By Jem Alexander.
The League of Legends World Championship continues to impress this week with some stellar games. Eight hard-working teams fought to proceed in the competition, but sadly only four could continue to the quarterfinals. Let's take a look at the most spectacular moments of week two, featuring two of the most enjoyable games of League of Legends I've ever seen.
If you're not caught up, check out our highlights of week one's group A and B matches for the story so far.
If you only watch one game
Picking just one game for this category wasn’t easy, but in the end this mammoth match between Europe’s Fnatic and China’s OMG had to take the spotlight. The death knell for Fnatic‘s tournament dreams and an emotional rollercoaster for everyone involved, this 71 minute long marathon is tense from beginning to end.
Things take a serious turn at around the 60 minute mark, when OMG’s Nexus turrets are destroyed by minions. OMG fights back by assaulting Fnatic’s base head on, but a great 1v5 play by mid-laner xPeke sends them packing while top-laner sOAZ teleports into OMG’s towerless base, and it looks like it might finally all be over.
Then, heartbreak for Fnatic, as their attack on OMG’s Nexus leaves it with the tiniest sliver of health before the team gets beaten back. All it would have taken is one last hit and the game would have belonged to Fnatic, but OMG soon crowned themselves the victors with a final push against their opponent’s Nexus. Never before have two pixels meant so much to so many.
Despite a humiliatingly close defeat at the hands of OMG earlier in the day, Fnatic didn’t allow it to affect their performance. Their next game against America’s LMQ was impeccably played, with Fnatic’s ADC Rekkles at the top of his game. Between him and mid-laner xPeke the team ended the match with 26 kills versus LMQ’s 8.
Five of Fnatic’s kills came from the second penta kill of the World Championships, with Rekkles’ team mates setting up kills for him during a late game team fight. Rekkles ended the game with 18 kills, zero deaths and 4 assists, raising hopes of a Fnatic comeback leading to a quarterfinals spot. Sadly, it wasn’t to be, but that doesn’t negate the fact that this is the biggest play of Groups C & D of the World Championships.
The perfect game
Europe’s Alliance may be out of the competition, but that isn’t to say that they aren’t an incredibly skilled team. The calibre of play shown during this week’s group stages has been wonderful, and Alliance more than demonstrated their abilities during this match against Korea’s Najin White Shield.
Watch as Alliance pulls out a super-rare perfect game. That is to say that during the 40-minute match, Najin White Shield weren’t able to score a single kill, tower, dragon or baron. Alliance waltzed through the game completely untouchable, scoring the first win in the competition against the Korean team. It’s a sight to behold and certainly not something I'm expecting to see again in the run up to the finals.
Surprises aplenty this week, but none more shocking than Brazil’s Kabum taking a victory over Europe’s Alliance on the final day. Much like Group A’s wildcard entry, Turkey’s Dark Passage, Kabum battled valiantly but seemed unlikely to collect any wins against the bigger boys from Korea, Europe and America. Many viewed their upcoming match against Alliance as a definite loss on a day when every win counted, but Kabum managed to pull off a surprise victory and score one for the underdogs.
This was especially shocking as Alliance came fresh from winning their perfect game against Korea’s Najin White Shield. Perhaps complacency got the better of them. Whatever it was, Kabum’s win caused quite an upset in the standings and ultimately led to the removal of Alliance from the competition. Kabum’s impact on the standings ended up being huge.
Equally surprising was Fnatic’s first match against Korean powerhouse Samsung Blue. After Samsung White’s perfect record last week, it seemed like their Blue cousins would sail through with similar results. They almost did, but Fnatic were able to score a win. So far they remain the only ones able to do so.
Bonus fun: We called it. The return of jungle Rammus! Alliance’s Shook brought back the roly-poly armadillo for one last fight in a match against Cloud 9. Could this spark some Rammus copycats in the quarterfinals and beyond? Probably not, to be honest, but we can dream.
The ace that shook the standings
America’s Cloud 9 came into the last day of Groups with the daunting prospect of having to defeat two worthy opponents in order to secure their quarterfinals spot. The standings were such that there was a very real possibility of a three-way tie for first place. Luckily for Cloud 9, Europe’s Alliance unexpectedly lost to Brazil’s Kabum, making Cloud 9’s path to finals that little bit smoother.
Their match against Korea’s Najin White Shield was guaranteed to result in an additional tiebreaker game at the end of the day. A win here meant C9 and NWS would later battle for first place, while a loss would lead to a tiebreaker against Alliance to secure second place. Which just goes to show how closely matched the teams have been this week.
Najin White Shield had Cloud 9 on the ropes for a lot of the early game, but the American team managed to fight back and demonstrate the wonderful team synergy they’re known for. A skillfully fought team fight resulted in an ace that allowed C9 to walk into NWS’s base and take the game. Meanwhile, Alliance watched backstage as their hopes for a quarterfinal spot crumbled around them.
Samsung Blue’s Spirit is MVP
My MVP is a member of the almost-undefeated Korean team Samsung Blue. Jungler Spirit has the highest KDA of groups C & D and has a consistency across his games that almost makes him unremarkable compared to the likes of Rekkles, xPeke and Shook. The high highs of those players are counterbalanced by their low lows, which may help to explain why they have all now left the competition.
But KDA isn’t everything and it’s Spirit’s (ahem) spirit after Samsung Blue’s defeat against Fnatic that really won me over. “I’ll never let you cry again”, he said to a tearful Deft after the match. “Just follow me”. Such camaraderie is endearing. So too is Rekkles’ decision to approach Deft with a hug and words of encouragement. League of Legends may have the cuddliest professional scene on the planet. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
This week we move into the quarterfinals, with one best-of-five match taking place per day between Friday and Monday. The brackets have been decided, with American teams Team Solo Mid and Cloud 9 each facing off against one of the Korean giants Samsung White and Blue. Next up is a Chinese showdown, with Star Horn Royal Club taking on Edward Gaming, before Korea’s Najin White Shield goes head to head with China’s OMG.
These matches won’t just be a test of skill, but one of endurance as each day is likely to take upwards of five hours. That’s a lot of quality League of Legends to look forward to.