The group stages of the 2016 International Wildcard Qualifier kicked off yesterday with two tickets to the 2016 World Championship on the line. This is one of the few international competitions for the minor regions, and one of the only chances for these teams to showcase their talent to a wider audience along with playing against teams from other regions.
Day 1 was full of the unique flavor that only an International Wildcard competition can provide including oddball picks, pleasant surprises and an upset.
Rampage appears to be the only team that can play around Taliyah
Taliyah is a current top-tier mid pick. She has an excellent combination of strong AP damage, crowd control that can pair well with additional crowd control from her jungler, support, and top laner, and the ability to pressure side lanes past Level 6 with her ultimate, Weaver’s Wall. This has made her pick or ban throughout most major regions’ respective playoffs, especially in the recent LoL Champions Korea Summer Finals between KT Rolster and the ROX Tigers, and the 2016 LoL Masters Series Finals between Flash Wolves and J Team.
The difficulty in picking Taliyah lies not in the mechanical skill required to play her, but how her kit is used in conjunction with the rest of her team. Seismic Shove (W) and Unraveled Earth (E) disrupt opponents in skirmishes and change the landscape of teamfights, especially when they can be combined with allies’ crowd control. Weaver’s Wall requires communication with Taliyah’s team and foresight — the mid laner in question must know where their team wants to be in a teamfight or turret siege and set the wall accordingly. While Taliyah was in high demand on Day 1 of the 2016 IWCQ, it was Japan’s Rampage that rose above the rest and tapped into her teamfight potential and roaming prowess.
Rampage support Jeon “Dara” Jeong-hoon initiated his team’s fights with Alistar, often zoning out Saigon Jokers’ backline alongside top laner Shirou “Paz” Sasaki on Ekko. Mid laner Hiroki “Roki” Yokoo used Taliyah to push remining enemies into Rampage’s waiting arms or separated teamfights into smaller skirmishes, allowing the rest of Rampage to clean up. Roki ended with an impressive 3/3/13 scoreline and 73 percent kill participation, indicative of both how well Rampage played around his Taliyah, and his own individual prowess on the Stoneweaver. After a rough day for Taliyah, Roki in Rampage’s win over Saigon Jokers was a pleasant reminder of what she can do with team coordination and why she’s such a strong pick.
Lyon Gaming upsets INTZ
To say that INTZ are already performing below expectations is a bit harsh, but the five players of INTZ have an immense amount of pressure on their shoulders. Twice they have represented Brazil at the International Wildcard Invitational in 2015 and 2016. Both times they returned to Brazil, defeated, while Turkey punched their ticket to the Mid-Season Invitational. At each of these tournaments, INTZ were a favored team to make it to MSI out of the field of wildcard teams. Due to their history, anything but the utmost success is considered a failure, which means a 1-1 split on Day 1 will hardly be well-received by the players themselves or their fans.
In order to claim a spot at on a larger international stage for the first time, INTZ will need to overcome their mental hangups and move forward. One loss certainly isn’t the harbinger of doom that fans make it out to be, but an unfortunate reminder of a familiar pattern that INTZ desperately wishes to break.
By contrast, Lyon Gaming entered this competition with remarkably low expectations based on their last-place performance at the 2016 IWCI and immediately went about upending those expectations with a victory over INTZ. Most notably, mid laner Edgar Ali “Seiya” Bracamontes returned to his primary role as a mid laner — previously he had stepped into the AD carry position for Lyon — and Lyon also received an upgrade in the form of Peruvian jungler Sebastián “Oddie” Niño. Beating INTZ is a great step towards proving that they too should be considered contenders for one of the two spots to the 2016 World Championship.
Pick of the Day
Kirill “Likkrit” Malofeyev’s support Brand
Likkrit has been known to pull out the odd, slightly off-meta support pick before, showcasing Tahm Kench at the International Wildcard Invitational in a meta when he wasn’t considered a high-priority pick. With Tahm in higher demand, Likkrit moved on to support Brand and Zyra this past season along with his signature Bard. After Albus Nox Luna’s definitive victory over the Chiefs eSports Club, it’s difficult to imagine that the field of IWCQ teams will be leaving the Brand up for Likkrit much longer.
Players to watch
Lyon Gaming (LAN) mid laner Edgar Ali “Seiya” Bracamontes
Seiya has been at the periphery of the North American League scene since he reached first place on the NA Challenger ladder in early 2013, but is a true veteran, who first played the game on the NA server in late 2010. Widely regarded as the best player in his region (Latin America North), he’s also been a staple of Lyon Gaming since 2013.
Coming into this tournament, Lyon was written off by most due to their poor performances at this past spring’s IWCQ. However, that Lyon team and their current iteration are completely different due to upgrades in jungle, AD carry and mid. Back then, Seiya had role-swapped to fill Lyon’s AD carry position for the LAN 2016 Opening Cup while Uri "Uri" Schölderle Latorre held down mid lane. Seiya returned to his primary role of mid this past split, and his Ekko racked up solo kills in the mid lane during Lyon’s upset of INTZ eSports on Day 1 of IWCQ. If Lyon continues to exceed expectations in this tournament, Seiya will certainly be a large part of their success.
Rampage (Japan) support Jeon “Dara” Jeong-hoon
Although this is Rampage’s first appearance at an International Wildcard event, this isn’t Dara’s first international event. The strong engage support was nominated as Team Japan’s starting support for their All-Star team at the International Wildcard All-Star Melbourne 2015.
Against Saigon Jokers, Dara had one of the best individual performances of any player on Day 1 that ended with 86 percent kill participation and a 2-4-17 scoreline on Alistar. With precise teamfight targeting, Dara hit multiple-man knockups on Saigon Jokers’ backline, allowing Paz to stick to opponents on Ekko and keeping the Jokers’ damage dealers at bay while the rest of his team cleaned up. With Dara and jungler Lee “Tussle” Moon-yong, Rampage’s teamfights are something to look forward to throughout the IWCQ tournament.
Emily Rand is a staff writer for theScore esports. You can follow her on Twitter.