By Jem Alexander.
The first week of the League of Legends World Championships 2014 has come to a dramatic conclusion, and has been a good tournament so far for both LoL fans, and anyone who enjoys expert e-sports and upsets. It's not easy to boil down four days of elite LoL play into six bullet points, but this way you get to watch the series' most thrilling moments, back-to-back. Get your videos and analysis right here.
During the first week two teams from each of groups A and B were eliminated from the competition. Those remaining will continue on to the quarterfinals next week. A second group stage will take place this week, which is the perfect place to start watching if you're late to the party. As expected, the quality of play has been top-notch, with some of the most exciting games of League I've ever seen.
If you only watch one game
This match between Taiwan's AHQ eSports Club (AHQ) and China's Edward Gaming (EDG) isn't the flashiest killfest we saw last week, but the back-and-forth flow made it one of the most entertaining games to watch. EDG looked set to win, seemingly focusing harder on downing turrets and bulldozing into AHQ's base with their siege team composition than getting kills in the field. No-one expected a set of fantastic team fights to go in AHQ's favour; clearly even EDG were taken off-guard. Especially when AHQ scored an ace and took the opportunity to waltz through EDG's front door and win the game. Bonus points for the crowd reaction—AHQ are on home turf in Taiwan—and some stunning Thresh plays by GreenTea.
Winning this game meant that AHQ and EDG would face off again later that day to decide a tiebreaker for second place. Sadly this underdog story has a tragic ending: EDG won the tiebreaker and secured their spot in the quarterfinals. Still, this match is a must-watch. Professional League of Legends at its finest.
Poor Dark Passage never knew what hit them. Which is understandable since this is a blink-and-you-miss-it play by Samsung White's AD Carry, Imp. It's only fitting that the first pentakill of Worlds 2014 was awarded in a match between currently best and worst teams of the competition. Korea's Samsung White (SSW) ended the week with a 6-0 win streak, while Turkey's Dark Passage (DP) didn't manage to win a single game. Which is pretty surprising, since DP blitzed through the Wild Card Tournament undefeated to secure their place at Worlds.
This pentakill marks the end of the game, as Dark Passage surrendered almost immediately. Understandable, since Samsung White were up fifteen kills to Dark Passage's zero before the 25 minute mark. A humiliating defeat, but one that perhaps they can learn from as they start up the long road to Worlds 2015. You never know.
Sneakiest bait and switch
This game between USA's Team Solo Mid (TSM) and Europe's SK Gaming (SKG) was pretty closely fought throughout. An early turret lead by SKG gave hope that they might be able to scrape through the competition with some dignity after a series of early defeats prevented them reaching the quarterfinals. However, after 48 minutes of closely contested play things start looking pretty grim for SKG, as TSM gets a foothold in their base and take an inhibitor. Which is when SKG pulls one of the most beautiful baits I've ever seen.
Leaving their base undefended, SKG lets TSM stroll in and start hitting their nexus turrets. It looks like the end for SKG, but they manage to catch the intruders in a pincer move and somehow split them off so they can take them out one by one. With TSM destroyed, SKG rush up the mid lane and batter their opponent's nexus to bits before they have a chance to respawn.
Samsung White's Imp is MVP
There have been some fantastic games full of excellent plays during Worlds 2014 already and it's pretty clear who the best player of the tournament is, so far at least. Samsung White's Imp is the team's AD Carry, a role which typically becomes very powerful later in the game (after having been carried by the team, hence the name). It's not surprising then that Seung-bin 'Imp' Gu currently sits at the top of the KDA rankings for the tournament, especially since he was the first player in Worlds 2014 to score a pentakill.
The video above is another great example of a big play executed flawlessly by Imp, as he confidently flashes into a risky position, kills his marks and then bounces back to safety with the help of Mata, his support. There have been many instances of Imp and Mata working together seamlessly already in the tournament and I can't wait to see more as the competition progresses.
It's not uncommon to see teams try and steal large objectives from right under the noses of their opponents. A last minute attack on dragon or Baron Nashor after the enemy team has whittled down its health will net your team the rewards without having to do any of the work. At the top-level LCS tier these plays are a dime a dozen, but this Baron theft is Worlds class.
It takes place in a match between Taiwan's Teipei Assassins (TPA) and Europe's SK Gaming (SKG). When SK Gaming engages the Baron (which grants a huge buff for the entire team when defeated), the Assassins initiate a team fight, almost killing SKG's tank. SKG seems to panic, disengaging from Baron Nashor and returning to base, which is where TPA appears to be headed. The Assassins circle round, taking the opportunity to defeat the now defenceless Baron and scoring the buff. Less than four minutes later, they win the match. Coincidence? (No.)
The 'picks and bans' phase so enticing and such a large part of professional League of Legends strategy. So what happens when, after a season of barely seeing Janna picked for play, she starts appearing in the majority of team comps in Worlds 2014? Disruption. Confusion. Great games of League of Legends.
Janna has become the flavour of the week for support players, thanks to her crowd control and healing abilities. Her Monsoon skill, as seen in the video above, is an incredible way of disengaging from a team fight while simultaneously healing your teammates. Seeing Janna picked and used so effectively is the biggest surprise of the tournament so far. What next? The return of jungle Rammus?
This week there will be a second group stage running from Thursday September 18 to Sunday September 21. Groups C and D include Cloud 9 from the USA and Fnatic from Europe. Both of whom were the only teams from their respective regions to make it past the group stages of Worlds 2013. With SK Gaming out of the picture, Europe's hopes now lie with Fnatic and Alliance. Both very strong in the EU LCS, but can they succeed on the world stage? It looks like we've got another stellar week of League of Legends to look forward to.