Group B preview and predictions

**Group B** FNC, iG, AHQ, C9 While Group A is the only group that does not consist of a Chinese team, Group B is the only group that doesn’t consist of a Korean team. In past years, this would be a fortuitous group to land in due to having no Korean teams. Yet this year, I don’t see the same benefit. With the way the draw is structured, FNC was pulling two of the eight pool two teams into their group, with pool two consisting of (In order of my personal power ranking): EDG, iG, KT, KOO, AHQ, TSM, FW, H2K. This post isn’t about pool 2 rankings, but this is just to give an idea of the relative strength of who FNC pulled into their group (2nd and 5th) It’s not quite “the group of death” but it is quite a strong group from top to bottom. At a high level, this is a 3 horse race between FNC, iG, and AHQ, with C9 being the longshot. With that, let’s take a closer look at the teams. **Fnatic** Where to start with Fnatic? They are the best team the EU LCS has ever produced. 18-0 regular season, 3-0 in the Quarterfinals, and then a testing 5 game series against Origen in the EU LCS finals. I actually did a video piece before summer playoffs on Fnatic which you can watch here: What I want to focus on is how Fnatic could falter, and how they actually faltered during the EU Finals. One of the core tenants of Fnatic’s team compositions is triple threat (Top, Mid, Bot) and Reignover on a tank. During their two defeats to Origen in the playoffs, they abandoned those principles. Game 1, they ran Lulu top, Viktor mid, Trist ADC, but a Runeglaive Elise out of the jungle. They lacked initiation and tank presence, and OG poked them hard. The other game they lost (game 4) was a somewhat similar story. They ran GP top, Viktor mid, Corki ADC, and Nidalee in the jungle. Again, Fnatic had no tank presence and no real initiation. Origen got Niels to late game on Trist/Lulu and won a long drawn out game. Fnatic has since admitted that they had poor drafting, and vowed that they will fix it in the future, but this series exposed some vulnerability. That’s not to say Fnatic is without strengths. They were an 18-0 regular season team, they have solid team structure (coach, clear captain in Yellowstar, good management) and they also have talented players in every single role. They also have shown strong mental strength both during comebacks during the regular season, as well as bouncing back mid-series after suffering their first defeat of the split, ending their chance at a 24-0 run. **How they finish 1st** - By drafting around their strengths as a team, and standing up to the pressure of their expectations. - Let’s be clear, not only is Fnatic the best team Europe has sent to worlds since season 2, they also have extremely high expectations (semi-finals) - When Fnatic is humming on all cylinders, they are clearly a world class team. Huni stepped up and outplayed Marin during MSI, Febiven was able to solo kill Faker twice (in a favorable matchup, but he still solo killed Faker...) and they have also upgraded their ADC spot substantially since MSI. Also, if Huni has mastered the champion he is playing, he becomes a beast. Many of Fnatics issues have been when Huni is target banned (early spring split playoffs) or forced to play champions he’s not familiar on (GP in summer finals). If they get Huni into a comfort zone and allow him to drive the team forward, Febiven and Rekkles are more than capable of taking home 1st in this group. **How they finish 2nd** - By adapting quickly after losses, and leveraging their experience to push through the group. - Even though Fnatic was 18-0 in EU, it’s likely that they drop atleast a game vs. iG or AHQ (considering AHQ beat them handily at MSI.) It will be critical for them to adapt quickly to whatever plan/strategy that beat them, and not let it happen again. This is Yellowstar’s 5th worlds, and he will need to leverage his experience and sense of calm to guide Fnatic to 2nd place in the group. **How they finish 3rd** - If they are unable to adapt to the worlds patch, and if their conservative tendencies from the summer split catch up with them. - Something that is common amongst teams that win so many games, is they are used to simply being “better” than the other team. This can manifest in their playstyle and make them risk averse. You could see this at points during Fnatic’s summer split. They would play highly conservative lanes, sometimes even giving up small advantages in the early game because they had so much faith in their ability to outplay and win in the mid and late game. This works against inferior teams. This doesn’t work on the world stage. Fnatic is completely capable of playing risk-taking, aggressive styles, but more often than not they played