Welcome to “Chasing Glory,” a recurring feature where I will discuss the top narratives and key moments from each day of the 2015 League of Legends World Championship. After nearly a year of competition in leagues across the globe, 16 teams have emerged at the top of their respective regions. Now, they travel to Europe where they will battle through the finest international competition for a shot at taking home the Summoner’s Cup at the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Berlin on October 31st.
Opening day featured plenty of interesting matches from groups A, B, and C of the tournament, with some teams going about business as usual and others stumbling to find ground on the tournament’s newly implemented patch 5.18. I’ll be recapping the matches in order starting with the ever so consistent Fnatic facing off against the hit or miss Invictus Gaming.
Maintaining The Status Quo
Coming off a perfect Season and a 5-2 run to win the split, Fnatic was riding a wave of both confidence and hype heading into this World Championship. Led by veteran support player and 5 time worlds attendee Yellowstar, reunited with Rekkles in the botlane, Fnatic would be among the many Western Teams to bootcamp in Korea in hopes of redeeming their lackluster Season 4 worlds performance, and seeks to continue their dominance into the World Championship.
iG, or Invictus Gaming, is a different story. Known for their inconsistency, the third place LP team comes into this event on a positive note, with a 3-1 upset over serious title contenders EDG in the third place match of the LPL Summer Playoffs and then a perfect 3-0 set against Qiao Gu for the Korean region’s final ticket to Paris.
With the recent changes in patch 5.18, carry style top laners have fallen more into favor than ever, giving a boost to both Zzitai and Huni. Locking in Riven, iG top laner Zzitai looked to snowball his lane early, prompting a Hecarim pick in reply from Huni. Leading the game by a tower and securing First Blood in the top lane, Reignover took advantage of a passive KaKAO and the duo completely negated the impact of Zzitai’s Riven.
Surrendering at 30 minutes after Fnatic ravaged through their base, iG will look to redeem themselves in their day 3 match against Cloud 9. With a rematch against Fnatic looming down the line, iG needs to pick up as many wins as they can to ensure their top 2 placing in the group. As for Fnatic, their pick and ban phase showed that they can adapt on the fly, completely shutting down iG’s composition with their own picks. Reliant on a farming Skarner that never took off iG crumbled to the European kings, and Fnatic and showed us there is something to the hype.
Cool, Calm, And Collected
After squeaking their way into a Worlds qualification with a cinderella run from 7th place to winning the Regional Qualifiers in North America, Cloud 9 was supposed to come in, lose six games, and get out. Facing off against LMS champions AHQ, who took a game from Fnatic at the Mid-Season Invitational and are known for their aggressive early play, the third seeded North American’s fate was all but sealed as Mountain’s Rengar handed First Blood over to Westdoor on Fizz.
Going back to his roots and a champion he was originally known for, Cloud 9 mid laner Nicolaj “Incarnati0n” Jensen headed into his first ever appearance in international play with the recently buffed Veigar. AHQ seemed lost against the tiny master of evil, constantly finding themselves locked up in Veigar’s Event Horizon in teamfights. Stacking his way to over 500 AP at the 22 minute mark, Incarnati0n’s 100% kill participation Veigar thwarted the early aggression of AHQ. Doing what he does best, C9 team captain and newly transitioned Jungler Hai stepped up big time, orchestrating a 23 minute victory in convincing fashion and showing us once again that his shotcalling is nothing less than world class.
Aside from the anticipated rematch of Ryu vs. Faker, expectations were low for H2K heading into this game. After SKT picked up a few early kills, H2K kept the game relatively close until a 23 minute fight in the river sent SKT barrelling ahead off the back of a Marin Triple Kill. In control of the map and a 3k gold lead, SKT would go on to close out the game systematically in a 31 minute win over Europe’s second seed.
For the better part of the year, EDG has been cited as one of the top teams in the world, and a contender for the title of World Champions. With the Bangkok Titans coming from one of the weaker competitive regions, it was apparent from the beginning that there was a huge mismatch in skill. Getting three kills in the first four minutes, Deft set the pace of the game with a double kill less than three minutes in. EDG quickly dispatched the Bangkok titans in a surrender at the 20:20 mark, never slowing their pace from the early First Blood.
In Doublelift We Trust
Before this match, most would agree that Zionspartan is a cut above his Top Lane counterpart on Flash Wolves, Steak. Despite this, Steak impressed holding his own and having a hand in 100% of his teams kills as CLG’s Zionspartan fell to his fourth death without an answer. With a 7k gold lead and 3 towers over North America’s first seed, the Taiwanese Flash Wolves were poised for victory. Until they overstayed in the bottom lane, netting CLG their first in a series of teamfight wins peppered with Flash Wolves misplays. Clawing their way back on the shoulders of Doublelift’s Jinx, CLG managed to walk away with a win they probably shouldn’t have.
Taking advantage of an enemy’s mistakes is the mark of a superior team, but CLG has a lot to work on if they want get any farther than the group stage, let alone win the tournament. Their next match against Brazil’s PaiN Gaming will be a good indicator of if they can bounce back after a loss and pull off what should be a fairly easy victory.
The Koo Tigers are in a funny spot in terms of how they are perceived. On one hand, they pulled off 1st and 3rd place finishes in one of the toughest regions of play. On the other, the innovation they showed in the first half of the season hasn’t been as apparent. That said, the Koo tigers sport a talented roster backed by solid strategy, especially when playing with a lead.
Viewed as the weakest team in the group, PaiN Gaming enters worlds on a high note, being 15-0 since the CBLoL playoffs. With star Mid Laner Kami at the forefront of their play, the Brazilian squad needs to capture the same macro play they showed in the Wildcard Qualifiers if they want to stay alive in the tournament.
When PaiN managed to slowly pull ahead, Koo’s Gorilla started to pull himself ahead, along with the rest of his team mates. Setting up plays across the map, Gorilla showed why he is often in the conversation of best support player in the world. With their newly found lead, Koo Tigers made quick work of PaiN in a 30 minute finish, playing a very clean second half of the game and showing why they are one of the best teams at worlds once the late game hits.
Day 1 MVP: Hai
In choosing the MVP, I looked at a lot of factors. Individual performance, impact on game, role in team, and so forth. While there were definitely cases to be made for the fantastic playmaking of Koo’s Gorilla or the endlessly entertaining Deft Show against the Bangkok Titans. However, as great as those players were, it’s Hai who stood out as the truly most valuable player of the day.
Coming into the tournament as the last seed from North America, Cloud 9 was written out of the event before they left California. With an underperforming top laner, a rookie mid, and a returning player transitioning into a new role, there were a lot of reasons to not think much of the NA squad. Hai quickly silenced any critics with a Lee Sin performance any jungler could be proud of. Putting his signature shotcalling into action, Cloud 9 maneuvered the map, taking objectives as AHQ trailed behind. Hai also put up an impressive display of mechanics, setting up enemies and kicking them to their certain death.
The success of Cloud 9 since Hai’s return can be attributed to a lot of things. Improved shotcalling, a more comfortable mid laner, a better team environment, but above all, there is one constant: Hai.
images via Riot Games/lolesports
Tim Kimbirk is a journalist at TSM. You can find him in the depths of solo queue, or on twitter talking about eSports.