Worlds 2018 Group Stage Recap: It Never Goes as Expected

The Worlds 2018 group stage saw sixteen of the best teams in the world wrestle against each other for the top spots in their respective groups for eight days to get into the best-of-five bracket stages.

With only two spots available per group, the entirety of the Worlds 2018 group stage was not without its fair share of heartbreak for fans and players alike.

Having said that, here is a recap of the events of entire Worlds 2018 group stage:

The Meta Is Freer than Ever

Worlds 2018 group stage

If you’re tired of Urgot, bad news– we’re going to see more of him in the future.

In Worlds in the past years, only three champions used to popular the meta per role. Throughout the tournament so far, teams have picked 85 out of the 141 total champions. We have also seen champions not going in positions we usually do not see them— examples of this are Hecarim for the top lane and Brand in the bottom lane.

Tanks are pretty much out of the jungle in this tournament, and they are only for the most part very situational. Early game play making is the name of the game in the jungle and we can expect that this trend will continue into the next stages of the tournament.

The bottom lane has shown a great difference between the first round robin and the second one. In the first three games for each team, the meta was dictated by a Xayah and Kai’sa matchup. Kai’sa was favored due to her carry potential and late game team fighting, and Xayah is picked due to her superior scaling the safety in her ultimate, and the gank assist with her E during the laning phase. In the second round robin, we saw Kai’sa be punished for her weak early game, and we saw teams going for more lane-dominant picks such as Draven, Lucian, and even the Kalista. The support pool is mostly Tahm Kench, Braum, Alistar or Rakan— the rest are left as counters such as Leona.

Due to the diversity, we can now say that most teams can play the style that they really want, and whoever came out of the Worlds 2018 group stage simply were the teams that executed their drafts and strategies better.

LMS Falls Short Once Again

Worlds 2018 group stage

The Flash Wolves fail to make it to another bracket stage. Can next year be better for them? (Image via lolesports Flickr)

The last time that the League Master Series from Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau last entered the bracket stage was in 2015 with the Flash Wolves.

This year, the LMS looked like it would finally break that streak. However, their first seed fell short once again. They went 2-1, and the tables seem to have turned after their loss to G2 Esports. By the end of the second round robin they were 3-3, and subsequently fell to G2 in the tiebreaker for second in Group A. This is heartbreaking for the fans as this was said to be Hu “SwordArt” Shuo-Chieh’s meta, and the return of assassins meant that Huang “Maple” Yi-Tang could shine again.

The second and third seeds of the LMS, MAD team and G-Rex respectively, have been uninspiring, to say the least. Both teams went 0-6 in their group, failing to make an impact even in the seeding of the higher ranked teams.

This does not mean, however, that there’s no hope for the LMS. They have shown outstanding young talent from the region this year. If these talents can develop, the LMS could grow a lot stronger. The LMS has always had problems in terms of talent pool, and Riot Games may do something to help the relatively small region.

Cloud9 Find Themselves in Familiar Ground

Worlds 2018 group stage

Cloud9 defy the odds and get out of the Group of Death. (Image via lolesports Flickr)

After dominating the spring and the summer and ending both finals in a 3-0 fashion, Team Liquid seemed poised to get out of groups. However, the team had a poor first round robin. They lost to KT Rolster, which was expected, and they lost to Edward Gaming, the LPL’s third seed, as well. Their only victory in the first round robin was against MAD Team.

The problem was not that the opposition was strong: Team Liquid on paper looked like they could challenge even the strongest teams in the world. The problem was that in a meta that greatly rewarded pro-activity, Team Liquid was hesistant to take risks over Summoner’s Rift.

100 Thieves did as well as expected, given the loss of William “Meteos” Hartman and the entry of Richard Samuel “Rikara” Oh into the main roster for Cody “Cody Sun” Sun. Obviously lacking in terms of overall talent, we can only hope that the experience serves as a valuable lesson for this team, especially for Rikara.

Cloud9 seemingly got the short end of the stick being grouped up with Royal Never Give Up and Gen.G. However, instead of cowering in fear, Cloud9 used their poor first round robin showing to find a better way to understand how they wanted to play and execute

As the only North American representatives to make it out of the Worlds 2018 group stage, a lot are on Cloud9’s shoulders. But, it’s not like they’re new to this. They have been the only well-performing North American team at Worlds since 2015, after all.

EUphoria for Europe

2018 Worlds Group Stage

G2 went above and beyond expectations, and make it out of groups for the first time. (Image via lolesports Flickr)

There’s no way to go around this: the EU LCS showed up huge in this tournament.

