The 2018 League of Legends World Championship begins this weekend, starting with the Play-In stage. Riot broadcasted the group draw, and the teams are assigned to their respective groups. Group D has the highest likelihood for an upset, as G-Rex is possibly the weakest third seed from a major region, and Gambit is possibly the second strongest minor region team. Kaos Latin Gamers are a far shot from moving past these two, so first and second place are up for grabs. What do these teams need to do to make the Main Event?
Kaos Latin Gamers
- KLG has made it to five of six MSI/World tournaments since 2015
- They lost 0-3 to Infinity Esports (LLN) at Final Latinoamérica Movistar 2018
- KLG helped the CLS achieve second place between CBLoL and LLN at Rift Rivals 2018
- They tied for last place in their MSI group against Gambit, Rainbow7, and Ascension
Kaos Latin Gamers, while fairly dominant within South America, does not have a history of victory on the international stage. Although KLG has qualified for five of the last six major international events, they generally hover towards the bottom of their groups against other minor regions. Latin America North and Brazil are considered stronger minor regions, as seen in Infinity Esports’ 3-0 win in the Final Latinoamérica Movistar this year.
Luckily, KLG placed into a group where getting out is not impossible. Gambit and G-Rex are not insurmountable opponents. Nate and Plugo will be KLG’s greatest weapons, as Tierwulf tends to draft single-target-base champions Nocturne and Skarner, and the bottom lane drafts safe and supportive options, like Ezreal, Ashe, Tahm Kench, and Braum. Nate’s Kennen is his first choice, and with a 49 percent kill participation, his sole focus is splitting. Nate wants the one-v-one and the hard engage. Plugo tends to draft more meta Zoe and Ryze, but he also Anivia and Vel’Koz frequently. KLG tends to play around these two more than anything else.
KLG’s biggest problem will be holding on through the early game. Within the CLS, the Rhinos are used to winning the first 15 minutes. They start 494 gold ahead with a 71 percent First Blood rate. Compare that to this year’s MSI, where they began 325 gold behind with only a 33 percent First Blood rate. Teams that never practice playing from behind generally suffer against upgraded competition that do not auto-lose the laning phase. Higher-level teams may not fall prey to Kennen top and Nocturne jungle as easily as the CLS field.
Gambit Esports versus G-Rex
- Gambit have won the LCL Summer Split playoffs three splits straight
- They finished 0-4 in the 2017 Worlds Play-In
- Gambit finished the 2018 MSI Play-In 5-1, but lost 0-3 to Flash Wolves
- The LCL has historically been a top three minor region
- Second place in the LMS Spring Split playoffs
- Fifth place in the LMS Summer Split regular season
- G-Rex went 0-3 at the LMS-LCK-LPL Rift Rivals
- They have no international experience outside of Rift Rivals
Most likely the closest match-up of the Play-In groups, Gambit and G-Rex should be a battle for first place. Whichever of these two wins Group D will get to dodge playing Cloud9, G2, or Edward Gaming (highly likely winners of A, B, and C) for a chance at the Main Event. Both of these teams have unique strengths that can gain them the first seed.
While Diamondprox and Edward are recognized for their veteran status in Europe, Kira and Lodik are generally Gambit’s strongest carries. Kira plays the standard Ryze and Galio picks often, but also mixes in Ziggs, Anivia and Xerath on occasion. Lodick is similar in picking Ezreal and Kai’Sa, but Jhin is his most played. PvPStejos and Edward also like to pick carries like Gangplank, Aatrox, Pyke and Brand, putting Diamond on mostly tank duty. Gambit generally start the game over 600 gold ahead at 15 minutes.
G-Rex employs a wider variety of strategies. With their two jungle-mid duos, the LMS third seed can draft Skarner-Talon one game, and Sejuani-Swain the next. Their bottom lane tends to pick supportive tanks with DPS carries, like Varus and Tristana. PK, the top laner, is almost always on tank duty. G-Rex prefers the safe, scaling options over Gambit’s pedal-to-the-metal approach.
These differences in strategy should make for an interesting match-up. The drafts will probably evolve over the course of the double round robin. Gambit may become more controlled, or G-Rex may opt for more early aggression. If Gambit falls behind early with some of their compositions, then G-Rex will slowly constrict the game to a close. If G-Rex loses every lane early, then they may just get rolled over. G-Rex suffered that fate at Rift Rivals against the top Chinese and Korean teams, while Gambit was exposed by the number one LMS seed, Flash Wolves, at this year’s MSI. Who has learned more from their past mistakes?
Match-Up to Watch: Mid Lane
While these teams have differing strategies regarding most of their lanes, KLG, Gambit and G-Rex’s mid lanes should be the most interesting to watch. All four mid laners have deep pools, with each playing 11 to 16 champions over the course of the year. However, their most played options do not overlap too much, making for interesting drafts. Ryze, Galio and Ziggs are Kira’s most played, while Candy tends towards Talon, Orianna, Yasuo and Irelia. Plugo and Wuji both prefer Zoe and Taliyah, but KLG’s mid laner prefers Ryze, while G-Rex’s prefers Swain.
Ryze, Swain, Orianna, and Taliyah will probably become the hotly contested picks during Group D’s drafts. But if Kira decides to take artillery mages, Plugo sticks with roaming and picks, and Candy pulls out AD assassins, then differing strategies and styles could clash. Mid is the anchor of the map, so winning the mid lane could win the game for these teams. And winning one game could become the difference between facing Cloud9 or Infinity Esports in a best-of-five for the Main Event.
Prediction: 1st- G-Rex: 3-1 (win tiebreaker), 2nd- Gambit: 3-1 (lose tiebreaker) , 3rd- KLG: 0-4
Images from LoL Esports Flickr