The tail-end of the season is fast approaching, and we have arrived at the point where all roads meet: the World Championship. Worlds is usually the yardstick through which an organization’s success is measured— a whole season of domestic losses could be made up for by making a deep run or by winning it all, or domestic victories could be obscured by international defeat.
For this approaching World Championship, we assess which of the teams from the four major regions (North America’s League of Legends Championship Series, the League of Legends European Championship, the League of Legends Champions Korea, and China’s League of Legends Pro League) have what it takes to lift the Summoner’s Cup, who are worthy challengers, and who appear to be underdogs going into the tournament.
Potential Title Takers
SK Telecom T1
SK Telecom T1 went through a rough five match loss streak this summer, sitting at ninth place for most of the regular season. This was followed by a brief first-place stint, but ended with them sitting in fourth as the regular season ended. After a nail-biter of a series against the Afreeca Freecs, SK Telecom T1 proceeded to make quick work of their competition, sweeping both Sandbox Gaming and Damwon Gaming. They then won the LCK Summer Final rather handily with a score of 3-1.
The most noteworthy thing about SKT’s world-class superstar roster is that Kim “Clid” Tae-min and Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok have developed a high level of synergy. Their map plays as a mid and jungle duo were unmatched in their region, and this may remain the same throughout the duration of the World Championship.
G2 Esports has faced adversity in the summer, being pushed to the brink in their two best of fives. While showing a bit of inconsistency throughout the summer, they also showed some resilience and capability to adapt in a best-of series.
No team has redefined the meta more in 2019 than this G2 Esports squad. Having some of the most mechanically-talented players in the West, this is made better by the fact that each player in the roster has an immensely wide champion pool. These people are capable of playing almost any champion in any role, and this is the team’s main strength going into the tournament.
Funplus Phoenix rose to the top of the LPL with a rather phenomenal record: sporting a 17-1 win/loss record in the summer, people were looking forward to how they would eventually do against international competition.
While people usually look to mid laner Kim “Doinb” Tae-sang and his unorthodox picks, the team shines further due to his work with jungler Gao “Tian” Tian-liang. Liu “Crisp” Qing-song’s contributions to the team from his support role cannot be understated, either.
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Fnatic, last year’s finalists, have gone back to Worlds after a rather up and down 2019 season so far. Coming up a bit short when it matters the most may come back and haunt the team, but pushing G2 Esports to the brink in two best of fives is something to be proud of.
We look mainly at Zdravets “Hylissang” Galabov as the main catalyst for this team’s success, as the team’s goal is to usually do their best to unleash him on the map. In addition, the team’s use of the summoner spell teleport and their use of global ultimates catapults them to a lot of victories.
The Mid-Season Invitational finalists are back at worlds after successfully winning the LCS four times in a row now, the only organization to achieve that in LCS history. Because of their results this year, expectations on them are a lot higher than in previous years.
Count on Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen to perform well against international competition, and on Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong to contain his enemies well.
Royal Never Give Up
After a rather disappointing spring season, Royal Never Give Up returns to the international stage after getting into the LPL Summer Finals with new top laner Xie “Langx” Zhen-ying. With their superstar bot lane of Jian “UZI” Zi-hao and Shi “Ming” Sen-Ming, they are looking to win the only tournament that they were not able to in the 2018 season. With trusted jungler Hung “Karsa” Hao-Hsuan, RNG are looking to prove that they are more than just a team that plays through the bottom lane.
One of the youngest rosters in the World Championship, Damwon Gaming go to Worlds in the same season that they were promoted to the LCK. What they lack in international experience, they clearly make up for in their mechanical talent: their top side of Jang “Nuguri” Ha-gwon, Kim “Canyon” Geon-bu, and Heo “ShowMaker” Su are some of the most mechanically-talented in their roles. At their peak, they could defeat anybody, but due to their inexperience, they could also lose to anybody.
Middle of the pack
This is the first time since the emergence of the Regional Qualifier that Cloud9 has not gone as the North American third seed, and it is a welcome change: after all, it means that they were able to show much more consistent results throughout the season. The LCS’ best-performing organization in international play, Cloud9 will be looking to make waves in the tournament, especially with LCS Summer MVP Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen.
Team Griffin made it into Worlds on the back of two stellar regular season performances followed by lackluster ones in the postseason. With two best of five losses to SK Telecom T1 in this year, the team has a lot to prove in the international stage. With superstar jungler Lee “Tarzan” Seung-yong, along with mechanically-gifted mid laner Jeong “Chovy” Ji-hoon, this team could reach the heights that they have proven capable of reaching before. The only problem for the team is to consistently reach those heights.
The world champions return to the World Championship, looking to defend their title. Following their loss to Team Liquid in the MSI Semifinals, they had a rocky summer split, and while they made it to the playoffs, they got eliminated in the first round. They then had to go through both JD Gaming and TOP Esports in the Regional Qualifier in order to make it to Worlds with rookie jungler Lu “Leyan” Jue. As usual, we can count on their laners to create leads individually, but what has been lacking as of late is a capability of playing together as a unit in the highest level of play.
Splyce is a team with rather consistent carries in Andrei “Xerxe” Dragomir and Kasper “Kobbe” Kobberup. However, problems with their vision setups and their their side lane play leave so much to be desired, and, if not fixed, may pose problems when facing much tougher competition.
Clutch Gaming has always been a high-variance team in the LCS, but have been able to channel the strength of its solo lanes in Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon and Tanner “Damonte” Damonte, and in letting Cody “Cody Sun” Sun carry in the later stages of the game. However, their high-risk play style might be exploited by better teams across the world.
We went through several ideas for how to rank the teams. In the end, grouping them into clusters was a better decision rather than outright ranking them, and even then there was still a great degree of difficulty in doing so. Of course, the games still have to unfold and we may be surprised by any team— after all, last year’s World Championship left us with one message: anything is possible, and anyone can emerge victorious.