League of Legends Group Stage Preview

2017 World Championship: Group Stage Predictions

Korean overlords? Chinese domination? NA>EU? Here’s Quibbl’s resident League of Legends expert has to say about the upcoming Group Stage.

By Matt Samuelson

The group stage is upon us, and it’s time for some predictions. For the play-in stage, I previewed the new patch and the teams. But, after correctly predicting the first-place finisher in each group, I’ve decided to up the ante for myself a bit and predict where each team in each group will finish 1 through 4 when the sun sets on the Group Stage.

Group A

Teams: SK telecom T1, EDward Gaming, ahq e-Sports Club, Cloud9

Major storylines:

While many fans are looking to the Jensen vs. Faker matchup, I’m looking for the Scout vs. Faker matchup. Scout used to be a substitute on SKT, but he found himself leaving for a starting spot and a nice paycheck at EDG. Now, he returns as the padawan tries to take on the master. That being said, Jensen vs. Faker will be a good matchup to watch as I still believe Jensen was the best mid laner in the NA LCS this past season and deserved the MVP over Bjergsen. We will see if he can put up a better fight against Faker this time around.

Another matchup to watch is once again Impact takes on SKT and his old teammate Faker. Impact and Faker were Season 3 World Champions on SKT, now they find themselves facing off in the group stage again. Last year, Impact was taking on Duke but this year he faces Huni who made a name for himself on Fnatic with Reignover as that team was able to make it to the semis in Season 5. I haven’t mentioned AHQ yet, but they return with the same roster as last year in weaker form. Ziv hasn’t been dominating the top lane in his region, and Chawy is getting more playtime as Westdoor recently had a child and hasn’t been at the top of his game.

Expert Predictions:

  1. SK telecom T1
  2. EDward Gaming
  3. Cloud9
  4. Ahq e-Sports Club

Who Do You Think Wins Group A?

If you don’t consider SKT one of the tournament favorites then you’re crazy. Yes, they aren’t the top seed coming out of Korea, but they were the 3rd seed coming from the region when they won it all in Season 3. EDG is the top team coming out of China, historically the second strongest region at Worlds up there with Europe. I’m confident that they won’t choke like China did as a region in Season 5. Cloud9 tops AHQ thanks to Jensen and Contractz being a better duo than Mountain and Chawy. That being said, I believe this is the easiest group to predict and I’d be surprised if EDG and SKT didn’t make it out of the group stage.

Group B

Teams: Longzhu Gaming, Immortals, GIGABYTE Marines, Fnatic

Major Storylines:

This group is stacked with talented teams, storylines, and insane early game play. Longzhu, Immortals and GAM were all the best early game teams in their respective region. I expect nothing less than early game fireworks and action packed games. The lane I’m going to be glued to for this group is the top lane. Flame and sOAZ are two of the greatest top laners to ever play League of Legends.

That being said, Khan has bursted onto the scene this split in LCK and in the span of 4 months he has proven he is one of the best top laners in his region, and I’d argue the tournament. He gets to prove that he is the best by beating the old guard, and Flame and sOAZ get to prove they are still the perennial top lane talents this game has to offer.

This group is also stacked with rookies and inexperienced players. Longzhu has three starters this year that weren’t starting on an LCK team in the split, and they won LCK. Immortals’ bot lane isn’t proven in international competition, this is GAM’s first time at Worlds and Broxah was in the challenger series at the start of the summer split. When you throw the inexperience of some players along with the strong early games these teams tend to lean towards, this group could be absolutely insane.

Expert Predictions:

  1. Longzhu Gaming
  2. Immortals
  3. GIGABYTE Marines
  4. Fnatic

Who Do You Think Wins Group B?

Longzhu is insanely good. They’re able to pull of team compositions that other teams cannot fathom simply because they know their players are individually better than the opponents. The LCK has better teams than this group, so I count on LZ to make it out easily. Immortals have Xmithie, and I think his experience and play is going to send them into the quarters. Xmithie was a monster this year in the NA LCS, his early game play set the pace for the team consistently. I’m looking for him to do the same in this group.

GAM and Fnatic are good teams; I just don’t think they’re good enough to escape the group. GAM plays a high risk, high reward style focusing around aggressive dives and plays around the map. This could net them wins against Fnatic, who prefer to play for the mid to late game and find success when they get a bit of map control in that part of the game. However, Fnatic will need to work hard on their early game with Broxah. He likes to solo invade the jungle with his lanes shoved in, which has led to some early game deaths that take all the wind out of the Fnatic sails. If Fnatic can fix all of their early game issues, they can get out of the group but I think it’s going to be too much for the team to overcome.