Team Vitality, found themselves placed in the group of death against Cloud9, Royal Never Give Up, as well as Gen.G, and yet, they came away with the second seed. Do remember that this is a team composed of three rookies.

Unafraid to take fights anywhere, against anyone, Team Vitality won big with their own playstyle. In fact, they were able to go toe to toe with tournament favorites RNG, and had a 2-0 record against the defending world champions.

They almost made it out of the Worlds 2018 group stage if it were not for the last game of the group, RNG vs Gen.G.

G2 Esports have been to Worlds thrice, but, for the first time and with the expectations at an all-time low, they made out of the Worlds 2018 group stage. The highlight of this team is how great they have been in the 1-3-1 style of play. In addition, their bottom lane of Petter “Hjarnan” Freyschuss and Kim “Wadid” Bae-in has been performing better than expected, with Hjarnan proving that he is, by far, the best Heimerdinger player in the world.

As for Fnatic, they showed that they’re no longer just the best in the West, but a legitimate title contender in this tournament.

Overall, the teams from the EU LCS made a significant impact in this tournament. Mainly, they helped shape the possibility of shutting down Kai’sa, and more importantly, they have shown that they want more.

If you are a fan of the EU LCS, then now is the best time to cheer for your home region.

LPL Teams Perform as Expected

2018 worlds group stage

Will Invictus Gaming make it back to form after a shaky end to the second round robin? (Image via lolesports Flickr)

The current state of the meta into favoring skirmishing and team fighting due to the decrease in available wards leans heavily towards the LPL the most.

The past year has been the evidence of the Chinese region’s relative strength: we saw this at the Mid-Season Invitational, at Rift Rivals, and at the Asian Games exhibition event. The Chinese teams have truly been formidable, and the evidence is that all Chinese teams at Worlds make it into the bracket stage.

Edward Gaming has had an up and down year. Their strength, built on perfectly-coordinated plays in the early game, is held back only by their rather poor decision making mid-game. But, somehow, they found a way to fix that during the 2018 Worlds group stage. They even gave KT Rolster their only loss so far.

Heralded as one of the best teams in the world because their talented lineup, Invictus Gaming looked primed to go 6-0 in the 2018 Worlds Group Stage. However, Fnatic were able to expose some of their weaknesses. Because of this, they failed to take the top seed of the group, and instead, will move on just right behind Fnatic.

The heavy favourites coming into the tournament, Royal Never Give Up impressed, as expected. In the first round robin, they won every single match without any problem. But, come the second round robin, they looked vulnerable and dropped games against Cloud9 and Team Vitality.

While Royal Never Give Up ended the 2018 Worlds group stage as the top seed of Group B, their performance showed that they can still bleed, which is good news for teams who are looking to take them down.

LCK Are Down, But Not Out

2018 Worlds group stage

KT is Korea’s best hope for another championship. (Image via lolesports Flickr)

Prior to this year, all LCK teams have made it out of the group stages since the adoption of the current Worlds format.

That changed this year after Gen.G, the reigning world champions, placed last in their group. The team simply just did not perform up to par to their usual standards this tournament. Worse still, their playstyle just doesn’t fit in the current meta.

Afreeca Freecs had a rather slow start in the tournament, and at one point, sat with a 1-2 record. However, they managed to turn it around after that, going 3-0 as the 2018 Worlds group stage closed, and ended up with a 4-2 record to come out as the first seed of their game. They played to their strengths well and continuously sought out to enable Kim “Kiin” Gi-in to split push and threaten structures all game long.

The thing about KT Rolster is that you should never get excited about them, but it’s hard not to do that when they dropped only one game during the 2018 Worlds group stage. As a result, people have now dubbed them as South Korea’s last hope.

KT just outperforms the opposition in terms of individual talent, and they have the macro to properly transition into the middle and later stages of the game. An on-form KT Rolster is an amazing sight to see for audiences and terrifying for opponents.

This is the first time that LCK has struggled this much, but this doesn’t mean anything.

Playing in front of the home crowd, the Koreans will look to reclaim their glory as we move deeper into the tournament.

Final Thoughts

With the conclusion of the Worlds 2018 group stage, only eight teams remain.

These eight teams will now battle it out in a best-of-five in Gwangju, South Korea, for the right to make their dreams come true and lift the Summoner’s cup.

The winds of change have struck, and the reigning kings are down. The road to the throne is still long and will only acknowledge the strong.

What did you think of all the action in the Worlds 2018 Group Stage? Do you think KT Rolster or Royal Never Give Up will lift the Summoner’s Cup? Or do you think that Fnatic has a decent chance for taking it for the West? Will another team end up doing so? Be sure to let us know your thoughts in the comments down below.

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