The 2019 League of Legends World Championship is nearing its end with the recent conclusion of the quarterfinals holding some of the most exciting matchups in years. Due to the immense competition remaining in the tournament almost every single team entering the quarterfinals could reasonably be predicted to win the whole tournament. This article is going to compare the expectations and the results before touching on the remaining semi-finalists matchups. The first series of the weekend saw Korean second seed Griffin (GRF) face the reigning world champions Invictus Gaming (IG) to explosive results. In the first game most of these explosions, excluding the GRF nexus, were from IG’s Bot Laner Yu "JackeyLove" Wen-Bo’s Kog’Maw passive. GRF started the series with a Garen Yuumi bot lane and a Poppy mid against Song "Rookie" Eui-jin’s Qiyana. IG’s answer to GRF’s multiple tank team comp was the aforementioned Kog’Maw botlane partnered with Lulu. In theory, this niche botlane works because GRF’s botlane shouldn’t be able to pressure in lane phase, so Kog’Maw gets to scale for free. Plus, with relatively weak engage tools for GRF, JackeyLove should be able to dispatch GRF’s threats before they get within range of him. Despite JackeyLove’s best efforts of teleporting into melee range of Garen and finishing the game with 6 deaths (tied with GRF’s Top Laner Choi "Sword" Sung-won for most in the game), IG managed to win the first game and the series.
Heading into Worlds, GRF were tournament hopefuls surrounded in debate as to whether they could perform in a best of 5 series after losing to SK Telecom T1 (SKT) in both the Spring and Summer Korean finals in generally disappointing fashion. After taking the 1st seed in their group away from G2 Esports (G2), expectations were high for the young GRF roster. Unfortunately for GRF in their best of 5, problems in draft and playing into their opponent’s style see GRF eliminated with IG advancing on to semi-finals. The second series was one of the hardest to predict heading into it mainly because the forms of both FunPlus Phoenix (FPX) and Fnatic (FNC) varied so wildly in the groups stage. FPX were heralded to be potential favourites to win Worlds as the 1st seed of China’s LPL who almost reached the highest win rate in an LPL split in their summer run. After FPX lost multiple games in the easiest group of the tournament and FNC managed to claw their way out of the “group of death” with some extremely surprising upsets either team winning this series was a believable outcome. After falling in the first two games despite Mid Laner Tim "Nemesis" Lipovšek being on his signature Twisted Fate, FNC were looking all but defeated by FPX. The third game showed some life for FNC with Nemesis on Veigar against an FPX team comp that had no reliable way to escape Veigar’s cage, short of flashing. This game was well drafted and executed for FNC, by removing Xayah in bans with the expectation of a first pick Ryze for FPX it secured the other dominant ADC of the tournament, Kai’sa, for FNC while setting up the Veigar pick further since Xayah is the best of the few ADC champion that can reliably escape a Veigar cage (using her ultimate to fly over the stun). This resulted in a mostly decisive FNC win with the only real hiccup being nearly getting aced by FPX’s Kim "Doinb" Tae-sang once or twice. Once it was clear FPX were playing on form, hope for a FNC reverse sweep quickly faded as FPX went on to win the 4th game of the series and advance onto semi-finals. Europe should still be happy with FNC’s performance after escaping the “group of death” but a well-deserved victory to FPX who guarantee an LPL team in the finals as they move to face IG in the semi-finals.
