Introducing Group A of Worlds play-in: Team WE, Gambit and Lyon Gaming

With the addition of a play-in stage to the 2017 League of Legends World Championship, audiences will see several new faces on the international stage. To start things off, 12 third seed and wildcard teams have been divided into four groups of three. Each group of three will play a double round robin, and the two with the best record will move to a second phase. First place of each group will play a random second place in phase two of the play-in. The winners of these best-of-fives qualify for the larger Group Stage with the other top teams.

The LPL’s Team WE, LCL’s Gambit and LLN’s Lyon Gaming were drawn into Group A of the play-in. These three teams come from regions with widely differing teams and metas. The clashing of these differences is one of the many reasons Worlds is always exciting to watch. Here are summaries of the three competitors.

Team WE (LPL Third Seed)

WE 957 will play in Group A

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Top: 957 Jungle: Condi Mid: Xiye Bot: Mystic Support: Ben

2017 Spring Split achievements: Tied 1st Group B Spring regular, 1st Spring playoffs, 3rd/4th MSI

2017 Summer Split achievements: Tied 1st Group A Summer regular, 4th Summer playoffs, Rift Rivals winners

Team WE are one of the more aggressive teams in China. Just look at some of the players’ pocket picks in the regular season Summer Split. Kled for 957. Rengar for Condi. Xiye’s most played champion was Leblanc, and he has not played Orianna since spring. Mystic and Ben’s highest pick rates are for Xayah and Rakan. These guys play fast and hard.

WE may be the LPL’s third seed, but this squad tied China’s first seed, Edward Gaming, in the 2017 regular seasons of Spring and Summer Split. WE had a winning record against Royal Never Give Up in spring, and against EDG in summer. They traded wins with SK Telecom T1 and Flash Wolves at Rift Rivals, and also finished the Mid-Season Invitational group stage ahead of G2, Flash Wolves, TSM and Gigabyte Marines.

WE Xiye will play in Group A

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Essentially a shoe-in for the group stage of Worlds, WE will look to exhibit dominance in the play-in. This is not the place to disrespect opponents. WE should view this first step as a mental warm-up for the rest of the tournament. They need to take down their opponents in the same way they would take down the best in the LPL.

WE knows it deserves a spot in the group stage. Now is their time to prove it. If they were somehow unable to push out of the play-in stage, it would be an unacceptable disappointment. Assuming WE finish first in their group, they will have to face a second seed from another play-in group to make it into the next stage. This would most likely be Gambit, Team One, Young Generation or 1907 Fenerbahce.

In the second phase of play-in, all of these teams would be comfortable on stage, and WE should show up in a best-of-five. Cheesy best-of-one wildcard strategies cannot get teams through this section of competition. WE can adapt to their opponent, shift draft advantages between their players, and ultimately succeed. Any of their players can carry in any given game, unlike many of the wildcard teams. WE needs to use that to their advantage.

Gambit (LCL First Seed)

Gambit will play in Group A

Image from EsportsRanks.com

Top: PvPStejos Jungle: Diamondprox Mid: Kira Bot: Blasting Support: Edward

2017 Spring Split achievements: 6th Spring regular

2017 Summer Split achievements: 1st Summer regular, 1st Summer playoffs

League of Legends fans who watched the 2016 World Championships will remember the LCL’s representative last year: Albus Nox Luna. The Russians surprised the world by pushing out of their group into the quarterfinals, finishing fifth-eighth. In the 2017 pre-season, their slot was acquired by M19, who went on to finish third-fourth in the 2017 Spring Split playoffs.

Between spring and summer, though, mid laner Kira and jungler PvPStejos (who moved to top lane) were signed to Gambit. The organization also brought on Blasting from Virtus.pro and Edward from Vega Squadron, rebuilding the roster around veteran jungler Diamondprox.

