For group A, the biggest tossup is over the second place spot. While the Korea’s ROX Tigers seem poised to take first in their group without much opposition, both North America’s CounterLogic Gaming and Europe’s G2 Esports can put up a fight for second place. Trailing behind the pack is the Russian Albus Nox Luna.
ROX Tigers (Korea 1st seed)
Overview: Having played the role of the David to SKT’s Goliath for most of their existence, the ROX Tigers have only recently won their first championship title in Korea, and are now looking to reaffirm this recent change in roles. Although they generally present a goofy and lackadaisical approach to the game, the Tigers are not to be underestimated, as they boast one of the most threatening rosters in Korea.
How they win: Not only is Song “Smeb” Kyung-ho in contention for the title of best top laner in Korea, but possibly also for best player in the world, due to his consistent carry play style. Considering his pedigree, Smeb should have no issue winning his lane and getting his team ahead, thanks to his relentless method. The team’s ability to rely on their top laner’s skill, combined with a rock solid core, should also allow their jungler Han “Peanut” Wang-ho to play his signature aggressive style, and mitigate his opponent’s in game presence.
How they lose: While the Tigers seem poised to take the entire tournament, two flaws could cause their downfall. Their pitfall could be that while Peanut’s aggressive in game tendencies can lead to quick victories, they’ve been shown to be less effective on prepared opponents, which all of the junglers he faces will most likely be. The second crack in the juggernauts’ armor is that their mid laner Lee “Kuro” Seo-Haeng, has shown a tendency to underperform in key matches; particularly when facing SKT’s mid laner, Lee “Faker” Sanghyeok. Although this may not be an issue during groups, it may prove to be their Achilles heel as the tournament’s stakes continue to rise.
Reasons to cheer for them: With a combination of aggressive play in game, and a jovial attitude in interviews, the Tigers should be an easy choice for a fan who is looking for a team that has a laid back atmosphere, but is still a contender to win the tournament.
G2 Esports (Europe 1st seed)
Overview: After only joining the LCS in the past year, Europe’s G2 Esports have finished both of their playoffs runs in first place, and are the undisputed best team in Europe. Unfortunately for them, an abysmal performance at the Mid-Season Invitational has resulted in lower seeding for European teams at the world championship, which caused quite an uproar from the region’s fans. Due to their reputation and past international results, G2 hopes to use this tournament to prove to the world that they should still be considered an international threat.
How they win: Although their style has evolved as time has passed, G2’s incessant aggression has always been their calling card. By using their bottom laners, Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen, and Alfonso “Mithy” Aguirre Rodriguez’s lane dominant playstyle along with jungler Kang-yoon “Trick” Kim’s dauntless aggression, G2 should be able to defeat many of their less skilled opponents.
How they lose: While the squad’s constant forward play and raw skill may overwhelm weaker opponents, they have yet to prove their mettle on an international stage. Despite their current form being good enough to contend with others in their group, G2 has yet to prove whether they can stay consistent against international opponents.
Reasons to cheer for them: G2 has somewhat of a divisive reputation among the community, due to an amalgamation of their mid laner Luka “PerkZ” Perković’s unfiltered attitude towards other players, and their choice to take a vacation before their disastrous performance at the past MSI. Ultimately, while G2 Esports will likely appeal to those looking to root for a strong European team with an aggressive playstyle, it should still be noted that they can be somewhat wild and unpredictable.
Counter Logic Gaming (North America 2nd seed)
Overview: Going into the season, CLG were seen as an afterthought by many fans, due to losing both of their star players to rival teams. Although their replacements were less skilled than the former members who they’d be up against, the team managed to use their superior shot-calling to qualify for the Mid-Season Invitational. Once there, they would continue to defy expectations, eventually making it to the finals, where they fell to Korea’s SKT T1. Following their surprising first split, CLG fell into their originally projected place in the middle of the standings. Despite their fourth place playoffs result, the team was still able to qualify for the world championships, due to their circuit points for winning in the spring.
How they win: If CLG want to overtake their opponents, it will most likely be due to jungler Jake “Xmithie” Puchero’s omnipresent play-style, or ad carry Trevor “Stixxay” Hayes’ constantly improving play. Along with these two star players, CLG also boasts one of the best shot-callers in North America; their support player Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black. By using Xmithie’s ability to mitigate the enemy jungler’s pressure combined with their strategist in the bottom lane, the team may be able to make another impressive run in the tournament.
How they lose: One of the more criticized players on CLG’s new roster has always been their mid laner Choi “Huhi” Jae-hyun, due to his small champion pool. Oftentimes during important games, the team would need to adjust their picks to allow for Huhi to get one of his signature champions, which can result in sub-par drafts.
Reasons to cheer for them: Counter Logic Gaming may not be the most mechanically skilled team, but they’re loved by their fans, due to their friendly demeanor. CLG are often the underdog, and this tournament is no exception, meaning they should be a perfect fit for fans who want to cheer for a charismatic North American underdog.
Albus Nox Luna (CIS region, wild card qualifier)
Overview: Formerly known as Hard Random, Albus Nox Luna are one of two international wildcard teams attending the tournament. After failing to qualify for last year’s world championships or this year’s Mid-Season Invitational, the team re-branded themselves before entering into the newly formed LCL. After an undefeated regular season in their region and a hard fought path through the international qualifier, ANX have finally qualified for their first major international event, and are looking to prove that they can make a strong showing outside of their wildcard region.
How they win: The team’s support player Kirill “Likrit” Malofoyev was a bright point for the team during the international qualifier, due to his aggressive support play on somewhat unconventional picks such as Brand. Although ANX are unlikely to make it out of their group, it could be possible for their irregularly aggressive compositions to grab a few surprise wins.
How they lose: Unfortunately for ANX, wildcard teams are often seen as fodder for others in their groups, due to an overall lower quality of practice partners compared to other regions. While they may not win many games, it’s worth noting that even participating in events like these can often help wildcard teams improve, despite often going home defeated.
Reasons to cheer for them: As much as teams like CLG can be considered underdogs to make it out of groups, wildcard teams are often projected to not win more than one game. If fans wish to support a Russian team or like to support teams with unusual styles, they should support Albus Nox, but they may want to find another team to cheer for after group stages.