risk-averse league of legends during the summer split. If they are unable to transition to a higher risk style of game, they ‘risk’ falling to 3rd in this group. **How they finish 4th** - With a total collapse. If they are out-strategized, if they don’t adapt to picks, and if they crumble under the pressure of worlds. - There are definite vulnerabilities for Fnatic, and if all of them are exposed and Fnatic is unable to recover mid-group, it’s very possible they drop games to every team here. It’s unlikely, but if all of these things happen they will finish 4th in the group. **My prediction: 2nd** - Not much has changed in my mind since the group draw show, where I predicted Fnatic to finish 2nd. What’s interesting is Fnatic’s placement had the most variance even in the draw show, with Deficio picking them for 1st, and Spawn picking them for 3rd. - I think they will finish 2nd because, at the end of the day, they are a strong team with good coaching and good management. I have faith in Febiven and Rekkles to stand up to whatever Mid/Bot lane combos get thrown at them, and I think Huni has the potential to take over a few games, even if he falls short in a few game and Fnatic loses them. I predict them to place 2nd and advance. **iG** This team has a lot of natural story heading into the group stage. Kid and Zz1tai have been with iG seemingly forever, with both participating in the season 2 world championship where they advanced from groups and lost to Moscow 5 in the Quarterfinals. Additionally, they have KaKAO and Rookie formerly of the KT Arrows, who will be making their first appearance at worlds. - Zz1tai was actually a liability for most of the spring split, struggling with his move from mid lane where he had played most of his career, to top lane to make room for Rookie. Early in the year he was actually splitting games with Pokemon, iG’s other top laner. Once regionals hit however, Zz1tai took his game to the next level. He had tremendous success on top lane carries, and could fall back on his “champion ocean” that he’s always been known for. Even in his mid lane days back in season 2, Zz1tai has been able to play everything, and has always had a flair for the aggressive style. This is the “patch of Zz1tai” as far as predicted meta top lane champions are concerned, and it couldn’t come at a better time for iG. - KaKAO is known by some as the best jungler in the world. That was definitely the hype surrounding him in 2014 when he led the KT-Arrows to a Champions Summer victory in Korea. Unfortunately it all came crashing down in the regional qualifier when they lost to Najin Shield. Remember, in 2014 the Champions Summer winners did not auto-qualify for worlds, and KT Arrows was a casualty of that system. This year in the LPL KaKAO has been continuing his brand of amazing jungling, varying between two distinct playstyles. He will either go incredibly farm heavy in the early game and try to carry the mid-late game with his gold advantage, or he will take to ganking lanes early and often and look to take over the game with sheer pressure. KaKAO is definitely one of the best junglers at worlds, and will look to dominate a weak pool of junglers heading there this year. - Rookie loves Karaoke, and also singing. He actually sang with Cool in a promotional video by the LPL before MSI. and lyrics here: But on a serious note, Rookie is one of the most devastating laners in the LPL. He can take over the game on a variety of champions, whether it be TF/Lulu where he helps everyone else, or Yasuo/Ekko where he hard carries the game from mid. He also played Viktor 3x in a row in their decisive qualification match against QG in the regional qualifier. Rookie is a force. - Kid has been around since... he was a kid. He’s still just 18 years old despite playing competitively since 2012. He has never really been known for being great, but has consistently maintained a presence in the LPL, a region known for exceptional ADCs. He was actually ‘benched’ for a short time during the summer split, so he would have time to recover mentally and improve. You may remember the “least damage done by an ADC in a competitive match” which can be seen here: that was Kid dealing 443 damage to champions across an entire game. ADC “Time” played 8 matches while Kid was out, and then Kid finished out the season strong. - Kitties is quite interesting, as he is the successor to legendary support XiaoXiao on iG, who attended the 2013 All-star game for China. Kitties was “hand picked” by XiaoXiao when XiaoXiao retired, and has only ever played with Kid, save for a few games with Time. He is a big time Janna player, which is rather rare in an LPL meta known for team-fighting and engaging. Kitties was also blamed for the slump of Kid, as