One week into the World Championship was all it took to flip bracket predictions upside down. On one hand, EDward Gaming has floundered in Group A as its first seed, and as G2 Esports struggles to find footing in Group C. On the other hand, Longzhu Gaming, SK Telecom T1 and Royal Never Give Up have checked in as potential favorites for the world crown.
On a regional standpoint, none of them have been silent, and they all have a role to play in the greater picture, whether as spoilers, as endangered squads, or as favorites. As such, objectives vary.
South Korea (8W-1L): Assert Dominance
The Korean representatives have, to the exception of Samsung Galaxy, dominated their groups in Week One. For two of them, the outcome is barely surprising; SK Telecom T1 resisted China's EDward Gaming on route to a 3-0 to cap off the week, and Longzhu Gaming shrugged off its competition in Group B to the same tune.
For these two teams, the name of the game is asserting dominance in their groups with the same assertiveness in macro play that has allowed them to stand tall. The 2016 League of Legends World Championship runner-up squad, Samsung Galaxy, has found itself needing to follow the trend of SKT and Longzhu over 1907 Fenerbahce and G2 Esports, and the latter may not be as shy on the rift following its close loss against China's Royal Never Give Up. However, should Samsung is still a strong pick to head to the quarterfinals.
Fun Note: Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok (9/7/21 KDA; 4.3 Kill-Death-Assist Ratio) has been a frequent target for opponents that have sought to neutralize him instead of AD carry Bae "Bang" Jun-sik (14/1/12 KDA), and it has proved extremely inefficient. Faker's impact with a 90.9% Kill Participation Ratio is the highest among AD carries, mid laners and top laners.
North America (6W-3L): Carry Momentum
By now the North American audience may have learned a thing or two about not jumping the gun. After strong showings across the board in 2015, the region had suffered a cataclysmic disaster in a 0W-10L showing on Week Two. Even Cloud9, who had dominated its group at the time, missed the quarterfinals. However, the 2017 World Championship provides not one, not two, but three reasons for North American fans to be enthusiastic about their region.
Immortals (2W-1L in Group B) is the safest bet to qualify considering its ability to bounce back from mistakes against foes not named Longzhu. Moving forward, better vision control at crucial stages of the game (especially when Baron Nashor is involved) and less insanity in level one jungle invasions against unpredictable opponents may help the team secure its first bracket stage appearance in its first World Championship ever -- a momentous feat overall.
For Team SoloMid (2W-1L in Group D), the feat would not be as momentous. TSM has been there and done that, and it holds its fate in its hands following strong performances across the board. Should Kevin "Hauntzer" Yarnell keep finding engages, should the backline remain protected from flanks, and should the team lend more aid to Dennis "Svenskeren" Johnsen's warding forays in the early game, the team can realistically claim a qualifying spot in Group D.
In the meantime, Cloud9 (2W-1L in Group A) has carved a spot for itself in its first week as it usually does, as its overall record during the first weeks of play in the all of its World Championships is a baffling 7W-2L. However, if the past is any indication, the team tends to falter during the second week (1W-6L overall, with a 0W-4L contribution to North America's 0W-10L Week Two in 2015). Nicolaj "Jensen" Jensen and his teammates may secure their spot with a victory against Ahq e-Sports Club, unless EDward Gaming performs a 3W-0L run (which includes beating SK Telecom T1).
China (5W-4L): Save Face for EDG
Speaking of which, the story of Week One for China has been of conflictual feelings. On one hand, Royal Never Give Up and Team WE are in prime position to secure a playoff spot in front of the home crowd. On the other hand, EDward Gaming has seemingly collapsed.
Unless EDG somehow performs a reverse 2015 Cloud9 (in going 3W-0L in Week Two and winning eventual tiebreakers) in Cloud9's group no less, Chinese fans may remember how brilliant EDG could have been, save for lapses of focus that proved its undoing against Ahq and, more concerningly, SK Telecom T1, against which they held a 10,000 gold lead in the mid game, until a now infamous teamfight where all hope seemed to collapse. If that was not enough, Cloud9's targeting of EDG's mid lane proved brutal and is a matter worth fixing on the short term.
