To the delight of the European fans in attendance, League of Legends Worlds history was made in Berlin’s Verti Music Hall. For the first time ever, all three of Europe’s seeds have made it through to the knockout stage as G2 Esports, Fnatic and Splyce all secured second-seed finishes in their respective groups.
The best-of-ones phase of the tournament did not disappoint with breathtaking matches, incredible plays and a handful of surprise results. Before we move on to Madrid, let’s relive the thrilling last two weeks of games which had leaping fans out of their seats.
Group A: G2nd seed
As the Mid-Season Invitational and LEC champions, G2 Esports came into Worlds as one of the favourites to lift the Summoner’s Cup. Yet, European fans were holding their breath during the Group Stage as G2 historically have struggled in the early stage.
G2 were far from their best, however, as the players seemingly took it in turns in making individual mistakes. Yet, G2’s players turned it around, and whoever was struggling was easily covered by the other four, and that helped them cruise to a 5-1 finish overall, with only losses to Griffin.
There were similar questions over the LCK side, however, who topped the regular season of both LCK Splits this year but managed to choke in the Spring and Summer Playoff finals. But Griffin’s performances in the second half of the Groups has removed any doubt over the LCK second-seeds: this is a team that can win Worlds. The way Griffin easily disposed of Cloud9 and G2 was terrifying, and at their peak, there may not be a team in the world who can stop Griffin.
With the quality of the top two in Group A, you have to feel for Cloud9 who simply didn’t have enough to progress. The organisation are usually North America’s saviours at Worlds but couldn’t help this year, failing to progress through the Group Stage for the first time since 2015. Coincidently, both times C9 were eliminated Worlds was held in Europe.
Group B: Group of Splyce
In perhaps the most open group in Worlds history, Group B was dubbed the ‘Group of Life’ by fans, as Splyce were offered a fantastic chance to reach the knockout stages for the first time in the organisation’s history.
After a shaky journey through the Play-Ins, nobody could have predicted just how hot Splyce would get heading into Week 2. The LEC team were flying with wins over J Team, GAM Esports, and most impressively, China’s first-seeds, FunPlus Phoenix. Tamás "Vizicsacsi" Kiss had to wait 1,696 days and 335 pro games to finally step onto the Worlds stage and he made his chance count with a remarkable performance on Cho’Gath to take down the LPL champions.
Splyce survived a tricky tie with Vietnam’s GAM to secure their place in the quarterfinals, but there was work still to be done. They had to face Phoenix one more time in a tiebreaker to decide who would secure the all-import first-seed finish.
Superstar mid-laner Kim "Doinb" Tae-sang was also at his first World Championship and as the face of FunPlus, you can only keep him down for so long. Playing the unorthodox pick of Renekton mid, Doinb absolutely crushed Splyce. The Korean mid-laner is the key to FunPlus’ success, and when he’s rolling there’s very little you can do to stop him. Still, with Splyce locking in their place in the knockouts, it was down to Fnatic to prove that they can live up to expectations and join their LEC brethren in the knockouts.
Group C: Legacies clash
Fnatic, Royal Never Give Up and SK Telecom T1 – three of the strongest and most successful teams in League of Legends history clashed in one of the most exhilarating groups we’ve ever seen.
After missing out on the World Championship altogether last year, record three-time Worlds winners SKT finally look like their former selves again. Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok was in spectacular form and throughout the Groups pulled off multiple miraculous escapes, living up to his moniker of The Unkillable Demon King.
RNG and Jian "Uzi" Zi-Hao were also in fine form and didn’t appear to be too far behind SKT’s level. That put Fnatic under immense pressure who struggled in the opening week. Going into Week 2, Fnatic needed a good start with their match-up against NA’s Clutch Gaming, with that game being an easy win in theory.
Though the LEC second-seeds stumbled, Fnatic marginally won after a messy game which lasted just shy of 50 minutes as both teams made large errors. With their very next match being against an undefeated SKT side, Fnatic’s hopes of reaching the knockouts looked slim.
But as we’ve seen year after year, Fnatic are at their best when the stakes are high. Tim “Nemesis” Lipovšek is still in his first year as a pro player, but you can tell he’s going to be something special. The Slovenian wasn’t fazed by the big stage and even managed to solokill Faker as Fnatic picked up an astonishing win.
That meant it was RNG vs Fnatic, with the loser going home. Martin “Rekkles” Larsson has seemingly had a mental block for years when facing Uzi, but this time as the two legends faced-off, the Swede came out on top with help from an incredible Pyke performance by Zdravets "Hylissang" Galabov.
But for RNG, it was more heartbreak as the iconic organisation is still searching for its first World Championship. They’ll have to take the “Never Give Up” in their name literally.
Group D: Liquid tears
Team Liquid were NA’s last hope and had every chance following an important win over Damwon Gaming in the first week. And in a rematch of that game, TL got off to a superb start with a clever lane-swap and Sion cheese at level one. They were clearly well-prepared, but all of that work went to waste after an ill-advised fight for an Ocean Drake.
The main event was between Damwon and reigning World Champions Invictus Gaming as the two teams competed in an instant-classic with a shot at first-seed on the line. The individual quality in the game was immense with a highlight being the top-lane battle between Jang "Nuguri" Ha-gwon and Kang "TheShy" Seung-lok.
Damwon ended up securing first-seed and looked extremely strong before Invictus Gaming dominated Liquid to get revenge for the MSI semifinals. We saw last year that IG were able to step up another level when they reached the knockouts, and will have to if they want to take down Griffin in the next round.
Meanwhile, Damwon and G2 will clash in an extremely exciting encounter while Fnatic will have to go through another top LPL team with a best-of-five against FunPlus. And finally, Splyce have an incredibly tough tie with SKT.
The quarterfinals are going to be as equally exciting so you won’t want to miss the games which start on Saturday, October 26.