24 teams started in the 2019 League of Legends World Championship, but only eight are left in the race for the Summoner’s Cup. With the group stage now complete, the surviving teams head to Madrid, Spain to compete in the Knockout Stage.
So far, the World Championship has been an exciting event with upsets, incredible plays, and plenty of fan chants for Team SoloMid. Out of all of the teams competing at the event, only one has stood out as the clear front-runner for the title
That team is SK Telecom T1.
In the past, predicting SKT to become the World Champion was the obvious play. They’ve won Worlds three times and are arguably the best team in League of Legends history. However, after the 2018 season, SKT became a significantly riskier bet.
The team built a new roster around its legendary mid laner Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok. The goal was to surround the star player with teammates that could not only compete at his level, but also carry the team if things went awry in the mid lane.
SKT was ready to take risks with the new roster. They signed the unpredictable Kim “Khan” Dong-ha, and former Jin Air Green Wings standout Park “Teddy” Jin-seong. They made other blockbuster signings by picking up KT Rolster support Cho “Mata” Se-hyeong, who switched sides in the telecom war, and a largely unknown jungler in Kim “Clid” Tae-min. Finally, young support Lee “Effort” Sang-ho survived the organization’s purge and became the starter in the summer.
The new and improved SKT took over the LCK in spring and went on to compete at the 2019 Mid-Season Invitational. SKT had a decent showing at MSI and showed a new look at the event with Faker leading the charge and playing point the team. Ultimately, SKT fell against G2 Esports and returned home with wounded pride.
The beginning of the summer was difficult for the team, SKT started the LCK with a five-game losing streak. With rising stars like Griffin, Damwon Gaming, and Sandbox Gaming in the league, SKT had to work extra hard to climb back up the ladder. The team earned a spot in the playoffs and went on to complete the gauntlet run. SKT became the first team to win in the LCK playoffs after a start in the Wild Card match, a feat that no other organization has come close to completing.
At Worlds 2019, SKT has shown that they’re back and ready to take a fourth world championship. The team has perfected its jungle-mid lane synergy and are looking solid in the side lanes. The group stage proved that the only way to take games from SKT is with wild, unpredictable drafts.
With excellent individual players, impeccable macro, and a strong determination to win SKT is the favorite to raise the Summoner’s Cup in Paris.
The Knockout Stage will start with a clash between Griffin and Invictus Gaming. The defending World Champion will go against the young prodigies from the LCK.
IG showed some of their strength by the end of the group stage when they subbed in Gao “Ning” Zhen-Ning in the jungle. The execution was far from perfect, but IG had convincing moments that once again gave them the look of a contender for the title. Unfortunately, IG is going against Griffin, a team that had an impeccable performance in the group stage.
What Griffin lacks in experience, they make up for with technical prowess and macro play. Game after game, Griffin has posted perfect drafts, going for compositions that allow their players to shine.
This is not a team that plays through one particular lane. They are highly flexible and the laners have a solid synergy with jungler Lee “Tarzan” Seung-yong.
IG has good moments in groups, but those are few and far between. In the final game versus Team Liquid, IG snowballed off of a solo kill in the mid lane. Song “Rookie” Eui-jin took the early advantage and helped the side lanes, a plan that didn’t bring fully incorporate Ning.
Hoping for a miracle is not an optimal strategy against a team like Griffin. IG can still do some damage, and potentially take a win, but a sweep in favor of Griffin is a very real possibility.
FunPlus Phoenix came into the tournament as one of the favorites to win, but so far their performance has been underwhelming. The LPL champion made some questionable choices during the group stage, starting with its drafts.
FunPlus was supposed to take it easy and not show its best strategies in the first part of the tournament. The team went into the group guns blazing, picking Malphite in the mid lane and brute-forcing their way to victory.
That wild play ultimately worked out, but the outcome likely would’ve been very different against stronger teams like Fnatic. When it comes to champion pools, both teams go for similar picks, and FunPlus gets ahead with their ability to flex almost every champion in the mid lane. If the teams go head-to-head with standard compositions, Fnatic will get the win.
Fnatic can punish FunPlus’ bad habits in lane and break even in team fights. After recovering in the final day of Group C, Fnatic is finally online and ready to take on the competition. The team made one key audiple, putting Martin “Rekkles” Larsson on marksman champions. That small tweak changed the look of the team. Fnatic also showed that they can go for cheeky picks like Veigar in the mid lane to steal games away from stronger opponents on paper.
