The opening game of Worlds 2016 started well for EU’s #1 seed G2 Esports as Expect’s Jayce picked up first blood on Darshan’s Poppy with a Shock Blast to the face. Shortly after, however, a three-man dive from CLG in the bottom lane set the tone for the rest of the game. CLG ganged up on a hapless Zven, before two more G2 members followed him to the grave, only picking up a solitary kill in return. Despite giving up first blood, CLG’s Darshan kept the faith: “I think the first thing I said as soon as I died was, ‘it's fine guys, I can still farm in the lane, I'll still have pressure’. I was just thinking about my options and I honestly wasn't even phased by the death at all.”
From there CLG’s strong objective focus led them to the first dragon, turret and eventually Baron. Despite Expect’s significant CS lead over Darshan, the CLG top laner played bodyguard on Poppy to their baron attempt while Huhi’s Vlad threatened to engage. CLG walked away with the Baron buff, significantly extended their gold lead and cleaned up the inner turrets.
G2 attempted to claw their way back into the game on multiple occasions, but even in favourable fights could only manage to pop a Guardian’s Angel or two. An explosive fight in the mid lane ultimately ended the game, as G2’s terrifying tanks ripped through G2’s carries, before Stixxay played janitor and mopped up the remaining G2 players, scoring an ace and opening up CLG’s path to the nexus.
Though a North American victory in the opening game will please the hometown fans, it raises further questions about Europe’s hopes at this year’s World Championships. After a poor performance at MSI in Shanghai, G2 replaced their bot lane with Zven and Mithy, the best in Europe. The former Origen bot laners were largely ineffectual in their first showing of Worlds 2016, however, as Mithy got caught on multiple occasions and Zven’s Jhin simply couldn’t blow through CLG’s front line.
VIKING OF THE JUNGLE
CLG jungler Xmithie, arguably the team’s best player, proved the key to CLG’s victory, carrying his summer split dominance into Worlds. His bootcamp with role mentor Reignover in Korea clearly paid off. Xmithie surprised the casters and the crowd with Olaf, a Reignover special, and displayed his comfort on the champ throughout the game. The Olaf pick was just one factor of Xmithie’s performance this game, and CLG’s top laner Darshan said that, while Reignover’s presence certainly helped, Xmithie had this level of performance in him all along.
“Reignover's biggest help was that he was another voice for the jungler perspective,” says Darshan. “I feel like Xmithie is kind of soft spoken about some of the things he wants in terms of picks and stuff, and I feel like Reignover just gave him some of that voice he needed and some of that perspective so that the rest of the team could understand the jungle role better. I think he did help Xmithie a little bit with routing and things like that, but I think it's mostly just been Xmithie playing well. I think he's always been playing well.”
G2 have Friday off as they look to recover before their crucial match against Korea’s #1 seed, and tournament favourites ROX Tigers who had a shaky start against LCL Wildcard Albus NoX Luna in the second game of the tournament before kicking into top gear to win the game. All hope for G2 is not yet lost, however, as many will remember Fnatic’s loss to Cloud9 in the first week of groups last year, and the day off could aid G2’s mental recovery. Recover they must, or they risk falling off the pace.
H2K lost the second crucial match for EU teams on day one, falling in a tense game to ahq e-Sports Club. Despite H2K earning their customary early lead, a series of individual mistakes from Ryu and Jankos, mostly due to poor positioning, allowed ahq to force their way back into the game. In a matchup where all eyes were on the junglers, it was AHQ’s top laner Ziv and AD Carry AN that came up trumps.
AN brought back memories of Worlds 2015 with his infamous Jinx pick, and while most analysts expected the bot lane of FORG1VEN and Vander to to dominate AN and Albis, it was obvious which duo was more effective in major fights. FORG1VEN’s Caitlyn struggled to make an impact on the game and couldn’t match AN’s teamfight DPS, and Vander found himself in compromising positions while Albis landed some crucial Tempered Fates on Bard.
While Ryu seemed to have the better of Westdoor from an overall impact standpoint, the former found himself continuously in poor positions and gave up multiple kills that allowed AHQ not only to recoup some of the early gold deficit, but also to take multiple objectives that H2K struggled to respond to. In this game Westdoor played steady and safe on Malzahar, allowing his team to capitalise off his ults while H2K scrambled to recover from their individual mistakes.
H2K return to the stage on day 2 when they take on Wildcard qualifier INTZ in a game that seems a lot harder now than it did before yesterday’s games. INTZ stunned China’s #1 seed EDG in the biggest upset in Worlds history. Just like G2, however, H2K cannot afford to lose against the Wildcard team in their group and must win the second game against AHQ next week, though EDG losing to INTZ blew the group wide open.
INTZ duo Revolta and Yang completely dominated Mouse and Clearlove, the latter often considered to be the best jungler in the World. H2K’s Jankos and Odoamne will have a tough task ahead of them, while FORG1VEN and Vander must assert dominance over the weaker members of INTZ, AD Carry micaO and support Jockster.
KLED IS DEAD
Splyce ensured the EU defeat repeat with a hard-fought loss to Samsung Galaxy in the penultimate game of the day. Wunder brought out the Kled for the first (and hopefully not last) time at Worlds 2016, but unfortunately it didn’t work out as he struggled to deal with Cuvee’s Rumble, backed up by Ambition’s Rek’Sai. Wunder’s repeated attempts to dive into the fray without caution were brave but rendered ineffective by the large deficit the team had already incurred going back to Wunder giving up first blood.
Splyce mid-laner Sencux still considers it a good pick, which didn’t cause them to lose the game, but conceded their other picks may not have been the best to complement a champion that wants to hard engage all the time. “In general we didn't snowball much in top and they got first blood and kind of got ahead on that,” says Sencux. “Kled just wants to run in and ult with the move speed that he gives all his teammates, but I wouldn't say our picks are the greatest with that, because Cassiopeia is mainly a disengager. I don't think the pick made us lose the game; it's a good pick, I think it scales really well and you can oneshot some people late game with his W, it deals an insane amount of damage. I just think we lost the game for other reasons.”
While Splyce are not known to be a strong early-game team, it cost them a significant amount in their game against Samsung. “I would say when you get the early lead, especially when they get two towers to none and the first tower, it should be really easy for a good team to snowball it,” said Sencux. “We kinda got back into the game because I solo'd Rumble in the top lane, and we wanted to fight off that, but instead of just going to Baron when Rumble TP'd, we kind went into a 2 v 2 fight, me and Wunder, and I overextended and died. We lost our chance. We kinda got back, and then we threw the lead again that we could have had with the Nash.”
Despite the tough early loss, Sencux draws encouragement from glimpses of talent he and his team showed in this game. After reviewing what went wrong in their game, they will be ready to go against RNG on day 2, who just came off a huge victory against Group favourites TSM. It was always going to be a tough task for Splyce to qualify for the Knockout Stages after landing in this group, but they still have plenty to say in how Group D plays out.
FIGHT ANOTHER DAY
Though day one did not go as expected for European teams, there’s still a long way to go in Groups. H2K and Splyce return to the stage on day 2 against INTZ and RNG respectively, and EU teams will hopefully end the day with at least one win on the board. Tune into the games on watch.lolesports.com if you’re dedicated enough to stay up and watch them live, or hit up our VODs page to catch up on all the action in the morning.