The Russian champions claimed shock victories over North America’s Counter Logic Gaming and Europe’s G2 Esports in tense games, wrestling control from the seeded teams as the crowd gasped in awe and screamed with joy. That they managed to upset these teams was impressive, sure, but what was perhaps most encouraging for fans of what we still consider to be Wildcard regions was the manner in which they did so. ANX did not cheese their way to victory, not even a little: they won by playing beautiful League of Legends, and they now find themselves tied with CLG and the no. 1 seed from Korea, and perceived best team in the world, ROX Tigers at the top of Group A.
It’s hard not to cheer for these guys: one only has to watch Sjokz’s interview with support Likkrit after their win over CLG to see where the fan adoration comes from. Opening your winning interview with an apology for not shaking an opponent’s hand takes courage and humility, and the rest of the interview only bolstered our appreciation for the team from Russia. One line in particular stuck out: “We don't care about slow games or if something is risky or not, in Russia, we just play the game, because otherwise it’s not interesting. Not for viewers and not for us.”
We don't care about slow games or if something is risky or not. In Russia, we just play the game, because otherwise it’s not interesting. Not for viewers and not for us.
Albus NoX Luna’s games were far from boring, and Likkrit himself was at the forefront of their victories over CLG and G2. In their game vs CLG, Likkrit played one of the most aggressive Tahm Kench games we’ve seen in competitive League of Legends: ulting from lane to lane to make plays, gobbling up enemies instead of his own carries, and slapping CLG’s players with that big, slobbery tongue on their way to subjecting CLG to their third loss to a Wildcard in as many tournaments.
G2 failed to ban Likkit’s Brand in their game on Sunday, a costly mistake as G2 would soon find out. Though it may be an off-meta pick, but off-meta doesn’t always mean bad: Likkrit’s Brand is legendary in their region, and it could be seen as a sign of disrespect from G2 when they decided to leave it open. Likkrit made them pay for their errors, dealing an absurd 22.3k damage to champions as a support. For context, only three people in the game did more damage to champions than Likkrit: Perkz on Orianna (22.6k), Kira on Anivia (22.6k), and Zven on Ezreal (28.2k).
Likkrit wasn’t the only hero for ANX in these games, however. Every player stepped up to the plate to give their team a chance at making it to the Quarters should they continue their momentum in week 2. Smurf’s Poppy was fearsome, and he combined exquisitely with Kira’s Anivia to slam G2 to the bottom of the table in Group A. Even aMiracle who really struggled to adjust to the level of play at Worlds when ANX lost to ROX Tigers improved drastically.
The gap is closing
Their win over G2 capped off a good week for Wildcards, as ANX and INTZ finished a combined 3-3. INTZ, the Wildcard from Brazil, kicked off their tournament with a victory over China’s no. 1 seed EDG. Though they were quickly brought back down to earth by H2K, Europe’s only victory so far, INTZ showed their ability and they could still claim a similar upset in week 2 by the way this tournament is progressing.
We often say “the gap is closing” in relation to the difference in quality between Western teams and Korean teams, but it may actually be that another gap entirely is more likely to close in the next couple of seasons: developing regions such as Russia and Brazil are progressing at an incredible rate, and international competitions like MSI and Worlds will only help these teams to continue their rapid improvement. By playing against the best teams in the World they will continue to learn, and perhaps even surpass the seeded teams as they may do this year. It’s still early days, and if week one of groups has taught us anything, it’s that anything can happen in week 2.
For Albus NoX Luna and fans of the underdog, that’s an enticing proposition.
Worlds returns on October 6th as we decide a group per day. Tune in to Lolesports to catch all the action and cheer on Albus NoX Luna as they attempt to be the first Wildcard team to reach the Knockout Stages of Worlds!