Group D has been dubbed the group of death by many analysts, due to the high potential for upsets. While TSM and RNG’s players have both proved themselves in the past, Splyce and Samsung will be looking to cement themselves as international threats. Whether the all-stars manage to defend their titles, or the dark horses manage to take the upper hand, this group will no doubt be an important point in all four of their legacies.
Team Solomid (North America 1st seed)
Overview: TSM is not only the most popular team in North America, but also the strongest. After a second place finish in their first split, the all-star team have picked up rookie support player Vincent “Biofrost” Wang, in order to replace the more famous Bora “Yellowstar” Kim. He may be less well known, but Biofrost has proven that he can hold his own among his decorated peers. With their new addition, the team continues to improve, and have earned first place in the last split. Throughout the split, TSM have seemed unstoppable in their home region, and are going into the world championship as the easy North American favorite.
How they win: Ever since joining the team in season 4, mid laner Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg has been on every North American fan’s mind. For the longest time, TSM lived up to their “solo mid” moniker, as they would often rely on Bjergsen’s immense amounts of skill to outplay their opponents, but the veteran organization has finally fielded a roster that can stand on their own. While they were once on opposite sides of the rift, Bjergsen is now teammates with former CLG ad carry Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng. Bjergsen may have been in the running for NA’s best player since season 3, but his enemy turned ally has been the poster boy for the region’s talent since season 1. With both of the region’s historically best players on the same team, TSM should be able to rely on at least one of the two to get them ahead in difficult games.
How they lose: TSM have had a dominant split in their domestic region, but this may lead to complacency. If the star studded roster underestimates their international opponents and plays as if they’re still in North America, the team could face a rude awakening, and a quick exit from the tournament. A large part of preventing this overconfident mentality will come down to the team’s sport psychologist, Weldon Green.
Reasons to cheer for them: With one of the world’s best mid laners, a massive social media presence, and a legacy of domestic success, it’s no surprise that TSM are one of the world’s biggest Esports brands. Any fan that hopes to see North America go far should be in this team’s corner, as they’re the clear favorites from the region.
Royal Never Give Up (China 2nd seed)
Overview: RNG are yet another “super team” in this group, being composed of an amalgamation of Korean and Chinese talent. After a strong showing at the past MSI, the team’s place at the top has been usurped by the surprisingly dominant Edward Gaming. If Royal want to live up to their name and once again be China’s #1 team, this tournament will be a strong place to start.
How they win: RNG’s biggest advantage over the competition is their tactician in the bottom lane, Cho “Mata” Se-hyeong. Mata was once part of the world champion Samsung White roster, and has been credited as the team’s shot caller and strategist. Along with his star ad carry Jian “Uzi” Zi-Hao, Mata should be able to set up tactical advantages for his team, by making plays in lane, and using his excellent warding knowledge.
How they lose: While Mata’s shot calling abilities have remained sharp since coming to China, it would seem that his mechanics have started to dull. If their in game leader’s skills continue to decline, his lane partner Uzi will have to work pretty hard to keep his lane from losing.
Reasons to cheer for them: RNG are yet another dark horse in the tournament, despite their array of famous players. On top of their dark horse narrative, the roster may appeal particularly to returning fans, as they boast two of the former Samsung White members, as well as one of China’s most popular players, Uzi.
Splyce (Europe 3rd seed)
Overview: After being considered a weak team for most of their existence, Splyce seem to have finally hit their stride. After an amazing offseason power surge, the team placed second in last split’s playoffs, and won their regional qualifier. While it may come as a shock to returning European fans, it’s no fluke that Splyce are attending the world championships this year.
How they win: When he’s at his best, ad carry Kasper “Kobbe” Kobberup can serve as a flexible foundation for his team, as he can put up a strong performance on any of his role’s meta picks. While it looks like an uphill battle for Splyce, a standout performance from Kobbe could put less pressure on his solo laners, which may help them to over perform as well.
How they lose: Splyce’s biggest problem over the split has been consistency in drafts. While they’re by no means bad players, this trend is partly due to top laner Martin “Wunder” Hansen, and jungler Jonas “Trashy” Anderson. Both players have shown some inconsistency when forced off of their comfort picks, and have shown a pattern of playing badly when forced onto more obscure picks. Even if their ability to put up impressive performances on a limited pool of champions is fine in their domestic region, it could prove to be a glaring weakness in the draft phase, when facing teams with more versatile champion pools.
Reasons to cheer for them: Much like Group C’s I May, Splyce are a fairly new team who’ve made it much farther than was expected of them. This group of relatively new LCS talents will most likely only be gaining more traction as time goes on, so fans hoping to get on the bandwagon early should so now.
Samsung Galaxy (Korea 3rd seed)
Overview: After losing two of the best teams in the world almost two years ago, the rebuilding process hasn’t been easy for Samsung. Over the past two years the team has tried out countless different players, and it seems that they’ve finally found a winning formula. Having once been the short lived kings of Korea, Samsung will be hoping to begin their return to glory and usurp the throne from their group’s fierce competitors.
How they win: Samsung’s greatest asset is their ability to work as a team, with rookie ad carry Park “Ruler” Jae-hyuk at their core. No matter what their composition calls for him to do, Ruler is able to put up a respectable performance. Whether he’s needed as crowd control in a pick composition, or as the cornerstone Sivir in a death ball team, Ruler has shown that he’s up to the task. One of the primary reasons for the team’s plethora of strategies is that they’re some of the hardest working players in the world. After being criticized for his small champion pool in the past split, mid laner Lee “Crown” Min-ho spent his vacation playing new champions in online games, in order to remove a potential weakness for his team. With their mid laner’s sacrifice of his vacation time being just one of many examples of their dedication, it should be assumed that Samsung will be able to use any number of strategies to out draft their opponents.
How they lose: Samsung’s support player may not make it immediately obvious, but Jo “CoreJJ” Yong-in only recently switched to his current role. Despite his dedication to holding his own in a new position, the rookie support player currently only stands out when playing Tahm Kench. If he doesn’t follow his mid laner’s example and improve his champion pool, Samsung’s support could be a major liability in the team’s otherwise strong draft phase.
Reasons to cheer for them: With a roster with both a competitive rookie and a support that just recently changed roles, Samsung have a long road ahead of them if they wish to come close to the prestige that their former teams held. With that said, the team has some of the hardest working players in Korea, and will stop at nothing to reach the top once again. With these factors in mind, anyone looking for a team with excellent teamwork and a relentless work ethic should keep an eye on this Korean dark horse.