With the Group Stage of the 2019 League of Legends World Championship quickly approaching, GINX TV takes a dive into each group and the teams who will be competing to move into the Knockout Stage.
Group A: G2 Esports, Griffin, Cloud 9, Hong Kong Attitude
If you tried to compress Group A into a single word, you may end up with 'volatile'. Headlined by the reigning Mid-Season Invitational champions and World Championship favorites, G2 Esports, the group features multiple teams who have the potential to win the entire tournament, or flame out in the group stage.
G2 Esports arrives with the most star-studded roster Europe has ever fielded, with all five players receiving being selected to the LEC first team and jungler Marcin "Jankos" Jankowski considered by some to be the current best player in the World. Even though they were able to use their loaded lineup to capture the region's first-ever MSI crown with victories over SKT and Team Liquid, G2 still stumbled in the best of one group stage as they finished with a 5-5 record.
The other group favorite has to be the LCK's Griffin, a team who has flashed potential for a while but is only now making their first appearance on the Worlds stage. While Griffin has the talent to reach the Finals, there are many unknowns surrounding which Griffin (a dominant or disappointing version) will show itself when the matches begin.
The dark horse of Group A is the ever-surprising Cloud9 (C9) of the LCS. While C9 has often appeared overmatched, they have easily been NA's most consistent performer at the World Championships, making a run to the Semifinals in 2018. By now, fans have come to expect the unexpected from an organization that could easily find themselves in the Knockout Stage once again should G2 or Griffin falter. The final member in the group, Hong Kong Attitude, are heavy underdogs and even a few victories from the LMS representative would come as a surprise in this top-heavy group.
Storyline to watch: Can Cloud9 shock Worlds once again?
Group B: FunPlus Phoenix, J Team, GIGABYTE Marines, Splyce
Group B could not have been drawn much easier for the Chinese LPL Champion FunPlus Phoenix (FPX). FPX entered the tournament as a clear favorite, and after drawing one of the weakest groups in League of Legends history there should be little to no difficulty advancing to the knockout stage. With as dominant as FPX has been domestically, an undefeated Group Stage should be the expectation.
The true mystery lies in which team will join FPX in advancing out of Group B. J Team enter the group as the winners of the LMS, but the region's history of underperforming at Worlds leaves the door wide open for the groups second seed. The VCS champion Gigabyte Marines have been gifted a golden opportunity to make a statement for the region and advance out of the group stage for the first time at the World Championships. The LEC's Splyce could also make a run in the Group Stage, after narrowly advancing from the Play-In Stage into a dream group.
Outside of FPX, the other three teams could all make a case as to why they should be favored to advance. Despite having the most regional champs of any group (three), Group B's intrigue lies in who can rise above the rest at the bottom.
Storyline to watch: Can the VCS pass the LMS once and for all?
Group C: SK Telecom, Fnatic, Royal Never Give Up, Clutch Gaming
The group of death. A brutal draw with a group that features three titans who could be considered in the top five at Worlds.
SK Telecom returns to the World Championships with a revamped roster that features League of Legends' most iconic player Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok and the star of MSI Kim "Clid" Tae-min. SKT made a strong run in the LCK playoffs ending with a series victory over Griffin, and they could easily be favored to win Worlds with a veteran roster loaded with talent.
Unfortunately for SKT, they will be tested from game one of the Group Stage after drawing both Fnatic and Royal Never Give Up (RNG). RNG features the games' most respected ADC Jian "Uzi" Zi-Hao, who along with support Shi "Ming" Sen-Ming set the gold standard for bot lanes by which all others are judged. Fnatic is a team who just barely missed the LEC crown after falling in five games to G2, and have proven they are not the only European team who should be considered among the elite. Although they have made a change in the mid lane since their run to the 2018 Finals, they could easily emerge from Group C in the top spot.
While not expected to make much noise in the loaded Group C, the LCS Clutch Gaming could be the X factor in who eventually advances. Highlighted by top laner Heo "Huni" Seung-hoon's third trip (and team) to Worlds, Clutch Gaming brings a predictable yet successful style that could lead to crucial upsets as the other three squads fight to escape the group.
Storyline to watch: Huni faces off against former teams SKT and Fnatic
Group D: Team Liquid, AHQ Esports, Invictus Gaming, DAMWON Gaming
The top seed in Group D, Team Liquid, field arguably the best roster NA has ever produced. A veteran lineup with a top LCS pro at every position, Team Liquid has an opportunity to build upon their Finals appearance at MSI and deliver the deep Worlds run NA fans have so desperately craved.
What had appeared to be a clear path for the LCS's top seed Team Liquid to advance to the Knockout Stage is now much murkier with the addition of the LCK's DAMWON Gaming from the Group Stage. The raw talent on DAMWON may be the highest of any team at the tournament, and after an undefeated Play-In stage DAMWON could easily find themselves advancing to the top eight and beyond.
Damwon Gaming broke through the Play-in stage to advance to the group stage. There were some disappointing aspects of the game, but we will make sure to improve and grow up! See you at the group stage!— DWG_Official (@DamwonGaming) October 7, 2019
While it may be hard to predict how DAMWON will perform against stronger competition, the biggest mystery of the group remains the LPL’s third seed and reigning World Champion Invictus Gaming. After their shocking upset by Team Liquid at MSI, Invictus Gaming have struggled to find their footing and have looked a shell of their former dominant selves.
Finally, little is expected of the LMS’s AHQ Esports after the LMS’s poor showing at last year’s World Championship. With a combined record of 0-12 between their second and third seed, AHQ may end up playing spoiler as it hopes to regain some of the LMS lost dignity in Group D.
Storyline to watch: Invictus Gaming look for revenge on Team Liquid
The 2019 World Championship will see the Group Stage commence on 12th October, with the games streamed and full LoL schedule available on the official LoL Esports website.
Which teams do you think will make it through to the Knockout Stage? Who wins Worlds 2019? Let us know what you think in the comments!