Thoughts on Worlds 2018

I’ve been following the League of Legends pro scene almost as long as I’ve been playing the game. I didn’t get in right when the game released though, my first game was played in 2011, and I didn’t start watching the pros play until 2012. Esports weren’t really a thing here in America yet; definitely not at the level of production that they are now. Being from the US myself, I’ve primarily kept up with the teams from the NALCS and have watched plenty of games throughout Spring and Summer splits that took place on our home turf. I do occassionally watch games from other regions as well, but my focus has always been on my region first, followed by international tournaments. Worlds has been something I’ve looked forward to for years, but always with baited breath. You see, there has only been one champion crowned in the west, and by west I mean NA and EU. Fnatic were the Season 1 champions, but Koreans weren’t even playing the game at that point (unless playing on western servers, with terrible ping). As such, the west has little credit when it comes to being “the best in the world.”

NA and EU have always had some standout performances at Worlds but outside of that first season they haven’t really gone too far. From my recollection, NA hasn’t made it past the group stage in all of the years I’ve been watching, and I don’t think EU has gone past the Quarterfinals — definitely not the Semis. Inevitably the top seed in NA would dominate their competition locally, but when they were at international tournaments they would fizzle out and simply look not good enough. Some EU teams looked a bit better but then still failed to come through. After season one, we’ve have Korean teams with five world championships, Taiwan came away with one, and now China has finally claimed their first crown.

But that’s not the whole story. What’s funny here is that there were Korean teams in the Quarterfinals. There were also two Chinese teams, two European and the lone North American representative in Cloud 9. The top seed from NA wasn’t even present, and many of us thought Team Liquid was the real deal after winning back-to-back splits at home. Admittedly I didn’t really watch the group stages. With the event being held in Asian countries, all of the matches occurred while I was asleep, but I managed to start catching up on the following day once we got to the playoffs. The first Korean team was knocked off by Invictus Gaming, while the European team G2 Esports took care of China’s RNG. Fnatic eliminated the other Chinese team, Edward Gaming. Most surprising was seeing Cloud 9 3-0 the last remaining Korean team, Afreeca Freecs. At this point, an NA team had gone further than any at Worlds, and there was a glimmer of hope that perhaps a western team might finally win a championship.

In the Semifinals, we had two matches that no one really saw coming. China’s Invictus Gaming vs. Europe’s G2 Esports, and Fnatic vs Cloud 9. Who would have thought? Seeing Invictus tear through G2 wasn’t much of a surprise to be honest, but I did not expect Cloud 9 to be 3-0’d by Fnatic — I was thinking it would have been a more competitive match up.

We came to the Finals this weekend. At 1 am this morning the tournament began to come to a close. Of course I was sleeping again, but I got caught up this morning and sadly, the western hopes were dashed once again. Invictus convincingly shut down Fnatic, just as they had done to G2 before them, and Fnatic had done to Cloud 9 before that. One the one hand, congrats to China for finally getting your World Championship! On the other hand, it was a bummer to see things end up the way they did. Had Cloud 9 made it to the finals I would have said they proved that NA isn’t a joke anymore, but they fell short. Had Fnatic taken it all, I would have been happier with the result, but less so than an NA crown. At the end of the day though, China takes it home and I’m still happier with this result than another Korean Champion. Time to let the other regions get some of the action.

Thoughts on the LCS Playoffs

So the Spring Split has come and gone, and with the end of the regular season I didn’t have fantasy LCS to play anymore, which meant that I didn’t talk much about the professional side of the game. Over the past few weeks however, there was plenty of playoff action, which means I have something to talk about once again. It’s been an interesting half of a season so far, which brings us up to the Mid-Season Invitational (MSI) and then the Summer Split shortly thereafter. There’s also a big ass patch for the mid-season, with a bunch of new features that will likely shake up the summer split for all of us, not just the pros. I’ll get to that bit in another post though. For now, let’s talk about the playoffs.

During the first weekend in April, the Quarterfinals went down. I didn’t watch much of the European LCS, but during the course of that weekend Fnatic beat out Vitality, and that was surprising considering the shaky season Fnatic seemed to have (again, I didn’t watch much of the EULCS), and Vitality seemed to be the superior team prior to playoffs. The same goes for the other matchup between Unicorns of Love and Origen. Though I called Origen as one of the powerhouses for Europe at the beginning of the split, but they didn’t deliver on that as much as I thought. They were no Immortals, let’s put it that way (more on them later).

In NA, more surprises were abound. TSM looked to be a powerhouse for North America, but they struggled throughout the split. Cloud 9 had a shaky start to the season but finished strong and were the clear favorites in this matchup. They managed to take a game in the series, but TSM dismantled them. It was surprising. Where was this TSM all spring? Less surprising was Team Liquid taking down NRG, particularly with how well Matt and Dardoch performed as rookies. NRG never really stood a chance this split. They need to find better talent in a couple of roles.

The following weekend the semi-final matches were played, and in Europe we saw G2 take down Fnatic (expected) along with Origen continuing it’s streak to defeat H2K. The latter team seemed pretty consistent during the split but didn’t have it when it counted. Origen moves on to the finals against G2, but there is a clear expectation there.

In NA, I was rooting for Liquid to take down CLG. Honestly I don’t think CLG is that good of a team, despite winning the summer split last year. Darshan pulls off some pretty amazing stuff, and Aphromoo has his moments, but I’m not too big on their other players. I think CLG of last year was a better team. Liquid felt like the new hotness. I wanted the rookies to win and for Piglet/Fenix to get some real recognition for their efforts. I think a different top-laner might make up all the difference. Why don’t they pick up Impact? Imagine that team? But it was not meant to be, as CLG took the series 3-2, and moved onto the finals.

The most shocking part of the entire playoffs happened in the other semi-final game. Immortals, the team that only lost one game the entire split, though looking a little weaker towards the end, was expected to completely dismantle TSM. But this wasn’t the TSM from the split, nope that part of their lives was already done. They put together a monster series, and swept Immortals right under the rug 3-0. It was incredible to watch. The tilt was real. I’m really beginning to love esports!

The finals were less exciting, and more exciting at the same time. CLG vs TSM, the dream. The rematch. The same result. Meh. Again, less impressed with this year’s CLG as opposed to last year’s. More impressed with TSM stepping up when it mattered, but they still lost overall. In Europe, G2 triumphed over Origen, as I expected. A new crown over there, the same crown for NA. Either way, it was a fun split, and I look forward to watching all summer long. MSI soon, I may have more thoughts.