With the Group stage finished, we move into the elimination tournament portion of Worlds as we blitz into the Quarter Finals. Gone are the Bo1s and jockeying for those two slots out of Groups. Now, every game means (tournament) life or death. Up on the first day are Royal Never Give Up and Uzi, the ADC formerly known as the Crownless King. Across the Rift sit the so-called New Kings of Europe in G2 Esports, with their star player Perkz hoping to make Europe proud. The transition into Bo5s will bring a whole new level of excitement and competition to the series’ between these two teams, with the hopes of appearing in those Finals on the line.
Royal Never Give Up: League of Legends is not a Solo Player game
With the void left behind by the absence of SKT at Worlds, a new dynasty has ascended to claim the spot as the team to beat. Of course, even if SKT managed to get in, it’d be hard to top the absolute gaguatrhan of a year the Royal Never Give Up organization has had this year. They went from an always the bridesmaid, never the bride team, to winning every tournament they’ve been apart of. MSI? Check. Both LPL splits? Check. Asia Games? I mean, kind of? (the Chinese National team roster consisted of most of RNG, so… check?) The only thing left on their list is Worlds and history: no team has every won everything in a year (even the legendary SKT, who won both LCK splits and Worlds, dropped the series against EDG at MSI that spoiled their chance during 2015.)
But you’re probably familiar with that narrative. It’s been said by almost every caster that’s touched a RNG game. A thread that hasn’t fully been pulled on is how the “supporting” staff around the VIP that is Jian "Uzi" Zi-Hao has grown just as much as the Mad Dog himself. A quick look at the stats for Player of the Game for RNG has every player have one to their name. Every player, in their own way, has had a major hand in RNG’s victories. It’s not just Uzi styling on kids or dragging his team across the finish line, but from the top to the bottom RNG have come together into something truly scary.
The growth of the RNG roster is impressive from last year, having only added Hung "Karsa" Hau-Hsuan to their roster, is one of coming together more as a team than ever before. While individual players have obviously gotten better, it’s also the fact that the whole of RNG feels more decisive. From a weak Top lane last year, Yan "Letme" Jun-Ze has found himself much more comfortable in this meta, playing the tanks that RNG need, or absolutely styling on opponents on Urgot. The polarized Jungler situation of the steady, pathing god Karsa and the madman, unpredictable Liu "Mlxg" Shi-Yu have brought harmony to a position that plagued RNG last year. Li "Xiaohu" Yuan-Hao stock hasn’t risen as sharply as those around him, but his was already high from last year, and the Little Tiger is still as sharp as ever. Ming [part]
It’s been said that Uzi’s maturing as a player wasn’t solely in his mechanics, but rather his attitude towards the game. It was when he returned to RNG as the Prodigal Son, having left to ply his trade elsewhere, that he learned the team aspect of the game fully. It’s been in this second coming of RNG, which has culminated in this year’s performance, that Uzi, and RNG as a whole, have looked the most like a unit they’ve ever done. They play as one, win as one, and ultimately lose as one. While it’s still a fact that RNG funnel the most resources into their ADC than any other team, that’s less out of offerings at the foot of a god, and setting up a star to succeed.
G2 Esports: Europe’s Got Talent
The New Kings of Europe, the bad boys of the EU LCS, the tyrants, call them what you will, but G2 have been one of the most consistent and stable organizations in the often rocky EU LCS. They’ve managed to dominant the league, remove Fnatic from their golden throne for multiple splits in a row, lose their core bot lane and then rebuild and make their way back to Worlds. That’s not just good management and player acquisition, it’s more than that at this point. G2 is one of the most tenacious teams at Worlds for finding a way to rebuild themselves setback after setback. And now they’re faced with one of their steepest obstacles yet: Royal Never Give Up.
The new look G2 moved away from a Mid/Bot lane focus into a style they’ve really perfected and made their own: a Top/Mid centric way of playing League of Legends. It comes as no surprise that their core player, Luka "Perkz" Perković is still at the helm of the team’s victories. He’s been with the team for three years, survived multiple roster shuffles and exodus’, and him still finding his way to Worlds and impressing fans and hates alike is insane. Alongside him is the Danish menace that is Martin "Wunder" Hansen in the Top lane. While he was a highlight for the once all Danish roster that was Splyce, he’s be completely unlocked and uncaged in the Top lane for G2. His killer sense is startlingly good. He gets kills that he just shouldn’t, and gets away with it too. His split push game is one of the best in the West and has lead to much of G2’s success at Worlds even.
While traditionally much of the carry pants are often worn by the Mid and Bot laners, this Worlds has a wealth of Top lane talent, but so far Wunder’s been unfazed by anyone he’s met. Improved synergy between the Mid and Jungle duo also helps G2’s case that their being the third seed from Europe is not weakness. However, the worrying lane for G2 is their Bot lane, with some lackluster plays from the duo of Petter "Hjarnan" Freyschuss and Kim "Wadid" Bae-in. While the rest of the world still can’t figure out how to beat their Heimerdinger pocket pick, they can sometimes find themselves as a liability for the Samurai’s, and that’s a weakness stronger teams can exploit. It hasn’t been an issue in their Group stage endeavours, but it may be their undoing in the Elimination part of the tournament.
This Worlds has seen a lot of discussion around the Western teams that did manage to move past their groups. The common theme that most have identified is that they’re the ones playing their own styles, their own way, and looking like themselves. Instead of copying and mimicking from other regions, Europe is, as it has often been, leading the way in unique and different ways of playing the Rift. Whether it’s the tyrannical split pushing style that feels like watching an opponent be slowly torn apart, or a team fight heavy composition that lets their mechanics shine, G2 have shown that they are not a team that is ‘Korea-lite’ or ‘China lite.’ They’re not even just a EU LCS team, but a G2 team. Whether that’s enough for them to topple the tournament favourites in RNG will have to be tested. .