The first week of the 2015 League of Legends World Championships have come to an end, and the first four days of play have provided us with a surplus of upsets as new stars have emerged from all parts of the world. Meanwhile, perceived Summoner's Cup favorites have struggled in the first half of the group stage.
Above all the other risers and disappointments at the tournament, two stand out as the main stories of Worlds thus far: LGD Gaming, the Chinese champions from the LPL, and Origen, the spring European Challenger team that went on to to finish as the EU LCS' summer split runners-up, only falling in the end to Fnatic.
One of them has exceeded all expectations and are firmly seated as their region's best chance for a championship. The other has seemingly lost all hope, going from an odds-on favorite to take home the title to now wondering if they can even escape Europe with a scant victory.
Origin of Success and Failure
Coming into Worlds, two teams were handling coaching changes from their domestic seasons. LGD Gaming had been linked to former Samsung White world champion coach Homme, but those reports were nixed when it was announced he wouldn't be able to coach for LGD due to already being under contract with Vici Gaming. The next person up was Chris, the man who led Royal Club to two straight Summoner's Cup Finals and ended up coming up short both times. Chris' relationship with LGD ended in controversy, as the coach proclaimed he was being underpaid, leaving the Chinese favorites without a primary coach standing over them.
LGD eventually signed Firefox, a Taiwanese analyst that helped the team get through the LPL playoffs, ending up as domestic champions with a close victory over rookie franchise Qiao Gu in the finals. Firefox has remained with the team due to Homme not being allowed to coach for LGD, and the results have only gone downhill since they started playing in the World Championships.
Their first game against Origen was a close affair, LGD only losing after taking a bad teamfight in the middle of the map that ended with an xPeke Shockwave from Orianna that ripped the Chinese squad apart. LGD's next game against KT Rolster shouldn't even really be considered a game — the Korean squad dissected LGD's flimsy composition and running away in a blowout you'd expect between a title contender and a wildcard team. Today, when they needed a win against fellow 0-2 groupmate Team SoloMid, LGD fell straight on their face.
The game against TSM was another lifeless performance from a team that, individually, have the most raw talent at the competition. GODV, one of the world's most explosive players and carries, has found himself staring at a grey screen for a majority of his time in Paris, having the worst Worlds performance by an expected all-star since Dade bombed out of the group stages in 2013 on Samsung Ozone. Also on that 2013 Ozone team was Imp, possibly the only LGD player who has shown up at the tournament, making mistakes and playing too forward at times, but can you really blame him? GODV, his usual partner in carrying, has been nonexistent, and Acorn, the other person you'd expect to have an influence on the game, has been teleporting around the map like he is playing a different game than League.
At 0-3, LGD's chances of making the knockout stage have been all but extinguished. LGD's fate has been taken out of their own hands going into next week. They'll not only need to somehow get the team back into a decent condition, but massively fix their porous pick/ban phase to get into the next round. LGD will also have to cross their fingers that luck is on their side and that the rest of the group bends to their desire. While you can't count them out completely from running the table and making a comeback like they've done countless times this year in the LPL, it's too late to give them the benefit of the doubt.
Flame, their top lane substitute, would be an upgrade over the currently slumping Acorn, yet, truth be told, one player isn't going to be the savior of LGD. From the picks and bans to their play in-game and overall execution, this is a team that appears like they took the group stage for granted and thought they could waltz into the Top 8 without breaking a sweat.
Unfortunately for LGD, the other teams in their group didn't get the memo of laying down for the Chinese champions. Everyone at the World Championships from the superpowers in elite regions to the minnows playing out of wildcard regions all have the same dream to lift the Summoner's Cup.
LGD found out that truth the hard way this week.
The other team with a coaching change was Origen, the rookie team made up of four veterans and one newcomer that smashed through the Challenger scene before almost toppling reigning kings Fnatic in the summer EU LCS final. Origen's head coach at the time, Ducky, left the team before the World Championships started, prompting the European team to select their former analyst, Hermit, and promote him to full-time head coach.
Unlike LGD, Origen's leveled up since coming to Paris. They played Fnatic closer than any team in the summer split in the finals of the EU LCS and look better at the World Championships, starting off their campaign with a major upset (at the time) against LGD and Firefox, outmaneuvering them in the late-game and forcing them into a team fight that buried the Chinese champions with a well-executed combination of ultimates.
Since their victory against LGD, Origen's confidence has only grown, their draft phase, pinpointing weaknesses in every team they've faced and exploiting them in-game. Following Hermit's strong pregame phase, the team itself has been putting their blueprints into motion and making sure that they defeat their opponents from the champion select to the final Nexus smash. Origen's game against TSM was another example of the team not relying on one simple strategy to get the work done, surprising everyone by having xPeke pick Anivia in the mid lane, neutralizing Dyrus' Darius in the top lane and locking down TSM's ace, Bjergsen, in the lane matchup.
The European team's finest moment came today against the Koreans from KT Rolster, both teams 2-0 in the group and playing masterfully in their first two games of the competition. The game lived up to the pregame hype, the pair playing the best game so far at the World Championships. Instead of bashing heads over and over like other matches we've seen throughout the first four days, it was a game of chess between two teams who knew their win conditions and how to play the map. Whenever LGD would use a teleport or a Twisted Fate ultimate to grab a kill, KT Rolster would answer back seconds later with a bold move of their own to bring the gold totals back into their favor.
