Group A preview and predictions

Since the end of the LCS split I have been prepping hard for worlds. I am by no means done, but I wanted to give a preview of what I’m currently thinking as we get closer to the World Championship. What better way than a group A preview? What would each team need to do to finish 1st in their group? What would have to go wrong for a team to fail out of group stage? Here are my thoughts so far. **Group A** CLG, FW, KOO, PAIN Group A is the only group that doesn’t have a team from the LPL. In my view, the LPL consists of 3 of the 4 strongest teams heading into worlds, with SKT being the only team outside the LPL to crack the top 4. Because there is no clear juggernaut in this group, it is super interesting to me and has a ton of possibilities. This is the “weakest” group at worlds, but also the one with the most possibilities. **CLG** - After a 13-5 regular season, where they lost the tiebreaker for 1st seed to TL, CLG went on a 6-0 run in the playoffs and topped NA to get the #1 seed. - The faithful shall be rewarded! Or shall they? Early issues point to Xmithie not being able to attend due to Visa issues, with Huhi (the teams sub mid-laner) taking over the jungle position. - There is also the chance that Huhi is an upgrade to Xmithie in the jungle. Huhi was consistently near the top of the solo Q ladder when he was in the challenger scene, and has reportedly been heavily involved in CLG’s team practice for over 4 months. The team also says scrims are executing at a level equal or better to that of the NA Playoffs, so this could actually make CLG better than ever. Additionally, while it’s normally daunting for a player to role swap, jungling in competitive play is much different than jungling in solo Q. I would also say that CLG’s role for Xmithie is even different than most competitive junglers. Xmithie bought substantially more sight wards (literally more than double) than any other jungler in NA, and also bought the most pinks by a wide margin. Note that most sight-wards bought by junglers are pre-sightstone, so having a high number here usually makes you slow to completing your jungle enchant and delays your power spike. Xmithies’ role in the early game is generally to fall behind in order to get ward control before the opponent. Then, he actually goes to farming his jungle to make up his XP and farm disadvantage for the team-fight phase. It really is a style unique to CLG. - When CLG is at their best, they are one of the most entertaining teams to watch in the world. They consistently make high-risk, high-reward plays and smother the opposition before they have time to react. During the spring split and even the summer, CLG manhandled teams so badly in the early game that it overshadowed the fact that they weren’t picking strong overall team compositions, and often didn’t have concrete ways to end games outside of “beat them to death in the early game” **How they finish 1st** - By performing to their potential in every role. ZionSpartan has waited his entire career to play on the world stage, and his domination of TSM in the NA finals was his display of how he can play when he’s at his best. - If CLG can play the early game as well as they did in the NA LCS. In the summer split, Doublelift AND Zion averaged the highest CSD@10 for their role (+10 for Zion, +5 for Doublelift). This is actually more impressive than it would seem. Normally during lane-swapping, a team trades a favorable matchup on one side of the map (top or bot) for a disadvantage in the other lane. CLG has consistently managed to get favorable matchups for top or bot, WITHOUT SACRIFICING ANYTHING. This will be increasingly harder to do against better competition, but if CLG can pull it off, they can win the group. **How they finish 2nd** - By playing to the level they did during the NA playoffs, and by not being hurt by the player change in the jungle position. - If CLG avoids upsets at the hands of the Flash Wolves and paiN, they can shrug off potential defeats by the KOO Tigers. It will be important that the team remain strong after defeat and keep their heads clear (something that has plagued CLG pre-NA championship). **How they finish 3rd** - By getting beaten or neutralized in the laning phase by the rest of the group, and losing communication in the team-fight phase. - We’ve all seen it before: CLG puts a high execution pressure on themselves during games by picking daring team compositions and mechanically complex champions. They often rely on their ability to outplay people in order to win. This might not work against the Flash Wolves or KOO, and CLG could fall to 3rd place. **How they finish 4th** - By suffering a total collapse. - We know that this is the best CLG has ever been, but we also know this is the strongest an IWC team has ever been in paiN gaming. If CLG allows the switch in jungle to get to their heads, as well as the pressure playing internationally, it may be possible for them to spiral out of control in groups. No team in this group is a push-over and every team will require a unique plan and calm mind in order to beat. If