The quarterfinals for the 2017 League of Legends World Championships concluded Sunday morning, after four exciting and suspenseful matches that, really, nobody saw coming. Here’s a recap of everything that happened.
Longzhu Gaming vs. Samsung Galaxy
Many favored Longzhu to win this matchup, given how strong it looked in Group B and how shaky Samsung looked in Group C. That forecast couldn’t have been further from reality.
Game 1 was the closest of the three games, with Longzhu having a slight lead until Samsung broke the game open around the 31-minute mark with a teamfight in the mid lane. Crown was the king of Game 2, as he roamed across the map on Taliyah, winning the side lanes for his team. Samsung sealed the victory after acing Longzhu near the dragon pit. Game 3 played out like Game 1, staying close until Samsung won a teamfight in the mid lane around the 25-minute mark and secured Baron.
Last year, Samsung came within a single victory of the Season 6 World Championships, but throughout 2017 in Korea, it appeared to have taken a step back, even though it maintained the same roster. Instead, we saw a Samsung team that had to innovate and evolve from the Group Stage, while Longzhu was content with what it had. In this case, the underdog that had to come up with something new came out on top.
SK Telecom T1 vs. Misfits
Almost everyone expected this series to be extremely one-sided, with SKT winning 3-0. That was how it seemed to have started: SKT dominated Misfits across the board in Game 1, with a scoreline of 16-1 in kills.
The tide turned in Game 2. IgNar played Blitzcrank in the bot lane, and Misfits found pick after pick to get Hans sama going on Tristana, who went on to secure the win for his team. IgNar continued to show off his versatility in Game 3, picking fervor Leona, leading to a 2v2 double kill in the bot lane at level 1. Hans sama again dominated the game, but SKT wouldn’t go down without a fight this time. After two Barons, an elder drake, and 40 minutes, Misfits finally closed it out to come within one game of upsetting SKT.
Things would get off to a great start for Misfits in Game 4. It was on the verge of breaking open SKT’s base, but Misfits overstayed its welcome after the Baron buff wore off and it lost a teamfight. The game would stall out for another 10 minutes, until SKT aced Misfits and forced a fifth game.
In the final game, Misfits hung around for so long that it felt as if the team were actually going to be able to pull off the upset. Disastrously, that all went down the drain when it had the elder drake stolen by Blank. Huni would then teleport in behind Misfits to help SKT find four kills, end the game and secure the spot in the semifinals.
Not only was this a surprisingly competitive series, but we also saw the meta of Worlds evolve. Both of these teams moved their focuses away from ardent censor supports toward tank-engage supports that could help the team find picks and make plays. This may be indicative of how the remaining series of Worlds may end up playing out.
RNG vs. Fnatic
Royal Never Give Up (RNG) was the clear and obvious crowd favorite. Its star marksman, Uzi, who has finished second at the World Championships twice, still has no major titles under his belt and was hoping to bring home China’s first-ever World Championship as his first tournament win. On the other side was Fnatic, making its return to Worlds with its own star marksman in Rekkles, after having failed to qualify for Worlds in 2016.
In Game 1, Uzi played a post-Baron fight perfectly, allowing RNG to walk away with a severe advantage. It would take another 17 minutes, two more Barons and an elder drake, but RNG forced its way into Fnatic’s base and killed its nexus without any champion casualties on either side. Game 2 was another long slugfest. It was close until Fnatic rushed the Baron and took three turrets to build a near-8K gold lead. RNG, however, stalled out the game for another 15 minutes, securing two Barons in the process, one of which was a steal by Mlxg that pulled his team back into the game. RNG eventually outscaled Fnatic and again forced its way into its base to end the game.
Game 3 was the longest game of the series, lasting almost 55 minutes. Halfway through, RNG nearly ended the game, taking down a nexus turret, but sOAZ managed to pick off Uzi, saving the game and the season for Fnatic. Fnatic then started its slow comeback, nearly ending the game itself 18 minutes later. RNG held on, successfully defending its base and killing four of Fnatic’s members. Although RNG managed to stall out the game, Fnatic later found the opportunity to rush down the open nexus and win Game 3, despite being down 12-27 on the scoreline and more than 6K gold at the very end.