KT and Origen continued with the tennis match of teleports and picks until one of the two key moments of the game: Origen using a teleport advantage and seeing KT out of position to secure a free Baron that gave them a Power Play that they converted into a large lead. Rolster did a good enough job holding on a getting a few more picks through the efforts of Score's cocoons on Elise, Piccaboo's headbutts with Alistar, and Ssumday's outright domination of the top lane with his bullet train viking in Olaf.
The second key moment to Origen's victory and the end of KT's chance came when Arrow on Kog'maw leisurely walked into a warded bush near the Baron river and got caught out, getting himself and Nagne's Ekko killed in a mistake that would lose them another Baron and end any chance of a comeback. Origen played out the end of the game as well as anyone, knocking down the rest of the turrets like bowling pins and then overwhelming KT Rolster in their own base with a split pushing Twisted Fate.
While many thought Fnatic would be the Great Western Hope, Origen has been the most impressive team from the Western region alongside North America's Cloud9. Their drafting has been solid — especially in the TSM game when they held Darius' damage below Lustboy's Alistar — and even when they haven't clearly won in the pick/ban, they still have a plan every time they enter the Rift and have completed their mission each time.
Origen have worked themselves from a Challenger squad filled with older players seen as possibly inferior to the new blood in Europe to a full-fledged title contender that have broken down every team they've been put up against. We'll need to see them in a best-of-five and make the semifinals before we start hailing them as one of the greatest Western teams of all-time, but they've done everything that could be asked from them after one week: enter the game, execute the game plan, and leave with the enemy's team Nexus fallen.
Worlds Stock Exchange
Rising Stock: Brazil's Hopes for the Top 8
paiN Gaming one-upped their Brazil brethren from last year, Kabum!, by grabbing their first win at the halfway mark of the group stage instead of the end. It is the first time in Worlds history where an International Wildcard team hasn't been at the bottom of the team, paiN currently in third place due their tiebreaker advantage over the Flash Wolves at a deadlocked 1-2 scoreline. paiN will need to play better than they did in the last week to make the quarterfinals and make a miracle in Paris, but don't count them out just yet — they're smart, can play unorthodox to catch their opponents off guard, and have the raw talent to take games off anyone in Group A.
Keep on believing, Brazil.
Plummeting Stock: Group B
Before the games kicked off four days ago, Group B was seen as one of the 'Groups of Death', three of the teams considered strong enough to possibly be semifinal or higher contenders. Now, looking at what has gone on the past four days, the three teams who were seen as elite squads are meandering around at 1-2 records, and the team everyone wrote off, Cloud9, are sitting with a 3-0 score and only needing a single victory to qualify for the quarterfinals.
Group B, outside of Cloud9, has been a major anticlimax in terms of skill level and team play. In all of C9's three wins, they've used essentially the same strategy, using Tristana to do a fast push strategy that trades kills and other objectives for map control through getting down enemy towers. The other three squads in the group are all trying to kill each other and are having these crazy brawls that last all the game, and Cloud9 is simply outsmarting the teams they're playing against with their rotations and beating them with their minds instead of brawn.
iG, Fnatic, and ahq are all tied and will be vying for the second spot in the group come the last day of group stage play, and all three will need to rethink their strategies and drafts if they want to have any chance of beating Cloud9 in their second attempt at the standing leaders.
Rising Stock: Bangkok Titans' ongoing Yelp Review of Paris
Today was the best day of our entire trip to France. We woke up and saw beautiful shops with tasty food that we ate before heading to the studio. But wait! We didn't have to play today so no one killed us over and over. Instead, we met fans and had a fun time just watching other teams get killed for once. It was lots of fun and we met a lot of nice fans who cheer us on.
Also, we saw that a team named LGD Gaming are also like us and haven't won a game so far. It must really suck being them. I think we could beat them.
Anyways, the day was great and we now get a few days off before we're forced to play this video game again against these scary Korean and Chinese teams. We will think of new strategies that either help us win or can get us out of the studio faster to eat more delicious food.
Four and a half stars out of five (thus far) -- Bangkok Titans
The King of Worlds: An "Balls" Le
Criticized heavily for his lackluster online play leading up to Worlds. Looked at as one of the weakest players at the event. Pointed at as the weak link of his team against the other teams in the group.
Tonight, that man is the King of Worlds.
Cloud9, instead of throwing their perceived weakest link on a utility champion or sacrificing him as a tribute to take objectives, they had Balls pick Darius in two of their three games, putting him on a high priority champion that can carry and do large amounts of damage. Even Fnatic in today's game saw Balls as a non-factor, picking Yasuo into a losing matchup against Darius, believing that Huni could beat Balls purely on skill and help his team win through superior mechanics.
The C9 top laner finished today's game with a Pentakill, slaughtering the Fnatic team that seemingly looked down on him in the pick/ban phase and charging into their base to end the game.
Balls proved that hard work — win or lose — will pay off in the end.
Day 1: Hai "Hai" Lam
Day 2: Hung "Karsa" Hau Hsuan
Day 3: Jang "MaRin" Gyeong-Hwan
Day 4: An "Balls" Le
Tyler "Fionn" Erzberger is a staff writer for theScore eSports. You can follow him on Twitter