Group stages complete, quarterfinals set: LoL worlds Group D recap

Riot Games Korea

The group stages at the 2020 League of Legends World Championship are complete. The quarterfinals have been drawn. Here are the highlights from the final day of groups.

Check out our daily coverage of the League of Legends World Championship knockout stage if you're looking for the most recent info on bracket play.

Group D Results:

Top Esports: 5-1
DRX: 4-2
FlyQuest: 3-3
Unicorns of Love: 0-6

I fully admit that I was pretty down on DRX coming into this tournament due to their shaky playoff gauntlet performances. Their group stage showed a DRX that was more coordinated with stronger teamfighting and map play. The only team they were unable to beat in this single-game round robin was Top Esports, and DRX played them closely in both games.

Hopefully DRX can continue these improvements in the best-of-five quarterfinals. They've shown more flaws in their best-of-five playoff series than their regular season best-of-threes, but even in the latter, the occasional wonky draft would either win or cost DRX their games. I'm curious to see more of this team considering how good they looked against TES in their losses.

With all of the North American doom and gloom, FlyQuest finished a respectable 3-3 in their group. Is this the end of the conversation about how terrible LCS is? Probably not. The context around LCS' performance, and more specifically each of these individual teams' performances, is as important as the context around, say, what happened to all three Chinese teams in 2015. Yes, there are infrastructure problems in North America, some of which are completely out of organizations' or even Riot's control. Yes, there are other facets of this disappointing performance that are completely within organizations' or Riot's purview. Yes, a lot of the overreaction does come from a single-game round robin group stage where people will only remember results rather than context.

Ultimately, FlyQuest and Team Liquid performed about as expected and Team SoloMid had a really bad showing in their group. North America is still ahead of teams from minor regions (even with those regions drawing closer) and in an odd position as visibly worse than the other three major regions. So basically nothing new to see here.

Top Esports performed to most LoL Pro League fans and analysts' expectations. After watching LPL for so long, it's difficult to imagine a Chinese team, even one as strong as TES looks to be, not dropping at least one match in a single-game group stage. That being said, the best and the worst of TES were on full display - their remarkable laning and teamfighting alongside their overconfidence in picking fights or extending trades that they shouldn't.

Quarterfinals Draw

All three Chinese teams are on the same side of the bracket stage, as are all three South Korean teams. Fnatic is the lone European team on the top half of the bracket taking on Top Esports while G2 will face Gen.G in the bottom side of the bracket. This means that we are guaranteed a final between two different regions.

It also means that we have two interregional matchups in quarterfinals with JD Gaming taking on Suning and DAMWON Gaming taking on DRX. The latter will be a rematch of the 2020 LoL Champions Korea finals where DWG promptly swept DRX in three games. Meanwhile, Suning and JDG haven't faced each other for a bit - certainly not since Suning has looked stronger and more well-coordinated in the regional finals - but JDG should still be favored here.

Quote of the Day

After their disappointing main event group stage performance, I talked to Unicorns of Love bot laner Ilya "Gadget" Makavchuk about how much pressure minor region teams can be under being the only team representing their region at worlds. Here's what he had to say.

"Honestly it's like almost no pressure at all because when we come into the tournament people don't really expect, our regional fans did not expect that much, because before we would just get knocked out of play-in stage and they'd be like, 'Yeah, that's fine.' But because we made it into groups they were like, 'Wow. That's progress."

Gadget added that while the gap between the lower major region seeds and top minor region seeds continues to narrow, the distance between the top seeds from major regions like Top Esports and DRX, both of which were in Group D with UOL, is still massive.

Every Game A Sentence

DRX 1, FlyQuest 0: FlyQuest try to make some early moves and don't look too bad even with DRX's plays top side until some questionable lane assignments and a few skirmishes allow DRX to fully take over the game.

Top Esports 1, Unicorns of Love 0: The TES bot lane of JackeyLove and Yuyanjia take over from Level 1 and TES handily snowball the game early and easily.

DRX 1, Unicorns of Love 0: Unicorns of Love fight back in the mid game, but this is pretty much all DRX from then on.

FlyQuest 1, Top Esports 0: A strong Level 1 gives the FlyQuest bot lane the edge and they use that along with a failed early top lane dive from TES to snowball and win the game.

FlyQuest 1, Unicorns of Love 0: FlyQuest take over early again and while Unicorns' late-game composition did get a few punches in, FlyQuest bring their group stage winrate to .500.

Top Esports 1, DRX 0: DRX and TES both focus on Kindred marks for Pyosik, leaving the game remarkably tense despite the lack of kills until Knight lands a clutch Shockwave in mid to blow the game open for TES.

Group Stage Day 7

The 2020 League of Legends World Championship rolls on after Group C completed with some of the most fun and surprising games of the tournament -- not in results but in general teamfighting and execution. Here's the highlights from the third day of quarterfinals qualification.

Jump to: Play-in recaps

Group C Results:

  • Gen.G: 5-1

  • Fnatic: 4-2

  • LGD Gaming: 2-4

  • Team SoloMid: 0-6

Usually I would begin this writeup with a rundown of each team, but I'll get to how Fnatic still look like they're the strongest team in this group (even with Gen.G's early-game composition stomp over them in their final game) later.

First, Team SoloMid.

TSM now have the dubious honor of being the only major region No. 1 seed to go winless in their own group. It's the worst performance from one of the four major regions' (CN, EU, KR, NA) No.1 seeds since LGD Gaming's 2015 collapse in groups or 2016 G2 Esports' 1-5. TSM's performances, particularly in their first game against Fnatic on Saturday, showcased an unwillingness to fight over any objective -- an extension of their lackluster turret dive against LGD in the first round robin that made its way to Reddit as a microcosm of NA's problems. This TSM did well to get hot at the right time (in a way, they're similar to fellow Group C team LGD Gaming) to make it as NA's No. 1 seed, but were generally overwhelmed by the rest of the teams in this group. Unlike TL, they were not able to rally until after they were eliminated from further contention and found themselves outclassed in teamfights and laning.

Despite Gen.G's dominating single-game performance over Fnatic in the final game of the day, Fnatic actually look like the most well-rounded team of Group C, even with a few of their own oddball moments and over-aggression. Arguably, Fnatic are the best when they're constantly pushing forward, especially with support Zdravets "Hylissang" Iliev Galabov on engage picks and the rest of the team ready to support Oskar "Selfmade" Boderek on the wealth of carry champions available. That being said, Gen.G, who looked shaky for most of the group stage even with their preferred scaling compositions, showed a new side of themselves when they did draft for the early game around Nidalee and Lucian for Kim "Clid" Tae-min and Gwak "Bdd" Bo-seong respectively.

Also, let us say a short farewell to LGD Gaming, a team that most LoL Pro League fans and analysts never expected would make worlds at all over the likes of Invictus Gaming, FunPlus Phoenix, or even summer darling Victory Five. LGD recovered from an awful performance in play-in groups to make it to main stage and even threaten as a potential quarterfinalist. This LGD team was a bit lacking in versatility compared to their LPL counterparts at worlds, but even after their play-in scare, they finished about where many expected them to.