the bot lane tends to rely on one another. All in all, if you’re looking for a comparison, Kid/Kitties are very much like a better version of Apollo and Adrian from TiP, a duo who tries to keep up with the aggressive playmakers on the other side of the map. **How they finish 1st** - By playing like they did in LPL summer playoffs and Regionals. - During the Summer Split, iG was plagued by inconsistency. They played very much like the KT Arrows of old. However, with the current patch and the emergence of Zz1tai as a carry top laner, they are a completely different beast. - It will be very difficult for teams to match the laning prowess of Zz1tai and Rookie, combined with the jungle pressure of KaKAO. If they can execute on their high pressure early game strategies, they can win this competitive group and finish 1st. **How they finish 2nd** - By playing over-aggressive, and displaying the inconsistency that plagued them during the summer split. - Even though the LPL plays best of 2’s, with 1 point being rewarded for a 1-1 series, and 3 points being rewarded for a 2-0, iG managed a paltry 55% win rate during the summer split regular season (24-20), which is hardly impressive when you look at the bottom of the LPL which consists of some weak teams. - Zz1tai has been the worst offender as far as inconsistency is concerned. Bouncing between Maokai, Fizz, Shen, and a host of other top lane picks, he never quite found his groove. While he did find a groove on patch 5.16, whether he can solidify that into consistency is yet to be seen. If Zz1tai fails to find his groove, this team will be much like the 55% win rate LPL team, and could finish 2nd. **How they finish 3rd** - If the above is true, and if Rookie and KaKAO fail to perform on the world stage. - This isn’t the first time KaKAO and Rookie have been hyped heading into a big event, and they have also waited an extra year to go to worlds after being so close in 2014 with the KT Arrows. If Rookie becomes a mere mortal in the mid-lane, or if KaKAO can’t gain an upper hand with jungle pressure, iGs aggressive playstyle could turn against them, and they would be hard pressed to find win conditions in their matchups. **How they finish 4th** - This is extremely unlikely, and would require a herculean effort by C9 in this group. Not only would iG have to underperform across many different dimensions, but C9 would have to over-index as the 3rd seed from NA. I will touch on this more in the C9 section. - If this set of conditions is met (all the bad stuff from 2nd and 3rd, +C9 playing great), they could finish 4th. **My prediction: 1st** - Despite the inconsistent regular season, I feel like this team has come together at just the right time. I think they are the 4th strongest team at worlds and the strongest team in this group. - While this group is competitive from top to bottom, I feel like the skill level, combined with the risk-taking playstyle that iG brings, will be enough to land them atop this group. **AHQ** AHQ was ridiculously dominant in the summer split of the LMS. As an example, they lost more games (4) to EDG at MSI, than they did in the entirety of the summer split and playoffs (3). Also, AHQ surprised many when the defeated both TSM and FNC handily during the group stage at MSI. What they need to prove this year is not only was their MSI performance not a fluke, but also that they are a top team in the world. - Ziv fits this story perfectly. This is a player who isn’t well known internationally, but LMS caster Clement Chu calls “the best player on AHQ.” Everyone who plays against Ziv raves about his abilities as a player. Despite Maokai being by far his most played champion in summer (13 plays) he hardly ever loses lane, and has exquisite teamfight positioning and TP timing. He exerts a large amount of control and pressure from the top lane, and it will be fascinating to see how he adapts to the new top lane at worlds. - Mountain is a fairly recent addition to AHQ’s starting roster. Throughout most of the spring split, Albis was jungle and GreenTea was support. Right before AHQ made their run through the playoffs to qualify for MSI, Mountain stepped in as jungle, Albis moved to support, and GreenTea moved into a coaching position. This player swap worked wonders. As the split has progressed, Mountain has shown dominating play on tank junglers such as Gragas, Rek’Sai and Ekko, and is a big reason why AHQ has been so dominant. - Westdoor. Oh Westdoor. He is easily the most famous player on this team, as well as the most hyped. Generally the hype is justified, as he has shown up in a big way during Worlds in 2014, as well as at MSI this year. However, it’s important to note that Westdoor is not the only story for this team. He has a -2.4 CS differential @10 on average, due to his frequent roaming early to create plays. Additionally, many LMS watchers actually peg Maple as the best mid-laner in the LMS, not Westdoor. Traditionally teams throw 2-3 bans at Westdoor per game, partly due to his proficiency on TF and Fizz, but also due to his relatively limited champion pool outside of that small set. One boon for Westdoor is he has added Diana into his champion pool, and also found significant success on Ahri this year. Westdoor is certainly unique, and his champion pool as well as skill will be heavily tested by Rookie, Febiven, and Incarnati0n in this group. - AN. While most teams have their mid-laner as the highest % of teams damage on average, AHQ has AN with that title. This is partially due to Westdoor favoring assassins over high damage mages, but also due to how many resources AHQ routinely funnels AN’s way. It is rather common in AHQ games to have 5v5 scuffles in the bottom lane pre-10 minutes, because so many ganks are focused down bottom, as well as Westdoor already having a propensity for roaming. Additionally, AN’s mechanics are strong. Most if not all LMS players also rank themselves in Korean soloQ, and AN was once as high as the top 10. These factors are particularly evident in the results. Despite having the majority of his regular season games on Sivir, he still averaged a +11.6 CSD at 10 minutes, which is extremely high. **How they finish 1st** - If their dominating LMS performance carries into the group stage, and they can outpace the other teams in the group. - AHQ is similar to FNC in the sense that they have been so overwhelmingly dominant in their region that it’s hard to gauge how they respond to adversity. In the LMS, Westdoor has been able to roam early without being punished and AHQ has been able to apply heavy pressure to bottom lane and get AN ahead. If they can execute on their core strategy, and if Westdoor can get rolling on assassins against the powerful mid laners in this group, AHQ can take 1st. **How they finish 2nd** - By replicating their MSI group stage performance. - During the MSI group stage, AHQ defeated FNC and TSM, and lost to EDG and SKT. Essentially they beat the best teams from Europe and NA, and lost to the best teams from Korea and China. In this group, there is no Korean team. Fnatic will be the biggest obstacle to place 2nd in this group, as they are MUCH improved since MSI. AHQ is also an improved team. With an entire split to solidify Mountain as their jungler and Albis as support, AHQ has been able to refine their playstyle and get into a good groove. If they maintain that improvement heading into this group, they can take 2nd. **How they finish 3rd** - If Westdoor is punished, and AN is unable to get a snowball going from bot-lane teamfights. - It all depends on the map play and how AHQ’s lanes matchup against the talent in this group. Normally for AHQ, Ziv is a rock in the top lane, and Westdoor is able to freely roam to create opportunities. Against Huni and Zz1tai, it is questionable whether or not Ziv can be a reliable winner in lane. Additionally, if Westdoor is under heavy pressure in the mid lane, AN and Albis may be left to their own devices to get an advantage, and may not even have the attention of their jungler Mountain since he may need to assist other lanes. **How they finish 4th** - If the LMS has been weak this whole time, and their performance at MSI was a fluke. Or, if they crumble under the pressure of being the LMS’s #1 team and tilt after a slow start to the group. - This result would also only result if the playstyle problems outlined above come to fruition. While the LMS had resurgence this year, with the move to a fully localized league, there is still a chance that AHQ isn’t used to playing against world class teams. The LMS is very much AHQ – and then everyone else. While AHQ is unlikely to finish 4th, as this group is mainly a 3 horse race, there is the chance of a collapse which would leave them in 4th. **My prediction: 3rd** - This is honestly a very close call. I think the LMS region is quite strong, and I was ready to write AHQ into the quarterfinals had they drawn even a slightly easier group. I think Westdoor’s limited playstyle, while strong and polished, can be punished. I also think that their winning bot and top lane that they leverage so well in the LMS won’t be there to leverage against the competition in this group. Because of that, I don’t see them advancing into the knockout stage. 