The second day of quarterfinals began with SKT vs Splyce (SPY) and to cut to the chase, global expectations were almost entirely SKT favoured for understandable reasons. After barely escaping the play-ins stage Splyce had a good showing on the second half of groups and escaped the “group of life” as 2nd seed behind FPX whereas SKT near dominated the “group of death” finishing 5-1 as the 1st seed, only dropping a game against FNC’s miracle run. SPY exceeded expectations by managing to take a game from SKT but in all honesty it was clear from their play and drafts that SKT were trying a mix of tactics throughout that they likely wouldn’t repeat against a more threatening opponent. Throughout the series SKT showed off some potential picks for their Top Laner Kim "Khan" Dong-ha, including Lucian into Gangplank and Quinn into Renekton. The Lucian top pick was likely to test it on stage and hopefully fish for Lucian bans from enemies in the future if they were to pick Gangplank against SKT. The latter of Cleanse Quinn Top into Renektonis a known quantity about SKT as Khan has played it in this matchup twice during the 2019 LCK season. As demonstrated by Khan, the main reason Quinn does so well in this matchup is because her E-Vault allows her to disengage any attempt by Renekton to get into melee range and the Cleanse makes this the case even if Renekton wanted to flash stun the Quinn. The fact Quinn can take Cleanse top over teleport due to her being able to roam with her ultimate bonus speed cements it as a solid Renekton counter pick when played correctly. SPY had some highlight moments regardless of SKT’s motivation between Kasper "Kobbe" Kobberup’s Zhonia’s Hourglass outplay and the entire team pulling together in game 3 but a seemingly inevitable result for this series places SKT in the semi-finals and Europe’s hopes solely on G2.
The last quarterfinal match of DAWMON Gaming (DWG) vs G2 was one of the strangest ones looking back in retrospect with G2 players stating beforehand that they have a ridiculously low win rate against DWG in scrims and with a shaky finish to the G2 group stage it was a scary matchup to think about; I say strange because, as LEC fans will know, betting against this G2 roster in a best of 5 is a losing battle, literally, due to this G2 roster not losing a best of 5 as of yet with this one being no different.
The series overall had some close moments with G2’s flexing Orianna to Bot Lane team comp in game 2 failing to secure them a 3-0 series. As a trend, these games were won through a mix of G2’s Bot laners outclassing DWG’s and G2’s constant shutting down of DWG’s Top Laner Ang "Nuguri" Ha-gwon who usually acts as DWG’s win condition in one form or another. The play we’re going to talk about took place in the first game, to set the scene Nuguri is playing Kayle into Jayce, in this matchup Jayce wins extremely hard early but Kayle scales much better as they gain items until they reach a raid boss level of power after level 16. Nuguri spends most of the mid game farming side lanes while his team attempts to lose gracefully and scale. G2 recognises this and at 28 minutes into the game they set a trap with the G2 solo laners, who both have teleport available, waiting in a bush bot lane for Nuguri to overextend. As Nuguri falls into the trap the other 3 members of G2 posture around Baron who with two Mountain Dragons (that increases damage dealt to towers and Baron importantly) are able to take the Baron as a 3 if left uncontested. In this situation the remaining 4 DWG players can’t go bot without giving away Baron because the G2 members in bot can teleport to the baron if DWG commit to going bot. If the DWG members commit to stopping G2 take Baron, then the G2 members in bot can take an inhibitor which makes taking Baron later much easier since a DWG member will need to slow the influx of super minions bot lane. The final option is what happens and is DWG splitting up, but this doesn’t work because the G2 members in botlane are stronger than the approaching DWG members. So, when G2 fakes starting the Baron, DWG retreats back to it and loses the bot lane inhibitor. This situation left DWG “checkmated” and is a strategy teams adopt with Twisted Fate or other global ultimate champions that G2 executed perfectly. After some team fights that came a little too close, this game resulted in a G2 win and a series win 3-1 overall.
After all that, we’re left with IG vs FPX semi-finals on one side of the bracket and SKT vs G2 on the other. The storylines here should be enough but the fact that the 1st seed teams from China, Korea and Europe have made it to the top 4 along with the reigning World champion is unprecedented and decisively makes this the most competitive top 4 in World’s history. Let alone that SKT get their rematch against G2 after they were defeated by G2 in the Mid-Season Invitational semi-finals but the one and only Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok has stated he wants his personal revenge against G2. Alongside this, out of the 16 LPL teams, IG was the only team to beat FPX in a match throughout the entire summer season which leaves FPX wanting to clean the spot off of their record while IG attempt an SKT style back-to-back World championship record. In quarterfinals, G2 played the cleanest League of Legends they have this tournament but how much better can all these teams get to compete for those prestigious finals spots?
By Callum Iles