Quote of the Day

After finishing 4-2 in their group and advancing to quarterfinals looking very strong, Fnatic coach Alfonso "Mithy" Aguirre Rodríguez had this to say about his team's performance in the second round robin:

"Today felt really amazing. I think the guys exceeded all of my expectations honestly, no offense to them, but they played phenomenally. Basically, I didn't feel like there were any mistakes. Everything that we talked about, they were actually doing, and not only that but they were extremely confident."

Every Game A Sentence

  • Fnatic 1, Team SoloMid 0: This game is all Fnatic from the start as TSM fails to recognize where they can trade or be aggressive, including a particularly egregious dragon fight that seals the game for Fnatic.

  • Gen.G 1, LGD Gaming 0: LGD botch a top lane dive that pretty much hands Gen.G the game... if it weren't for LGD outplaying and outeamfighting them in the mid-game only to try to push for the win when they couldn't actually finish, giving the game back to Gen.G.

  • Gen.G 1, Team SoloMid 0: TSM get a strong lead early, but somehow squander it when they don't push their advantages enough, allowing Ruler's Senna to scale.

  • Fnatic 1, LGD Gaming 0: Fnatic's bot side completely takes over the game early after catching LGD returning from a Level 1 invade and they, along with Bwipo, take over the game.

  • LGD Gaming 1, Team SoloMid 0: TSM's reliance on late-game and Bjergsen's Zilean nearly pays off, but LGD wisely split up when TSM tries to take Baron to finish off TSM's Nexus.

  • Gen.G 1, Fnatic 0: Gen.G draft an early-game composition around Bdd's Lucian and it pays off well for them, especially with timely kills in both side lanes early in the game.

Group Stage Day 6

Group B had a few surprises Friday, including an upset single-game victory for PSG Talon over JD Gaming, but on the whole, things were settled for this group fairly quickly with DAMWON Gaming and JDG qualifying for the next round in Shanghai. Here are the major storylines from the second day of quarterfinals qualification.

Group B results:

  • DAMWON Gaming: 5-1

  • JD Gaming: 4-2

  • PSG Talon: 2-4

  • Rogue: 1-5

Unlike Thursday's Group A matches, where the fate of teams came down to the last official game of the day between G2 Esports and Suning, Friday's group was decided by the second match.

Once DAMWON Gaming beat PSG Talon in the first game of the day and JD Gaming beat Rogue in the second, both DAMWON and JDG were qualified for quarterfinals. And while JDG's rematch against DAMWON was highly anticipated, it didn't matter after DAMWON secured first place when JDG unexpectedly lost to PSG Talon in the fourth game of the day, removing the tension and drama of qualification.

DAMWON are definitively the best team in the group and arguably, based on the single-game group stages, the best team at this world championship. Things will look a bit different in best-of-five series, but DAMWON have not given the impression that they'll be anything less than stellar in those, either, given the champion pools of their individual players and overall coordination of jungler Kim "Canyon" Geon-bu with his lanes. Although DAMWON were ultimately not able to out-teamfight JDG in a single game Friday, their teamfighting is also very strong.

JDG are wholly responsible for their own second-place finish. It's up for debate as to whether JDG thought it would be a good idea to pick all scaling against PSG Talon or whether it was a cocky move. The late-game approach honestly wasn't a bad call considering how slow PSG Talon play as a team, but it was definitely not the right move given PSG's team composition. JDG almost got away with the draft, too, since PSG Talon did not focus down top laner Zhang "Zoom" Xing-Ran's Kayle early, but the Chinese squad inexplicably didn't contest later drakes and had no way back into the game even with scaling on their side.

This is a team that will likely look better in best-of-fives than single games, but their draft and execution against PSG Talon on Friday left a lot to be desired. By contrast, their win against DAMWON was an obvious case of great preparation. JDG are known for their scouting and teamfighting skill, both of which were on display against DAMWON.

Meanwhile, PSG Talon had a resurgence of their own. After going winless in the first round-robin, they were able to draft comfort compositions in two of their games Friday with top laner Su "Hanabi" Chia-Hsiang on Ornn and the bot lane duo of Wong "Unified" Chun Kit and Ling "Kaiwing" Kai Wing on strong carry lanes like Caitlyn/Lux and a rare Aphelios/Thresh for victories over JDG and Rogue.


I caught up with JD Gaming support Zuo "LvMao" Ming-Hao after JD finished second in the group stage to talk to him about JDG's scaling composition that they lost with against PSG Talon. Here is what he had to say.

"In the second round, we wanted to have some new drafts and new playstyles to play against them but actually we didn't manage to have a very good performance. In the early phase, we didn't manage to grab the advantage, and we are not that good at this kind of draft."

Every game in a sentence

  • DAMWON Gaming 1, PSG Talon 0: Despite a solo kill for Tank onto ShowMaker early and some scrappy skirmishes from PSG Talon, this game is all DAMWON from Level 1 onward.

  • JD Gaming 1, Rogue 0: Rogue keep things even for a bit, but JDG's stronger cross-map trading and scaling damage come through by mid-game as they qualify for quarterfinals.

  • DAMWON Gaming 1, Rogue 0: Rogue fight DAMWON as much as they can but DAMWON quickly take over the game.

  • PSG Talon 1, JD Gaming 0: JDG draft a scaling composition that's somewhat disrespectful and fail to contest drakes, and PSG punish them for their first win of the group stage.

  • PSG Talon 1, Rogue 0: PSG lock in an Aphelios composition into Rogue's Senna, and with Hanabi on Ornn duty again, PSG are able to scale and have superior teamfights.

  • JD Gaming 1, DAMWON Gaming: Well, we know what match JDG prepared for Friday with this well-thought out and well-executed teamfighting composition to hand DAMWON their first loss at worlds.

Group Stage Day 5

On Thursday, Chinese squad Suning and European representative and 2019 worlds runner-up G2 Esports qualified for the knockout stage. Here's a look at the day's action, which included the elimination of Team Liquid and Machi Esports.

Group A wrapup

  • Suning: 5-2

  • G2 Esports: 4-3

  • Team Liquid: 3-3

  • Machi Esports: 1-5

There's a reason why people who watched China's LoL Pro League all year didn't believe as much in Suning as, say Top Esports or JD Gaming, and we saw exactly why Thursday.

For a large portion of the summer split, many fans wondered how Suning could stay at the top of the standings when they seemed to lack coordination or the wherewithal to close games. A lot of their wins came from individual outplays or waiting for their opponents to make a similarly aggressive mistake to what we saw Suning themselves make against G2 Esports in their tiebreaker matchup. The good for Suning is that they're obviously playing well as a team, and the worlds meta continues to be a great break for them. In Suning's wins, support Hu "SwordArt" Shuo-Chieh and top laner Chen "Bin" Ze-Bin took centerstage, showcasing their skills on Bard and Camille, respectively.

