With the play-in stage having already come to a close and many wildcard teams failing to make the cut, the group stage of the 2019 World Championship will now see the top regions’ heavyweights enter the tournament to earn their place in the knockouts
With the play-in stage having already come to a close and many wildcard teams failing to make the cut, the group stage of the 2019 World Championship will now see the top regions’ heavyweights enter the tournament to earn their place in the knockouts. Of the 12 teams that entered play-ins, only 4 have made it through to join the World’s best to make up 4 stacked groups, and the action will get underway this Saturday (12th October).
After the play-ins were held in Riot’s own LEC Studio in Berlin, Germany, competition now moves elsewhere in the city to the Verti Music Hall where thousands of fans will get the chance to see the top pros compete for a total of eight days.
The teams include the top three seeds from the LPL, LCK, LEC, LCS and LMS as well as the first seed from the VCS. In all, 16 teams make up four groups that will each play out a double round robin, ultimately determining the top two from each group who will then proceed to the knockout stage.
Things kick off on Saturday 12th October at 14:00 CEST / 21:30 ACST and the groups will finally conclude on Sunday 20th, with only a single day break on Wednesday 16th for players to get any kind of respite (though historically most teams will still use this day to train rigorously).
Prior to the groups being drawn, the 16 teams were allocated into three pools, each of different strengths. Pool 1 was the strongest and comprised of the number one seeds from the LPL, LEC, LCK and LCS. Pool 2 included eight teams; the second seed from the LCS, LEC and LCK, the top two seeds from the LMS, the top seed from the VCS and the second and third seeds from the LPL. Finally, pool 3 brought through the teams qualifying for the group stage through the play-ins.
Each group includes one team from pool 1, two teams from pool 2 and one team from pool 3. No two teams from the same region could be drawn into the same group.
|Cloud 9||LCS||North America|
|Hong Kong Attitude||LMS||Taiwan|
|SK Telecom T1||LCK||Korea|
|Royal Never Give Up||LPL||China|
|Clutch Gaming||LCS||North America|
|Team Liquid||LCS||North America|
|ahq e-Sports Club||LMS||Taiwan|
If there’s a group with an upset on the cards it simply has to be group A. G2 Esports come into the tournament as one of the overall favourites having won both LEC splits as well as the Mid-Season Invitational earlier in the year and hope to become the first team in League of Legends history to complete a perfect season. Having looked almost unstoppable for most of the year it will be a huge surprise if they were to not make it through.
The bigger question mark is who will join them. Cloud9 are making their seventh World Championship appearance with a roster that includes experienced players who have made it out of groups before, most of whom were also in last year’s lineup that reached the semi-final.
On paper, back-to-back LCK finalists Griffin appear the stronger team having played some of the best League of Legends this season and should be a shoo-in to qualify. However, losing two LCK finals in a row has cast doubt over the team’s ability to perform on a big stage with the roster having come through the ranks together from Challengers Korea and boasting little experience in winning titles.
Group is arguably the weakest and should be a formality for the Chinese and European sides as the only group without teams from three of the four largest leagues (LPL, LCK, LEC and LCS).
LMS teams have struggled to make an impact in recent international events and this should be no different, with J Team unlikely to offer a substantial chance of snatching on of the top two spots. Meanwhile GAM Esports represents a growing Vietnamese league whose performances are still improving, but unfortunately still appear some way off of a knockout stage qualification.
The hardest group to call, group C is a group of death like no other and features a team from each of the four largest regions. As well as being the only group to include two former Worlds winners in Fnatic and SKT, the group also features twice previous finalists RNG (albeit under a previous iterations of the organisation) and a resurgent Clutch Gaming who have looked like a different side to the Spring strugglers since Cody Sun’s additional to the starting roster in Summer.
While Clutch are the least likely to make the cut, realistically any of the remaining three would be worthy qualifiers for the group stage and are all teams that would be expecting to make deep runs.
Faker’s return to the World Championship after missing out last season should be enough motivation for him alone to drag SKT through, though winning both LCK splits this year should also give the team enough confidence to make it.
While Fnatic’s constant improvement throughout the season (which almost culminated in taking down G2 in a five game series in the LEC Summer final) may be enough to see them progress, I would be a fool to not consider a sudden upturn in RNG’s performances with Uzi at the helm. The veteren ADC is still searching for his first World title and he has consistently shown himself to be capable to put in stellar games when needed on the largest stage.
I give the edge, ever so slightly, to Royal Never Give Up, though don’t be surprised to see Fnatic join G2 in the knockouts at the Chinese team’s expense.
I swear I’m not a Team Liquid fan, really.
With an in-form Nuguri in the top lane, DAMWON Gaming will be a force to be reckoned with in their first appearance in the Worlds group stage and it will take a serious shock for them to be knocked out. However, it’s choosing the second team for group D that has proven far more of a difficult task.
Having thought over which of TL and IG (sorry ahq) would be the second team to make it out of this group, the more I pondered the less I could see Team Liquid not qualifying. Despite winning the LPL Spring split and finishing in the semi-finals at MSI, the World Championship holders Invictus Gaming have not looked like their former selves and finished an underwhelming 7-8th in Summer playoffs. They only reached Worlds by the skin of their teeth in a 3-2 final victory over Top Esports in the Chinese Regional Qualifier.
On the other side of the World, North America’s Team Liquid have finished a dominant domestic season with a fourth consecutive LCS title and are Doublelift’s greatest chance so far to make it to the knockout stages of Worlds; something he has been consistently ridiculed for for failing to manage so far through his career. Having beaten Invictus to reach the final of MSI in Spring, TL have gone on to have the better form of the two in Summer and a solid bootcamp against fellow Western talent (one that will not show their hand to Eastern teams before the group even begins) will go a long way in seeing them upset the holders and making it through to the knockout stages.