Should RNG and WE ride the momentum they had built in Week One, there may be at least two Chinese teams in the playoffs. As long as WE controls team fights adequately (or at least better than against TSM in Week One), and as long as Royal Never Give Up has sharp target priority as it had in Week One and Jian "Uzi" Zi-Hao on a long-range hyper carry, China's place in top 8 is all but assured.
Europe (3W-6L): Make it Somehow, Some Way
From the outside, Europe's chances at a solid World Championship appearance relies more on Misfits's (2W-1L in Group D) second week performance than anything else. The unexpected #2 European seed had been ramping up, going from a dismal showing against Team WE to an assertive team-fighting team against Team SoloMid. The players' tendency to default to fundamentals helps tremendously in compensating for their inconsistent execution, and the team could become a legitimate threat should they refine their micro.
One thing is certain: it would take a miracle for Fnatic (0W-3L in Group B) to qualify to the bracket stage. Had the team won against Immortals, the group would have been wide open for second place. Instead, the team's hopes hinge on performing a 2W-1L feat (with a loss against Longzhu) and hope that the other teams cannot somehow beat the Korean team. Not impossible, but it shows the precarity of Fnatic's tenure in the competition.
For G2 Esports (1W-2L in Groupd C), more confidence against Samsung Galaxy would help at least force a tiebreaker round. The team showed it had the means to do so against Royal Never Give Up macro-wise, where it took a stellar Uzi to hold them back. The team may aspire for more, however -- 3W-0L second week showing would confirm that G2 would be, indeed, comin' to get ya.
Taiwan (1W-5L): Pray for Miracles
Can Ahq (1W-2L in Groupd A) shock Cloud9 and force a tiebreaker? Yes. Can Ahq go a step further and somehow, some way, beat SK Telecom T1 and spark oodles of discussions about a possible showing in the semifinal round? Now that would be a sight to see. However, considering its presence in a group where Cloud9, SK Telecom T1 and EDward Gaming are out to prove something, the team needs a sense of urgency regarding vision control, as it carries South East Asia's hopes with it, considering the Flash Wolves' (0W-3L in Group D) woes, and the Gigabyte Marines' (1W-2L in Group B) herculean task.
GAM's task is not as herculean as the Flash Wolves', as the Taiwanese team needs a miracle to emerge out of groups. Not only would the team need to go for a clean 3W-0L this week (against teams that had, for the most part, dismissed them at stages of the game they were strong at), it would require two teams to go 1W-2L to force a three-way tiebreaker.
Wildcard (1W-5L): Play Spoiler
At the very least, the Wildcard squads have little pressure on them to perform. 1907 Fenerbahce was not expected to perform this well for an 0W-3L squad, and one should wonder what would have happened had it been in Group D, given how the players' performance levels have been steadily ramping up.
In fact, 1907 Fenerbahce nearly replicated KaBuM! Esports's feat in 2014, where a minute team fight mistake cost it a game against Samsung Galaxy, putting the remainder of Group C on notice. All of that with a marquee stand-in, Lee "Crash" Dong-woo, leading the way alongside veterans Kim "Frozen" Tae-il and Berke "Thaldrin" Demir.
Gigabyte Marines is past that stage, as Fnatic has suffered a soul-crushing defeat to its lane pressure and skirmishes. For the team to replicate Albus NoX Luna's performance in 2016 (by qualifying to the bracket stages at Worlds), the team needs to beat Fnatic and Immortals at least, and shelve its creativity on the wayside against Longzhu (lest a similar Mordekaiser disaster occur). Unlike Fenerbahce, all eyes are on it in Group A to either play troublemaker, or to bump a North American team to oblivion.