The League of Legends [official site] World Championships has emerged from its group stage cocoon and eight beautiful quarter final butterflies have flapped their way to Wembley Arena. I'll be heading down there later today to watch the MOBA action unfold, chat to players and count the Teemo hats in the audience. But before I do, here's a smidge of info if you were thinking of tuning in yourselves (we also have a useful primer here)!
Day 1 is Flash Wolves vs Origen and kicks off at 5pm BST:
Flash Wolves are a Taiwanese team who, it's fair to say, had an up-and-down group stage performance. The first round of groups involved losing two of their three matches whereas the second had the Wolves re-evaluating their strategy and proving victorious in all their games. Keeping an eye on Twitter it seemed like a number of people were surprised at Flash Wolves' success but, as their support player Shuo-Chieh "SwordArt" Hu confirmed:
"We have very close proximity to China and Korea, so we can play against the Korean and Chinese teams. We've had good success against them in scrims -- the LMS [league] has certainly helped all of us get better."
Which helps explain why the Wolves were able to keep Korean side, KOO Tigers at bay even when they initially fell to North America's CLG and Brazil's paiN Gaming. They're not exactly underdogs, but they're a team who people seem to forget are world class.
Origen hail from the European LCS. They formed in 2014 around well-known ex-Fnatic player xPeke and clambered from the Challenger series to Worlds qualification over the course of a single year's LoL. So they're a massive success story, and yet it wasn't until this point that they feel like they've really emerged from the shadow of the current Fnatic lineup.
Fnatic had an unbeaten summer split – 18 wins and zero losses. It looked like Origen might be the team to finally stop their streak as they managed to force the match to a full best-of-five in the finals, beating their rivals twice but they couldn't quite clinch that third win and thus had to settle for being the second seed from Europe.
Something I find really interesting about Origen is that they pass the role of shotcaller around. Often there's a dedicated shotcaller who calls targets and objectives while the game is played. It helps direct the team and keep them from splitting their focus and missing kills or opportunities. Having the shotcaller responsibilities spread out isn't unheard of but, thanks to communications improvements since the summer playoffs, it now shows off one of Origen's great resources: veteran instinct (xPeke and SoaZ, for example, each have half a decade of pro LoL under their belts).
According to Origen's support player, Alfonso "Mithy" Aguirre Rodriguez, their teamfights are actually really quiet affairs: "In [our] team fights, no one really talks. It’s actually really weird, because I hear other teams in team fights but I, for example, I’m really focused. I can’t talk. At the point where we are now, the game sense is really high." By that he means that instead of giving moment by moment warnings or countdowns the team has a rough idea of what's going to happen and then goes on experience and instinct to deal with how it plays out in reality.
So what about tonight?
In terms of this evening's match-up, I know Flash Wolves said they preferred to go against an Asian team because of the aforementioned ability to practice against those teams more easily but then they've proven to be able to adapt and learn when they hit obstacles – just look at the difference in results from the first week of groups to the second. In a best-of-five adaptability and the ability not to get thrown off by a defeat are invaluable. I don't follow the LMS and missed most of their groups matches beyond recaps and interviews because of work schedules so I can't offer a more personal insight. If you're rooting for the Wolves I'd really love to know what's attracted you.
For Origen a win would be another step towards a Challenger-Series-to-World-Champions fairy story. I have a real soft spot for Origen that's partly a hangover from my affection for the older Fnatic lineup - Origen taps SoaZ and xPeke's talent while Fnatic has YellOwStaR and Rekkles - and partly because of their story and skill. I like that they're coming into their own and going further than they thought possible.