With the League of Legends World Championships 2016 fast approaching, here’s our preview of Group B.
In Group B we have defending champions SK Telecom T1, Taiwanese hopefuls Flash Wolves, the form team of North America Cloud9 and the surprise newcomers IMAY. On paper this group might look like a formality for SKT and Flash Wolves with Cloud9 and IMAY only just managing to secure their place through their respective regional qualifiers. As far as I’m concerned, this group will be anything but a formality.
Cloud9 finished the NA LCS in imperious form, taking down Immortals twice to secure their spot. Ex-SKT superstar Impact is finally showing the form that made him one of the most feared players in the world, and what better time to start? He will relish the thought of facing his old team mates and will certainly have a point to prove. IMAY will be the surprise package of this group. Little under 5 months ago, they were called EDward Esports and were playing in the Chinese second tier. Now they’re at the World Championships. Just let that sink in for a minute. Take a look at our preview of the Group B teams:
Expected Lineup: Duke (Top), Blank (Jungle), Faker (Mid), Bang (AD), Wolf (Support)
After an unimpressive summer, by their usual lofty standards, SKT will be coming to the World Championships with a point to prove. They finished second during the split, behind ROX Tigers, and then crashed out of the playoffs in the semifinals to KT Rolster. It’s not unheard of for SKT to underperform in matches with little significance, so I wouldn’t write them off just yet. It happened recently at the MSI, where people lambasted SKT before the finish of the group stages, and then they went on to win the tournament in comfortable fashion.
Amazingly SKT, the two-time winners, are the first defending champions to qualify for the League of Legends World Championships. In Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok, SKT have arguably the most talented League of Legends player there has ever been, topping the individual awards and career earnings tables. SKT are far from a one man show, in Bae “Bang” Jun-sik and Lee “Duke” Ho-Seong, SKT have two extremely talented players. Kang “Blank” Sun-gu is my only worry as far as SKT are concerned, he is a clear weak link in an otherwise amazing team. It was a case of SKT winning the MSI in spite of Blank, and his performances in the LCK Summer Split have done little to reassure me that he will be better here at the World Championships. It’s a shame, he is clearly a skilled player – a 900 LP challenger for God’s sake, but it isn’t translating into his professional career. I can’t see SKT not being there come the end of the tournament, and I’d expect them to advance top of this group, but I can’t help but imagine how formidable they’d be if they had a Ming “Clearlove” Kai or Yoon “Peanut” Wang-ho as Jungler instead of Blank.
ESTO’s prediction: 1st
Tournament Odds: 15/8
Expected Lineup: Impact (Top), Meteos (Jungle), Jensen (Mid), Sneaky (AD), Smoothie (Support)
6 weeks ago I would have scoffed at the thought of Cloud9 even being at the World Championships, never mind the thought of them qualifying from a group that includes SKT and Flash Wolves, but I think they’ll progress here. I can’t get on board with putting Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong as one of the best top laners in the world, but the form he has shown since the NA LCS Summer Split finished has been tantalising. It’s going to be interesting to see the match-ups when SKT and C9 faceoff, Impact against his former team and Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen vs Faker. Now I’m not suggesting Faker and Jensen are in the same league, firstly Jensen is way too inconsistent, but when Jensen is on form, he’s definitely one of the most exciting players in the game.
I’m choosing C9 over Flash Wolves based on history as well as form. Flash Wolves have an awful record over the last couple of years against Western Hemisphere teams. They lost 3 times at the MSI to CLG, went 1-1 with CLG at the Worlds 2015 – before being eliminated by Origen and were sent home by TSM in the 2015 IEM World Championship. If Cloud9 bring to the World Championships the form they have shown in the previous 5 matches, I can see them going 2-0 against Flash Wolves and securing the second spot. Also, when Smeb says he’s cautious about playing Cloud9 – who am I to argue?
ESTO’s prediction: 2nd
Tournament Odds: 40/1
Expected Lineup: MMD (Top), Karsa (Jungle), Maple (Mid), NL (AD), SwordArt (Support)
Flash Wolves have been there, or there abouts, for the last two years now. They finished in 5th-8th place at the 2015 World Championships (Origen 1-3) and 3rd-4th in the 2016 Mid Season Invitational (CLG 1-3). As I mentioned above, the crux for FW seems to be teams from the Western Hemisphere. I think FW will give SKT a better match than Cloud9, mainly down to Hung “Karsa” Hau-Hsuan being a much better Jungler than Blank or William “Meteos” Hartman, but will ultimately lose to the Korean powerhouses.
If the LMS’s no.1 seed hopes to progress beyond this group they will have to try and exploit Jensen‘s inconsistency in their matches against C9. Huang “Maple” Yi-Tang is, for me, the best player on FW and will be key to them looking to overcome Cloud9. My issue with this is that if Jensen plays at his best, he is almost unplayable, and will no doubt prove too big a task for Maple. I cannot see Yau “MMD” Li-Hung or Hsiung “NL” Wen-An winning many of their top/bot lane battles against the two teams above, so a lot will ride on the performances of Maple and Karsa. In the end, I just don’t think it will be enough.
ESTO’s prediction: 3rd
Tournament Odds: 25/1
Expected Lineup: AmazingJ (Top), Avoidless (Jungle), Athena (Mid), Jinjiao (AD), Road (Support)
As I said yesterday, I don’t read too much into scrims, but it’s not surprising to hear that IMAY didn’t perform too well against C9. People will accuse me of underestimating Chinese teams but I assure you I am not. Edward Gaming are probably my tournament favourites, yet I just don’t see IMAY finishing anywhere but bottom in this group. IMAY have no international experience, Yun “Road” Han-Gil is trolling Perkz in Solo Queue right before the biggest tournament of his life and individually their players just don’t match up.
During the LPL Summer Split IMAY picked up a great deal of their points against the teams below them. The teams above, such a Edward Gaming or Royal Never Give Up, generally proved too much. In Shek “AmazingJ” Wai Ho we see another talented Top Laner, he has carried this team through a lot of difficult games during the Summer Split yet his form can be erratic, to put it politely. Even with him on top form IMAY will find it difficult to take games from these three teams. IMAY have adapted well to the LPL, if they continue on their upward trajectory they will no doubt be a force to be reckoned with in the near future. For now, I fear that advancing from the group stage will be one step to far for the Chinese team.
ESTO’s prediction: 4th
Tournament Odds: 50/1
Group B Fixtures
|Date||Fixture (Game 1)||Time (PDT)||Date||Time (Game 2)||Time (PDT)|
|09/30/16||SKT vs C9||16:00||10/09/16||IMAY vs FW||16:00|
|09/30/16||FW vs IMAY||17:00||10/09/16||C9 vs SKT||17:00|
|10/01/16||FW vs C9||18:00||10/09/16||C9 vs FW||18:00|
|10/01/16||IMAY vs SKT||19:00||10/09/16||SKT vs IMAY||19:00|
|10/02/16||SKT vs FW||20:00||10/09/16||IMAY vs C9||20:00|
|10/02/16||C9 vs IMAY||21:00||10/09/16||FW vs SKT||21:00|
Keep up-to-date with all the results, analysis and gossip from this year’s League of Legends World Championships right here at ESTO.