With the group draw for worlds behind us now is the time to make some predictions as to who will make it out. Before we do this I just want to take a second to congratulate Riot on the whole group selection process. It took long enough but finally this season we got a proper group selection ceremony. Much better and more transparent than the hush-hush group selection affairs of previous years (though conspiracy theories about how the process was all rigged will probably still abound on the Internet – once again demonstrating the devastating power of millions of idiots sitting at keyboards). Now while I did think the ceremony was well produced it could have used a bit more… I don’t know, pizzaz perhaps? Given that they allotted a whole hour to the event they could have thrown in a bit of theatrical flair, perhaps with some more of the pro players present and/or some cosplay and confetti cannons or something. As for the seeding format, I think it was about as well designed as possible while still leaving it open to some random chance.
Now let’s take a look at each of the groups and who I think will prevail as first and second seed. I will go through the groups not from A-D but rather in order of least interesting to most interesting. So let’s look at the most boring group first: Group C. This group contains SKT-T1, H2K, EDG, and Bangkok Titans. Calling this group is rather easy, with SKT-T1 and EDG advancing easily (unless some sort of major disaster strikes either of these teams, like food poisoning or, you know, a meteor hitting their group practice house). Not only are these two teams some of the strongest at the tournament and favourites to win the whole shebang, but the other two teams are some of the weakest. Bangkok Titans are likely the single weakest team at the tournament and while H2K was the second seed from EU, they are really the third best team from the region (Origen is easily better, they simply couldn’t get the second seed because they had no points from the spring split since they didn’t play in the LCS until summer); and then the EU LCS isn’t one of the top regions to begin with. Overall the gulf between the top two teams in this group and the other two is simply monumental. This leaves just the storyline of a Faker-Ryu rematch when SKT-T1 meet H2K (unless SKT-T1 decide to play Easyhoon in those matches, though that would just be pure evil), which might lend to some entertainment but will likely end up rather one-sided (in the mid-lane as well as everywhere else), and the question of who will qualify in the first spot. It really depends on how you value the LPL versus the LCK. I know a lot of people will assume that SKT-T1 is the stronger team, since they dominated their region while EDG ended up coming in second in the LPL. As someone who thinks that the LPL is actually the far stronger region this season though my personal pick is for EDG to take the top spot.
First: EDG Second: SKT-T1
The next group to look at is what is already being called the group of death: Group D. This group has LGD, KT Rolster, TSM and Origen Gaming. As a TSM anti-fan this group makes me giddy with joy as it looks unlikely that they will win even a single game (meanwhile TSM fans should be able to take solace in the fact that this is likely to mean a big shakeup in the TSM camp following worlds, which should leave the team in a much stronger state for the coming season). This group isn’t as clear cut as group C however. While LGD is also a top contender to win the whole tournament and should make it out of the group easily KT is a bit of an unknown. They got smashed 3-0 by SKT in the LCK finals and so are a clear cut below them. Where that leaves them in relation to other international teams depends a lot on the relative strength of the Korean region this season, something that is still a little unclear (in the past they were the strongest region but the restructuring and the exodus of top players to China at the beginning of the season have left the region in a weakened state). At the same time TSM and Origen are no push over teams (Origen in particular are likely the strongest of the pool 3 teams) and both certainly have it within them to upset KT and take the second seed (yes, even TSM though it is certainly far from likely). I’m confident that LGD will take the first seed, probably only dropping games if they don’t take things too seriously for some reason, but second seed is somewhat open. That said KT are still favourites to make it out over TSM and Origen.
First: LGD Second: KT Rolster
Next we shall cast our eyes to the miracle group of life that CLG lucked into: Group A. This group is made up of CLG, Flash Wolves, Koo Tigers, and Pain Gaming. This group is honestly hard to call. CLG should be able to make it out but with Xmithie caught up in visa problems and replaced with Huhi there is a big question mark to their strength. Historically (i.e. prior to the start of the LCS) CLG were famous for over-performing at tournaments where they played with a sub so maybe this is a good sign for them but it will be hard to tell until we see them play. Koo Tigers have had consistency issues and looked rather poor at their last international outing. Meanwhile little is known about the relative strength of both Taiwan and Brazil compared to the rest of the world making it tough to rate the Flash Wolves and Pain Gaming. Really any combination of teams is possible to advance out of the group, though most people are calling the Tigers the favourites with either CLG or the Flash Wolves taking second place. I’m going to be a completely unbiased raving CLG fanboy and actually call it for CLG to take the number one spot in the group. I think the Tigers will edge out the number two spot, simply because I have so little data on the actual strength of the Taiwan and Brazil regions, but it wouldn’t surprise me much to see either the Wolves or Pain take the number two spot instead.
First: CLG Second: Koo Tigers
The last group is the one that is impossible to call reliably: Group B. The group is constructed thusly: Fnatic, IG, Ahq, and C9. In this group I think anything is possible. Many people are counting C9 out of the group and while they are likely the weakest team in the group there is always the possibility that they pull things together and make it out. Assuming that C9 don’t magically level up and show a much higher level of play than what they showed during the summer split in the NA LCS they will probably end up at the bottom of the group. This leaves Fnatic, IG and Ahq. The word on the street is that the current meta heavily favours IGs playstyle, this combined with the fact they hail from the (in my opinion) strongest region, the LPL, make them my favourites to top the group. That leaves the second seed between Fnatic and Ahq. This really depends on just how good Taiwan is compared to EU. Both teams dominated their regions but both regions are somewhat weak (compared to China and Korea at least). In reality this is likely a toss-up but I’ll side with Fnatic here, simply because I have more knowledge about this team. Some people have been rating Taiwan very highly and Ahq in particular so it is very possible that I’m completely wrong on this one. I would simply say that it is 50-50 but where is the fun in that?
First: IG Second: Fnatic
So there are my predictions for the group stages at worlds this year. As for the overall winner, I would say with 95% certainty that it will be one of LGD, EDG and SKT. If pressed to choose a single winner I would pick LGD (Imp is simply an amazing player) but either of the other two teams have a very similar chance to win it all. If any other team (other than LGD/EDG/SKT) ends up winning it I would consider that a huge upset. Now all I can do is wait for worlds to start to see if my predictions are accurate or if they turn out to be completely rubbish.