The semi-finalists for League of Legends' 2016 World Championships have been determined thanks to a long weekend of Chicago-based MOBA-ing for the quarterfinals. But did the wildcards make it through? Are Europe and North America still in with a shot at the title? Did anyone manage to elbow SKT aside on their way to the Summoner's Cup? I'll let you know who got through after the jump so, y'know, spoilers ahead!
My weekend was essentially a balancing act involving finding odd moments to watch the matches I couldn't keep my eyes open for the night before. I hadn't realised how grateful I was for last year's entire thing being on EU timezones but now I'm hoping that drooping into my espresso at 2am is an official part of the current meta because, friends, I have got that bit DOWN!
Anyhoodle! Here are the semi-finalist who will be heading to New York's Madison Square Garden with hopes of continuing on in the competition:
From Korea's LCK we've got ROX Tigers, Samsung Galaxy and reigning world champions, SK Telecom T1. The single non-Korean team taking up the remaining spot is... *drumroll* Europe's H2K.
The matchups will be as follows:
21 Oct - ROX Tigers vs SKT
22 Oct - Samsung Galaxy vs H2K
Essentially, there will be at least one Korean team in the final, meanwhile Europe's side will be hoping they can do better than last year's representatives, Origen and Fnatic. Both made it to the semis, both made it no further. I mean, it kind of feels like we're just holding the Autumn Split LCK finals and H2K are maybe there on some kind of esports exchange program.
If you're curious about how the weekend's action unfolded the games were approximately as follows:
Cloud9 vs Samsung Galaxy (0-3)
Cloud9's annihilation at the hands of Samsung reminded me of this part of Eliot's Prufrock poem:
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?
SKT vs Royal Never Give Up (3-1)
This one had a very familiar flavour to it - the match results perfectly replicate what happened when RNG faced SKT at the Mid-Season Invitational earlier thie year.
Thing is, you sometimes get a team taking a game off SKT because they're a truly great squad but they're definitely not infallible. Obviously if it was a best-of-one that would be all you needed, but in a best-of-five SKT have this irritating ability to learn from their mistakes and exploit yours. Their trademark style is often referred to as this inexorable strangling of their opponents as a kind of esports boa constrictor.
RNG on the other hand seem to have this ability to pull off amazing games, then submit fall-apart performances. I went to bed after game 2 because it felt like sleep might be nicer than watching SKT pull RNG apart then checked in the next day to see whether I'd been right about the trajectory of the matches.
ROX Tigers vs Edward Gaming (3-1)
Edward Gaming were going into this one looking slightly the weaker of the two sides, and that was before their top-laner, Mouse, withdrew from the competition following a family emergency. The series wasn't a complete stomp as Edward managed to claw a victory away from the Tigers in game three despite a trouncing in the first two of the set.
They couldn't build the momentum from that single win, though - certainly not the momentum required for a reverse sweep - and ROX just sort of trod on EDG until they made a crunchy squeaking noise and fell out of the competition.
Sidenote: You know how much I bang on about how SKT are not invincible but their mythos gets into other teams' heads? There was a quote on the official Riot site from ROX Tigers' top laner Smeb about their now-upcoming match versus SKT saying:
"Our mindset facing SKT is definitely different from last year. The evaluations of SKT last year was that they were enormously strong and would probably win Worlds without a single loss. The evaluation about ROX was we were comparatively a lot weaker than SKT and that actually affected our mindset. We built SKT up in our heads into a monster."
H2K vs Albus Nox Luna (3-0)
Despite the excitement surrounding the achievements of the wildcard team so far, this turned out to be a 3-0 sweep for the European side. It didn't feel particularly exceptional in terms of the win, just a team outplaying another and not needing to tip their hand or be particularly stretched while doing so.
I'm really glad ANX made it this far, though. They put in some really fun-to-watch performances in the group stage, as well as offering up some upsets. Sometimes League can really feel like you know the rough shape of an event before it starts. There's the capacity for unexpected wins, but there are also now-familiar narratives which you can trace out in a way that I feel less in other areas of competitive gaming. When the events follow that predicted course it's interesting on a "why is this happening" level but as a spectator I find it can really nibble away at the excitement.
Something worth noting with regard to H2K as we look towards their semifinal matchup against Samsung is that H2K came from the only group without a Korean team to butt heads with and made it through the only quarterfinal without a Korean side competing. I'm also eyeing the fact they didn't really seem to need to exert themselves this weekend with concern. I mean, when that happens you're not getting that same level of practice as you might want, facing off against Samsung.
And now we stand for the League of Legends anthem: