With worlds right around the corner, this is our Group A Preview
The Group Draw Show hosted by previous League of Legends pros such as WeiXiao and Scarra, drew the following teams for Group A:
- ROX Tigers (LCK 1st place)
- G2 Esports (EU 1st Place)
- Counter Logic Gaming (NA 2nd Place)
- Albus Nox (International Wildcard)
This group is extremely lob sided in terms of demonstrated skills and accomplishments. The ROX Tigers and G2 are clear favourites to make it out of Group A and into the quarterfinals. CLG and Albus are both viewed as weaker teams, especially compared to the winners of the LCK and EU LCS.
International wildcards teams have historically been a joke at worlds. They lack the infrastructure, coaching staff and capital to play and practise like the other teams. While teams from all major regions are pouring into Korea to boot camp and scrim, I highly doubt that the Russian team are doing the same.
Albus Nox Luna was formally known as Hard Random. Surprisingly, this is the team’s second appearance at worlds, after making a world-stage debut in 2014. The only redeeming factor for Albus is their super star mid-lander Kira. Kira single-handily carried his team to worlds in 2014. This year, Kira boasts the highest damage per minute of any mid-laner at the Wildcard qualifiers. However, I highly doubt individual play can translate into a meaningful victory on the World stage.
Albus Nox Luna’s line-up with superstar mid-laner Kira (right)
ROX and G2 have built up a lot of momentum coming into worlds this year. The two teams dominated the regular season, both finishing first place. Both ROX and G2 are some of the most brutal teams in the early game. On average, ROX has a 372 gold lead at 15 minutes, while G2 boast a 1.3k gold lead at 15 minutes (in the regular season). These two teams always have their opponents on their heels and afraid of what is going to happen next.
ROX currently possess the best top laner in the world – Smeb, renowned for outclassing the 1v1 matchup through sheer mechanical greatness and his deep champion pools. Alongside Smeb are other Korean veterans: Peanut, Kuro, Pray and Gorilla – all (but Peanut) making another appearance at worlds. ROX should handily defeat their opponents with absolute minimal upset potential.
World’s best top laner: Smeb
Counter Logic Gaming crawled into qualifying for worlds. The struggling team failed to make it to the grand finals, and finished a mere 4th place in the summer playoffs. Given CLG’s current circumstances, I feel like they are significantly outclassed in the group (excluding Albus). The famous CLG split push strategy is going to be mitigated by top-lane-greats such as Smeb and Expect. The generally, weaker and more reactive CLG early game is going to be punished by jungle aggression from Peanut and Trick. And the rush-hour bot lane – Stixxay and Aphro should be fearful of Europe’s all-star Zven and Mithy.
Overall, G2 and ROX are in the driving seat of this Group. I feel as though this isn’t a matter of skill or strength, practise or past performances, good or bad players; G2 and ROX are simply ahead of the pack and on another level that only other teams can defeat.
1st Place – ROX (qualified)
2nd Place – G2 (qualified)
3rd Place – CLG
4th Place – Albus Nox
If the bookies overstate the odds for a CLG vs. ROX/G2 (e.g. give ROX/G2 victories better value than what they actually deserve) matchup, there could be value in betting for G2 and ROX to win due to the ‘inflated’ odds. I have a feeling that the odds are going to change after the first match as they realise CLG is quite a weak team.