Cloud9 survives play-ins, advances to LoL Worlds group stage

The members of Cloud9 take a relieved bow after surving an unexpected challenge from Gambit Esports on Saturday, and advance from the play-in stage of the League of Legends World Championship to next week's group competition. Courtesy of Riot Games

The favorites won out at the 2018 League of Legends World Championship on Saturday, as Cloud9 triumphed 3-2 over Gambit Gaming and Edward Gaming swept DetonatioN FocusMe in a dominant 3-0.

While Cloud9's tournament had looked a tad shaky so far, its 4-0 finish in its group made C9 the heavy favorite coming into the matchup against Gambit Gaming. Game 1 stuck to that script, with Cloud9 taking a decisive victory off the back of a fantastic Kindred performance from jungler Robert "Blaber" Huang. However, Gambit was quick to turn things around in Game 2, as the signature Anivia of mid laner Michael "Kira" Garmash made timely roams to get things rolling and tie up the series.

Starting to feel the pressure, Cloud9 opted to swap out Blaber for the veteran presence of Dennis "Svenskeren" Johnsen in Game 3. The change seemed to have the desired effect; while he didn't have the same carry performance as Blaber in Game 1, Svenskeren's consistent pressure as Taliyah was an enormous boon to Cloud9. However, when Gambit jungler Danil "Diamondprox" Reshetnikov took the Taliyah for himself in Game 4, his all-out aggression took the early game for Gambit. Meanwhile, The Draven of AD carry Zachary "Sneaky" Scuderi, which had done well in Game 3, was vulnerable to the heaps of crowd control coming out of Gambit, leading to a deciding Game 5.

Unfortunately for Gambit, the upset just wasn't meant to be. Kira and Diamondprox kept it close with impressive early games as Malzahar and Olaf respectively, but a single pair of picks by Cloud9 quickly led to Baron, ballooning a small lead to over 7,000 gold by the 25-minute mark. After that, there was nothing anyone on Gambit could do. While Gambit couldn't find the win in this series, its play was markedly improved over the team's previous games, and it came too close for comfort for North American fans.

The same could not be said for DetonatioN FocusMe. By making it to Saturday's best-of-five, it had already made it further than any other Japanese team previously at worlds. Up against the powerhouse of China's Edward Gaming, DetonatioN looked outclassed.

EDG's bottom lane was the first to assert its dominance, as the duo of AD carry Hu "iBoy" Xianzhao on Kai'Sa and support Tian "Meiko" Ye on Nautilus found first blood and an additional kill in-lane before the 6-minute mark in a Game 1 win. In Game 2, it was all about mid laner Lee "Scout" Ye-chan on Akali, who commanded the pace of the match. He was ganked for early and often by jungler Ming "Clearlove" Kai on Skarner, and translated his lead into pressure all over the map, ending with an absurd 11/0/3 KDA (kills/deaths/assists) on EDG's 16 total kills in a win that took less than 22 minutes.

Game 3, at the very least, looked closer for a time. DetonatioN jungler Moon "Steal" Geon-yeong had been playing a reasonably solid series all along, and this time around his Nocturne was outpacing the Lee Sin of EDG's subbed in Chen "Haro" Wen-Lin to keep the gold even. However, when the skirmishes started in the mid game, EDG was on a different level. Even with relatively equal gold, DetonatioN couldn't outfight the more experienced Edward Gaming, and soon enough the series was in the books 3-0 for the Chinese squad.

Cloud9 and Edward Gaming will now move onto the group stage of the main event alongside the winners of Sunday's series, which starts at midnight E.T. when Europe's G2 Esports takes on Latin America's Infinity Esports.

-- Brendan Hickey