It's been a year and $5 million in the making, but League of Legends' massive Season Two championship tournament is finally here. Twelve teams qualified in six regions around the world to earn a trip to Los Angeles, California to duke it out on Summoner's Rift for $2 million.
Anyone who's even half-interested in esports is going to be watching this as it plays out Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and next Saturday (when the finals take place), but you may not have a team to root for yet. Here's a quick rundown on every team playing and why you might want to side with them.
These teams all took first place in their regional qualifiers and were given a free pass into the quarter finals. These are some of the very best LoL teams in the world right now. If you want to maximize your chances of rooting for the winning team, start here.
This Russian team exploded out of nowhere in early 2012, taking a sudden string of first-place results in European tournaments. They've never finished lower than third place in a tournament, and they only dipped to bronze once. Their matchups have lead to a minor rivalry with CLG.EU.
Excitement factor: Fans exploded when they went 15-0 in kills in their second match against Curse EU in the ECC: Poland tournament.
More than just an awesome logo, the Assassins were the first professional LoL team in Taiwan. They've fought their way through 100+ team tournaments to take first place at least two times, and were considered untouchable in the Southeast Asian league for awhile. Their aggressive style aims to keep their opponent off balance until they can dominate late game, which has faired well against NA and EU opponents.
Excitement factor: Watching them collapse on a target with perfect combos of abilities and items in teamfights is a spiritual experience.
If you know anything about LoL esports, you know Team SoloMid. One of the oldest and easily the most popular team in North America, TSM is characterized by strong personalities, an outspoken fanbase, and an absurdly good win record. They took first place in every tournament they played in this year except for two, where they took second place. Their AP carry, Reginald, is one of the most exciting players in the world.
Excitement factor: The crowd chants "TSM! TSM! TSM!" every time they do something good. If you want camaraderie, this is the one.
Team World Elite doesn't have the proven record of TSM or the anecdotal dominance of Moscow Five, but they're the best team in China and that's nothing to scoff at. They've struggled in international tournaments, but two recent roster changes—swapping out their jungler and support players—could allow them to surprise their opponents with new lineups.
Excitement factor: Remember when banning Twisted Fate was considered a hard and fast rule? It's all because of Team WE's AP Carry, Misaya. If he can get even one match with him, it'll be very fun to watch.
Only four teams got a bye into the quarter finals, but there were five major regional champions. Riot conducted a random drawing to determine which one of the five first-place qualifying teams would need to fight its way through the qualifying rounds this weekend. Azubu Frost is that unlucky champion.
Like their fellow Korean team Sword, Frost has only competed in a few tournaments, due to LoL launching in that country less than a year ago. Frost started strong, but quickly suffered defeats that led to roster changes that seemed to worsen their problems, eventually losing to their practice squad team. But they've done better in recent matches and have built some positive momentum leading into this tournament.
Excitement factor: Focusing on individual skill first and foremost means we should see some very impressive shots and game-changing plays.
These are the top-notch teams that didn't quite snag a gold medal in their regions. Many of these could be (and no doubt have been) argued to be the best team in their region that just had an unlucky day at the regional qualifiers.
SK always felt like the most professional team to me. They've been around since the beginning, are managed by a multi-game esports company, and make roster changes regularly and without the emotional attachment that say, a two-brother startup like TSM has. They've taken first place, but more often tend to float between second and fourth.
Excitement factor: Their 2-0 victory over the heavily favored CLG.EU in the EU regional tournament sparked a lot of energy among fans. Can they repeat the surprise when they play CLG Prime this morning?
Intel, Alienware, Antec, Creative, Western Digital, and TwitchTV all sponsor Dignitas. That isn't a guarantee of success, but it's definitely an indicator. Dignitas is the most confusing team for me. They always seem to catch opponents by surprise, but their success fluctuates sporadically. They're going to need consistency to make it out of the pack today.
Excitement factor: Dignitas was one of the two teams punished for supposedly colluding to split the prize pool in the MLG Summer Regionals. They denied the accusation and are playing with a chip on their shoulder.
NaJin Sword played in their first tournament one month ago. They came out of nowhere to win the Korean regional qualifiers. With only two tournaments under their belts, Sword's entire roster is filled with unknowns, with one exception: their AP carry, MakNooN.
Excitement factor: MakNooN is known for making brash, emotional, and sometimes flat-out stupid decisions in-game. But NaJin's Sword's success has come from their entire team following MakNooN's lead, no matter how absurd it seems at the time. Expect the unexpected.
Many LoL fans have never seen Invictus play. While TSM's players livestream practically every day, Invictus practices on their own and rarely travels to international tournaments. When they have stepped outside their borders, they've seen mixed success, but their unconventional lineups and tactics often catch their opponents off-guard.
Excitement factor: In a tournament like this, where familiar teams know each other's strategies, being the unknown can be a big advantage.
These three teams squeaked into the championship with the lowest ranked position allowed from their region. They're not doomed, but they're looking for a comeback.
Old-school LoL players will instantly recognize HotshotGG, the founder the CLG and one of the most influential and dominant players early in LoL's history. This is one of the most experienced LoL teams in the tournament, and its players are unlikely to let pre-game jitters or rookie travel mistakes negatively affect their performance. They haven't taken first place in a tournament since 2011, so their fighting against the odds in this one.
Excitement factor: As of July, the team's CEO is HotShotGG's mom and she goes by the moniker RealMomGG.
Despite their poor placement at the EU regional qualifiers, CLG.EU remains one of the favorites to win the Season Two tournament. They're a very strong team that's never finished below third place in a tournament and has won over half they've entered. Their playstyles and champion picks have influenced LoL's metagame and are always exciting to watch.
Excitement factor: CLG.EU has beaten Moscow Five in the past, and they have to be eager to get revenge against them in Los Angeles after losing to them in the regional qualifiers.
If you're looking for the highest odds in Vegas for this tournament, put your money on the Saigon Jokers. I haven't seen a single person argue that they can win it, but that just sets this team up for a Rudy-like comeback that inspires a motivational Disney movie. They fought hard to win their regional qualifiers after getting knocked into the loser's bracket, and that tenacity is exactly what they'll need to survive the brutal culling in the first round.
Excitement factor: They've never won a match against their rivals, the Taipei Assassins. If they make it to day two, it could get very emotional.
If you want to know more about the teams, ggChronicle has put together some very in-depth previews of each competitor in this weekend's tournament.
League of Legends is free to play, so if you get inspired by watching the tournament this weekend, you can always jump over to Riot's site and download the game for free .
Josh Augustine spends more time playing MMOs and MOBAs than most people spend sleeping. He's written about them for PC Gamer as an intern, editor, and freelancer. He's currently a game designer at Sony Online Entertainment and would love to talk with you on Twitter .