Being the underdog doesn’t make you a loser.
No one has ever expected much from the International Wildcard teams at Worlds. Before 2016, Wild Card teams had a combined record of three wins and 21 losses in the group stage. Their best representative came in 2015, when PaiN Gaming placed last in their group with a 2-4 record.
Going into Worlds 2016, people weren’t really expecting anything to be different. Brazil’s INTZ e-Sports were considered to be the strongest Wildcard team that year, but they weren’t predicted to make it out of their group. Meanwhile, Albus NoX Luna qualified for Worlds as an underdog after upsetting Lyon Gaming, leaving them as an underrated, unknown quantity in the competition.
But ahead of the tournament, anybody looking to say anything about the little-known team could point to a few things. They had crushed the LCL in both Spring and Summer, they had a solid top and mid lane, and their support, Kirill “Likkrit” Malofeyev was at one point the top-ranked player on EU West. Likkrit was often the reason for both Albus NoX Luna’s victories and defeats. His roaming, off-meta support picks and loud personality defined the team for many analysts trying to predict how they would do in the group stage. But despite his ability, all of them put Albus NoX dead last in Group A.
At first, it looked as if everyone’s predictions were going to be accurate. Albus NoX fell to the ROX Tigers in a quick, bloody game that saw ROX’s AD carry, PraY, pick up 12 kills — as much as all of Albus NoX combined. The Tigers were favorites to make it to the Grand Finals, and everyone was confident that Albus NoX would meet their low expectations.
But in just two days, Albus NoX blew those expectations away.
Two days later, Albus NoX made history.
Daniel Rosen is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.