CLG reverts to their spring split playoff form, they will be in big trouble. **My prediction: 2nd. ** - With everything considered, CLG is a very strong team. I also think the coaching infrastructure and mental coaching the team has given the players has allowed them to reach their true potentials. This team is also immensely hungry, and looking to prove themselves again and again. They should be heavily motivated from their triumph over TSM and carry their momentum towards the group stage. - I don’t think it will be enough to take down the KOO tigers, but I still expect a strong showing from CLG in this group. - Realistically, 1st-3rd is all a possibility for CLG in this group, but my prediction is 2nd. **Flash Wolves** - Far and away the best team in the LMS for the spring split regular season, but then lost to AHQ in the playoffs and did not attend MSI. - Lost to HKE in summer playoffs, but beat HKE 3-2 in the regional qualifiers to make it here to worlds. - 4/5ths of this line-up consists of the Gamania Bears from S3 worlds. (Winds no longer with the team, instead Karsa in the jungle) - This year saw large improvement for LMS teams since they were able to break away from the GPL and play in a more competitive league: this re-energized many old players to tryhard. - As far as struggles go, Flash Wolves were hit by the cinderhulk patch all the way back in spring and never truly recovered. In fact, when they qualified for worlds it was largely due to them defaulting back to their tried and true playstyle instead of playing meta-champions. This included playing Varus bot lane, and resulted in 3 wins across 4 games to take the regional qualifiers 3-2 against HKE. - LMS teams have also had the luxury all year long of being geographically capable of scrimming against LPL and LCK teams. This could prove invaluable as they match up against other regions at worlds. - During the regular season, NL actually sat on the bench for several games in favor of Korean ADC Kkramer. Kkramer was the starter during the defeat to HKE in the playoffs, but NL was the starter during the regional qualifier finals. I think this position could still be on flux, and will affect FW’s performance heading into worlds. - Flash Wolves found much of their success through executing dives and team-fights without hesitation; however, that started to backfire as it became too clear to better teams what their intentions were and they could be countered accordingly. **How they finish 1st** - If their practice against LPL and LCK teams allowed them to grow, and if the LMS region is truly under-rated by most analysts. - If Maple is able to make assassins work and FW can play their kill-focused style of game. - Flash Wolves need to seriously over-perform to take down KOO and CLG in this group. With that being said, it is beneficial that they are in a group without an LPL team, as that region most closely mimics the style of FW, and is better at it. Flash wolves found most of their success with NL on Sivir and Steak on Mao/Hecarim. Additionally, Maple is a feared Zed player. If they can make their team-comps work, and not get heavily out-drafted while keeping their players on comfort champions, they can push the tempo on teams in this group and come out on top. **How they finish 2nd** - If they play up to the level of their mechanics and teams don’t heavily capitalize on how predictable they can be. - As mentioned earlier, Flash Wolves have a tendency to over-commit to dives, which can be punished hard. There is also a strong chance that teams spend the majority of their time studying for CLG and KOO, and don’t pick up on Flash Wolves tendencies. If this happens, they can take the #2 spot in the group. **How they finish 3rd** - If their weaknesses are exposed by the better teams in the group. - Steak has been less than stellar in the summer split and there are some formidable top laners in this group such as ZionSpartan and Smeb. If Steak lets opponent top laners get going (whether they are playing tanks or carries) it can throw a serious wrench into their star player Maple and his ability to carry with assassins. **How they finish 4th** - By playing over-aggressive. - This team has had some failures in the past, including dominating the spring split only to be convincingly beaten by AHQ in the finals. If they lose the first few games and begin to lose confidence in each other, I can see this team losing games to all 3 other teams in this group. If they aren’t picking meta champions, and over-aggress on their dives against teams built to capitalize on their mistakes, they could finish dead last in the group. **My prediction: 3rd** I had flash wolves as my 2nd weakest team in “pool 2” that I thought teams would want drawn into their group, so it’s no surprise that I don’t think they’ll make it out of this group. With that being said, the LMS is probably the most unpredictable region in the world. AHQ’s performance at MSI (defeating both FNC and TSM in groups) was a wake-up call to many that the LMS should not be taken for granted. Yet here I am, taking the LMS for granted and placing