Many of you are probably wondering if you’ve been transported to an alternate reality after seeing these final results of Group A — don’t worry, you haven’t.
Day 5 seemed to be an epitaph of Season 2 League of Legends: a resurrection of Moscow 5’s surprising dominance through Albus Nox Luna, and a Korean team barely placing ahead of them in the same fashion as Azubu Frost. In results that are too surreal to be scripted, wild-card dark horses ANX defeated Korea’s ROX Tigers in the fourth game of the day, setting up an elimination showdown for the final game of the night between ROX and CLG. In a slugfest victory, ROX would force a tiebreaker against the opponents they lost to earlier in the night, ANX. ROX would rout the Russian underdogs in the tiebreaker, and clinched the first seed in their group. Despite falling in the tiebreaker, Albus Nox made history by being the first wild-card region to ever reach the bracket stage.
Though ROX and Albus Nox stole the show today, the dramatic narrative produced would never have been possible without every piece falling perfectly into place, starting with the first game of the day.
G2 vs ROX
The opening game of the day set the tone in terms of drama as G2 Esports were faced with their backs to the wall, having to win three games in a row to keep their world’s dreams alive. G2 struck early with first blood, only for it to be matched by a kill from the ROX Tigers and have the tempo equalized. ROX would continue to match G2’s momentum until they finally secured a lead from a turret dive bottom lane at sixteen-minutes. From their they would rotate the sieging expert, Caitlyn, around the map to snowball their lead and methodically choke-out Europe’s first seed. ROX took their time, starving out their opponents until they descended upon the nexus at 35-minutes, winning the game with only ten kills.
With that, the chance of a miracle run by the best team in Europe was eliminated, changing the focus of attention to the close race between the three remaining teams, ROX (3-1), ANX (2-1) and CLG (2-1). The race for the top would depend on whether Albus NoX could prove if they were a fluke or the real deal, and that test would begin in the second game of the day against Counter Logic Gaming.
ANX vs CLG
In a stunning performance, Albus Nox Luna came out swinging and showed a level of play that looked improved even compared to their impressive week one victories. Thinking they could bulldoze the the wild-card team after banning out their specialty
champions, Counter Logic Gaming would draft a delicate, snowballing composition. ANX would respond with draft a composition full of meta champions, going contrary to the narrative that they only succeeded in the first week from “cheese” picks.
On the Rift, they quickly proved this wasn’t the case by thwarting CLG’s aggressive laners with three quick kills by twelve-minutes. The rest of the game followed this formula: CLG over-aggression into ANX being punished in skirmishes and resource denial. North America’s second-seed looked out of sorts and their delicate team composition quickly crumbled, resulting in a 30-minute defeat at the hands of Russia’s dark horse.
This game doubled-down on the expectations for the cloudy evening in New York, proving ANX was a team that wasn’t to be underestimated, and also forced CLG into winning their following two games to have a chance at second place. It would also lead to a clash between first-place titans, ANX (3-1) and ROX (3-1), in the following game, a match-up viewed as David vs Goliath before the tournament started.
ANX vs ROX
Dazzling the crowd, ANX would grind out a 70-minute game for a victory where their macro-play allowed them to close out the game with super minions destroying the nexus. Defeating the ROX Tiger’s through macro play isn’t something many teams can say they’ve done, and ANX’s ability to accomplish the feat began with an early two kill lead on their mid laner, Kira. Rallying back in kills, ROX would have favorable skirmishes throughout the early-mid game, but continued to stay behind in gold because of a two turret to zero deficit as a result of ANX out-rotating them. Albus NoX secured their first baron at 27-minutes and snowballed their small 3k gold lead into one that ROX couldn’t surpass until it was far too late. ROX didn’t get their first turret until 37-minutes into the game, and as a result were constantly out-pressured on the map both by minions and vision control. The unsteady hand of ANX, stellar team fighting and some baron heroics resulted in ROX finally closing the gold gap at the one hour mark, but by that time their base was in shambles without a single inhibitor or nexus turret left.
Though ROX pulled ahead in kills, a three turret to eleven deficit was too much to overcome and ANX stormed the base on last time. ROX fended off the players of ANX, but the minions that besieged the base the nexus along with them got the job done, ending in a victory by minions for ANX at 66-minutes. Their bewildering victory caused the final scheduled game of the day to be an elimination game showdown between North America’s third seed and Korea’s prestigious first seed. Suddenly, the consensus tournament favorites might not make it out of groups.
ROX vs CLG
Going from tournament favorites to facing elimination, Korea’s number one seed came into a die-or-die against a team that upset them last week and thrives under pressure. Quick to calm his team’s nerves, Peanut cleared his red side jungle and then headed bot lane to punish CLG’s duo lane for playing overly aggressive in their winning match-up. Set behind from three minutes into the game, CLG struggled to jockey for position with the gold lead, keeping it relatively even for the first fifteen-minutes. After that, ROX would secure the first drake and a subsequent team fight mid lane to cement a solid 2k gold lead. From there the Tigers would hold a steady lead over Counter Logic Gaming who chaotically fought for their last shot at making the bracket stage. Responding with punches of his own, Peanut decimated CLG’s hope’s over clawing back into the game, posting a final score of 10/1/8 on Elise and shutting them down from start to finish.
A 37-minute elimination game slugfest would culminate in a tiebreaker between previous looming giants [and now, mere mortals] the ROX Tigers, and the historic, dark horse wild-card squad, Albus Nox Luna. After a devastating loss earlier in the day, Korea’s apex of talent would come out with something to prove — that they’ll never accepted second best.
ROX vs ANX (Tiebreaker)
Carrying the weight of a nation on their back, ROX stepped on the rift with confidence and poise, ready to prove themselves as the best team in the group to doubting eyes. Calm and collected, Peanut coordinated a dive in the bot lane at four-minutes, securing first blood and two kills for his duo lane. ROX’s duo lane would pick up an additional two kills in quick succession, followed by taking the first turret and drake of the game.
Peanut would accompany the duo lane as they rotated around the map, bringing devastation to whatever ANX member they met. With that, their gold lead would balloon as they forced skirmishes and objectives alike while only allowing ANX one dragon the entire game. A classic ROX snowball would result in a crushing defeat for ANX in a brief twenty-nine minutes where Peanut and GorillA lead their team to a 20-5 victory.
For two games straight and with their backs against the wall, ROX showed us their form that was closest to their peak performance in LCK Summer. When the stakes revealed themselves, the Tigers played up to them and met them with full force. Perhaps we saw a complacent, sleeping beast in the first five games we watched the ROX Tigers play, and if so, they’re bound to be awake come bracket stage.
Photo credits: lolesports flickr