raes" Korebrits and Jonah "Isles" Rosario are two exceptional players that are known for their lane dominance. Isles won this year's Rookie of the Year award for the OPL and is a star already. He has a very wide champion pool that encompasses enchanter, mage and engage supports. By his side, Raes is a very aggressive player that loves to fight. Together, this duo has smashed nearly ever other bottom lane duo in the OPL and is waiting eagerly to do so on the international stage. Most of the time, LGC plays through this lane and it goes quite well for them. In all likelihood, this will be their key to success in the Play-In stage.
Another thing that sets this team apart from others is that they play what's good for them, not necessarily the meta. Their compositions aren't all crazy, but there are some picks like Cho'gath, Ziggs and Lux. Picks like these are seen from time to time, and since the players are comfortable on them, it gives them an extra edge in game. As such, Legacy will definitely be a fun team to watch once the games begin.
Next up is Papara SuperMassive, formerly known as SuperMassive Esports, from the TCL. Though they came in third at the end of the Summer Split, they had a fantastic playoffs run. Their first two opponents they handled pretty easily, and despite having to go to all five games versus 5 Ronin in the Finals, looked convincing doing so. This organization and most of its players have made it to the World Championship but never had their breakthroughs. This time, they'll be looking to do so and breakthrough to the main event.
To start, SUP is a team fighting centric team that flourishes when they're working together. In many of their games, they're very calculated, picking winning fights around neutral objectives to gain their major leads. Their drafts reflect this, as they usually draft two tanks and strong backline carries. This style suits them well and has brought them all the way here.
That's not to say their early game is nonexistent. Jungler Lee "KaKAO" Byung-kwon is often found ganking top laner İrfan "Armut" Berk Tükek in the opening 10-15 minutes. KaKAO, who plays a lot of carry-style junglers benefits from Armut's tendency to play tanks. So KaKAO gets the kills, while Armut is unlocked to leave lane and begin helping his team. Once he's unlocked, it's easier for SUP to get rolling. Finally, there's Onur "Bolulu" Can Demirol. He's an important part of the team fighting prowess, as he has the lion's share of kill participation and damage percentage for the team. Usually, Bolulu is on mages and has a great Vel'koz pocket pick too. His team sets him up for success and he always steps up when they need him. Watch for these dynamics as SUP fights their way out of Group A.
Last but certainly not least is INTZ, making their way to Shanghai from the Brazilian CBLOL. This team finished second in the regular season with a respectable 12-9 record overall. Their playoffs run was even better than regular season though, as they beat KaBuM! e-Sports 3-2 then paiN Gaming 3-1 in the Finals, with a particularly devastating very last game. Since it was such a great way to end the season, INTZ will be riding a wave of confidence that can see them through to a successful Worlds run.
A winning recipe for success for this squad is the confidence and unbridled aggression. Unlike some other teams in the group, INTZ isn't sitting around for forever, waiting to scale. No, they're ready to get into their opponents' faces and take the fight to them early on. This playstyle tends to make them pretty volatile, but if they can get ahead, they stay ahead and steamroll teams. It's a scary prospect for other teams that will end up playing them for sure.
The main enabler for the early game is Diogo "Shini" Rogê, the team's jungler. A ton of the plays made revolve around him and he also sets many of them up. To match him is Bruno "Envy" Farias, a star mid laner in his own right. He boasts impressive KDA and kill participation stats that elevate him above other mids. To compliment his team’s style, Envy plays a lot of aggressive picks like Lucian, Sylas and Tristana on top of the typical mages. The mid jungle duo is a major key aspect of INTZ and will be fun to watch. If there’s any team that’s going to cause upsets and take games, its INTZ.
League of Legends ESTNN Image photo via ESPAT Timo Verdeil.