LoL 2015 World Championship: get ready for the group stage

Worlds header

The 2015 World Championship will be played in two stages. The preliminary stage splits the 16 qualified teams into four groups of four teams. Each team will go through a double best-of-one round robin, playing each other team within their group twice. The top two teams of each group (determined, if necessary, after tiebreakers) then advance into a single-elimination Bracket Stage, progressing only if they can take out their opponents in a best-of-five series of games. Win three best-of-fives in a row, and the team is officially crowned the victors of the 2015 World Championship, taking home a cool $1 million for an entire month's worth of hard labor.

This year's World Championship is notable for its tour throughout the European countryside, much like last year's was a trip around the coastlines of the eastern hemisphere. The Group Stage will be conducted from October 1st through 11th at Dock Pullman just north of Paris, France. The revelries then cross the English Channel for the Quarterfinals at Wembley Arena in London, from October 15-18, then back across to Belgium for the semifinals on October 24-25 at the Brussels Expo. Finally, the last two surviving teams face off for one last duel by the river Spree as the championship descends upon Berlin, Germany on October 31st.

Riot Games will be hosting a multitude of streams to cover the event, covering a wide range of international languages. All streams will be hosted on, and Youtube, along with further information about the event and its participants at their LoL esports coverage site.

The group stage drawing concluded to much fanfare, excitement, and—if you're a fan of a certain popular North American team—much gnashing of teeth. In contrast with previous years, the group placements were done via live broadcast for greater transparency, ducking questions of rigged placements for most observers, not that mutterings of favoritism didn't happen anyhow.

That's just how the system's intended to work, though. Even as the World Championship's format no longer has preferential playoff seeds for a region's first place team, earning that coveted spot does mean avoiding every other region's best teams until after groups. As, historically, the Chinese and Korean teams have been the odds-on favorites to win it all, such a system naturally favors the European and American top dogs—with a few caveats. In prior years, Korea and China's second-place teams were still largely good enough to be favorites in their respective groups as well, and having both... well, they call it a "group of death" for a reason.

Luckily, the opposite is true too. Thanks to the seeding system, and a bit of luck, some teams are the beneficiaries of favorable group stage conditions, opening up opportunities for advancement (and the chance to study and find weaknesses in the top teams) that otherwise didn't exist. Between the four groups, four distinct narratives have emerged.

Worlds Groups

Group A – Group of Life

Counter Logic Gaming

Counter Logic Gaming

Members: ZionSpartan, Huhi, Pobelter, Doublelift, Aphromoo
Origin: North America
Notable Champions: Alistar, Vayne, Orianna
Double act: Doublelift and Aphromoo

Unfortunately, it wouldn't be CLG if there wasn't last-minute drama. Starting jungler Jake "Xmithie" Puchero is likely unable to attend, thanks to visa issues linked to his Philippines citizenship, and former Fusion midlaner Huhi takes his place on the official Worlds roster. How that affects their chances is yet unknown—Huhi hasn't played pro-level jungle since at least before September 2014—but the rest of their lineup is arguably the best in their group.

Both Pobelter and ZionSpartan's high degree of technical competence were crucial factors in CLG's turnaround back in North America, while the trash-talking, joke-slinging Rush Hour duo of Doublelift and Aphromoo were always in contention for the best of their respective roles in the NA LCS.

Flash Wolves

Flash Wolves

Members: Steak, Karsa, Maple, NL, Swordart
Origin: Taiwan
Notable Champions: Maokai, Lee Sin, Azir
Pop idol: Karsa

This isn't the Flash Wolves' first time on the world stage, as four-fifths of its players were the 2013 representatives as the Gamania Bears. Of course, back then, they only got to play a grand total of two games: as Southeast Asia's #1 seed under the old format, they were locked in for playoffs... but ran right into SKT T1 at the height of Faker and Piglet's power, during the best-of-three quarterfinals. The legendarily powerful SKT T1 team of that year was an insurmountable obstacle for what was then a rookie team of an under-supported region.

Well, the LMS isn't exactly the richest of the premier regions (quite the opposite, to the regular lamentation of its organizations and casters), but the Flash Wolves have gotten extremely familiar with the taste of victory. Though their performance this year wasn't on the same level as fellow LMSers ahq E-Sports Club, it was enough to take down SK Gaming during the European team's prime back in spring, and jungler Karsa's considered the absolute best of his role in the group among those familiar with his play. He's aggressive, ballsy, and eerily reminiscent of former Gamania Bears jungler Winds—considered the absolute best Taiwanese jungler before his retirement earlier this year. This time, the Wolves want more than two games. They want something they can chew on.

KOO Tigers

KOO Tigers

Members: Smeb, Hojin, KurO, PraY, Gorilla
Origin: South Korea
Notable Champions: Malphite, Viktor, Braum
Best team uniform: Pink cat ears and vests

On one hand, they were clearly the team to beat back in the spring split of Champions Korea. On the other hand, the KOO Tigers were also the first Korean team since 2013 to fail to outright win an international tournament they attended. Usually, the #1 team of the single most dominant region in esports is expected to sweep by lesser mortals like a force of nature—but these tigers seem to bleed awfully readily. In fact, of the three Korean teams, they had the worst overall performance during the summer split, and haven't shown any glimmers of their earlier spring success.

If the Tigers go down to CLG... well, it won't be the first time that a Korean team has lost to the American organization (CLG once competed in Korea, during the earliest days of the Champions circuit). But it'll certainly be of symbolic importance on either end of the Pacific. Losing to "foreign" teams once can be a fluke, but twice—and on the world stage—will trigger some desperate soul-searching.

PaiN Gaming

PaiN Gaming

Members: Mylon, SirT, Kami, brTT, Dioud
Origin: Brazil
Notable Champions: Gnar, Rek'sai, Draven
Most likely to grow a Draven mustache: brTT

To Brazil's credit, they've done better than any other wildcard region in taking advantage of their relative obscurity. Fellow Brazilians Kabum! Gaming shocked the world last year by taking a game from European powerhouse team Alliance, knocking them out of the runnings for playoffs... and, indirectly, killing the team itself. Alliance was rebranded to Elements, cast off the dead weight in the roster, and never again reached its former peak.

PaiN isn't Kabum. PaiN's probably a lot better. With another year under CBLoL's belt, the Brazilian esports scene has rapidly developed—still short of the expected level of a top-tier LCS team, but dominant enough to sweep through the second International Wild Card Qualifiers with nary a quantum of resistance from the other hopefuls. But there's only so many hours in a day, only so many analysts in a team, and the other three in Group A are going to be busy studying each other. Brazil might yet again be in position to author a dramatic upset in an otherwise low-profile group.

On the next page: Group B – Three-Way Standoff!

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