Kira and PvPStejos will play in Group A

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

This line-up performed much better during the Summer Split, following Gambit’s sixth place finish in the Spring Split. They finished the summer regular season with a 13-1 record, met M19 in the playoff finals, and edged them out 3-2 to auto-qualify to Worlds this year. Russia is truly sending her best team to the international stage.

The CIS representatives excel at getting an early lead, averaging 1,258 gold ahead at 15 minutes. This does not necessarily always turn into the first turret (57.1 percent) or dragon control (58 percent), but they keep their grip on Baron (85.7 percent control). This major objective will come up huge at Worlds, and Gambit should replicate this strategy as best they can.

Gambit will look to build off of ANX’s success last year, but they have the additional play-in stage to hurdle. Grouping with Team WE all but ensures Gambit’s second place seeding for phase two, so they will ultimately have to beat one of the top seeds from the play-in to advance. If any wildcard team is up for the challenge, it is Gambit.

Lyon Gaming (LLN First Seed)

Lyon WhiteLotus will play in Group A

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Top: Jirall Jungle: Oddie Mid: Seiya Bot: WhiteLotus Support: Genthix

2017 Spring Split achievements: 1st Spring regular, 1st Spring playoffs, 8th-9th MSI

2017 Summer Split achievements: 1st Summer regular, 1st Summer playoffs, 3rd Rift Rivals

Lyon Gaming has one of the most dominant regional histories in professional League of Legends. Their victory this summer marks eight splits won since 2013. These same five players have been on Lyon for the entirety of 2017. They have only dropped five games total within the LLN this whole year.

However, regional perfection does not necessarily translate to the big stage. At last year’s International Wildcard Qualifier, Lyon Gaming finished the first phase at the top of the standings with a 6-1 record. However, they were knocked out by Albus Nox Luna by losing 2-3 in phase two. In 2015, the LLN was not even represented at the International Wildcard Qualifier, because Lyon Gaming lost to Kaos Latin Gamers in the Latin America Cup grand final.

It is unfortunate that Lyon got drafted into Group A with, arguably, the most difficult first and second seed opponents. They will need to get creative in best-of-ones to take down Team WE and Gambit. The members of Lyon do seem to prioritize different champions than others in their group. Seiya frequently drafts Ahri, and WhiteLotus prefers Twitch to several other AD carries. These types of picks may allow Lyon to gain an edge if they catch WE and Gambit off guard.

Lyon Genthix will play in Group A

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Overall

Group A looks like a strong one. WE can take down any other team in the play-in phase. Gambit and Lyon would both be formidable opponents for first seeds in phase two. All three junglers in this group prefer to play carries, like Elise and Kayn over the current meta tanks, like Gragas and Sejuani. This batch of mid laners loves to mix up their mid lane champion selections. The supports are the only players with truly “normal” champion draft distributions.

Expect AD carries and top laners to be most targeted, as those players seem to have the most clear preferences in champion pools. WhiteLotus should not get Twitch. Jirall should not get Galio. Gambit and Lyon should ban Xayah from Mystic, while Lyon and WE should ban Varus from Blasting.

This group will most likely end up finishing in the expected order. WE should not drop many, if any, games. Gambit and Lyon will most likely take games off of each other, but the macro-play and Baron control from Gambit will most likely undo Lyon. Phase two will be the more interesting test for the Russian organization, especially considering ANX’s dream run last year. WE’s phase two should be much more straightforward. Assuming they enter the larger group stage, Team WE would draft into group B or group D. If all first seeds proceed from the play-in, then WE would auto-draft into group D.


Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Other Images: LoL Esports Flickr, EsportsRanks.com

Names, dates, etc.: Leaguepedia

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Halo World Championship Finals Regional Preview: Australia and Latin America

The Halo World Championship Finals begin in just two short days. So far, this regional preview series has covered the best North American and best European teams. Because both Australia and Latin America are sending one team each, this final installment will merge both regions. At the 2016 Halo World Championship, both regions failed to crack the top 8. Both teams have spent the better part of a year practicing for their chance to win big. Is 2017 the year an Australian or Latin American team will raise the HWC trophy, or will these regions fall short yet again?

