Home favourites TSM and Counter Logic Gaming were both eliminated from the League of Legends World Championship over the weekend as the group stages drew to close, but Cloud9 somehow floated into the quarterfinals to ensure NA's hopes of reaching tournament heaven are still alive, albeit dangling by a thread (or perhaps a wisp).
C9's group was finely poised at the start of the day, but in the end the NA LCS team progressed without having to do all that much, as victory over Chinese team I May proved enough to secure passage to the quarterfinals in Chicago with a 3-3 record.
Taiwanese team Flash Wolves probably should have done better in C9's group, but they fluffed their lines against I May in the first match of the day. Then they managed a hard-fought win over their rivals from the NA LCS, but that proved to be the peak of their uphill battle as SK Telecom T1, who look a bit disgusting, sent them tumbling back to earth a little while later.
All of which means C9 go forward as NA's sole representatives in their home tournament. So what happened to CLG and TSM at Worlds?
CLG were dark horses going into the tournament anyway. They made it to Worlds thanks in large part to the strong work they did in spring, but the meta had shifted in summer, after which they looked much less convincing. They still managed to beat a slumbering ROX Tigers in week one thanks to a stunning performance by mid-laner Huhi on Aurelion Sol, but that was the last CLG saw of their #faithful dragon as every opponent after that banned it out.
CLG picked up a couple of wins over a sorry G2 Esports, but fell down against ROX and particularly against wildcard surprise package Albus NoX Luna. Depending on how far ANX go, the post-Worlds inquiry into CLG's tournament is likely to focus on whether they should have done better in their encounters with the Russian team, against whom they looked oddly flat.
It was arguably more surprising to see TSM go out, despite the fact they were in a tough group. The NA LCS summer champions had absolutely dominated their domestic league, which looked competitive, and pre-tournament hype suggested they had it all: strong individual players, great macro and a newfound resilience that would see them past any setbacks.
In the event, they came up short in decisive encounters with Chinese team Royal Never Give Up, failing to cope with support player Mata's playmaking Alistar in their first meeting and letting mid-laner Xiaohu and AD carry Uzi run riot on Aurelion Sol and Ezreal respectively in the return. TSM mid-laner Bjergsen and jungler Svenskeren, both of whom put in strong performances at times, probably would have appreciated more help from the side lanes.
And that was that, leaving NA fans slightly better off than they were during last year's Worlds in Europe, when their teams went 0-10 in week two, but not by as much as they would have hoped. All three NA teams finished 3-3 in groups at a tournament where every team started off looking beatable, and C9 now face a quarterfinal against Samsung Galaxy, who dominated TSM and RNG's group.
To add insult to injury, European rival H2K avoided three Korean and two Chinese teams in the quarterfinals, drawing Albus NoX Luna, who surely can't go much further and whose star support Likkrit reportedly has chickenpox. Not to belittle ANX's achievement, but C9 would probably have preferred to play the Russian team and not a Korean squad that just won five matches in a row.
Can C9 keep their eyes on the prize and keep home fans' dreams alive? We won't have to wait long to find out - they play Samsung Galaxy on Thursday. And speaking of the prize, Riot has revealed that the Worlds tournament pot has now risen to $4,145,000, which definitely ought to be enough to buy the winners some new mousemats.
The League of Legends World Championship quarterfinal draw in full:
- Thursday October 13 - Samsung Galaxy vs. Cloud9
- Friday October 14 - SK Telecom T1 vs. Royal Never Give Up
- Saturday October 15 - ROX Tigers vs. EDward Gaming
- Sunday October 16 - H2K vs. Albus NoX Luna