Game 4 was relatively uneventful and quiet compared to the first three. Little happened until Fnatic secured Baron around the 36-minute mark — but not without losing Caps in the process, which allowed RNG to rotate and take the elder drake. RNG would come out on top of this trade, winning a teamfight in Fnatic’s bottom jungle and seizing the opportunity to punch its ticket into the semifinals.
The Chinese crowd in Guangzhou was ecstatic to see a hometown team in the semifinals for the first time since 2014. Uzi seemed to be on the way to fulfilling his promise of bringing a championship to China, which has been one of the most zealous regions when it comes to eSports in general, but has rarely seen success on the international stage of League of Legends. On the other side, Rekkles looked beyond defeated in his chair after shaking RNG’s hands. He was on the verge of tears, unable to push his team over the hump into the semifinals.
Team WE vs. Cloud9
Team WE fought its way to the quarterfinals all the way from the Play-in Stage — or arguably even the Chinese regional qualifiers, if you want to go back that far. WE now has to opportunity to be the second Chinese team in the semifinals. Its opponents, Cloud9 (C9), also originally came from the Play-in Stage and its own regional qualifier. It was North America’s last hope, after epic collapses by the other two North American teams in the Group Stage.
Game 1 started off perfectly for C9. Jensen roamed around the map on Aurelion Sol, earning C9 a 5K gold lead in the early game. But WE did what it always does: stall out the game and wait long enough for Mystic to scale. The game then went back and forth for about 20 minutes, until Mystic’s late-game damage just became too much for C9. Sneaky’s team would lose the game, but he would walk away setting a new world record for damage-per-minute.
In Game 2, Impact shocked the world when he blind-picked Singed in the top lane. The unorthodox pick worked out with help from Jensen and his Shockwaves on Orianna. Sneaky continued his exceptional play on Tristana and sealed the deal for C9. He then carried his momentum into Game 3, in which Impact picked Singed again. Sneaky and Smoothie won an early 2v2 against Mystic and Ben, and then C9 snowballed its bot lane lead to allow Sneaky to carry it to within one game from the semifinals.
WE turned things around in Game 4, finding a couple of picks on Contractz that gave it an early-game lead, which was snowballed to a clean win. In the deciding game, C9 managed to find some early kills, but it wasn’t enough to stop Mystic from scaling. As appears to be the trend with WE, it earned the victory in Game 5 and the series by playing through its star marksman.
C9 came so close to beating WE. The first game could’ve gone either way and if C9 had won, it would be it in the semifinals instead of WE. But instead, C9’s and North America’s Worlds run ends in the quarterfinals again. Chinese fans, on the other hand, were delirious at having not one, but two teams in the semifinals at Worlds for the first time in three years.
Predicting the Semifinals
Looking forward to the semifinals, SKT is set to take on RNG, and Samsung will play Team WE. I believe that both series will end 3-1, with SKT and Samsung coming out on top to set up a rematch of last year’s World Championship Finals, much to the disappointment of Chinese fans. Even though SKT played a closer quarterfinals series than RNG, RNG’s individual wins weren’t as decisive as SKT’s, and SKT’s losses only came off of unconventional picks by Misfits. I have yet to see evidence that RNG has the creativity to do what Misfits did, but it might find a way, which is why I see the team taking one game. Unfortunately, there are only so many times that you can find success with those unconventional strategies. I don’t think RNG has enough up its sleeves to upset SKT.
Samsung looked dominant in its series versus Longzhu, while Team WE still have yet to solve a lot of the problems that have plagued it since the Play-in Stage. Samsung was extremely potent at taking an advantage at one position and translating it into pressure all across the map. There are simply too many opportunities on WE for Samsung to find such a hole. Though, if a game ever goes on long enough, it will always hit the point where Mystic can put WE on his back and solo carry them to victory, which is why I’m picking it to steal one game.
Tune into the first semifinal match between SKT and RNG on the night of Oct. 28 and the second match between Samsung and WE on the next night of Oct. 29 on LoLeSports, Twitch.tv and YouTube.