G2 Esports nearly came back in their tiebreaker game with a stronger understanding of how to play out their composition and the help of many mistakes from Suning. Despite missteps in the single-game format, there's not a lot of doubt when it comes to this G2 team in best-of-five series. G2 don't always execute perfectly, but their mid-game macro understanding and knowledge of how to trade the map should serve them well, even in a tough quarterfinals matchup like Top Esports or DAMWON Gaming.

It's another heartbreaker for Team Liquid and North America as the team failed to make it out of group stages with a 3-3 record for the third straight year. This time around was a bit different than the others, as TL were the region's third seed rather than their first, and while it wasn't always pretty for TL, they should be commended for how they focused on fixing their early-game problems enough to turn around a 1-3 start and pick up wins games like they did against Suning and Machi on Thursday. The biggest difference-maker between TL and other teams in this group, it seems, came down to a lack of jungle-to-lane communication (which goes both ways).

Finally, there's Machi Esports. Expectations were low for Machi, but they kicked off their tournament with a surprise single-game victory over TL. Unfortunately, it became clear that Machi really only had one way to win: outlaning their opponents. That playstyle didn't translate well to an international stage.


After Team Liquid did not make it out of groups, coach Joshua "Jatt" Leesman discussed the public perception of North America's performances. Here is a small snippet of what he had to say.

"If you want to be able to win, you need to overexcel in something, and that's what NA tries to do every year. I just want to say, I kind of know how the history works in these cases, and people are going to look back on this year and say, 'Oh, TL didn't make it out of group stage again,' but right now I have some pretty strong words for those people because it just overlooks the effort and the good that happened.

"This was a really hard year. We had a really bad start. We went 3-3 [in groups]. There are other years where that actually just gets you through groups. And the fact that that checkmark is what defines whether or not your whole region is s***? It's just ridiculous. I think we are closer than people think."

Every game in a sentence

  • G2 Esports 1, Team Liquid 0: Jankos and G2 punish Broxah's Hecarim early while getting Wunder's Sylas ahead in top lane, and a mid-game dragon teamfight effectively shuts down the game for TL from that point on.

  • Suning 1, Machi Esports 0: Machi go for strong early lanes, but Bin shuts that down early on the top side, and Suning cruise to a win with Bin's Irelia and SwordArt's Bard.

  • G2 Esports 1, Machi Esports 0: Caps' Lucian gets ahead early, and despite having the better scaling composition, Machi pick fights that end up costing them the game as G2 qualify for quarterfinals.

  • Team Liquid 1, Suning 0: Team Liquid keep their quarterfinals hopes alive with another strong Level 1 attack and tanky team composition that make it difficult for Suning to do anything once they fall behind.

  • Team Liquid 1, Machi Esports 0: This game is also over pretty much from Level 1, after which CoreJJ's Pantheon takes over the game.

  • Suning 1, G2 Esports 0: Bin's Omnistone Ignite/Teleport Camille takes center stage but it's SwordArt's Bard that's the star, setting up skirmishes so Suning can push aggressively like they want.

  • Suning 1, G2 Esports 0: Bin is the star again, this time on Gangplank, and a crucial barrel hit in bot side tri-brush seals the deal for Suning after a lot of mid-game mistakes from the team.

Group Stage Day 4

Round robin wrapup

A victory for Team Liquid against G2 Esports and action-packed matchup between Fnatic and Gen.G highlighted Tuesday's action at the League of Legends World Championship. Here's a look at everything that unfolded in Day 4 of the group stage.

The remaining three main stage groups (A, C, and D) completed their first round robin of single-game play along the way. Here are the standings and outlook for each group.

Group A

  • G2 Esports 2-1

  • Suning 2-1

  • Machi Esports 1-2

  • Team Liquid 1-2

Team Liquid's victory over G2 Esports has kept this group relatively close in standings. More specifically, after another win Tuesday, this time over Machi Esports, Suning have a stronger chance at the first seed than they would have had G2 gone undefeated in the first round robin.

Suning and G2 still look like the two strongest teams in this group. Jungler Lê "SofM" Quang Duy has ended his previous two games up over 100 creep score ahead of both of his opponents, showcasing his farming prowess and Suning's understanding of how to support him. Despite their loss Tuesday, G2's mid-game macro and ability to cross-map trade still generally maks them a stronger choice to make it out over Machi and TL.

If there's a silver lining for both Machi and TL, it's that they're showing signs of life even in losses. Machi are a slower team but understand how their laners work and how to play around them. They're also still good at finding picks when behind. Meanwhile, TL looked completely lost against Suning after Suning's Level 1 play Monday but came back Tuesday with a Level 1 attack of their own that made a massive difference in their eventual win over G2.

Group C

  • Fnatic 2-1

  • Gen.G 2-1

  • LGD Gaming 2-1

  • TSM 0-3

TSM are supposedly the first major region seed in this group but are thus far winless in it. Group C's games haven't particularly been pretty either, with sloppy performances from all four teams, including the three that are now tied at 2-1.

A lot of these games have come down to early laning execution and focus or dragon stacking. Gen.G were looking like the default best team in the group, but a really poor performance against Fnatic's bot-side-targeted early game left a lot to be desired. And then there's LGD, who look beatable but are getting by with strong individual performances, particularly from mid laner Su "xiye" Han-Wei.

Group D

  • Top Esports 3-0

  • DRX 2-1

  • FlyQuest 1-2

  • Unicorns of Love 0-3

Group D has the honor of giving us the best game at this tournament thus far: Monday's match between DRX versus Top Esports. In that game, we saw interesting drafts, responsive itemization, smart map play, fantastic teamfighting and intelligent minion wave management. It was a game that either team could have won in the best way.

On Tuesday, we saw an extension of that excitable TES approach -- especially with the way bot laner Yu "JackeyLove" Wen-Bo was constantly on his team's frontline as Senna -- and how it can be punished. If TES hadn't had such a significant gold lead, there were times where Unicorns of Love catching individual members out of position could have tripped up the group's frontrunner.

TES are now in the strongest position possible going into the second round robin with three wins already and first place in the group. DRX seem a definitive second and showcased strong communication between the team and jungler Hong "Pyosik" Chang-hyeon in the early-to-mid game against FlyQuest to get his Kindred stacked up in a victory Tuesday as well.

Quote of the day

In his post-match interview, TES jungler Hung "Karsa" Hao-Hsuan was asked by the Chinese broadcast how well TES had adapted to the current metagame. This was his confident response:

"I feel that it actually isn't about adapting to the meta. Because as someone who has competed for a long time, whoever plays well is the meta."

Every game in a sentence

  • Team Liquid 1, G2 Esports 0: Team Liquid learned from Suning's Level 1 on Monday, executing a strong Level 1 play against G2 and snowballing the game from there despite strong responses from G2 as a team.

