About that Gap…
While you can argue that things are getting closer between the regions, especially with North America and the International Wildcard regions getting teams into the quarter finals, it is very apparent that Korea still has a huge lead on the scene. All three Korean teams advanced to the quarter finals with impressive performances in week 2, and all three advanced as first seeds. While things may be getting a bit closer in terms of skill, it is still very clear that the Korean teams are the ones to beat.
North America Delivers…Again
Last year, North America went into the second week of Worlds at 6-3, with Counter Logic Gaming and Cloud9 looking pretty good. Unfortunately, they fell hard and NA went 0-10 in the second week, with no teams advancing to the quarter finals. This year, they once again went into week two at 6-3, with all 3 teams looking good. And once again, they fell flat, with both CLG and Team SoloMid dropping out of the groups. Cloud 9 managed to sneak into the quarter finals, and each team won at least one game in the second week, so you could say things have improved, but NA still has a long road to go to in their Worlds performances.
SKT are on Form Once Again
A lot of people where talking about SK Telecom’s poor performances in the LCK towards the end of the split, the problems in the jungle, and how they might be in trouble on the worlds stage. After the second week however, I don’t think anyone doubts that SKT are the clear favorites to tear through the tournament again.
SKT have looked unstoppable on several different team compositions, and the combined carry performances of Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok, Bae “Bang” Jun-sik, and Lee “Duke” Ho-Seong have shown the pure power and team synergy that this team has. Royal Never Give Up have their work cut out for them next week, and we may well see SKT taking their third worlds championship when all is said and done.
Korean Killers No More
In the final game of the group stages, Korea’s SK Telecom took down the LMS’s Flash Wolves. This may not seem like a huge deal, given how strong SKT is, but it is actually the first time that SKT, or any Korean team for the matter, has beaten the Flash Wolves. The past three times that they have met this year, twice at MSI and once in week 1 of the Worlds, FW have come out victorious, and earned their name as the Korean killers of League. With the first loss to SKT now under their belt, the question remains: was this just a fluke, or have the Flash Wolves lost their touch against the Korean powerhouses of League.
Parity at Worlds is Entertaining
At the 2015 World Championship, 3 Korean teams, 2 European teams, 2 LMS teams, and 1 Chinese team advanced to the Quarterfinals. This year, while we still have 3 Korean teams advancing, we also see 2 Chinese teams, 1 European team, 1 North American team, and even a Russian team advancing as the International Wild Card team into the Quarters.
With more regions having a representative advancing in worlds, we are seeing big differences in play style and team composition. Albus NoX in particular have seen a huge increase in fans due to their erratic and unpredictable style of play, and everyone looks forward to seeing how each region compares in the best of five scenarios.
Baron is the Most Intense Part of Every Game
Baron plays have always been tense, as one team tries to secure a huge objective without the other team interfering. At worlds this year we have seen an insane number of not only Baron fights, but Baron steals. Aside from a few Baron sneaks (Looking at you Albus NoX), most Baron plays have been crazy close, with 50/50 smite battles going every which way, and steals from not only enemy jungler’s, but carries from just about ever position. With the importance of Baron power plays for breaking stalemates or swinging gold leads, every Baron fight is going to be a fight on the razors edge.
Closing Games Separates the Good from the Bad
We have seen some crazy games at worlds this year, as well as some incredibly long ones. The Cloud 9 vs Flash Wolves game was the second longest game at worlds, and there were a few other games that crested an hour of game time. One of the biggest factors for these long games, as well as one of the biggest problems we are seeing from teams at worlds, is the inability to close out a game when in the lead.
Teams like G2 and FW, who had consistent problems pushing their advantages and rolling their early lead into objective takes and team plays, have fallen out of worlds contention. On the other side, teams like SK Telecom and H2K, who snowballed early and didn’t stop pushing advantages until the nexus fell, have risen to the top. Any team that wants a shot at the Summoners Cup will need to learn how to effectively close out games when in the lead to prevent games from stalling out so long that gold leads no longer matter.
Tier List are Fleshing Out
At the start of Worlds, we were seeing a vast number of champions being picked as teams worked out the best champions for each role. This week, the number of champions has slimmed down as the top tier champions were discovered and heavily leaned towards in the Pick and Ban phase. Syndra, Caitlyn, Jhin, Alistar, and Nidalee are a few of the champions that have come up as huge favorites, and you can expect to see them heavily contested going into the Quarterfinals. The teams that are able to come up with counters and strategies around these, and other, top champions are going to have a serious edge against the competition.
The Fan Prize Pool
This year, on top of the $2 Million prize pool for the teams competing at worlds, Riot has decided to add a bit of fan pooling as well. A portion of every purchase of the Championship Zed and ward skins are being added to the Worlds prize pool to be split between the teams competing, and the graph shown at the end of the group stages shows that in just these first two weeks of worlds, the prize pool has already more than doubled. With three weeks of worlds still to go, expect that number to continue rising, and with the obvious success of the endeavor, expect Riot to look for more ways to let fans pitch in to help their favorite teams.
The Most Exciting Worlds?
This may be said every year, but I think this year’s Worlds is the most exciting one we’ve seen since Season 2. With more parity in teams advancing, crazy upsets from teams people counted out, big name teams crashing, and the tactical and bloody game play itself, I’ve found myself watching all of the games, not just the ones for my team.
The lack of game changing patches before worlds, the death of lane swaps, and the unpredictability of teams has lead to some of the most entertaining, and sometimes stressful, games I’ve watched in a long time. Even with the Korean teams being the clear favorites, we have seen enough upsets already that it is entirely likely that we could see even more shake ups in the Quarterfinals, and it’s hard not to get excited about watching these teams battle for the Summoner’s Cup.
Photo courtesy of Riot Games