3rd place. **Cloud 9** I was ready to write this team off completely 7 weeks into the summer split. I even made a video about it! There are a number of things that contributed to C9’s turnaround at the end of the regular season and through the regional qualifier. Much of it, but not all of it, can be contributed to Hai. I won’t go over all the nitty gritty stats here, but if you’re looking for a more in-depth statistical look check out this great article over on oracleselixir: C9, backed by the leadership qualities of Hai, were able to regain their confidence and also create an unpredictable flair in their gameplay. Incarnati0n transformed into one of the best mid laners in NA and Sneaky returned to the form he had in spring where people were calling him the best ADC on the server. C9 also developed one of the most unique champion selects of teams attending worlds. Lemon highly valued the Karma pick (although based on defeats, may not value it at worlds) and Hai was the only player in NA to win on Rengar, Shyvanna, or Kha’Zix in the summer season and beyond. I stand by my statement that the Cloud 9 of old is gone for good, but this new Cloud 9 isn’t bad either, and fully deserves their spot at worlds. That doesn’t mean they don’t have a daunting task ahead of them. 7th place in the NA regular season to worlds is a Cinderella story in itself. To take that 1 step further and place ahead of AHQ (the best team from the LMS), Fnatic (the best team in EU LCS history), or iG (3rd seed from the LPL), or better yet, place them ahead of all of those teams, takes the story to the next level. **How they finish 1st** - By embracing the “Nobody Believes in Us” theory. There is a common mantra in pro-sports where teams who are underdogs can leverage that energy and use it as a rallying cry. I’ve never seen it explained better than when Bill Simmons, a former ESPN writer wrote about it. Scroll down to “Revelation No.3” in this article: - C9 is a talented team from top to bottom. Every player on this roster has been near the top of their respective role at some point during their careers. If they can leverage the power of the underdog, even though it’s an incredible longshot, they could win the group. **How they finish 2nd** - By proving they are as good, or better, than the 2014 C9 team. - In 2014, C9 was grouped with Alliance (#1 team from EU) and Najin Shield (#3 team from KR) and managed to escape the group with the 2nd seed. This C9 team still consists of 4/5ths of that roster, and arguably has a better mechanical mid-laner in Incarnati0n. If C9 builds upon the momentum of their NA gauntlet run, and reaches back on their experience, they can finish 2nd in this group. **How they finish 3rd** - If they play as well as they did in 2014, and it’s not enough. - This group doesn’t have much wiggle room between the 1st-3rd seed. If C9 is capable of finishing 2nd, it’s also not a far stretch for them to still perform well and finish 3rd. Generally they would fall to 3rd if Hai is exposed for his relative inexperience in the jungle, if Lemon and Sneaky don’t have it in them to bully lane in this group, or if Balls gets bullied in the top lane for his shrinking champion pool and poor recent performance. **How they finish 4th** - If teams can expose their weaknesses displayed throughout the NA LCS split. - There were many holes in C9’s game that they patched up during their run in the gauntlet. The problem with that is past problems can come back with a vengeance against better competition. This group is really, really good, and can punish C9 for the slightest miss-step. Hai as a jungler sometimes feels like he makes random decisions. It often works for his benefit because the opponent is thinking “a pro jungler would never do this” and then Hai does it… and due to the element of surprise it works great. I can recall several ganks during the regional qualifier that followed this logic. - Additionally, Balls has mainly played Maokai and Rumble throughout the summer, and has shown moderate to low success on all other picks. Looking at his Korean solo Q account, where he has more games logged than any other EU or NA player, Balls is attempting to pick up Fiora (his most played), Gangplank, and Riven. Unfortunately he is still sitting in Diamond 2, so as of now his practice is not at the level he will face up against in this group vs. Huni, Zz1tai, and Ziv. **My prediction: 4th** - While C9’s run through the NA regional qualifier was historic, it probably ends here. I think it is quite possible that C9 sneaks 1 or 2 games off of teams in this group, because they still have a high amount of talent and experience on this roster, and Hai’s shotcalling and savvy alone can manufacture victories. Even with the shotcalling and positive team atmosphere Hai has been able to nurture since his return, I still see C9 finishing 4th in this group. That does it for Group B. Who do you think will take it? Also, if you missed it, check out my Group A piece here:
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