Esports expert Andrew Noland picks his favorites for the League of Legends World Championship.
Flash Wolves (Taiwan 1st Seed)
Afreeca Freecs (Korean 2nd Seed)
Phong Vu Buffalo (Vietnam 1st Seed)
G2 Esports (Europe 3rd Seed)
Every group looks like a group of death this year, and Group A kicks things off with a bang. G2 barely scraped their way out of Europe and the Play-In Stage, but this is where their road ends. Afreeca, led by explosive jungler Spirit and midlaner Kuro, have had more than enough time to prepare for this disaster, and if the Freecs are given time, they can beat anyone in the world. While the Flash Wolves had an impressive group stage at the Mid-Season Invitational, it remains to be seen if their domestic dominance can finally carry over onto the international stage. They’ll rely on support SwordArt and ADC Betty in order to claim hegemony over this group. Phong Vu Buffalo are rumored to be phenomenal, though I always have my doubts about any team outside Korea. They’ll steal games off their opponents, but I don’t think they’ll have the consistency to overcome Flash Wolves or Afreeca.
1. Afreeca Freecs
2. Flash Wolves
I’m predicting a tiebreaker with Afreeca at least struggling a little at the beginning of the proceedings before making a second week surge. Flash Wolves can prove me wrong, but they need Maple to step up in order to challenge the Korean giants.
Royal Never Give Up/ RNG (China 1st Seed)
Gen.G (Korea 3rd Seed)
Team Vitality (Europe 2nd Seed)
Cloud9 (North America 3rd Seed)
Cloud9 made a truly remarkable run through the Regional Gauntlet, but found themselves struggling in the Play-In Stage. Cloud9 always seem to crawl out of the Group Stage, but even with their star rookies in top laner Licorice and support Zeyzal, they won’t find their way out (cue the Reddit tantrums). Vitality will find the same end as their Western counterpart. However, the team is young, and if they stick together, they should find themselves back here in 2019.
The real story of this group is between RNG and Gen.G. For the third year in a row, they find themselves competing for the top spot in the group, and while RNG’s Uzi and Xiaohu bested Ambition and Co. last year, it was Samsung Galaxy (who this year became Gen.G) who took the World Championship as the Chinese titans watched from home. This year, however, RNG ADC Uzi walks away from the most chaotic of the top five leagues as its victor, holding the MSI crown and he looks unstoppable. While Gen.G have been a miraculous team, they will need to summon every last drop of their mythical “playoff buff” to walk away with the first seed. Watch out for the bottom lanes in this group, because some of these matchups will prove fascinating.
1. Royal Never Give Up
I’m not doubting that this is the “Golden Year.” RNG look almost untouchable aside from their domestic rivals Invictus Gaming. Gen.G look the same as last year, and they’ll need ADC Ruler and Haru to maintain their incredibly form. That being said, Cloud9 or Vitality can take games off their Eastern overlords, and this group can easily devolve into a free-for-all.
KT Rolster (Korean 1st Seed)
MAD Team (Taiwan 2nd Seed)
Team Liquid (North America 1st Seed)
Edward Gaming/ EDG (China 3rd Seed)
The winners of LCK Summer are the least confident I’ve ever seen in a Korean #1 seed (don’t get excited). KT have all the pieces and while they appear to have put them all together, they always seem to find a way to disappoint everyone. MAD Team arguably shouldn’t be here, but I’m obligated to talk about them anyway. Team Liquid, North America’s one true hope, need ADC Doublelift to stop talking trash and start taking it out. He’ll need to overcome his synergy issues with support Olleh and mid-laner Pobelter will need to finally prove that he has a 200 IQ. EDG look amazing behind mid-laner Scout and ADC iBoy, but they usually crash their way out of the World Championships in spectacular and head-scratching fashion.
1. Kt Rolster
2. Team Liquid
Okay, my ‘Murica bias is showing, but I honestly believe North America has a shot out of the Groups this year. This will be a slugfest with every team taking games off one another, but I think that Team Liquid can emerge from this group if toplaner Impact decides he’s ready to return to his Season 3 form. This will likely go to a series of tiebreakers, but KT Rolster should eke their way through with Team Liquid squeaking past EDG to make it to the next stage.
Fnatic (Europe 1st Seed)
100 Thieves (North America 2nd Seed)
Invictus Gaming (China 2nd Seed)
GREX (Taiwan 3rd Seed)
Probably the easiest group by far, this is honestly just a competition for second seed. Rookie, TheShy and the rest of Invictus Gaming will crush every one of the other teams with no issues while Rekkles and Fnatic will wonder why Riot Games continues to punish them. Fnatic, led by superstar mid-laner Caps, should take the second seed with no fuss from the slumping 100 Thieves and a GREX that barely made it out of the Play-Ins.
1. Invictus Gaming
IG and Fnatic are just too good. I think that Fnatic can make a deep run into the World Championships, but they’ll struggle initially. GREX might make things interesting, but North America will wonder how 100 Thieves paid their way into this competition (likely with their shoe merchandising).