At this point I honestly happy I didn’t try to preview this stage of the tournament. The first leg of the group stage did not go exactly as anyone had expected or predicted. Cloud9, Lyon Gaming, Team oNe Esports and Team WE are all moving on to the next phase of the play-in stage. Here’s my thoughts about the first phase of the play-in stage.
Gambit Are Not Who We Thought They Were
Before the games began Gambit were easily the most talked about team competing in the play-in stage. After ANX had their run last year a lot of people came to expect bigger things from PVPStejos and Kira. It was assumed that DiamondProx and EDward were making their triumphant return to the world stage after Gambit’s departure from the European LCS. None of that would ever come to pass. Gambit couldn’t even mange to earn one kill before the 22 minute mark of their first game.
A lot of those highlights were depressing to watch for fans of the old Moscow 5. Much has been made of the fact that this Gambit roster have only been together for a couple of months. Clearly expectations were sky-high for this team based solely on nostalgia. As we saw with Dire Wolves, any team that performs well domestically and has little international experience should be treated with extreme caution, despite any of their players history.
OCE are very, very behind as a region
As much as Gambit fell flat, Dire Wolves looked hopeless in their games. Dire Wolves are the most mechanically gifted team competing in the OCE region, this has the unfortunate side effect of making them lazy. Teams dominating domestically and failing at worlds is not new. G2 had a similar performance at Worlds 2016. Cloud9 could be considered to be the first team but Cloud9 lost to Fnatic eventually 4th placed team at Worlds in 2013. Dire Wolves shouldn’t have any excuses, their required to have a Coach. It does not take a genius to figure out that they should practice a game or two without having the gold lead their usually accustomed to.
Dire Wolves are not composed of bad players, you can see them have moments of clarity. They look unclear about how to transition a gold lead into a victory. When they lack that lead they are literally helpless if their opponent doesn’t give them team fights. Dire Wolves are a clear representation of the failings of the league system. Without a lot of international competition there’s no reason for a domestically successful team to improve. Even if they wanted to there’s not enough events for them to capably do so. Also while I don’t have a problem with players trash talking on social media. For a player from literally any other region this could have been taken as a fun bit of trash talking,
Look at that exchange for a minute. Given the OCE regions history with toxicity it’s not in good taste for any OCE players to even joke like that. I sincerely hope that Chippy’s only intended to have a bit of fun but he got wrecked in his games against Impact. After the Dire Wolves performance coupled with this kind of nonsense on social media has further diminished the OCE regions reputation. It’s almost like they wanted to find a way for the world to think even less of them than most fans already did.
Cloud9 Came Prepared This Time
Cloud9 did not look great domestically. Their performance in the playoffs was a disappointment and their competition during the regional qualifiers left a lot to be desired (looking at you CLG). Shockingly, Cloud9 came to Korea and bootcamped like champions. Whatever they did it seems to be working so far.
This was the typical Cloud9 everyone seemed to expect, a team that plays almost exclusively through their midlaner and when he’s put into a good situation Jensen usually succeeds.
This Cloud9 was not expected at all, I like that they’ve finally seemed to take out of TSM’s book and learned to play compositions that do not rely on the mid lane. making Galio a flex pick is also a fantastic way to make their drafting less predictable than it was before. Cloud9 did not face any significant competition so far but it’s very encouraging to see them play this cleanly so early into their run at Worlds. If Cloud9 can keep their momentum going they can expect a spot at Worlds proper. It’s unfortunate that the only groups Cloud9 could be assigned are Group A (EDG, SKT1, ahq) or Group C (G2, Samsung, RNG) and neither of those groups gives them a real shot at exiting the Group Stage. There is a narrow chance that if Cloud9 keep up this level of play they could escape either Group if they right teams lose enough games.
Team WE Came Here to Win
As good as Cloud9 looked, Team WE look better. As much as their other performances were better I am still drawn to their first game.
Watching them slowly turn the game and eventually dominate their opponents is beautiful. It was fairly clear going into Worlds that WE would be one of the most mechanically gifted teams attending this years tournament. The casual way with which they dispatched each team in their group is very encouraging for LPL fans. What’s really important is that if WE succeed here and get to Worlds proper, their potential Group Stage draws are fantastic. Group B only includes Longzhu Gaming as a real threat, even if Immortals have gained knowledge during their bootcamp in Korea there’s no way they could face WE on even terms. GIGABYTE Marines are the wildcard of Group B but I doubt WE would be phased by them either. It’s Group D that represents the most tantalizing of possibilities for WE. Group D currently includes Flash Wolves, Misfits and Team Solo Mid. Unless two of those teams have significantly improved since their last professional performance they stand little chance of getting in WE’s way. Even if it’s only a 50/50 chance at nearly guaranteed spot in the playoffs WE should still believe themselves capable of getting to the playoffs at World’s this team. I am very excited to see both WE and Cloud9 play again during the Play-In stage Knockout Round on Wednesday.