“A bunch of upsets” would be putting it mildly, because there are no words that can describe what happened today.
This roundup will never be able to do today justice, so I highly recommend watching the VODs of today’s series, but here are a couple of things that we learned from Saturday's League of Legends at the IEM World Championships in Katowice, Poland.
This IEM was awful for Europe. Gambit Gaming, the European team that had inexplicably done well in past IEMs, faltered against CJ Entus and World Elite yesterday, leaving SK Gaming as the sole representatives of the old continent heading into Game 2.
A single win versus the Taiwanese team Yoe Flash Wolves was all that was standing between SK Gaming and a spot in the playoffs. It was supposed to be easy, SK had easily overrun the Flash Wolves in their earlier encounter and many predicted and eagerly awaited for the trans-atlantic clash between SK Gaming and North American Team Solomid.
Whoever won that series would have bragging rights (also known as the ability to spam “NA>EU” or “EU>NA” in Twitch chat) until the next international League of Legends tournament - the Mid-Season Invitational in Tallahassee, Florida.
Great things are never easy.
The Yoe Flash Wolves stunned the Katowice crowd as they convincingly defeated SK Gaming in their rematch as Karza's Rek’sai ran circles around SK’s jungler Svenskeren's Rengar, which allowed NeverLoses to farm up a storm on Kog’maw and destroy SK Gaming.
The Flash Wolves exposed a clear weakness in SK’s strategy - Forg1ven's over-reliance on Graves and Lucian. Banned out and without options, Forg1ven turned to Corki as his champion for the game, something he once recommended not to play at all.
Europe needs to go back to the drawing board once again and figure out what is happening with their region. IEM is a major international tournament in recent history where European teams have failed to produce; teams need to wake up and see what they need to fix.
But that wasn’t the only upset today, nor the biggest.
CJ may need to rethink things
Team WE was, by all means, a mediocre team. We ranked them seventh on our power rankings and for good reason; they were last in the Tencent LoL Pro League and were generally considered to be walkovers. A surprise performance over Gambit rekindled some optimism for WE fans, but everyone expected them to lose to CJ Entus today.
I’m not sure what precisely happened in this game, but WE crushed CJ. Xiye put up a magnificent performance on Diana as he and Spirit helmed WE to victory against the #3 ranked Korean team.
MadLife had an exceptionally poor series in general, as his Annie was worse than lacklustre. Shy was the only redeeming factor of a CJ Entus squad that seemingly looked out of place; despite three early kills on his Hecarim he was unable to convert it further.
CJ Entus were apparently without one of their coaches - Coach San - at the event and this might have played a factor for the team’s defeat, but even so, WE were not expected to do well and the loss was a shock to the entire League of Legends community.
While CJ have been on a slight decline over the past few months, the team was expected to do extremely well at the Intel Extreme Masters. We at the Score eSports rated them at number #2 on our power rankings heading into Katowice.
Suffice to say, this loss was unexpected and something needs to change soon if CJ wants to remain competitive.
Apple Pies and Freedom
Team SoloMid nearly suffered an upset today against the Yoe Flash Wolves as the team lost the first game their best of three series and the Flash Wolves were set to pull off another upset.
But Yoe made the mistake of giving Bjergsen Zed, and the Dane slaughtered the Taiwanese team with his signature champion. Bjergsen on assassins - especially Zed - is a work of art, and I recommend you read the entire recap of this series here, as I’d just be regurgitating most of its information.
Bjergsen has always been world class on assassins, but the performance of the day for TSM came from WildTurtle. After having a exceptionally poor 2014 and an average spring split, Turtle sprang back to life and helped TSM enter their first IEM finals since Kiev 2012.
And now, for the game of the day.
I intentionally skipped over Team WE as I wanted to address it here.
What a game. What a series.
This was a literal David versus Goliath matchup. The last place Tencent LPL team facing the first place LCK team. WE not only were written off before the games began, but half the stadium was empty for the clash.
Woe be to those who left early, because they just missed out on one of the biggest upsets in competitive League of Legends history. Only Ozone vs. Blaze comes close to the sheer disparity of ranking between the two sides.
You can read up all about how WE defeated GE 2-1 and beat the best team in the world here. I’m going to focus on the performance of Spirit and Xiye.
Spirit is a god. I predicted him as my Tournament MVP if WE did well and he’s delivering in spades; his Rek’Sai initiations were beautiful and if he doesn’t get MVP for the tournament I will be annoyed. Spirit has been 1v9ing his entire World Elite career and it's rewarding to see that he can be equally as terrifying when he has a team to back him up. He's the undisputed best jungler in this tournament and likely the best jungler in the World.
Ninja’s replacement, Xiye, also performed excellently. People are taking it too far with calling him Faker 2.0, but he did show the capacity to lane well versus top tier international talent. His Ahri and Diana play were excellent and although his team fighting will have to be improved upon, he does look like a very midlaner in the making. Please don’t call him Faker 2.0 though, he’s had previous competitive experience before and while his improvement has been commendable, it’s not near Faker level.
That's it from me; I'll see you tomorrow when TSM takes on WE in the Grand Finals.
Nilu "Dooraven" Kulasingham is a Staff Writer for theScore eSports and is based in Adelaide, Australia. You can follow him on Twitter.