If you don’t want spoilers for what happened in Group B for the LoL Worlds 2017, I advise you look away now. Continuing we'll talk about what crazy shenanigans transpired on the 12th of October, so please take this as your warning. The title only says so much.
Looking at all of the groups, this should have been a locked and shut case. Fnatic were barely holding together after an interview with Caps was shown that made you feel like FNC were going to split apart the moment the got kicked out. Especially after they couldn’t find a win in week one and dropped their first game of the day to Longzhu. Gigabyte Marines should have been figured out by the rest of the teams with many of their secrets exposed. And lastly, Immortals were being called baby LZ since they would play strong early and have great rotations late. This is not how things ended.
The NA 0-10 Curse
Like in the past three years, the NA teams went 6-3 after the first week and even this time had all three teams going 2-1. But a haunting curse plagues any NA team as they enter the second week of Worlds where their ability to close out games and their indiscretion towards choking hazards cost them games.
It all started against GAM. It’s funny, I was still driving home when the game was going on. My phone began to blow up with GAM locking in Urgot against IMT and shivers went down my spine. As an NA fanboy, I knew that GAM were going to win. Why? Not because Urgot is the most overpowered champion, but due to IMT’s lack to adapt. IMT are a team known for being able to play one style pretty well, as well as play against one style pretty well. GAM did their homework. Had they played this in week one against IMT, the chances that IMT would be able to learn and change would have meant IMT taking that game this week.
Yet, this wasn’t the worst example. Literally, they only needed to win one game and the dream of a three way tie would have died since FNC had already lost to LZ to put them at 0-4. That should have meant that IMT’s next match against FNC would be a slam dunk and they could kill the curse and move on to the knockout stage. But even after a great set of rotations coming out of IMT to get all outer towers of FNC, it all came down to one over step from IMT as a team and then the Doublelift play of 2016 happened to Cody Sun. Trying to be the hero, he flashed into try and kill Caps, only to kill himself and Xmithie in the process.
GAM Having Too Much Fun?
It’s not hard to see. This team is and will always be the fan favorite team of the League of Legends World Championships 2017. Regardless of their success this year, people have loved this squad from Vietnam since their appearance at MSI. And this year, they only added to their popularity by playing with the most interesting picks in week one with Nocturne and Mordekaiser being among those. However, this was a tough week for them. They ended week one with a 1-2 record and for a guaranteed tiebreaker to happen they would have to go 2-1 or they could pick up a single win and pray for a miracle.
We already went over their win against IMT with Archie on Urgot. Just to touch on it a bit more, IMT played it poorly by focusing on Archie too much and allowing GAM play for a more teamfight focused composition with Ashe, Syndra, and Lulu. GAM showed that they don’t have to play for snowballing Levi and Optimus, but that they can use a teamfight comp in order to gain leads and victories.
That’s why no one expected for the best game so far from Worlds to be between them and LZ. Had GAM won this game, they would have eliminated FNC from Worlds, so you could tell they were putting their all into it in order to have Pray and Gorilla relive last year’s loss against Albus Nox Luna. This game was on a knife’s edge for LZ and they even fell behind to the combination of Levi’s Rengar and Sya’s Zilean cheese picks. At one point, LZ were even down by 10k gold, but they found one good teamfight inside their base where Optimus and Noway played too far forward.
This game appeared to be the end of the life in GAM similar to how ANX last year seemed drained after their battle against ROX. When they had to face against FNC, it was a combination of the worst for GAM. FNC finally gotten a win, GAM had just lost with a 10k gold lead at one point, and victory for here could mean GAM get out of their groups. But the power of a united FNC was far too strong for GAM, even when they try to cheese with Urgot and Kayn. The thing is FNC knew how to pick apart GAM, got sOAZ well ahead and put Levi too far behind.
From Splintering To Sprinting; FNC Are Back, Boys!
Honestly, I don’t think the best analysts in the world could have predicted the events that took place this day to allow for the EU team that was down 0-4 to make it out of groups. If this doesn’t become a national holiday for EULCS, they are doing something wrong. It all starts with their game against IMT. At a point where a single loss would have purchased the ticket back to Europe for them and probably would have started with a few of the players announcing their departure from the organization after Twitter rants and interviews showed how distraught they all were.
We already know that IMT lose to FNC off of IMT’s overcommitment and then Cody Sun’s flash forward to give FNC the ace they used to win the game. I was in a call with friends of mine watching the game and we were screaming about the game. It was incredible for FNC and demoralizing for IMT. But with this win, it was more important what it did for the mentality of FNC than any win prior could have done. This game was the resurrection for FNC to be able to rally as a team once more to play. FNC is an extreme emotion-driven, especially sOAZ and Caps. Winning a miracle game was just the catalyst they needed to be able to go for the long haul to make it out of groups.
Still, they needed to win over GAM. However, GAM could only cheese FNC one time. FNC have been accustomed to learning how to play against weird comps thanks to Unicorns of Love and were able to pick apart GAM. Unfortunately for FNC, even with winning these last two games, their fate was out of their hands and into that of IMT. But this might have been their plan all along, knowing full well that IMT couldn’t win in this second week.
For those that don’t know the ruling and why it was the way it was, it was based off of victory game time. That put GAM as the top of the three and forced FNC and IMT to play against one another before going against GAM. But if you were watching the rest of this day, the tiebreakers should have been predictable.
It was no surprise, yet still just as painful, that IMT were torn asunder by FNC. Still riding high and going strong. The Malzahar pick put Pobelter in a bad spot with his Ryze and there was never a moment where it even looked like anyone from IMT was going to hold up to an individual of FNC.
Even though you could probably have predicted a FNC win, you need to still give a lot of credit to the beloved winners of the GPL. They refused to go down quietly into the night. Doing away with the meta-shattering comps they had been drafting all groups long, they opted to go standard with Maokai, Sejuani, and Orianna. Even their bot lane was normal with Tristana and Lulu. This seemed to be really strong as well with an early game lead and getting sOAZ to start the game 0-4. But FNC were not deterred and they soarded. By the end of the game, sOAZ even ended 8-4 on his Gnar.
The lesson of the day is if you give FNC even the smallest glimmer of hope they will grab it and never let go. While I doubt they will be able to beat any of the LCK teams, they went from a team that already was making plans to join a new organization and team to one that is stronger than before. Many people need to send a lot of love GAM’s way as well. They proved that GPL teams have heart and soul. Truly, I can’t wait for more teams to come out of the GPL. Lastly, the sad truth of NA not being able to play in the second week is a reality once more. 0-4. All hope for NA seems crushed before TSM can even play to prove it wrong or right.