Albus NoX Luna become first ever wildcard to make Worlds quarterfinals

"Being an underdog doesn't mean being a loser."

On the surface of it, Albus NoX Luna defeating ROX Tigers at the League of Legends World Championship is an even bigger story than when INTZ E-Sports put down EDward Gaming on day one. But perhaps the greatest surprise about the result is that it felt like it was coming. After all, it was the wildcard team's fourth victory of the group stages - enough to send them through to the quarterfinals with room to spare.

How did they do it? The consensus from the experts was that they did it by playing really good League of Legends, defeating European champions G2 Esports and North American heavyweights Counter Logic Gaming (twice) on the way to this encounter with ROX Tigers, from which they emerged victorious despite three bans targeting support player Kirill "Likkrit" Malofeyev and a game time in excess of one hour.

"That was one of the best late-game rotations at the very end," a slightly breathless Nick "LS" De Cesare explained in commentary after the nexus fell. "They out-macro'd the ROX Tigers in the late game and you can't take this away from them. This was almost a 70-minute game. The movements were so good. And I thought they were gonna drop the ball but they didn't. They held strong and they pulled it together and won.

"They have everything - they have macro, they have micro, they have early-game, mid-game, late-game, and one thing they have [that] not many other teams have is those super-unconventional picks that just demand bans, but it also opens up so many options other teams just don't have."

A lot of those options revolve around Likkrit, whose Brand - Brand! - was a delight to watch in the group stages, particularly against G2 when he dealt an insane amount of damage as the Russian team secured what, at the time, seemed like an upset. G2 ultimately fell to a 1-5 record that saw them propping up Group A and heading home. That sole victory came against ANX in their final matchup, depriving the Russian side of a clear group victory, prompting Likkrit to speak up for them in his post-game interview with Sjokz.

"Guys, G2 did a really good job," he said, having asked to make some general comments on ANX's opponent before touching on the game they had just played. "Yes, they failed. Yes, they could do better. But... but! [At this point he shushed the crowd with a gesture.] When they had nothing, they literally had no reason to play, they could just surrender, they could just go full ARAM, yes that would be fine, but they have shown their competitive spirit and they fought until the very end.

"And you know guys, when everyone hates you, when everyone thinks that you don't deserve to represent the region and you find the strength inside of you to fight even if it doesn't matter, that's really cool guys. Thank you, G2."

Sjokz then asked the fan-favourite support player what it meant for ANX to reach the quarterfinals.

"You know guys, when we actually realised we were getting to the quarterfinals, it was really hard to believe, because we came here expecting 0-6, we came here without real 'preparation', we didn't bootcamp in Korea, and we were like, OK guys, we will just come and play our game, but today we're in quarterfinals for sure, and all I want to say is that, hey guys, we are from wildcard, and we have told you before, being an underdog doesn't mean being a loser. That's all."

ROX would eventually get their own back against ANX in a tiebreak victory later in the evening, claiming the group's top seed, but the Russian team are the real story of the group stages at Worlds 2016. G2 Esports and CLG now head home and may come under fire for underperformance, but while that may be true in some respects, it would be grossly unfair to take anything away from Albus NoX Luna. In any case, the real question right now isn't where next for G2 and CLG; it's where next for ANX, and how far can they go?

Tom Bramwell

British writer who used to work for Eurogamer and Riot Games. Increasingly obsessed with esports.

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