The top teams from around the globe will collide at worlds

Group C

Teams: G2 Esports, Samsung Galaxy, Royal Never Give Up, 1907 Fenerbahçe Espor

Major Storylines:

Time for the real group of death. First off, I’m going to get the deadweight out of the way. FB had a great run to get here, beating out Hong Kong Attitude in their group and Team oNe Esports in the knockout stage of the play-ins. But, the fun ends here as Frozen, Crash and the rest of the team gets to meet their makers. G2 Esports took 2nd at the Mid Season Invitational, even taking a game off of SK telecom T1 in the finals. While they slumped in the summer, they looked to be in better form as they swept Misfits in the finals to earn the top seed from Europe.

G2 is looking to prove that they aren’t on vacation this time around at Worlds, they’re here to win. And, if they make it out of this group it will be impressive. RNG has xiaohu and Uzi, two of the best carries in the LPL. Samsung Galaxy returns with the same roster, the only change is they now have Haru as a substitute jungler. This could be a lethal combination with Ambition, who has looked very good in the summer split for SSG as he returns to form after getting married. One last word on G2: they’re the team to watch in this group. This team can make it to the semi-finals of they play up to their peak, and they can be knocked out of the group stage if they don’t. Trick and Perkz have been the most volatile international performers in the past, it’s worth keeping an eye on them.

Expert Predictions:

  1. Samsung Galaxy
  2. G2 Esports
  3. Royal Never Give up
  4. 1907 Fenerbahçe Espor

Who Do You Think Wins Group C?

So, by now you can probably guess I do believe in our Korean Overlords. LCK is the best region and has sent their 3 best teams (sorry KT Rolster). I expect an all Korean final as long as the bracket works out that way, and I don’t see the veteran team of Samsung Galaxy losing games in the group stage, especially since their late game is so clean as a team.

I have faith in the new kings of Europe. Zven and Mithy are a really good bot lane, and if Trick and Perkz bring their A game G2 can go far in this tournament. Besides xiaohu and Uzi, I don’t believe RNG is that great. mlxg isn’t the same jungler he was two years ago, and I believe Ming is going to be exposed in this tournament as a weak link. FB, hope you enjoy your extended vacation. I’d be surprised if they prove me wrong.

Group D

Teams: TSM, Misfits Gaming, Flash Wolves, Team WE

Major Storylines:

TSM got the dream group, until WE entered the fray. That being said, TSM should be able to come out of this group on top if they play well. Look for Biofrost and Hauntzer to improve upon their play last year. While Doublelift played poorly, specifically on Jhin last year, I believe Biofrost was exposed by the likes of Mata and CoreJJ. I’m looking for him to prove he is a good international support player.

There’s been a lot of hype behind Alphari on Misfits, but no talk of the rest of the team. I think the young Misfits lineup is going to struggle. Their lack of identity as a team is going to hinder them, as I believed they found lots of their wins through individual advantages they will not receive at the international level. Flash Wolves is always scary when Worlds comes around, and Maple, Karsa and SwordArt return once again to prove that they’re really good at League of Legends…again. These three have been monstrous performers at Worlds as they look to continue this trend. Look out for these three! If Flash Wolves want to have success, it’s going to have to come from them.

As for World Elite, I think a lot of viewers were surprised at how weak they looked in the play-in stage. We will see if they can fix a few of their early game mistakes, or if they were just playing too cautious in the group stage. While they didn’t look dominate, they didn’t drop a game and people aren’t mentioning that when they talk about WE.

Expert Predictions:

  1. TSM
  2. Team WE
  3. Flash Wolves
  4. Misfits Gaming

Who Do You Think Wins Group D?

For the record, I’ve never been sold on TSM. I’ve always thought they’ve had inherent flaws with how they play the map as they design strategies around Bjergsen who gets advantages in the NA LCS he won’t get against good, international teams. With that said, I think Bjergsen has gotten a lot better at how he pressures the map outside of the lane, and in a meta that will revolve around the ADC, I’m taking the two strongest ADC’s in the group to get out with their team.

I don’t think Misfits have much of a chance as they’re purely outmatched by the other teams in this group. Flash Wolves have a good shot to make it out of the group, however the LMS region was weaker this year compared to the past and I think it will show once the LMS teams hit international play.

Matt Samuelson is the co-founder of the Miami University Varsity Esports Program and has been a student analyst and substitute for the university’s League of Legends team for the past 2 years. You can follow him on Twitter @Cubbyxx

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