The Play-Ins stage for the League of Legends World Championship 2020 has officially concluded, with four teams advancing to Groups.
Unicorns of Love and LGD Gaming became the last two teams to make it through, joining Team Liquid and PSG Talon.
But could any of the qualified teams make a surprise run for the finals? Here we assess each team’s season and their chances of navigating beyond their respective groups.
PSG Talon are in Group B (Picture: lolesports)
Formerly Talon Esports, this team from the PCS finished 3rd in the regular Summer Split and 2nd in the Finals, which put them through to Play-In Stage. The team hit a massive snag due to visa issues, and three of their players - Kim “River” Dong-woo, Park “Tank” Dan-won, and Wong “Unified” Chun Kit - were delayed getting to Shanghai and would still be in quarantine by the time they were scheduled to play. Because of this two players from ahq eSports Club and the coach from Machi Esports were subbed in temporarily: Hsiao “Kongyue” Jen-Tso, Chen “Uniboy” Chang-Chu from ahq, and Chen "Dee" Chun-Dee from Machi.
Coming into the games, some were not sure how things would play out given that these were only subs from different teams. When you have three players replaced without enough practice, there was a worry that the team would fall to pieces, but they went 4-1 in their group - only losing to Unicorns of Love - and qualifying for Groups after their tiebreaker match against Unicorns of Love.
- DAMWON Gaming
- JD Gaming
- PSG Talon
Now, they have ended up in Group B against Damwon from the LCK, JD Gaming from the LPL and Rogue from the LEC. The LCK and LPL teams are incredibly strong and scary for any team to play against as a baseline, but now you also have River and Tank being able to be back with the team; Unified was able to play with the team by Day 3 of Play-Ins.
The team synergy may be affected, however, they did incredibly well with the loaned players they had, and it is probably easier to acquire synergy back with players you have already worked with for months rather than with players you’ve only been around for days.
Given these circumstances, this group may be hard for PSG to fight their way out of, but should nevertheless be some fun games to watch.
Team Liquid are in Group A (Picture: lolesports)
Hailing from the LCS, Team Liquid had a rough go in the beginning of their year, where their star ADC in Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng seemed to be going through a rough competitive patch, and they were without their new jungler, Mads “Broxah” Brock-Pedersen. Ending Spring Split in 9th place, they were able to fix some of their issues with Doublelift moving to TSM, and bringing up Edward “Tactical” Ra from their academy roster.
Finishing 1st in the Summer Split, but 3rd in playoffs, Team Liquid found themselves at Play-Ins for Worlds. For a team that had four seasoned veterans and one rookie, they did incredibly well, finishing 4-1 which includes their tie-breaker against Legacy Esports from OCE.
- G2 Esports
- Machi Esports
- Team Liquid
Liquid now are in Group A, against G2 Esports from the LEC, Machi Esports from the PCS, and Suning from the LPL.
This is a group I could see Liquid getting out of, with Suning being a relatively mediocre team until they finished 1st after their Regional Qualifier this year. Machi could very well be a contender; but they’ve never been to Worlds, which can either help you or hurt you. The real trouble will likely be G2, a strong team from the LEC that Broxah would know quite well from his time on Fnatic.
While they may end up being a thorn on Team Liquid’s side, this is a team with two former SKT World Champions, and two players who have gone to Semifinals or Finals at Worlds. NA is usually laughed at, but this year, we’re watching Team Liquid closely.
LGD Gaming are in Group C (Picture: lolesports)
Hailing from the LPL, this team finished 6th place in Summer, 4th in the playoffs, and from there were able to participate in the Regional Qualifier, where they finished in 2nd place.
Play-Ins, however, were not initially kind to them, and they finished fourth in the group, facing Rainbow7 in the elimination round of the knockout stage. Finding their footing and regaining confidence, the disparity between the two teams was rampant and LGD found themselves sweeping the series and sending Rainbow7 back to the LLA. In the qualification round, LGD faced Legacy Esports from the OCE, and yet again swept them 3-0, ending Legacy’s time at Worlds.
- Team SoloMid
- LGD Gaming
LGD should be praised for figuring out what did not work out during the course of Play-Ins and going back to comfort and what they know, and it seems to have worked out for them when it truly mattered, which were the two best-of-five’s that they needed to win, and they were able to accomplish that.
They’re now in Group C where they will face Fnatic from the LEC, Gen.G from the LCK, and TSM from the LCS. The best-of-one format has not been kind to them in Play-Ins; despite realizing where the issues were, they still went 1-3 before knockouts, so this may not bode well for them.
TSM, while much stronger than they have been in recent years, still have not been to Worlds since 2017 and their record at the international level is shaky at best. Fnatic are a bit stronger, and although the beginning of their Summer Split was a little worrisome, they did bounce back and are no stranger to Worlds. Gen. G is also a well known LCK team, who have cultivated strong players like Jo “CoreJJ” Yong-in and Han “Peanut” Wang-ho, who are also here at Worlds, albeit on different teams.
Gen. G is also the reason you do not see T1 at Worlds; they swept them 3-0 in their Regional Qualifier. LGD will probably do well against TSM, and it’s likely they will at least take a game or two off of Fnatic, but it will quite interesting to see how they do against Gen.G and if they can keep the adaptations and lessons they’ve learned at Worlds so far, which could be their advantage.
Unicorns of Love
Unicorns of Love are in Group D (Picture: lolesports)
Formerly from the EU and now hailing from the LCL, Unicorns of Love have dominated their new region, finishing in 1st or 2nd place since joining in 2019. Winning both the Summer Split and Playoffs, UOL came out swinging at Play-Ins, which did not seem like a reality for them just a few weeks prior.
While not directly specified as to the reason, Riot revealed during their Worlds 2020 Media Preview that UOL almost couldn’t make it to Worlds, and that it took a lot of phone calls and meetings on Riot’s side to make it happen. In fact, Gambit Esports - the 2nd place team in the LCL - were called to Shanghai on the off-chance that Unicorns would not be able to play.
Luckily, Unicorns were able to make it to China and get through quarantine, and they showed us why they were the team to go. They finished 3-1 before their tie-breaker match against PSG Talon, where they lost and finished the Play-In Stage in second and moved to the qualifier stage of Knockouts. Beating SuperMassive from the TCL in a clean 3-0 sweep, Unicorns of Love have made it to Groups for the first time.
- Top Esports
- Unicorns of Love
They now have ended up in Group D, and face DRX from the LCK, FlyQuest from the LCS, and Top Esports from the LPL. Top Esports is a big contender with players like Hung “Karsa” Hao-Hsuan and Zhuo “knight” Ding. DRX is a powerhouse in their own right, and although their botlane of Kim “Deft” Hyuk-kyu and Ryu “Keria” Min-seok have been a bit shaky due to Deft’s back issues, they’re still a really strong team and if they can pull the slight issues with their botlane together they will be tough to beat.
FlyQuest have never been to Worlds before, although they have four veterans on the team who have made it, similar to Team Liquid, they’re still very untested and no one is sure how they will do. With Unicorns’ very aggressive and crazy playstyle with some interesting picks being brought back to the main stage, like Twitch, this could either help them or hurt them.
They may do quite well against FlyQuest but will that kind of playstyle work against top LPL and LCK teams? That’s a big question, and one we will get an answer to in just a few days’ time.
Worlds 2020 continues with the Groups stage starting on Saturday 3rd October.