The Play Ins are over, but are the Victors Ready for Groups?
The Play Ins for the League of Legends 2018 World Championship are over. Among the 12 teams that battled for a spot into the group stage, only 4 teams were able to claim those coveted roles: Cloud 9, Edward Gaming, G2 Esports, and G-Rex. These four teams overcame the intensity of the Play Ins in order to secure that spot to face the pre-qualifying teams from both major and minor regions. Despite their best efforts to show the world what they were made of, analysts and players observed these teams carefully, hesitating to celebrate the victory, wondering if they were truly ready to fight against the big names in the group stage.
G2 Esports have never missed going to Worlds ever since their EULCS debut in 2016. The expectations for the team were that they would make groups without any trouble. However, all throughout Play Ins, fans were concerned with the performance of G2 Esports due to their shaky start in Play Ins Group Stage and their close best of 5 with Infinity Esports. Even though they only lost 1 game in the best of 5 against Infinity Esports, the analysts were not impressed by what G2 had to offer.
The analyst desk, which consisted of caster Jake "Spawn" Tiberi, analyst Mark “MarkZ” Zimmerman, and host Eefje “Sjokz” Depoortere were not ecstatic by the results of the game, despite it being a comeback victory from G2 Esports. With Spawn upsettingly placing his head in his hands and MarkZ comforting him, Sjokz began the session: “Congratulations to G2 Esports,” she formally announced before breaking character to address her dismay. “But man that was a frustrating game to watch.” Spawn shortly responded with a prompt “They (Infinity Esports) deserve to win that game.” And the analyst desk was not upset due to any bias towards Infinity Esports, but instead for their expectations that G2 was supposed to dominate the Play Ins stage without a worry on their mind. Although G2 was under a lot of heat following the best of 5, Luka “Perkz” Perković, mid laner for G2 Esports, in Knockout, the 6th video in their Worlds 2018 series, calmly addressed the viewers: “I would say after this play-in experience we are very ready for Worlds. Our performance wasn’t the best, but I don’t think it was the worst either.”
Photo via Riot Games
Despite Cloud 9’s perfect 4-0 record in Play Ins, they faced a similar problem to G2 Esports: struggling to achieve an expected victory against a team from a minor region. Their opponent from the League of Legends Continental League, or LCL, was Gambit Esports, an organization which had never made it passed Play Ins, but for the first time, they came the closest they had ever gotten to attending the Group Stage. In a riveting best of 5, Cloud 9 secured their victory in the final game, but at the cost of a lot of hope that fans of NA traditionally had for them.
In the final game’s post-interview with Cloud 9 jungler Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen commented on why the match was incredibly close: “I think overall they’re (Gambit Esports) a pretty solid team, and I think we didn’t underestimate them, but yeah it took us long to like, ground out the series.” After being asked what Cloud 9 would need to do to improve for Group Stage, Svenskeren responded that his team would aim to try their best, knowing full well that they were bound to be put into group B, which had been labeled by many analysts as the “group of death”.
On the other spectrum of expectations, the other two victors, Tencent League of Legends Pro League (LPL) Edward Gaming and League of Legends Master Series (LMS) G-Rex both had one sided series (despite SuperMassive eSports taking a game from G-Rex). Edward Gaming had the expectation of completely dominating their group and taking their deserved spot in the “true” Group Stage. After an early loss, they stood back up and took their entire group by storm, dominating them and their opponent from League of Legends Japan League, DetonatioN FocusMe in the Knockout Stage. LPL fans and analysts agreed that Edward Gaming would do well going into the Group Stage, considering they showed impressive play all around the board without giving DetonatioN FocusMe, who are considered the strongest Japanese team, a game they could truly come back from.
Out of these four teams, G-Rex is not from one of the major LCS regions, so expectations from analysts and fans for this team were not exceptionally high. Despite the one game G-Rex lost in the knockouts and the moments during games that felt as if SuperMassive could turn the tide, G-Rex demonstrated skillful gameplay which far exceeded many expectations regarding their team, already starting to become fan favorites as a wildcard team going into Group Stage, leading some to believe that they have the potential to make it out of their group, despite the favoritism towards 100 Thieves and Fanatic.
Photo via Riot Games
At the end of the day, all these teams proved their worth and are now gearing up for the long week ahead of them that will mark the timeframe of the Group Stage. Despite concerns from fans and analysts, G2 and C9 are confident about heading into their groups and making it out victorious. Edward Gaming and G-Rex have met and surpassed many expectations, proving to other teams that they are not ones to be trifled with. But Play Ins has always skimmed the surface of what Worlds has had to offer, and nothing can come close to what upsets could occur within the bloodbath of the Group Stage. These teams may be confident and ready, but the next step could have a different story waiting for them.
The dawn of he third day of groups approaches, Cloud 9 and G2 are both 1-1, while G-Rex is 0-1 and Edward Gaming is 1-0.