Check out some of the big stories heading into the high stakes Knockout Stage.
The battle for the League of Legends Summoner’s Cup has been raging for over three weeks. There have been epic plays, massive upsets, and a fair share of surprises. Need to catch up on the most important stories? Here’s a region-by-region breakdown to get you ready for the Knockout Stage!
The Unlikely North American Hope
The expectations were sky high for North American teams heading into the second week of the Group Stage as Immortals, TSM, and Cloud 9 all fought their way to solid 2-1 records. But the second week curse realized itself once again when both TSM and Immortals fell in blowout tiebreaker losses.
After the crushing defeats of TSM and Immortals, it was down to Cloud 9, who arguably drew the toughest group in the tournament – a group headlined by reigning champs SK Telecom T1. With the odds stacked against, them Cloud 9 performed admirably in Group A, grinding their way to a respectable 3-3 record. Then, with a little help from SK Telecom’s victory over EDG, they qualified for the Quarterfinals without the need for a dreaded tiebreaker.
The North Americans got the most favorable matchup they could have hoped for in the Quarterfinals – China’s Team WE. Cloud 9 will lean on the strong synergy between their young jungler, Juan “Contractz” Garcia and superstar mid laner, Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen in order to give them their best shot at victory. It’s wise to temper expectations for any North American team at this point, but Cloud 9 could have a golden opportunity for a surprise upset.
Korea’s Slightly Uncomfortable Throne
It shouldn’t be any surprise that all three Korean representatives smashed their way through the opposition on the way to the Quarterfinals. What is surprising, though, is how beatable they looked at times. With the exception of the invincible-looking Longzhu Gaming, both SK Telecom T1 and Samsung Galaxy showed uncharacteristic weaknesses in the Group Stage.
SK Telecom, who battled to a nearly spotless 5-1 Group Stage record, had a tumultuous time by their astronomically high standards. In their two games against EDG they had to dig themselves out of huge early game deficits, relying on big plays to stage some incredible comebacks. While they demonstrated an uncanny ability to play from behind, bailing themselves out after slow starts will only get tougher as tournament competition levels up. They’re always an incredibly daunting foe and the reigning world champions – don’t ever count them out.
Samsung Galaxy, on the other hand, was shockingly inconsistent during the Group Stage. Their play felt balanced on a knife’s edge, making them volatile in almost any matchup. In addition, they’ve also drawn an unfavorable Quarterfinal matchup against their Korean contemporaries and tournament favorites, Longzhu Gaming. Barring a miracle mending of their chemistry, Samsung could easily be packing their bags for home this weekend.
Europe’s Unlikely Stars
From an 0-4 start, to a Quarterfinals berth – the story of Fnatic at Worlds has been an insane one. Everyone counted them out after a catastrophic first week that exposed vulnerability in the team’s morale. Yet the European squad sparked back to life in electrifying fashion, dominating not one, but two tiebreakers to catapult themselves into the Quarterfinals. Even with their newfound momentum they’ll be underdogs against China’s red hot Royal Never Give Up. But Fnatic just wrote a League of Legends fairy tale in the Group Stage, so why not try to follow it up with a sequel?
Speaking of fairy tales, Misfits Gaming had a Cinderella story all their own. Nobody believed in the European upstarts and some analysts even predicted that they’d be unable to grab a single win in the Group Stage. Well, that was the story until they went 2-1 in their first week of play and then beat TSM in a tiebreaker to punch their tickets to the Quarterfinals. They’ve played stunningly well to get to this point, but a date with Worlds’ raid boss SK Telecom T1 in the Quarterfinals looks to be the final chapter of their story.
China’s Hometown Heroes
Royal Never Give Up went from flying under the radar to decimating the competition overnight. Their star AD Carry, Zi-Hao “Uzi” Jian has soared back into championship form by taking advantage of a meta heavily focused on bottom lane supremacy. After crushing their group, the Chinese squad quickly became one of the tournament’s most feared opponents. If Uzi continues to play well, it’s going to be tough task to take down this revitalized roster.
As if Uzi wasn’t scary enough, Team WE’s Seong-jun “Mystic” Jin has also been eviscerating his foes with ease. Sporting a ridiculous 40.9% team damage share (which is second only to Uzi, of course), he’s single-handedly turned Team WE into a fearsome opponent. The standout AD Carry was touted as a top 20 player heading into Worlds and so far he’s lived up to the hype. Cloud 9 may feel an upset coming in the Quarterfinals, but Mystic’s overwhelming firepower may be enough to tip the scales.
Want more of the 2017 League of Legends World Championship? Check it out on Twitch when the Quarterfinals kick off this Thursday in Shanghai. Who are your favorites to take home the Summoner’s Cup? Let us know in the comments below, and stay tuned for our Finals preview that’ll be out in the coming weeks!
In-article images courtesy of Riot Games’ Flickr.