them as 3rd in my prediction. I think FW have the highest variance in this group, and I could realistically see them anywhere from 1st(quite unlikely) to 4th. I think they’ll finish 3rd. **KOO Tigers** KOO Tigers is fascinating to me. Typically they don’t fit the bill of a Korean team with a rich and vibrant esports history. Instead, it’s a new organization with a collection of misfits from the Korean Scene. - Smeb was considered one of the worst top laners in the LCK in 2014, but has been one of the best all throughout 2015 on KOO. - Hojin was a Najin Black Sword sub who had fairly low expectations heading into the year. Additionally he got chewed out for his poor performance at IEM Katowice, and soon after had trouble adapting to the cinderhulk tank meta. - Kuro has been around the competitive game in Korea since 2013, bouncing from IM#2, to NJBS, and now to KOO in 2015. He has struggled on Azir, going 0-6 in summer on him, and has otherwise been a generally reliable mid-laner who favors Viktor heavily over most other champions. His Yasuo at IEM Katowice was atrocious, and he has put in a ton of work to make it a power pick for the team at worlds. - Pray, while he was great on Najin Black Sword for 2 years, was considered over the hill. However, when the LCK season started he put up impressive numbers and was one of the first carries to thrive in “Juggermaw”. - Gorilla was probably the ‘best’ player when KOO tigers formed, and many believe that the team was built around Gorilla. Gorilla was a dominant Janna player at worlds in 2014, and has been a big part in the KOO tigers macro play throughout the year. As Far as playstyle is concerned, KOO plays a heavily macro focused game. Most of their lanes look to play reliably and then they try to pull their advantages out in the late game through better map movements and superior team fighting. Often times because they don’t look impressive when they beat people, they are perceived as weak, but let’s not forget this is the #2 seed from the LCK, and has been around the top teams in Korea the entire year. **How they finish 1st** - If they are able to adapt to the worlds 5.18 patch and keep up their macro focused style of play. - When the KOO tigers stormed onto the scene in the spring split, they were actually innovators. Kuro was one of the first major Viktor players in the LCK, and even won a game as mid lane Sion. KOO doesn’t necessarily have a problem playing a diverse set of champions, but they do look to have a problem in changing their champions QUICKLY. If KOO can use the 1 month break from the end of their LCK season and the start of worlds to perfect the right set of champions for worlds, their macro play and experience can carry them to first in the group. **How they finish 2nd** - If they fail to find their comfort zone in champion select, but maintain composure and play their style. - Even if KOO isn’t able to play the best champions in the meta (as was seen with Kuro’s poor Azir play in summer) they are still capable of beating most teams. They narrowly lost out to KT Rolster in summer playoffs 3-2. Korea plays the best macro focused league of legends in the world, and even if KOO isn’t completely at the top of the game I still think they get 2nd in the group. **How they finish 3rd** - If IEM ghosts of past return for worlds. - Let’s not forget, KOO (then the GE Tigers) went to IEM Katowice as the #1 team in Korea. They then proceeded to lose to team WE, a near bottom of the pack LPL team. It was honestly one of the biggest upsets in League of Legends history, and it took KOO a long time to recover from the defeat. - Against team WE, Koo’s slow style of early game was mercilessly punished. They fell behind in a big way early game (something CLG and FW are capable of doing to KOO as well) and could never recover enough to get to their strong team-fighting phase. If KOO starts slow out of the gate, they could get rushed down by CLG and FW and fail to advance from groups. **How they finish 4th** - I don’t think this is a reasonable scenario. - Even though the Talent drop-off in Korea has been evident this year, (With everyone far, far behind SKT) I think no matter what, the experience and talent of the KOO lineup can avoid finishing in 4th place here. **My prediction: 1st** - I have a lot of faith in KOO’s ability to prepare and find the right champions for the 5.18 patch. - Hojin (formerly Lee) should also be very happy about the patch. +5AD on warrior enchant and small buffs to Lee sin and J4, his best champions from this year. - Additionally there is going to be a large top-lane focus at worlds, and Smeb has shown time and time again that he is a massive force to be reckoned with. - Add that to the fact that this team has been able to execute on their precise win-conditions of their team comps again and again, I see them coming out as 1st on this group. **paiN** Let’s talk about paiN. This team has been trying to make it to worlds since the IWC tournament that was held at Gamescon in 2013, where they finished 2nd. From that 2013 Squad, they still field Kami (their star mid laner), brTT (their vocal and famous ADC), and sirT (their shotcalling jungler). This has also been paiN’s best year. Despite finishing 3rd place in the split 1 playoffs (called summer playoffs, but for consistency sake will be called split 1... because southern hemisphere) paiN were able to win the split 2 playoffs in 3-0 fashion, and then also 3-0 a KLG team at the IWC to qualify for worlds. As I stated before during the worlds group draw show, this is the strongest IWC team to ever attend a World Championship. What’s interesting about this team is every member of the roster has been around a good while. - Mylon has been playing competitively since the creation of the BR servers. He won the season 2 Brazilian championship, and has bounced around a good bit from Keyd Stars (where he played with 2 Koreans) to paiN this year when they were having issues finding a quality top laner. He is a strong shotcaller, and has long been known as a good player but never the ‘best’ player. - SirT has been with paiN since 2012, and has long been known as the best jungler in the scene. This year it was debate-able whether Revolta (INTZ jungler) was the best, but ultimately SirT is the one going to worlds for Brazil. SirT is a reactive/support type jungler, and focuses on warding/ganking instead of trying to carry himself. - Kami. Kami is hype. He’s been the best player in Brazil for years, consistently sitting atop the solo Q ladder and doing work in the competitive scene as well. He usually holds multiple accounts in the top 10, and even has a “Lux only” account in challenger. While Kami is known on many champions, he seems to excel most on traditional mages rather than assassins, with some dominating performances on Orianna. - brTT was a former 1.6 pro in Brazil, has the largest fan base of any esports personality, and also has a giant tattoo of Kayle on his back. In the past, brTT has a mindset of always needing to be the primary carry, and would clash with team members (specifically in 2014 on keyd stars, where they failed to qualify) But this year has taken a more suitable role within the team. Carrying when necessary, doing whatever it takes to win. - Dioud came over to the team from Europe. It’s interesting that a region who imported multiple Koreans back in 2014, ends up making it to worlds with an imported European as the support. Dioud has been able to adapt fully to the team style, and has legal status in the country as a “Pro Esport Player” With all that being said, this is still a Wild-card team, who rarely if ever gets to play against top teams from around the world. INTZ held a boot camp in North America before the CBLoL finals, and reported to do well against top NA teams, but that is hardly enough data to go off of to call paiN a powerhouse for defeating INTZ. **How they finish 1st** - It’s a long-shot, but I actually think this is possible. It would require an IEM level meltdown from KOO, CLG reverting to spring split form, and FW failing to adapt to the worlds patch. If all of those things happen, and paiN plays well, they can beat every single one of those teams. **How they finish 2nd** - When paiN has time to prepare, they typically perform well. Additionally, since their whole team has been playing competitively for so long, they can execute on many different playstyles and metas. - This would still require one of the two favorites in the group (KOO or CLG) to collapse, as well as for paiN to play to the peak of their ability. **How they finish 3rd** - By playing too slowly and getting over-run by better strategic teams, or teams that play faster than them - Despite paiN’s success in the CBLoL playoffs and IWC, they showed a poor ability to push the pace of a game, as well as initiate cleanly and often. This type of thing is highly punishable by elite teams, and if paiN cannot improve the way they create fights and opportunity, they will finish poorly. **How they finish 4th** - Because no other wild-card team has ever done better than last. - The challenges that a Wild-Card region face are immense, and historically it hasn’t even been close. Kabum won a game, which was huge, but that was just a single game in a 1-5 group stage. - The likely outcome for these guys is unfortunately 4th place, based on history, pressure of the stage, and past opponents. **My prediction: 4th** - Even though I see a long-shot chance that paiN make it out of groups, I think odds are they finish 4th here. paiN and the Brazilian region in general have come a long way to match the level of league of legends played in main regions. However, their typically slow style of play that often lacks strong initiation makes it even harder to defeat superior teams. I don’t think this will be a Dark Passage level of 0-6 in the groups however, like we saw in the 2014 World Championships. I think paiN brings a lot of positives to the table, and will probably land with a 1-5 or 2-4 record in groups, picking up wins as opponents falter. This was long… Who do you think will win Group A? Also, if you want more, check out my group B piece here:
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