  • Suning 1, Machi Esports 0: Machi have the right idea with Shen and some good picks, but SofM's Nidalee power-farm difference is immense, and Suning take over the match come mid-game with both SofM and Huanfeng in strong positions.

  • DRX 1, FlyQuest 0: Smart team coordination and pathing get Pyosik's Kindred ahead while Deft's Caitlyn continuously shoves bot lane, and DRX fully take over the game after an overly aggressive Pantheon ultimate from IgNar.

  • Top Esports 1, Unicorns of Love 0: Credit to UoL for a fun draft and fighting TES at every turn, but this one was all TES.

  • Fnatic 1, Gen.G 0: Fnatic hand Gen.G their first loss of main event by targeting bot lane, and Group C remains wide open.

Group Stage Day 3

It was another day of DAMWON Gaming dominance coupled with a resurgence for a few LoL Pro League teams as well as North America's first main stage win. Here are the highlights of Day 3 of the main event.

Group B completes their first round robin

Group B was the first group at 2020 worlds to complete the first half of the single game round robin group stage. DAMWON sits atop the standings undefeated and looks to be the strongest team at the tournament thus far. They've taken down teams by playing to the map. They've taken down teams with superior teamfighting. DAMWON seem to be able to do it all.

Over the past two days, JD Gaming have done well to re-establish themselves as a team to be reckoned with after a crushing Day 1 loss to DAMWON. On Monday, JDG brought out a fun double-sleep composition with jungler Seo "Kanavi" Jin-hyeok on Lillia and mid laner Zeng "Yagao" Qi on Zoe.

Renekton was mostly denigrated at this tournament and was sitting at a cool zero percent win rate until JDG top laner Zhang "Zoom" Xing-Ran showcased just how powerful of a bridge Renekton can be from early laning power to mid game teamfights. He was repeatedly able to move directly through a fight to Rogue's backline, especially with help from support Zuo "LvMao" Ming-Hao's signature Bard pick. This game why Bard is so frequently target-banned against LvMao in the LoL Pro League.

Random draft fun

Team Liquid were able to lock in their new favorite combination of Twitch and Rakan against Suning with the hopes to scale late like they did during their play-in matches. However, Suning was ready for it and immediately countered with Draven and Leona for bot laner Tang "Huanfeng" Huan-Feng and support Hu "SwordArt" Shuo-Chieh.

"We already predicted that they would choose the Twitch and Rakan that draft," Suning jungler Lê "SofM" Quang Duy said. "We were actually waiting for them to use that and so that's why we chose the Draven."

Suning took control from Level 1 by splitting the map with an invade and not even a chance Syndra Baron steal from TL mid laner Nicolaj "Jensen" Jensen could bring TL back from a massive gold deficit.

Meanwhile in Group D, DRX prioritized Quinn for top laner Kim "Rascal" Kwang-hee as a response to Bai "369" Jia-Hao's Renekton and for a strong 1-3-1 composition with mid laner Jeong "Chovy" Ji-hoon's Twisted Fate. A quick counterpick of mid Nocturne for TES' Zhuo "Knight" Ding and smart itemization and wave management from 369 were crucial in TES' eventual victory, while bot laner Yu "JackeyLove" Wen-Bo was able to show off his laning prowess on Senna, even into a Draven matchup.

Every game in a sentence

  • G2 Esports 1, Machi Esports 0: Machi and PK's Mordekaiser put up a fight but G2 have a stronger command of the map and mid game to go up 2-0 in Group A.

  • Suning 1, Team Liquid 0: Suning call Team Liquid's bluff by letting the Twitch/Rakan through and immediately punishing it with Draven/Leona so that the game is all Suning save a Jensen Syndra Baron steal.

  • DAMWON Gaming 1, PSG Talon 0: PSG Talon try to attack DAMWON early but DAMWON's coordination and map play are significantly stronger.

  • Top Esports 1, DRX 0: Top Esports put the pressure on and JackeyLove gets six kills on Senna.

  • JD Gaming 1, Rogue 0: A comfort composition comes in for JDG who show the power of Zoom's Renekton and LvMao's Bard.

  • FlyQuest 1, Unicorns of Love 0: Watch as PowerOfEvil does his best to carry on Syndra despite the chaos of his team.

Group Stage Day 2

It was an unfortunate day for the North American teams while DAMWON Gaming showed why they should be considered tournament favorites. Here are the major storylines from the second day of main event group stages.

Just how good are DAMWON Gaming?

Despite a commanding 3-0 victory over DragonX in the 2020 LoL Champions Korea finals, the true strength of DAMWON Gaming as a tournament favorite was still somewhat in question for a few reasons. The first was that many also doubted the strength of DragonX, whose funky draft choices and shaky series against Gen.G to qualify for the finals left a lot to be desired. The second was DAMWON's own admitted struggles with stage performances as opposed to scrims, somewhat coupled with the unfortunate timing of top laner Jang "Nuguri" Ha-gwon's pneumothorax surgery which delayed his arrival to China with the rest of his team.

These first two days of main stage competition, DAMWON have put on two separate clinics of how to deal with two drastically different playstyles. Yesterday against JD Gaming, they advanced a massive early snowball by correctly calling JDG's Lillia Level 1 invade for jungler Seo "Kanavi" Jin-hyeok and further took over the game after a botched bot lane JDG Teleport fight later in the early game. Today against Rogue, they played a slower, more measured style that still choked out Rogue's advantages, taking away any and all resources that Rogue wanted to get onto Kacper "Inspired" Słoma's Hecarim and top laner Finn "Finn" Wiestål's Gangplank. They look well-prepared to execute whatever they want to draft and should now be considered a tournament favorite.


North America had a rough Day 2 of the main event with Team Liquid unexpectedly falling to the Pacific Championship Series' first seed Machi Esports and a Team SoloMid loss to LCK third seed Gen.G. The League of Legends Championship Series is much-maligned due to international results, but typically they start off stronger than this and fall in the second half of the single-game round robin due to an inability to adjust.

There are still a lot of games to be played, which is the best news for North America right now. Yet, the Machi-TL series showcases a few of the issues with the region, specifically where TL locked in a composition with presumably pushing lanes early and a Caitlyn/Lux combination designed to make opponents' laning lives miserable. Even with an early 2-v-2 kill from Edward "Tactical" Ra and Jo "CoreJJ" Yong-in onto Lin "Koala" Chih-Chiang, Machi was able to focus mid lane to give advantages to Chen "M1ssion" Hsiao-Hsien, whose Syndra took over the game. Meanwhile, Chiu "Bruce" Chih-Chun and Koala were able to catch up in lane fairly easily despite the matchup and early disadvantage. This isn't to say that North American teams are doomed, but that there are a lot of adjustments to be made outside of draft that involve fundamentals like wave management and jungle communication with lanes.

Every game in a sentence

  • Machi Esports 1, Team Liquid 0: Machi's stronger laning skills overcome an early 2v2 death in the bottom lane and slowly choke out Team Liquid for their first group stage win.

