With the Worlds 2017 group draw that occurred Tuesday morning, every single team except for the three residing in group C should be satisfied with where exactly they placed. There are slightly more difficult groups than previous years, and quite possibly the most difficult group of death that Worlds has ever seen.
In terms of regional strength, Korea looks stronger than ever, but for once, so does North America, Europe and China. As a result, the group draw looks to be a more exciting spectacle, with little to no combination of placings being out of the question. In fact, I could easily think of reasons why your favorite team won't make it out of groups. With so many different storylines and major team flaws, upsets look more likely than ever, which means that this may be the most exciting group stage in World history.
Because the Play-In stage draw was formatted to have seeding based on a region's strength, no surprises should really come from the way in which teams are sorted into their groups of three. However, the best of 5s should be particularly interesting as strong teams are likely to match with one another. Whoever faces Gambit or Team oNe eSports, for example, will have more than they bargained for as they play their way into the group stages.
Other than that, former wildcard regions should generally be outclassed by North America, Europe and China's third seed. Only Hong Kong Attitude, LMS' third seed, should be expressly worried about their position and ability to reach the proper group stages of the tournament.
Group A: Edward Gaming, AHQ eSports Club, SK Telecom T1, TBD
There seems to be something of an awkward trend for EDG and AHQ. This is the third time in the last four World Championships that the teams will meet in the group stages (2014 and 2016). This time, however, both teams seem to be on a downturn. The LMS overall is looking weaker, while EDG has only recently found new stable footing under their replacement AD Carry Hu "iBoy" Xianzhao.
Standing in their way is a sleeping giant. This is one of the best possible draws for SKT, especially if they're looking to come back into form and have an idea of who exactly is best to bring along for their six-man roster. More stability in the top lane will be more important for SKT in this group, so bringing both junglers will probably be the key to unlocking strategic flexibility. This is especially true in a meta where top lane carries like Fiora or Jarvan IV have been slightly buffed and favored coming into Worlds, so players like Heo "Huni" Seung-hoon might be more comfortable as a result.
Group B: Longzhu Gaming, Immortals, Gigabyte Marines, TBD
One of the tournament favorites has been slotted in with one of the prospectively weaker teams at Worlds this year. Despite the aplomb of Gigabyte Marines' run at MSI 2017, they have yet to break through on consistent play, instead utilizing strategies like immediate laneswaps who throw opponents completely off their own gameplan. Attempting to carve out chaos and thrive in it against what are arguably the two best early game teams of the tournament in Immortals and Longzhu will be almost completely fruitless.
This group gets extra interesting if World Elite or Fnatic somehow slot into it, as they can provide another great element of early game prowess. You should expect games in this group to be incredibly snowbally, one way or another.
Group C: G2 Esports, Royal Never Give Up, Samsung Galaxy, TBD
Like EDG and AHQ, SSG and RNG can't seem to get enough of each other. And while both are looking to replicate the success of 2016 and advance through groups, they may face tougher competition and greater doubts about their own strength. For Samsung, they've been salvaged by a stellar top side that has compensated for the poor performances of Lee "Crown" Min-ho and their erratic bottom lanes. RNG meanwhile have significant issues with the lackluster play of Jian "Uzi" Zi-Hao in playoffs and the heavy mid lane burden of Li "xiaohu" Yuan-Hao.
Of the play-in teams, North American third seed Cloud9 is likely to round out the group, meaning that this could be the functional "group of death" that has the potential to look even more terrifying than last year's. Cloud9 seem more solid and experienced than Splyce, and G2 has greater international results to look back onto than TSM did. This will be the group to watch.
Group D: Flash Wolves, Team SoloMid, Misfits, TBD
This is it. For all intents and purposes, TSM has their easiest group draw in World Championship history. Even 2014, where they capitalized on a weakened SK Gaming, had not been as theoretically favorable for them. With the likely addition of World Elite from the play-in stages, TSM should feel the pressure to be a shoe-in for making it to the bracket stage of the event.
Beyond that, this group is a complete toss-up. Misfits looked stunning in their series against Fnatic, and have yet to replicate that type of performance on bigger stages, such as the EU LCS finals. As their first international competition comes under way, great and thorough preparation by staff and players will be the key to asserting themselves in this group.
For Flash Wolves, it will have to be a return to form. They boasted the best early game stats of teams going into MSI, but their summer split in comparison has been dreary. A greater bottom lane focus has put under the spotlight one of their weakest players. Luckily, their strongest player also resides there in support Chieh “SwordArT” Hu, and he will be the key to unlocking their form.
Gabriel Zoltan-Johan is a news editor at theScore esports and the head analyst for the University of Toronto League of Legends team. His (public) musings can be found on his Twitter.