 

Australia: Team Immunity

Roster: Aaron “Benno” Bennett, Teddy “Junior” Joe Jr., Daniel “Seduce” Franken, Matthew “Voltage” Barker

Led by Australian Halo veteran Benno, Team Immunity will attend the HWC Finals with a roster identical to their 2016 showing. The team faced a crisis last year, with an injury sidelining former player Matt “Heff” Hefren. Just days before the biggest Halo tournament in history, Team Immunity was scrambling for a fourth player. The Australian squad hoped for the best, quickly acquiring rookie player Junior, but it unfortunately wasn’t enough.

Benno and Team Immunity. Courtesy of RespawnNinja

In the group stage, Immunity were swept by two red-hot North American teams, eLevate and Denial eSports. They failed to make bracket play, with their only win being a sweep over European team FAB Games eSports. Although disheartening given the circumstance, this shock lit a fire under Immunity for the 2017 HWC Finals. They were better than their placing, and they knew it.

Team Immunity’s road to the 2017 HWC Finals began in early 2017, with a series of online tournaments, concluding with an Online Regional Qualifier in Februrary. The eight-team qualifier featured the best Australian Halo teams, all fighting for one trip to the 2017 HWC Finals. With last years’ shortcomings on their minds, Immunity demolished all obstacles in their path.

The team swept their way into the Grand Final for a face-off with Gryffindor, but were not slowing down any time soon. A flawless 4-0 victory in the Grand Finals awarded Team Immunity with a ticket to the 2017 HWC Finals, and a massive weight off the shoulders of Benno and crew.

This weekend, Immunity seeks to build on their successes at home, and face the strongest competition in the world. Placed in Group C with North American titans Team EnVyUs, and LCQ Champs Splyce, it seems that they’ve got their work cut out for them. Look for Benno and the rest of Immunity to try catching these teams off-guard, as they battle for a spot in the Championship Bracket.

 

Latin America: SoaR Gaming

Roster: Irving “Drift” Ramírez, Atzin “Atzo” Pulido, Carlos “Bullet” Marlasca, Gilbert “MuNoZ” Muñoz

Munoz hopes to lead SoaR to victory. Courtesy of Twitter @elevateMunoz

SoaR Gaming, formerly Shock the World, has had an interesting week. First, the team acquired Halo veteran MuNoZ after losing Josbe “Tapping Buttons” Valadez to visa issues. Then, the Shock the World roster was acquired by esports organization SoaR Gaming for the HWC Finals. Although MuNoZ brings leadership and experience to the team, can they adjust in enough time to perform well this weekend?

SoaR Gaming began their journey to the HWC Finals by competing at the Mexico City HWC 2017 Qualifier. After barely edging out MuNoZ former team, Aztek Gaming, in Winners Bracket Round 3, SoaR cruised into the Grand Final. A charged-up Synergy Gaming roster proved no match for SoaR, as they defeated the fellow Latin American squad 4-2.

The victory in Mexico City punched SoaR Gaming’s tickets to California, but has left more questions than answers. Will MuNoZ HWC experience be enough to keep team composure? Can SoaR overcome European powerhouse FAB Games, or NA veterans Str8 Rippin in Group D? Can the squad adjust without teammate, Tapping Buttons?

Chosen Squad, the 2016 HWC Latin American team, won only a single game in pool play. On the other hand, the 2017 Latin American team is an entirely new roster. SoaR gaming is well-aware that they are the underdogs heading into the 2017 HWC Finals. Look for the team to unite under MuNoZ as they try to make a miracle run this weekend.

 

Conclusion

This concludes the regional preview series for the 2017 Halo World Championship Finals!  As we approach the beginning of the action, the teams are making their final preparations. Which teams will fall short of expectations, and which will rise to the occasion? Be sure to watch the action unfold this weekend at twitch.tv/halo.

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