  • G2 Esports 1, Suning 0: A back and forth game over drakes lead to Suning and G2 trading blow for blow until Caps' Twisted Fate ultimately closes out the game.

  • DAMWON Gaming 1, Rogue 0: DAMWON accrue early advantages and snowball the game, albeit in a slower way than they did against JDG Saturday, for another dominating victory.

  • JD Gaming 1, PSG Talon 0: After a draft flex for Kanavi's Sylas and a mid Ekko for Yagao, JDG roll over PSG Talon.

  • Gen.G 1, Team SoloMid 0: Bdd takes a commanding lead in mid with Sett against Bjergsen's Zilean and despite early moves from Spica's Nidalee, Gen.G controls the game from the start.

  • LGD Gaming 1, Fnatic 0: LGD stack drakes early and end up winning a crucial fight in the dragon pit with a beautiful Ekko flank from Su "xiye" Han-Wei.

Group Stage Day 1

The 2020 League of Legends World Championship main stage is underway, and while there were no major upsets on Day 1, it was certainly eventful with a lot of fun stomps. Here are the major highlights from the first day of main event groups:

An evolving metagame

After a tumultuous play-in stage, many were wondering whether expected top teams' performances and meta picks would remain consistent with that of the play-in teams. Most play-in teams struggled with early-game-focused picks like Lillia jungle and relied on scaling, 5v5 teamfighting to win single games and series.

"If you are a bad team, then it's easier to play scaling than it is to play early game," MAD Lions mid laner Marek "Humanoid" Brázda said after his team was eliminated. "We were really struggling to play early game. You just wait for the enemy to make a mistake instead of forcing a play on your own and it's just way easier to win."

Humanoid added that he didn't think this slower pace would stick, since the stronger teams already in the main event would be more decisive early. This was proven right on Day 1 of the main event group stage where nearly every match was decided from an early-game advantage.

"I think that we knew we had to challenge them in the early game," FlyQuest jungler Lucas "Santorin" Larsen said of his team's draft and early map movement against Top Esports. "I don't think we challenged them this time around."

Santorin added that most of the Chinese teams at the tournament are the types of teams who will immediately push any advantage possible and that the main event meta will likely be faster paced. Rogue mid laner Emil "Larssen" Larsson agreed with this assessment.

"I definitely expected a faster meta," Larssen said. "For play-ins it was like a lot of Ornn and champs for scaling. And that's usually good when the teams are less good. But if you play against a really good team it's harder to play the scaling game because they will stomp you."

Rogue took advantage of PSG Talon mid laner Park "Tank" Dan-won with a Level 1 gank from bot laner Steven "Hans sama" Liv and support Oskar "Vander" Bogdan and controlled the entire game off of their early advantages.

Of course, the longest games of the day came from Group C, which going into today, was thought of as the most open group of the tournament. LGD Gaming (the slowest and shakiest of the LPL four) unexpectedly managed to go toe-to-toe with Gen.G after a comparatively sloppy game to the earlier ones on the day. Meanwhile, Team SoloMid and Fnatic played each other closely, with Fnatic and their Evelynn/Lucian combination for Oskar "Selfmade" Boderek and Tim "Nemesis" Lipovšek coming out ahead.

How strong is the LoL Pro League?

The dread spectre of 2015 worlds has hung over every LoL Pro League team since, regardless of individual performance and context. The other, lesser-spoken shadow that hangs over whichever region the winning worlds team comes from is the end-all, be-all idea that their region is the strongest. (For the record, I think the LPL was the strongest region for the majority of this year, despite it being at the weakest it's been the past three years.) After today, the LPL are 1-2 in main event groups.

So, how strong is the LPL right now?

JDG had a poor performance against DAMWON Gaming by their own admission, much of which was decided early when DAMWON called their Level 1 Lillia invade and subsequently snowballed successive skirmishes. Of all LPL teams, JDG are probably the ones to trust the most to rebound. They tend to be smart about their adjustments and how they approach games. I fully expected them to drop at least one, if not two, games in groups with DAMWON taking first in Group B.

LGD are... Let's just say that I'm more worried about Gen.G at this point than I am LGD, primarily based on expectations. I do not expect LGD to make it out of this group, but I was expecting a stronger performance out of Gen.G with better itemization and fewer 50/50 smite fights.

Top Esports continue to be the pride of the LPL, and their victory over FlyQuest was led by a strong performance from top laner Bai "369" Jia-Hao and his Camille. However, I feel similarly toward this TES snowball victory over FlyQuest as I do about DAMWON's win over JDG: In both cases, the winning team was able to push their advantages extremely well off of the back of one or two early-game plays. TES are beatable (as are DAMWON).

Every game in a sentence

  • Top Esports 1, Fly Quest 0: FlyQuest goes for an early game look with Lillia, but 369 takes over the top lane and TES easily snowball from there.

  • DragonX 1, Unicorns of Love 0: Pyosik's Nidalee takes over this game early and it's an easy win for DRX.

  • Rogue 1, PSG Talon 0: Rogue had a good game plan to attack Tank in mid from Level 1 to get Larssen ahead and Rogue rolled from there.

  • DAMWON Gaming 1, JD Gaming 0: DAMWON call JDG's Level 1 invade for Kanavi's Lillia and snowball the game after several skirmishes in their favor.

  • Gen.G 1, LGD Gaming 0: After a long, sloppy game from both sides and a lot of 50/50 objective takes, Gen.G close things out in the longest game of the day.

  • Fnatic 1, Team SoloMid 0: Fnatic receive their comfort Evelynn/Lucian combination for Selfmade and Nemesis, but it's the team's macro play that ultimately wins them the game with how they balance Baron and Drakes.

Play-ins Day 1

PSG Talon's opening statement and Team Liquid's win over MAD Lions

When PSG Talon announced that three of their starters -- jungler Kim "River" Dong-woo, mid laner Park "Tank" Dan-won and bot laner Wong "Unified" Chun Kit -- would miss the play-in stage, their stock was suddenly uncertain.

Due to emergency substitution rules in place to account for the coronavirus pandemic, PSG Talon were able to acquire ahq eSports Club jungler Hsiao "Kongyue" Jen-Tso and mid laner Chen "Uniboy" Chang-Chu along with bot laner Chen "Dee" Chun-Dee, who is a coach for Machi Esports but had previously been an LMS professional bot laner. Kongyue and Uniboy were arguably considered raw upgrades as individuals, but the major question of how the team would come together remained. This was on top of the doubts already cast over the new Pacific Championship Series and whether it would be able to produce teams on par with what the now defunct LoL Master Series had done with Flash Wolves and ahq.

PSG Talon are now 2-0, currently topping their play-in group, including an impressive upset of LGD Gaming.

Talon had a great approach to both of their games to facilitate their loaned players in draft, particularly the first match where Kongyue played his signature Ekko pick in a composition designed to make him the primary carry. He ended that win against Rainbow7 with a monster 13/1/8 KDA (kills/deaths/assists) scoreline.

