With Worlds just days away, European teams are getting in their last-minute prep in anticipation of the start of the tournament. Week one will tell us a lot about our Europe’s chances as they kick off the tournament with key grudge matches. On Thursday, the first day of the tournament, G2 Esports takes on NA’s Counter Logic Gaming on Thursday. Then on Saturday Splyce attempts an early upset in another EU vs. NA grudge match against TeamSoloMid. Finally, on Sunday H2K do battle against Chinese giants Edward Gaming.
BATTLE OF THE ATLANTIC
G2 vs CLG (Day 1, Game 1)
Worlds opens with an explosive bout as European champions G2 Esports take on North America’s 2nd-seed CLG in what should be the major battle for second place in this group, unless G2 can push ROX Tigers to their limits. After EU teams earned respect on their home turf last year by having two squads reach the semis, the onus now shifts to NA teams to do the same as Worlds returns to U.S. soil. Both teams had contrasting fortunes at MSI in Shanghai, as CLG finished second to SK Telecom T1 while G2 crashed out in groups. Their domestic performances in the summer split also contrasted, as G2 surged to their second EU LCS title while CLG struggled against NA’s top teams.
G2 match up favourably against CLG in every position, with some variance in the degree of which they surpass CLG individually. Expect performs consistently in the top lane and looks to have the edge over Darshan. While Expect aids his team through reliability, CLG often lives or dies on how Darhsan performs. If Darshan goes off, a rare occurrence in the 2016 summer split, he can single-handedly carry CLG. If he struggles, however, it can often be too much for CLG’s other members to overcome. The opposite holds true in the mid lane, however; G2’s young star mid-laner PerkZ struggles to perform consistently compared to Huhi’s steady style. The difference is that G2 can cover PerkZ’s liabilities, while Huhi is dependable but rarely spectacular.
Trick and Mithy will act as G2’s catalysts in this matchup, as CLG remain a macro threat. Trick echoed Reignover’s dominance in the jungle, but CLG’s Xmithie worked with the latter during CLG’s bootcamp in Korea. That’s probably not enough to overcome the difference in quality between the two, but Trick may not be able to assert the same dominance he did domestically. Mithy meanwhile must outsmart CLG’s best player, Aphromoo. Mithy can set up one of G2’s many win conditions in Zven, while Aphromoo must contend with Europe’s strongest duo in lane, while directing his team at a macro level. Fans who crave the absolute best League of Legends in action will relish the opportunity to see these two gifted supports, and as long as we avoid a Soraka pick, the matchup should live up to or even exceed expectations.
SPY vs TSM (Day 3, Game 5)
Splyce drew the short straw when it came to groups, which ought to surprise nobody considering they enter the tournament as Europe’s 3rd seed. With TeamSoloMid (NA #1), Royal Never Give Up (CN #2) and Samsung Galaxy (KR #3) all vying to advance to the quarterfinals, Splyce have an unenviable task on their hands. Yet their elimination is not a foregone conclusion. They may be Europe’s 3rd seed, but that’s only because H2K qualified ahead of them with more championship points. Splyce were the second-best team in Europe’s summer split, both in the regular season and the playoffs. Yes, they lack experience, but they make up for that in raw talent, particularly in their solo lanes.
Double Danish deathmatches play main features in this clash, as Sencux and Trashy take on compatriots Bjergsen and Svenskeren in one of the most volatile matches of this group. TSM enter as heavy favourites in both this game and the group more broadly, but Splyce are no pushovers. Splyce must dismantle the mid-jungle synergy of TSM in order to relieve pressure from its outclassed bot lane. Up top, Wunder should match up favourably against fellow All-Pro top-laner Hauntzer. If Splyce can win that mid-jungle duel, they will cause TSM serious problems.
By the time this match rolls around they will have fought SSG and RNG, and if they can repeat the heroics of Origen in last year’s Worlds by first beating a Korean and Chinese team before beating TSM they will put themselves in an advantageous position. If coach YamatoCannon can mastermind such a coup, he would cap an incredible job taking Splyce from relegation danger to Worlds underdogs. Should he fail, he may have to endure the analyst desk’s ‘TomatoCanyon’ teasing once again.
REVENGE AND FORG1VENESS
EDG vs H2K (Day 4, Game 2)
Though H2K’s clash with ahq e-Sports Club is perhaps the most important match in deciding the outcome of the group, we can’t overlook H2K vs Edward Gaming from a spectator standpoint. China’s top team is a Worlds regular, making their third appearance at League of Legends’ premiere tournament. With two legends forming the team’s core and a former Worlds winner warming the mid-lane bench, EDG arrive at Worlds as one of the tournament’s favourites, and should H2K take them down in even one of their games, they could put a very different slant on their group prospects.
Group B offers a showcase of jungle excellence, and in H2K vs EDG we have the main event: EDG’s legendary jungler ClearLove, one of the most decorated players in Chinese League of Legends history, and Jankos, making his first appearance on the Worlds stage. Jankos must continue to establish the early dominance he showed domestically, and if he can do that against ClearLove he could set up H2K to silence its doubters. ClearLove is EDG’s commander, the team’s guiding force; if he falters, EDG’s solo laners could struggle, particularly Mouse in the top lane against Odoamne.
If ClearLove and Jankos feature in the main event, Deft and FORG1VEN form the undercard. FORG1VEN spoke many times in the past about wanting to prove himself against the best in the world, and what better way to do that than by facing off against perhaps the best AD carry in the World. Deft is phenomenal, one of the only AD carries to get the better of Imp in 2014. With support Meiko at his side, EDG have a strong claim to best bot lane at the tournament, but FORG1VEN and Vander could could slash the tyres on their hype parade. Knowing FORG1VEN and Vander from their European endeavours, the opportunity to cause such an upset and prove themselves against the best is a drug that’s hard to just say no to. This match promises to be explosive, a most delectable duel.
ROUND 1 BEGINS… FIGHT!
Worlds kicks off on Thursday, September 29 in San Francisco. G2 Esports have the honour of opening the show at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium when they take on CLG in a match that could define the narrative for European teams in the group stages. After a season of mediocrity and faithlessness, Europe desperately needs a strong start to regain fans’ trust. If H2K and Splyce can continue to improve going into the tournament, the narrative of this year’s Worlds will quickly shift in Europe’s favour, a tasty proposition for a tournament on American soil. Tune in to cheer on Europe’s heroes as they storm NA’s home turf!