With the IEM World Championship in two weeks, eyes will loosely be around the competing teams over the upcoming weeks to the event. And although some will consider this particular international event irrelevant to the overall history, it is still something to look forward to given the teams that compete there. Originally I thought of doing this a week prior to the event. But as of earlier today, two favored teams have been replaced and that has somewhat reshaped the expectations of the entire tournament. If you watched IEM Gyeonggi, expect the same format to be used here (double elim groups, 2 from each advance). The teams - barring _any further changes_ - are as follows:
~~**Cloud 9 (NA)** - Highest placed NA team (5th-8th) at Worlds 2016~~ (Opted out as of 2/9 - Replacement Soon)
**H2K Gaming (EU)** - Highest placed EU team (3rd-4th) at Worlds 2016
**EDward Gaming (CN)** - Tied RNG in Worlds placement (5th-8th); Highest placed LPL Summer used (1st)
**M19 Team (CIS)** - Highest placed IWC team (5th-8th) at Worlds 2016
**Unicorns of Love (EU)** - IEM Oakland winners
**Flash Wolves (TW)** - Direct invite; Highest placed LMS Summer (1st); IEM Oakland Runner up
**Kongdoo Monster (KR)** - Invited in place of SSG; IEM Gyeonggi Runner up
**ROX Tigers (KR)** - Invited in place of SKT; Highest placed KR team at Worlds 2016 (3rd-4th) following SKT and SSG's opt out
Now this became a big shocker when I read the article earlier today because now, as far as it looks, the entire tournament has become a major toss up. The rest of the line up, each team has something about them that needs to be looked at closely depending on where your interest lie.
H2K has had their sparks of brilliance and moments of shakiness in the EULCS up to this point. Fault partially comes from the new acquisitions in the bot lane duo of Nuclear and Chei. Counting H2K completely out of the running for a semifinal appearance however doesn't seem like a long stretch if they play it right against the competition.
With only one week so far of LPL coverage, there is _very little_ to assess about where EDG would precisely wind up coming into the tournament. The two factors to ask about come from their new bot lane player in Zet (formerly ROX Tigers Cry) and their starting jungler Fireloli. With nothing unexpected of a 2-0 (4-0 Record) week, how well can this team keep it up to convince nonbelievers?
M19 (formerly Albus Nox Luna) has started the LCL in a bit of an unexpected fashion. In a best of 1 format, having losses to current last place teams Gambit.CIS and RoX (not to be confused with Tigers) and referring to recent CIS international performance with Vega Squadron's fallout at IEM Gyeonggi, it wouldn't be wrong to say that the spark that this team ignited for IWC teams at Worlds 2016 may have already diminished.
Unicorns, despite the 4-0 (8-2 Record) record in their group, continues to remain absolutely unpredictable as to where their ceiling could be. They could out team fight SKT! They could mechanically blunder a boatload of things like RNG! Nobody knows! But like H2K, a semifinal appearance wouldn't be too surprising given how well this team has consistently remained competitive.
Flash Wolves continue to reign supreme in the LMS so far with wins against AHQ, Machi, and J Team. It's a good enough draw for now to know that their roster change during the off season in Betty (DoubleRed) is still granting the team good results. And considering how close they took UOL in the bout for the IEM Oakland title, there's a chance that a good showing can right the wrongs given to their region following Worlds.
Now we get to the really concerning part: the Korean representatives. SKT and SSG are both out according to the announcement. In their place: Kongdoo and Tigers, both currently sitting at the relegation zone in LCK.
Starting with Kongdoo, who's doing their absolute best not to carry on the Ever reputation of looking good out of promotion, looking great at KeSPA, looking even better at the IEM event KeSPA qualifies to, and then falling flat on their faces once the spring split starts. Samsung, MVP, Jin Air, and KT. Is it too late for them to pull it together against any of these next opponents; **especially** Jin Air?
And on ROX Tigers' side. They aren't looking all too hot either but do have their flashes of success in a bottle from time to time. Unfortunately that doesn't translate into series wins, but they absolutely could. Like Kongdoo however, this is a team that needs to really show some convincing results or otherwise pull some kind of spontaneous Team WE run which funny enough cost them their Katowice run two years ago!
And that's all for yet another rundown. Here's to hoping that each of the competing teams makes it worthwhile. What do you look forward to over the coming weeks up to the event? How would you have felt if the team changes hadn't occurred?