After such an erratic regular season in competitive League of Legends, it only makes sense that Worlds 2020 would begin with such an unpredictable Play-In Stage. In Europe and China’s first year of sending four teams to Worlds as opposed to three, the fourth seeds from both regions underperformed and only China’s LGD Gaming would advance.
For the third consecutive year, Brazil’s representative was eliminated in a do-or-die tiebreaker match and PSG Talon, with two substitute players from a rival organization, was a shining star in their group. It’s tough keeping up with so many storylines from all the different regions and teams, so here are breakdowns of some of the most significant narratives in Worlds 2020.
Brazil Chokes Again
It’s 2020 and yet another Brazilian team packed their bags after losing in a tiebreaker match. In 2018, it was KaBuM! e-Sports. In 2019, it was Flamengo eSports. Now, in 2020, INTZ extended Brazil’s Play-In tiebreaker loss streak to three straight years of disappointment.
The squad that went from fighting for their lives during relegation to front and center on the Worlds stage couldn’t put it together to find anything meaningful.
Before losing to MAD Lions in the tiebreaker match, Brazil’s INTZ bought themselves one more shot to make it out of Play-Ins by beating Team Liquid in their final regularly-scheduled match in their group. It was an impressive win for the Brazilian squad, who was the only team to actually take a map off Team Liquid.
Unfortunately for fans of the CBLoL, INTZ couldn’t capitalize off their momentum and ended up losing to the young MAD Lions in a do-or-die scenario.
The Fall of the European Rookies
The MAD Lions hype train was jam-packed with passengers just a few months ago. Consisting of four rookies, the young European team looked to be performing far better than anyone else in Europe. But after a late-season skid during the League of Legends European Championship Summer Split and an early exit from the Playoffs, MAD Lions just managed to qualify for Worlds 2020 as the last seed in Europe.
Despite looking poor in their recent performances, many still had high hopes for the squad, and most predicted them making it at least into the Group Stage. However, poor individual play laid the groundwork for their failure. Jungler Zhiqiang “Shad0w” Zhao’s impatience was put on display, and the use of aggressive, in-your-face champions like Evelyn, Hecarim and Lillia only exacerbated his issues.
Bot laners Matyáš “Carzzy” Orság and Norman “Kaiser” Kaiser were able to find some stability in the bot lane, but when the rest of their team really struggled to win their lanes, the duo wasn’t able to accomplish for their team.
Their loss to Papara SuperMassive in the Knockout Stage officially gave MAD Lions the title as the first European team to fail to make it out of Play-Ins. However, there were many factors besides poor play that went into this. A team with four rookies played nearly the entire year remotely as opposed to playing on LAN. This is a huge difference for professional players, and not having that LAN experience was a real hindrance to them. Combined with all the logistical issues created by the pandemic, the MAD Lions were simply not ready for all the roadblocks in their way.
Return of the CIS
Prior to Worlds 2020, just two teams from the Commonwealth of Independent States have ever competed in the Worlds Group Stage. The first was all the way back during Worlds Season 3, where the GamingGear.eu squad came in last place in their group, only beating the Andy “Reginald” Dinh-led Team SoloMid that year. Fast forward to 2016, and Albus NoX Luna became the first and only minor region team to ever make it out of the Group Stage.
Worlds 2020 will see the Unicorns of Love compete with DRX, FlyQuest and Top Esports to see if they can continue the international LCL Legacy.
The Unicorns of Love looked like one of the top teams during the Play-In Stage, dropping games only to Rainbow7 and PSG Talon. The Russian team’s drafts were often very well thought out and helped them win many of their matches.
Although the underdog squad certainly have a rough road ahead of them, they’ve only dropped four maps throughout all of 2020 (including the two they lost during Play-Ins) and they will be confident heading into the matches ahead of them.
Were Fourth Seeds a Mistake?
China and Europe were the two regions who earned four seeds in Worlds 2020, whereas previously they’ve fielded three. Although there were high hopes for the two fourth seed squads, China’s LGD Gaming and Europe’s MAD Lions, both teams underperformed massively in their respective groups.
For a while, it looked like the star-studded LGD roster would not even make it out of groups. Struggles from the bot lane provided opponents a path to punish them, and LGD’s early-mid game transitions were simply atrocious.
Even during the Knockout Stage where they were performing much better, LGD still weren’t playing as a strong five man unit. The team is strong individually with talent such as Xie “Langx” Zhen-Ying in the top lane and Su “xiye” Han-Wei in the mid lane, however when the five players came together to play as a group, they were often weaker than their opponents.
The same disappointment applies to MAD Lions, who were unable to make it to the next stage of Worlds 2020. So were the fourth seeds a mistake? Do China and Europe really deserve four teams representing each of them? Many claim that they don’t, however it’s important to remember on the side of China, the region had many talented teams behind LGD that weren’t able to compete in Worlds such as Invictus Gaming, Victory Five and FunPlus Phoenix.
Play-Ins were a Success
All in all, the 2020 Play-In Stage was a massive success. Even though major teams underperformed, that only left room for other teams to step up and take advantage. Two non-major region teams in PSG Talon and Unicorns of Love made it to the Group Stage. Even the teams that failed to advance, such as Rainbow7, Legacy Esports and SuperMassive, all showed promise, a rare feat for minor regions to accomplish internationally.
Players on those teams, such as İrfan “Armut” Berk Tükek on SuperMassive, Rainbow7’s Brandon Joel “Josedeodo” Villegas and PSG Talon’s Ling “Kaiwing” Kai Wing were the standout performers of the Play-Ins, outshining major region stars.
The Worlds 2020 Group Stage is set to begin Saturday October 3, with FlyQuest taking on Top Esports to kick off the action.