While some groups have clear projected winners and losers, all of the teams in group B can theoretically make it to the next stage. From SK Telecom’s hopes to prove that they can still live up to their first place legacy, to I May’s goal of making a splash in their first split together, every team in this group is hungry to prove that they have what it takes to be the best.
Flash Wolves (Taiwan 1st seed)
Overview: Having attended both last year’s world championships and this year’s Mid-Season Invitational, the flash wolves have become somewhat of the flagship team for Taiwan, at the international level. The team tends to be an unpredictable factor in competitions, as their quality of play can wildly fluctuate between games.
How they win: At their best, the Flash wolves’ mid and ad carry players Huang “Maple” Yi-Tang, and Hsiung “NL” Wen-An can deliver a crushing performance, due to their gung-ho and somewhat carefree playstyles. If either of the duo is allowed to start their snowball, it could lead to a decisive win against any team.
How they lose: While it can earn the team some unexpected kills at times, NL’s reckless positioning is also to blame for many of their losses. If NL continues to show his unpredictable tendencies during the tournament, it could very well spell disaster for his team’s chances at making it far.
Reasons to cheer for them: The Flash Wolves may not have the most impressive overall record, but they do have one thing that many other teams at the tournament don’t; an undefeated record against Korean teams. If fans are looking for an unpredictable and fast-paced team or like to support a dark horse in the tournament, the Flash Wolves’ style should be just what they want to see.
SK Telecom T1 (Korea 2nd seed)
Overview: Due to their unprecedented two world championship titles, many western fans feel that SKT are the face of Korea’s competitive domination. This reputation has been earned not only by pure results, but also due to their mid laner Lee “Faker” Sanghyeok’s reputation. Since his entry into the game in season 3, Faker has been widely considered as the best player in the world, and is one of the game’s flagship players. Despite winning this year’s Mid-Season Invitational, SKT’s domestic results have dipped over the past year, due to rebuilding their roster. This dip in results means that for the first time since their showing at the season 3 world championships, SKT will be facing a competition that they aren’t expected to easily win.
How they win: While they may be in a slump, SK Telecom are still one of the best squads in the world. With both Faker in the mid lane and Bae “Wolf” Jun-sik as their ADC, SK Telecom have two of the most consistent and skilled players in the world to rely on. Unless they play completely uncharacteristically, these two players alone should be able to clinch a way out of groups for their team.
How they lose: SKT’s newest addition and possible Achilles heel, is their jungler Kang “Blank” Sun-gu. Since his addition to the roster, Blank has delivered mediocre performances at both of his international appearances, and has been generally cited as a weak point on the team. If Blank’s trend of poor international form continues, his team may be in trouble when facing off against high pressure junglers.
Reasons to cheer for them: SKT are one of the safest bets to make in competitive league of legends. With strong players in every role, viewers should be able to expect the team to pull out any number of different compositions. If fans are looking to support a team with a strong and adaptable roster led by one of the game’s biggest names, then they need look no further than these two time world champions.
I May (China 3rd seed)
Overview: A relatively new face to the main Chinese league, I May only recently came together as an organization. Before this split, the team served as a farm team for Edward Gaming, one of the best teams in the league. It’s worth noting that due to their role as a former farm team, I May has substitute mid and jungle players, who occasionally replace their starting role counterparts. After placing third in their first split as an independent team, I May are hoping to further prove that they should be taken as more than just another team’s backup plan.
How they win: Having once been a star player on EDG’s main team, Shek “AmazingJ” Wai-Ho continues to do deliver impressive performances in the top lane. If he can mimic his domestic results on an international stage, AmazingJ’s carry potential combined with Korean import Yun “Road” Han-Gil’s dependable support play should provide their team with a shot against their veteran opponents.
How they lose: Unlike the other teams in their group, I May have only recently joined their region’s primary league, meaning that they have far less experience playing in unfamiliar countries, and on an international stage. If the team lose their nerve against their veteran opponents, it may result in uncharacteristic mistakes, which could be exploited.
Reasons to cheer for them: With most of the other teams having already popular players and previous world championship attendances under their belts, I May represent the next generation of talent. Due to their rising talents, this new squad will be one to watch for anyone trying to keep an eye on the possible stars of the future in China.
Cloud 9 (North America 3rd seed)
Overview: After crushing their first few splits as a team and quickly making a name for themselves, Cloud 9 have recently been struggling to be the undisputed #1 team in their region. In an effort to renew their dominance in the league, the team entered their recent split with a revamped roster. After a middling performance in the regular season, they’ve continued to improve, and showed a spectacular performance in their qualifying series.
How they win: With former world champion Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong in the top lane, and European mid laner Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen as their main carry players, c9 are often able to earn early solo kills in lane. If their star players continue to improve and can show the same level of lane dominance, they should be able to snowball their early game advantages into a win.
How they lose: Earlier in the season, C9’team fights often seemed disjointed. Although it seems that the team has since worked past these issues, they may reappear during high pressure games. In addition to coordination issues, the team’s ad carry Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi has been criticized for having a weak laning phase by fellow players. If this accusation proves true, opponents may be able to exploit this weakness, and counteract the team’s strong solo lanes.
Reasons to cheer for them: They may not be going into the tournament as their region’s first seed, but C9 have been improving throughout the split, and don’t yet seem to have hit their skill ceiling. While this iteration doesn’t have the same expectations as the ROX tigers for the tournament, they do have a similar joking and laid back attitude. If fans are looking for a team with a lot of personality and a high skill cap, they should consider rooting for Cloud 9.