Worlds 2021 Group Stage Preview
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Worlds 2021 Group Stage Preview

With a memorable, and at times controversial, play-in stage having now come to a close, Main Event action at the 2021 World Championship is set to kick off with the game’s greatest teams entering the fray.

Lee "Couple Sodi Pops" Jones
Freelance Esports Writer
11th Oct, 21·☕️☕️ 9 min read
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With a memorable, and at times controversial, play-in stage having now come to a close, Main Event action at the 2021 World Championship is set to kick off with the game’s greatest teams entering the fray.

Competition Information

Starting Monday 11th October, the Main Event begins with a group stage that separates 16 sides into four equally sized groups. Each group comprises teams from pools 1-4, with the lowest seeds having earlier earned their spot through the play-ins. The groups then all play out a best-of-one, double round-robin to determine the top two teams from each group, who will then progress to the knockouts.

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The group stage is set to come to a close on Monday 18th October and will continue to be played from Laugardalshöll in Reykjavík, Iceland.

The Current Season

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Coming into the tournament as current holders and back-to-back-to-back LCK champions, it’s no surprise that DWK KIA enters Worlds as one of the clear favourites. The side have shown little sign of slowing down despite losing star top laner Nuguri heading into this season, though a loss in the finals of MSI earlier this year does cast some doubt over their strength against top Chinese competition in particular.

Their fiercest competition is likely to come in the form of 2019 World Champions FunPlus Phoenix, the destination for Nuguri after his departure from DWG. Though they only finished as runners up in both LPL splits this season, the side’s recent form, mid laner Doinb’s in particular, has sparked much debate over their chances to retain the world title. Such is the anticipation around FPX that Picklbet currently has them at 3.25 favourites.

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Fellow LPL organisations RNG, EDward Gaming and LNG will also fancy their chances at making a deep run, alongside the additional Korean sides Gen.G, Hanwha Life and T1; the latter hoping to add to their existing 3 World Championship trophies.

Europe’s hopes rest largely on back-to-back LEC winners MAD Lions, a young squad looking to avenge their underachievement in Worlds 2020, while Fnatic have shown to be an organisation not to count out regardless of expectations.

Group A

TeamLeagueRegionSeed
DWG KIALCKKorea1
FunPlus PhoenixLPLChina2
RogueLECEurope3
Cloud9LCSNorth America4

Group B

TeamLeagueRegionSeed
EDward GamingLPLChina1
100 ThievesLCSNorth America2
T1LCKKorea3
DetonatioN FocusMeLJLJapan4

Group C

TeamLeagueRegionSeed
PSG TalonPCSSoutheast Asia1
FnaticLECEurope2
Royal Never Give UpLPLChina3
Hanwha Life EsportsLCKKorea4

Group D

TeamLeagueRegionSeed
MAD LionsLECEurope1
Gen.GLCKKorea2
Team LiquidLCSNorth America3
LNG EsportsLPLChina4

Lee Jones’ Picks

Group A - DWG KIA and FunPlus Phoenix

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With both DWG and FPX heading into the main event as the two favourites for the title, it’s difficult to tip any team other to progress from group A ahead of them. The LCK winners have shown weakness in their bottom lane this season, however the topside trio of Khan, Canyon and ShowMaker will take insurmountable efforts to suppress in order to knock them out at this early stage. Meanwhile, ex-DWG top laner Nuguri joins 2019 winners Tian, Doinb, Lwx and Crisp on a star-studded roster that will see anything other than another title as a complete failure.

As a European fan, seeing Hall of Famer Perkz in the mid lane for Cloud9 does make it hard to rule them out of a top-two spot in this group. His indescribable series against then-favourites RNG in Worlds 2018 is the perfect example of his ability to solo carry a series against all odds and the chance to do so now that he is representing NA would be an even bigger achievement. Finally, Rogue spent the majority of both LEC splits in the top spot this season and were unlucky to falter during playoffs last time around. They’re an inarguably talented squad, though their tendency to drop-off during the higher-pressure playoffs doesn’t bode well ahead of the largest stage of them all.

Group B - EDward Gaming and T1

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A somewhat more straightforward prediction, group B sees two clear favourites in the shape of LPL winners EDG and three-time world champions T1. Once again picking the Korean and Chines teams (a trend I will put a stop to imminently) seems the clearest choice despite both organisations being some way from their previous international heights the past few seasons.

100 Thieves are likely to put up the biggest fight of the remaining two sides, given that they enter Worlds as North America’s first seed having swept Team Liquid 3-0 in the LCS Champions final in August. A side that has looked increasingly stronger since their signing of mid laner Abbedagge in the Spring off season, the additional month and a half of preparation since their LCS title win may even see them enter Worlds stronger than they were the rest of the season.

Finally, Japanese side DetonatioN FocusMe made history for their region by becoming the first LJL side to qualify for the main event after topping their play-in group. Though they will enter the main event with great momentum, moving on to the knockouts unfortunately seems a step too far this time around.

Group C - Royal Never Give Up and Fnatic

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This is definitely the toughest choice yet, given that all four sides will have serious expectations at progressing from what will very likely be the most closely competed group. RNG is a reasonably safe prediction given that they won MSI earlier this year and progressed through China’s Regional Finals with relative ease to earn their spot in the group stage. Then things get tricky…

Though Fnatic seemed to have, on paper, created one of their weakest rosters in recent seasons, they’ve only improved since Bwipo’s surreal roleswap to jungle that allowed rookie top laner Adam to join from the regional leagues. As with previous seasons, Fnatic seems to have a knack for making impressive Worlds runs whether or not there is much expectation for them to do so at the time.

With the likes of Chovy and Deft on their roster, the latter of whom is running out of time to add an international title to his trophy cabinet, Hanwha Life is not to be ignored despite often inconsistent performances. PSG Talon, the PCS’s final representative, will look to reach the knockouts for the first time and shine a better light on the region after the controversy surrounding Beyond Gaming’s Maoan after the mid laner was found to have leaked pick/ban strategies for insider betting earlier in the tournament.

Group D - MAD Lions and LNG Esports

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Eventually proving the toughest group for me to predict, I was initially quick to pick out MAD Lions as my first side to progress for a couple of key reasons. Firstly, they’re LEC champions. The last time a team entered Worlds as LEC holders and failed to reach knockouts was G2 back in 2017 and each champion in the subsequent seasons have managed to at least reach the semi-finals. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, I’ve been well and truly engrossed by EU hopium and so a choice other than MAD was totally out of the question!

The remaining three sides all have solid shouts for the other qualifying spot, and all would be disappointed to miss out. Gen.G have been a steady performer in recent seasons, often making deep runs in both the LCK and World Championships but failing to take it that step further. Team Liquid were runners up in both LCS splits this season, however their clear improvement following a change in head coach during Summer is an obvious sign that they’re headed in the right direction. Add to that Alphari’s solo-carry potential in the top lane and TL could be a dark horse for a knockout spot.

Finally, China’s fourth seed and my second pick for qualification, LNG Esports were the strongest side in play-ins and may well benefit from being the only side in their group with any “match fitness”. Jungler Tarzan has looked close to his former Griffin form and the Korean will hope to finally have a solid Worlds showing after his previous shambolic attempt with Griffin in 2019 that was scuppered by a late change in the coaching staff.