FunPlus will look to push the tempo and force Fnatic to fight them, the European team must remain calm and not fall for FunPlus’ traps.
What can a third-place European team do against the best team in the tournament? Not much. Splyce is Europe’s sacrificial lamb, and will have to face a a team of wolves that happen to be three-time champions. SKT has better macro, better players in every lane, and a better champion pool.
Splyce had it easy in the group stage. They were lucky enough to be seeded into Group B, where second place was almost guaranteed. They had to do the bare minimum to advance, but now they’re in for a reality check.
Splyce can hold their ground against SKT and maybe drag out games past the 30-minute mark. That said, it’s unrealistic to think that they can take a game off of SKT, let alone an entire series.
On the bright side, Splyce will get the experience of playing against the best in the world and some extra practice ahead of the 2020 season.
The final series of the quarterfinals is perhaps the most exciting match up. G2 will have a chance to prove their worth against a team that is looking scarier with every game they play.
Damwon had the advantage of starting in the play-in stage, which allowed them to shake off any rust and get an early taste of the Worlds 2019 meta. Damwon and its newfound confidence are not opponents that G2 can underestimate.
In the play-in, Lowkey Esports took one game from Damwon by playing an early lane swap. At the time, the Korean representative couldn’t adapt and let the enemy take the game. Team Liquid tried to pull off the same trick and Damwon was ready to react.
Damwon has had an incredible performance and demonstrated the ability to grow after every game. However, the players lack discipline in the laning phase and are always counting one another to snowball to win the game.
Damwon passed its first test in the group stage, but the match versus G2 be a make-or-break affair for them.
G2 came into Worlds as the favorite, with the European team looking to complete its journey down the golden road by winning two split championships alongside the Mid-Season Invitational. Unfortunately, odds are that their journey will end sooner than expected.
It all comes down to that old saying, “better jungle wins”. Objectively speaking, Kim “Canyon” Geon-bu is performing better than Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski, albeit by a narrow margin. But given G2’s reliance on Jankos to win, that could be all they need
The teams need to be disciplined, draft for comfort, and forget about the crazy explosive picks. This series should be a close one, regardless of which direction it breaks in.
Should the previous predictions shake out, it sets up matches of SKT vs. Damwon, and Griffin vs. Fnatic.
In the regional gauntlet, SKT seemed to have the young team’s number, and took a convincing victory over them. Even though Damwon has been improving greatly, they’re far from SKT’s level.
Considering that Damwon has had almost a month of World Championship experience at this point, the series might be closer than the 3-0 rout that occurred when they played in the summer playoffs. If the League of Legends gods happen to be on Damwon’s side and give them the upset against SKT, Damwon will win Worlds.
Griffin versus Fnatic is an interesting matchup. The two teams match up very closely and this one could be decided by which team happens to be hotter entering the day.
The main difference comes in the drafting phase. Griffin works better around its players’ champion pools and win conditions, while Fnatic is more inclined to go for unorthodox picks.
Odds are that this strategy won’t fly against Griffin.
The grand final will be a déjà vu for LCK fans.
Griffin and SKT are used to meeting in high-pressure matches with a title on the line. In Paris, SKT will repeat what they already did to Griffin twice domestically. SKT and Griffin share similar strengths with good players, good macro, and strong synergies between the players.
The key difference is experience. Most of SKT’s roster has been in this position before and even if it’s the first time that Teddy and Clid are competing at Worlds, they already have international experience.
SKT will raise its fourth World Championship title at the AccorHotels Arena.
The Knockout Stage looks like a straightforward stage but there is always room for upsets. Two teams in particular have the potential to take over the competition and advance, G2 and FunPlus.
G2 is a strong team that understands the basics, and has the tools to win. The biggest problem for the team is their tendency to get over-confident.
G2 sometimes makes silly mistakes like pushing the tempo too high and taking unnecessary risks. If they stay calm, G2 could potentially upset Damwon and head to the semifinals where they’re likely to face SKT. The road ahead is not easy for G2, but if one team can achieve the impossible, it might be them.
The other team that could go against the predictions and take the win is FunPlus. The LPL champion is yet to be challenged at Worlds, so it’s hard to say how will they react against a stronger opponent. Fnatic can match their crazy style and still get ahead. It is also possible the team will have some powerful pocket strategy that they can debut on the playoffs stage.
It is difficult to predict which FunPlus will show up in the quarterfinals. Depending on the game, it can be the greatest team in the world or a complete failure. It is possible for FunPlus to reclaim their place as favorites and stomp Fnatic in front of the audience in Madrid.