Group B – Three-Way Standoff
Members: Huni, Reignover, Febiven, Rekkles, Yellowstar
Notable Champions: Leona, Elise, Alistar
Never missed a single World Championship: Yellowstar
Fnatic inspires fanatics, and it's certainly understandable why. An undefeated summer split, a crowd-pleasing set of personalities, and a brush with immortality back in the Mid-Season Invitational gives their fans plenty to cheer for. Febiven joined an incredibly short list of players to have won his lane vs SKT T1 Faker back in Florida, and the team's only gotten stronger since after re-acquiring their old AD carry Rekkles from a failed stint with Alliance—a promising set of circumstances.
But it isn't a sure thing for them. Though they dominated Europe, some of the region's bad habits have affected their play as well, demonstrated by a weak early game during the European summer playoffs and a reliance on recovering late through extended laning phases and slow-roll strategies. Ahq, meanwhile, scrimmed heavily with China's laneswap and early game experts—and Invictus Gaming is a Chinese team with strong early game and tempo strategies.
Ahq E-Sports Club
Members: Ziv, Mountain, Westdoor, AN, Albis
Notable Champions: Fizz, Ryze, Thresh
Permanently banned: Westdoor's Fizz
Taiwan's finally gotten its first team since 2012 that's worth a damn on the international stage. An ebullient performance back at Florida's cemented ahq's reputation as a legitimate international-caliber threat, and local dominance equal to Fnatic's record in Europe only further demonstrates it. They've practiced long and hard against teams across the Taiwan Strait too—even as the LMS is generally the poorest of the Eastern Hemisphere circuits, with scant sponsorship support and smaller fanbase, their close relations with the greater Asiatic sphere of play's allowed them to crib notes from the world's best.
The result: an incredibly well-balanced team of multi-layered threats. Back in mid-spring, ahq was a one-dimensional threat, entirely reliant on Westdoor finding opportunities (and surviving the pick-ban phase) to carry the game. Now, Ziv and AN alike have outright slaughtered the opposition on their team's behalf, making it far more difficult to isolate and exploit the team's overall strategy. The secret to their success: former support Shang-Ching "GreenTea" Tsai stepped down earlier this year to fulfill their analyst vacancy, proving once and for all that the difference between solo queue stars and a legitimate Worlds contender is the glue you use to turn players into a team.
Members: Zzitai, KaKAO, RooKie, Kid, Kitties
Notable Champions: Lulu, Gragas, Maokai
World's Biggest Troll: KaKAO
It is incredibly hard to predict what Invictus Gaming will do from one moment to the next—both in-game and out. They were not wholly expected to be here: Qiao Gu Reapers were the favorites after EDG to make it through the China regionals, and it was common to joke that KaKAO was treating his stint in China as an extremely well-paid retirement from "tryhard" esports like those back in South Korea. Even if that were true, maybe he felt that not attending Worlds at least once in his career would be a shame—and so the man once considered the single most entertaining jungler in all of League of Legends has finally made it to the game’s highest stage.
But can the rest of the team catch up? Invictus Gaming's mercurial habits transcend roster changes and Korean imports—if anything, KaKAO only exacerbates it, as the KT Arrows were similarly prone to inexplicable wipeouts, back when he last played in Korea. While the raw talent of the roster is unmistakable, fusing it into a coherent plan of attack's proven troublesome for one of China's oldest competing organizations.
Members: Balls, Hai, Incarnati0n, Sneaky, Lemonnation
Origin: North America
Notable Champions: Rumble, Zed, Vayne
Least likely to tilt: Hai
Frankly, Cloud 9's probably just glad that they made it this far. Though they were once the undisputed best team in North America, increasing competitive rigor and health issues sidetracked them badly in 2014-2015, culminating with the dual retirement of jungler Meteos and mid laner Hai. Though Hai's back on the roster, it was an emergency decision—the absence of his leadership was sorely felt by the team as they found themselves sliding towards relegations, and he was pulled out of retirement to patch that gap. While European mid laner Incarnati0n was definitely a mechanical upgrade over Hai, the rookie ace didn't offer the tactical and strategic assets that the former and current team captain did.
With Hai back, the team pulled multiple miracles out of thin air over the course of the North American regionals. But the intensity of their multiple best-of-five sets also serve to highlight the team's weaknesses. There is no doubt that Cloud 9 is by far the most clutch of the North American representatives, winning back-to-back rounds during the North American regionals despite starting with 0-2 deficits—but Fnatic, ahq and IG are all even more cutthroat than the rivals back home.