Kongyue and the rest of the team benefited from a fairly lucky bot lane skirmish but immediately snowballed that into a win. In both matches, particularly the one against LGD, Talon starting support Ling "Kaiwing" Kai Wing impressed.

Another slightly less surprising but no less noteworthy moment was Team Liquid's victory over MAD Lions. Team Liquid, the third seed out of North America, relied on staple picks for top laner Jung "Impact" Eon-yeong and mid lander Nicolaj "Jensen" Jensen with Mordekaiser and Twisted Fate, respectively. Impact had a 9/1/5 KDA on one of his signature champions

The standout in this match, though, was Edward "Tactical" Ra who ended up taking over mid-to-late-game teamfights on Twitch against the Europeans. His 5/2/14 KDA belies the damage he put out in his world championship debut.

Every game in a sentence

  • MAD Lions 1, INTZ: 0 This is a sloppy game from MAD, but Tay's gigantic Urgot is not enough for INTZ to pull off the upset.

  • PSG Talon 1, Rainbow7 0: Ekko will be permanently banned against Kongyue after this game.

  • Legacy Esports 1, INTZ 0: This matchup was a lengthy one that Legacy arguably should have won much earlier than they did.

  • PSG Talon 1, LGD Gaming 0: You might think that this isn't like LGD, but this is very much how LGD performed in-season prior to their unlikely worlds qualification.

  • Team Liquid 1 , MAD Lions 0: Twisted Fate and Mordekaiser get through for Jensen and Impact, but the real star is Tactical's Twitch.

Play-ins Day 2

2020 LGD Gaming look a lot like 2015 LGD Gaming

We're two days in to the League of Legends World Championship, and there have already been single-game upsets, stunning mechanical outplays and a team on the precipice of a potential collapse.

Last in the group stage, the LoL Pro League champions FunPlus Phoenix dropped a game to J Team in their first worlds match. The response was immediate and hardly complimentary, with the resounding cry that 2019 FPX already resembled 2015 LGD Gaming.

The spectre of 2015 LGD's worlds collapse after winning LPL summer casts a long shadow over all LPL teams at any international event, especially when they deign to lose in a single-game format. With losses to PSG Talon and now Rainbow7, LGD are now in serious danger of being eliminated from the event entirely in a play-in stage that they were fully-expected to make it out of with ease.

There's an interesting comparison to be had between not only 2015 LGD, who had a remarkably poor showing and spiralled from it during a massive meta shift, but also to last year's world champion FPX, in their loss to J Team. In that game, FPX lost in a fashion that was hardly surprising. If one had taken the nameplates off of their players and looked simply at the team composition (Mordekaiser/Elise/Sion/Kai'sa/Galio), anyone who had watched mid laner Kim "Doinb" Tae-sang and FPX would know exactly who had drafted those picks.

By contrast, today LGD lost by deviating from the form that allowed them to make it to worlds in the first place: a farming jungle pick and a strong mid lane pick for Han "Peanut" Wang-ho and Su "xiye" Han-Wei, respectively, with top laner Xie "Langx" Zhen-Ying on a tank. Today, LGD instead opted to put Langx on Camille and give Lee Sin (still a signature pick but not one that helped him get here with this LGD team), a departure from their most successful game plan. Even xiye's Twisted Fate, a comfort pick of his before he was even picked up to play professionally, wasn't enough to make up for how lost LGD looked on the map and in teamfights. There's a sliver of hope for LGD if they return to what worked to qualify them for worlds (Kindred and Graves were both up in this draft) but they've made it a lot more difficult for themselves already.

More: Ten years of worlds: A League of Legends World Championship oral history | Why ROX Tigers vs. SKT was one of League's best rivalries | 2020 League of Legends World Championship regional guides

If they manage to not make it through the play-in stage, it will be an even more historic collapse than their 2015 iteration.

Every game in a sentence

  • V3 Esports 1, Rainbow7 0: V3 Esports don't take as much of an early advantage as they should have with their composition, but better dragon control and good responses to some questionable engages from R7 net them the victory.

  • SuperMassive Esports 1, INTZ 0: A KaKAO Hecarim carry composition works exactly as intended.

  • Unicorns of Love 1, V3 Esports 0: V3 had this in their control, but an ill-timed Galio chase leads to Nomanz's Kassadin taking over the game.

  • Rainbow7 1, LGD Gaming 0: Xiye's Twisted Fate is not enough to overcome poor decision-making and terrible teamfighting from LGD Gaming.

  • Unicorns of Love 1, PSG Talon 0: Gadget continues to impress on non-traditional bot laners like the Swain as UOL hand PSG their first loss of groups.

  • SuperMassive Esports 1, MAD Lions 0: SuperMassive pick another power-farming carry for KaKAO in Nidalee, while Armut brings out the Wukong for a 2-0 day.

  • Team Liquid 1, Legacy Esports 0: This game is all Team Liquid from start to finish with a composition built around Broxah's Graves.

Play-ins Day 3

Day 3 marked the first day of solo group play as Group B teams played out the rest of their matches. Prior to the start of worlds, LGD Gaming was near-universally auto-locked as the first seed (and the one who received an automatic bid to the main group stage). Unicorns of Love were near-universally tagged as the second seed in predictions (and the Group B team that would make it out after the bracket stage).

Congratulations to PSG Talon for winning Group B just as predicted, of course.

The fate of Group B

PSG is an interesting story because their qualifying lineup included three substitutes due to visa issues and quarantine timing. ahq eSports Club's Hsiao "Kongyue" Jen-Tso and Chen "Uniboy" Chang-Chu subbed in for PSG starting jungler Kim "River" Dong-woo and mid laner Park "Tank" Dan-won while Machi Esports coach and former bot laner Chen "Dee" Chun-Dee came in for Wong "Unified" Chun Kit, although Unified was able to make PSG's final two matches. PSG Talon drafted perfectly around their substitutions, focusing on strong mid-jungle carry compositions with comfort picks like Ekko for Kongyue. Most importantly, they still ensured that Kaiwing was on strong initiators so he could start teamfights, similarly playing to his strengths as one of the best players on the team. After two wins today including a tiebreaker over UOL, and the LGD collapse, PSG are now automatically qualified to the main stage of the tournament.

Only 2020 LGD could have pulled off a collapse that is similar if not worse than their famous and memetic 2015 ruination in the worlds group stage. At least then they were facing major region teams like KT Rolster, Team SoloMid, and Origen, although by contrast, they were then first seed. This year, they were the fourth and final seed from China, unexpectedly making it through the regional qualifier despite one-sided losses to Suning several times during their road to worlds. While most who had watched LGD all year wouldn't have expected them to go undefeated, they still would have expected that, at the very least, the mid-jungle combination of Han "Peanut" Wang-ho and Su "xiye" Han-Wei would get them to the top of the group. LPL fans held their breath after LGD's first loss to PSG Talon, and then the familiar sinking feeling came on Day 2 when LGD lost to Rainbow7. It was 2015 LGD all over again.

