The League Master Series (LMS) sent three representatives to the League of Legends World Championship last year. Flash Wolves came through as the clear first seed, winning regular season and playoffs in spring and summer. Second seed went to AHQ, who placed second in both playoffs for the most championship points. Hong Kong Attitude secured third seed by winning the Taiwan Regional Qualifier, following two upset wins over J Team and Raise.
None of these teams looked on form at Worlds last year. Flash Wolves and AHQ finished at the bottom of their respective groups, while HKA missed group stage altogether. They returned to Taiwan with their tails between their legs, hoping to redeem themselves in 2018.
Flash Wolves has been on a tear this year, despite losing Karsa in the off-season. Newcomers Hanabi and Moojin have given Flash Wolves new life in 2018. They finished the entire spring season with a 29-5 game record (85.3 percent win rate), only dropping one series all split. Flash Wolves qualified to MSI, where they seeded into the Play-In Stage. In order to move into the Main Event, they needed to beat one of the top round one contenders. Things were not looking good for the LMS representatives, as ESPN ranked them fifth entering the event, stating “Flash Wolves’ overall level isn’t far off from teams like Supermassive and Rainbow7, but it still has just a bit of macro know-how in favor of these teams.”
However, Flash Wolves smashed Gambit, the LCL representatives. A 3-0 victory propelled them into the group stage, where Flash Wolves went undefeated the first three days. They lost three of their next four games and lost the tiebreaker with Royal Never Give Up to place second in group stage. Unfortunately, second place forced them to face Korea’s Kingzone in the semifinals, where Flash Wolves lost 1-3. Nonetheless, Taiwan’s best team showed the world that they could keep pace with the best at times.
Upon returning to Taiwan, Flash Wolves has had an even more dominant Summer Split. They are undefeated in first place at 14-0. Because of their bye to playoff finals, Flash Wolves automatically have enough championship points to qualify for Worlds 2018. Based on their MSI performance this year, expect Flash Wolves to come to Worlds ready to win some games, and be far-and-away the best LMS team at the event.
Last year, AHQ began a slump, with Chawy and Westdoor sharing mid lane duties. Ziv, Mountain, AN, and Albis remained steady starters on the roster, and the team finished second in Summer Playoffs. At Worlds 2017 AHQ had a moderate performance, considering their instability, going 1-1 with both EDG and SKT, but missing the bracket stage.
Over the course of 2018, things have only worsened for AHQ. During Spring Split, Mountain and Ziv were the only players starting every game. LBB started over AN several times, Tuna started over Albis nearly half the split, Chawy went to another team, and Westdoor went inactive. Wako and M1ssion have played in the LMS for years, but neither has placed above fifth in the league since 2015. This roster ended up sixth of eight with a 5-9 record.
AHQ have continued to fall in Summer Split. They just finished the regular season in last place with a 3-11 record. This split, Ziv, Wako, and AN have been the only starters every game. Albis has supported most games, with Tuna and Kino playing a series each. Jungle has been the major issue. With Mountain moving to Oh My God in the LPL, AHQ have fielded Taizan, Nestea, and even Westdoor as junglers. The team is a mess, and will not be attending Worlds this year. It will be their first time missing it since 2014.
Hong Kong Attitude
Despite being just as old an organization as Flash Wolves or AHQ, 2017 was Hong Kong Attitude’s first World Championship appearance. A fifth place Spring Split finish provided 10 championship points, and sixth place in Summer Split granted 20 more. Entering the LMS Regional Qualifier as the last place underdogs, HKA upset J Team 3-1. They moved on to face the next favorite, Raise Gaming, where they won again 3-0. They ran the gauntlet for third seed.
Once at Worlds, HKA was forced to participate in the play-in stage against other third seed and wildcard regions. Placed in Group D, HKA went 1-1 with 1907 Fenerbahce and 2-0 against Rampage. HKA and 1907 tied for first, causing a tiebreaker scenario. 1907 Fenerbahce won the tiebreaker, knocking out HKA before the Main Event.
For spring 2018, HKA acquired Chawy and Gear for mid lane, as well as Koreans Destiny and Nova for jungle and support. Riris, Gemini, Unified, and Kaiwing continued to start most games, but HKA finished seventh overall in Spring Split. They made even more changes for Summer Split, bringing on two new Korean solo laners, erssu and cyeol, promoting Gemini to starting jungler, and dropping all of the substitutes. HKA finished third in the Summer Split regular season, two wins behind second. They will need a high playoff finish to have another shot at the gauntlet.
Challengers for 2018 Worlds Slots
MAD team and G-Rex are likely the two challengers for Worlds seeds this year. MAD Team is a new organization, coming into the LMS after acquiring AHQ Fighter’s promoted ECS team for 2018. They kept the original roster, but Tuna dropped, Rock swapped to top lane, and Breeze and K joined as the bottom duo. In their first split, MAD barely edged out J Team for fourth place in the regular season. They 3-1 upset Machi before losing 0-3 to G-Rex, placing third for 50 championship points.
In Summer Split, MAD has gotten even better, with Kongyue as starting jungler. They are currently in second place at 10-4, auto-seeding MAD to round two of playoffs. A finals appearance automatically grants MAD a Worlds seed, either first for beating Flash Wolves or second by points. Even if they finish third, MAD would be a heavy favorite for third seed.
G-Rex and J Team are the only other legitimate candidates. Like MAD, G-Rex joined the LMS this year by acquiring Raise Gaming’s slot. Their second place Spring Split finish granted 70 championship points, essentially guaranteeing a gauntlet spot. However, this summer has been difficult for G-Rex. They lost their tiebreaker against J Team for fourth place, knocking them out of playoff contention. G-Rex will be waiting for challengers in the Regional Qualifier.
2018 is J Team’s third shot at Worlds, after falling short in the Regional Finals in 2016 and 2017. FoFo, BeBe, and crew have been consistently top four in the LMS, but this year feels like a dip. They missed playoffs in the Spring Split based on head-to-head record against MAD Team. Fifth place secured 10 championship points. Summer Split they narrowly qualified for playoffs by winning the tiebreaker against G-Rex for fourth. Assuming Flash Wolves and MAD secure first and second seed, J Team would play in the gauntlet for third seed for a third time.
If everyone finishes as expected, G-Rex would play J Team, while Machi plays HKA. J Team and G-Rex are virtually a coin flip, while HKA and Machi would be more interesting. HKA is clearly better overall, but Machi has a 4-1 record against them in the regular season. The gauntlet would most likely come down to HKA versus J Team, with HKA winning, but if Machi upsets HKA in the first round, then J Team would probably make it through.
This Regional Qualifier will be a murky one.