While LGD have made it to the elimination portion of the bracket stage, they have only won two games, both against Japan's V3 Esports and one in a tiebreaker. Even in their wins, LGD looked sloppy and uncoordinated, at times far too passive and at other times wholly too aggressive. They've been unable to capitalize on any early advantages, like solo kills from top laner Xie "Langx" Zhen-Ying and xiye, and until today were drafting uncharacteristically away from their strengths. A lot has to change if they want to beat Rainbow7, who at the very least seem to know how they want to play the game for themselves, even with macro mistakes.

Every game in a sentence

  • LGD Gaming 1, V3 Esports 0: It isn't pretty and LGD look nowhere near ready to win a best-of-five against anyone, but they take their first win of the event here.

  • Rainbow7 1, Unicorns of Love 0: Rainbow7 picks stronger lanes and takes advantage of a few Unicorns mistakes to snowball Aloned's Lucian and Josedeodo's Evelynn.

  • PSG Talon 1, V3 Esports 0: Kongyue and Uniboy again take center stage for PSG Talon in a resounding win that puts them in line for first in the group.

  • Unicorns of Love 1, LGD Gaming 0: Despite two early 1v1 kills from their solo laners, LGD are punished for poor skirmishing and Gadget's Twitch takes over the game.

  • PSG Talon 1, Unicorns of Love 0: A fantastic early start for UOL gives Ziggs free reign over PSG's turrets however a mid-game overextension topside goes in PSG's favor and they snowball that to victory.

  • LGD Gaming 1, V3 Esports 0: LGD look the best they have all tournament in this match (although still not without issues) and move on to the elimination bracket to face Rainbow7 in a best-of-five.

Play-ins Day 4

The Fate of Group A

Like Group B, Group A had its predicted victors in MAD Lions, with the other team qualifying (after bracket stage) as Team Liquid.

Instead, it's Team Liquid who will advance to the main event automatically as Group A's first seed. SuperMassive, who many expected to take the second seed after their Day 2 performances and MAD Lions' continued slide, ended up in third after a surprising loss to Oceania's Legacy Esports, who finished in second place. Above all else, both Legacy and Team Liquid generally seemed to know the style that they wanted to play when compared to their competitors, and this earned them the first and second spots.

MAD Lions had fewer expectations on them from the international community than LGD Gaming, but both ended their group stages similarly, and neither look particularly formidable heading into the bracket stage. A lot of MAD's issues have been execution-based. Their in-game movements haven't matched the compositions they've drafted, and at times they've looked wholly uncoordinated. Fortunately, in their tiebreaker game against INTZ, MAD's synergy seemed to have improved, and they were able to capitalize on INTZ's mistakes as a team.

Oh, Deer

Every year at worlds, there is at least one pick that is all the rage in scrimmages that then fails impressively during the play-in stage because of teams' and players' execution of that pick in context. In 2019, the champion of choice was Ekko jungle. In 2020, it's jungle Lillia.

Lillia's damage is strong, she has a fast objective clear and her kit lends itself to some teamfight and pick potential. Due to the meta, especially toward the end of the domestic summer splits, many of the teams that qualified for worlds from all regions had strong mid-jungle duos or strong top sides. Those characteristics should mean that Lillia fits right in with most of these teams, yet she's only won two games of seven thus far for a 28.6% win rate. In both of her wins, you could make the argument that the teams won in spite of her (especially since she fell behind in the early-to-mid game) rather than because of her.

When Lillia was first released, several teams in China's League of Legends Pro League had trouble harnessing her power despite those teams' naturally aggressive tendencies. Even teams that accrued early advantages with her would often lose late-game teamfights to a variety of picks including Sett jungle, Nidalee and Graves.

Lillia's early game wasn't able to make up for the self-sufficiency of other junglers and their own contributions to fights. The teams that were most successful, like Suning, had strong and aggressive counter-junglers like Lê "SofM" Quang Duy, who were also able to fight with their teams' frontliners like Renekton and Braum.

Lillia needs a tank in front of her and room to make full use of her kit and crowd control. She also needs a proactive squad around her to build up advantages early, and most of the play-in teams are admittedly slower-paced.

Every game in a sentence

  • Team Liquid 1, SuperMassive Esports 0: TL receive exactly what they want in draft, even with a risky first-rotation Twitch, and use the Shen/Twitch combination to improve to 4-0 in the group.

  • Legacy Esports 1, MAD Lions 0: MAD continue to look lost regardless of their draft picks while Legacy lock in a strong teamfighting composition with James "Tally" Shute's Galio and play it well.

  • INTZ 1, Team Liquid 0: A few mid-game picks onto Mads "Broxah" Brock-Pedersen and Jung "Impact" Eon-yeong give INTZ control over the game.

  • Legacy Esports 1, SuperMassive Esports 0: A four-vs.-five fight at Rift Herald goes poorly for SuperMassive, and despite a few early game mistakes, Legacy are able to snowball to a win.

  • MAD Lions 1, INTZ 0: A few overly ambitious initiations lead to INTZ pushing past their in-game advantages, and MAD Lions capitalize on their opponent's mistakes.

  • Team Liquid 1, Legacy Esports 0: This game is almost entirely Team Liquid from start-to-finish with Broxah back on Graves in a near sub-20-minute victory to advance.

Play-ins Day 5

MAD Lions fall to SuperMassive in historic upset

Not since 2017 Hong Kong Attitude from the LoL Master Series has a major-region team been eliminated in the play-in stage of the world championship. Today, MAD Lions became the second major-region team with the same dubious honor, similarly eliminated by the Turkish representative in the play-in stage.

Of the squads remaining in the tournament at the start of play Tuesday, MAD were the team with the least-clear team identity. Even when LGD struggled, their lack of sticking to what their identity had been during qualifiers could be highlighted as one of the reasons behind their poor performance. With MAD, through drafting and execution, it seemed like they were unable to find a strategy that suited them at this tournament and in this meta.

This could be chalked up to the fact that they're young -- mid laner Marek "Humanoid" Brázda has the most professional experience and his first LEC season was last year -- or simply a bad meta read by MAD Lions. Nonetheless, SuperMassive had a much better understanding than MAD of how they wanted to play as a team and were the better, more cohesive team in this series.

LGD 3-0 Rainbow7

After their group stage results, it was looking like 2020 LGD Gaming were going to have the most disappointing worlds performance since 2015 LGD Gaming. While this LGD wasn't expected to do nearly as well (2015 LGD were the LPL summer champions and first seed at that worlds, where this LGD is fourth seed and qualified through regionals), they were expected to be a sure bet to qualify for the main event from play-ins.

Instead, LGD narrowly made it out of their group, and the only team they managed to beat was Japan's V3 Esports. Throughout the group stage, LGD looked out-of-sync and additionally moved away from some of the mid/jungle-centric compositions that helped them qualify for worlds at all.

A driving factor behind LGD's success Tuesday was their drafting. Despite some objectively worse drafts than Rainbow7, LGD stuck to what they knew they were comfortable with, prioritizing Han "Peanut" Wang-ho's Kindred in all three games, giving mid laner Su "xiye" Han-Wei his signature Twisted Fate when it was up. Peanut in turn showed a strong understanding of where to attack Rainbow7's drafts, ganking by Level 3 or earlier in all three games.

LGD support Ling "Mark" Xu credited successful scrims in between the group and bracket stage for helping the overall team mentality against Rainbow7 that led to the 3-0 sweep.

"I'm really happy about this game," he said. "It really brought our mood up."

Mark was also a key part of LGD's success. His engages on Leona and especially his Game 1 Rakan helped control LGD's teamfights in all three games. Where he and other initiators on LGD had looked uncoordinated in play-in groups, LGD generally looked to be on the same page against Rainbow7, even when taking a few disadvantageous teamfights.

LGD will take on Legacy Esports on Wednesday. The winner will advance to the main stage alongside Team Liquid, PSG Talon, and the winner of SuperMassive vs. Unicorns of Love.

Every game in a sentence

  • LGD Gaming 1, Rainbow7 0: Xiye leads the way on his signature Twisted Fate while Peanut's early proactivity pays off on Kindred, although LGD still look shaky in some mid-game team fights and setups.

  • LGD Gaming 2, Rainbow7 0: Targeting Aloned's Azir in mid lane pays off for Peanut, Xiye and LGD who take over without giving up a single drake.

  • LGD Gaming 3, Rainbow7 0: Rainbow7 are in a good situation after a rough start for Xiye, but LGD come back with crucial picks to sweep the series and move on to the next round.

  • SuperMassive Esports 1, MAD Lions 0: A teamfight around mid at about 18 minutes turns the game for MAD Lions after a strong SuperMassive early game, but this ultimately comes down to teamfight micro, especially after an amazing Alistar combo from Snowflower in a later teamfight.

  • MAD Lions 1, SuperMassive Esports 1: Shadow locks in the much-maligned Lillia but has a composition with frontline, healing and engage to make the most of her kit for a win.

  • SuperMassive Esports 2, MAD Lions 1: SuperMassive lock in the Lillia this time with another strong composition to put them on match point.

  • MAD Lions 2, SuperMassive Esports 2: Despite some early-to-mid-game fumbles, Humanoid's Cassiopeia takes over thanks to strong initiations from Kaiser's Alistar.

  • SuperMassive Esports 3, MAD Lions 2: SuperMassive take over this game early and despite some strong teamfights from Humanoid's Corki, MAD fall further and further behind and are eliminated from worlds.

Play-ins Day 6

The near-failure of LGD Gaming

Last year, while in Madrid, I wrote that a shadow followed my walk to Palacio Vistalegre where the 2019 League of Legends World Championship quarterfinals were held. On that day, the two remaining LoL Pro League lineups of FunPlus Phoenix and Invictus Gaming could have both been eliminated from playoff contention. I compared it to what South Korean fans must have felt in Busan in 2018: excitement that could be a harbinger of doom or a precursor to further pride and hope.

LPL fans likely felt this shadow on Wednesday, especially in Game 2 where LGD picked disadvantageous fights when they should have continued waiting for Su "xiye" Han-Wei's Kassadin to scale. Would 2020 LGD mirror and even surpass 2015 LGD in their failure at worlds? Would they join MAD Lions in being another major region team eliminated by a top team from a minor region?

That Kassadin still scaled, and LGD not only won that game but swept Legacy Esports to qualify for the worlds main event.

Perhaps the real heroes for LGD aren't on the team at all but are the members of Xiye's former squad, Team WE, who scrimmed with LGD prior to their bracket stage games.

If we're sticking with the 2015 analogue, LGD don't match to their own 2015 iteration (who were LPL champions at the time and first seed) as much as they do 2015 Invictus Gaming. In qualifying through the regional bracket, 2020 LGD barely made it through after what was arguably a hand-delivered sweep of iG (due to draft) in playoffs and two losses to Suning before another win over a shaky iG.

This year's LGD iteration has a specific style and focused draft priority (Graves/Kindred/Nidalee for Han "Peanut" Wang-ho) that they inexplicably went away from in a few of their play-in games while also playing over-aggressively and disrespectfully. This was remedied a bit in their two bracket stage sweeps of Rainbow7 and Legacy; however, it's worth noting that LGD still have obvious weaknesses. Got away with their overaggressive play in Game 2 thanks to a fortunate Baron teamfight where Xiye's Kassadin and bot laner Ha "Kramer" Jong-hun's Ezreal were able to deal as much damage as they wanted.

But now, LGD now enter main stage Group C with significantly tempered expectations from the community.

Unicorns qualify with sweep of SuperMassive

Going into groups, the Unicorns of Love were highlighted as a team to watch in their alongside LGD (who were erroneously assumed group victors). PSG Talon topped that group, and LGD also made it through as did UoL after an impressive sweep of SuperMassive Esports.

The most impressive part of UoL's win was their understanding of SuperMassive's playstyle -- even the mid Vayne was an obvious direct lane counter to Onur "Bolulu" Can Demirol's mid Sett, and a strong one at that -- and their flexibility. This is a team that not only understands how they want to play but, based on their drafting, studies their opponents' strengths and weaknesses as well.

Bot laner Ilya "Gadget" Makavchuk's deep champion pool is something that takes UoL from being simply a strong team to a dangerous one. His willingness to play non-traditional carries in the bot lane like Swain, Orianna and Ziggs alongside standard carries like Twitch and Ezreal gives UoL draft flexibility that few teams have.

Even in Group D with FlyQuest, Top Esports and DRX, the Unicorns have the chance to surprise.

Every game in a sentence

  • LGD Gaming 1, Legacy Esports 0: LGD use their strong solo laners in Renekton and Twisted Fate to spread the map early and the split pressure ultimately defeats Legacy's strong teamfighting composition.

  • LGD Gaming 2, Legacy Esports 0: Legacy benefit from LGD choosing to fight rather than scale, but Xiye's Kassadin and Kramer's Ezreal still take over the late game in a narrow victory.

  • LGD Gaming 3, Legacy Esports 0: Once again Xiye takes over the game on Twisted Fate, targeting Raes' Twitch for a 3-0 sweep.

  • Unicorns of Love 1, SuperMassive Esports 0: Despite tools to get onto the Twitch, UOL bot laner Ilya "Gadget" Makavchuk pops off and takes over the game.

  • Unicorns of Love 2, SuperMassive Esports 0: This is another pop-off game, but this time for Nomanz's Kassadin.

  • Unicorns of Love 3, SuperMassive Esports 0: Another Unicorns composition that showcases their flexibility and preparation, especially with Nomanz's mid lane Vayne into Bolulu's Sett.