The Main stage events have begun at World’s, with the Play-Ins wrapped up and teams sorted into their groups where they will fight for one of two chances to move onto the next stage in the tournament. Worlds 2018 is an exciting change from the norm without the dynastic SKT, and many new contenders have filled that void for the favourites to win it all. Group D feels like a proving ground for many of the team within it, and it’s here that the fates of four teams will be decided. Will Fnatic assert themselves as the Best in the West and carry forth the hopes of Europe to another impressive showing at Worlds? Can 100 Thieves steal the show and prove to themselves and fans that their appearance at Worlds was earned and not stolen? Will Invictus Gaming, the team that’s gone almost undefeated in two regular splits, be able to outshine their golden brothers from the LPL? And can G-Rex break out onto the World's Main stage with a similar roar as the Play-Ins and prove that the LMS has more than just the Flash Wolves?
This years Worlds is filled with old, legacy teams reclaiming their former glory. For Fnatic, the once true kings of Europe have finally ascended to their thrown after a long drought. Not just in the Spring or Summer, but during both splits Fnatic dominated their domestic sphere. Their performance at Rift Rivals against NA was stellar, losing only one game out of five played and ultimately clutching the whole thing for the region. With the Baby Faker of Rasmus "Caps" Winther finally maturing into a true talent, with many seriously considering him to be the best player in the West, Fnatic are on the path to once again prove their mettle at the Worlds stage where they have time and time before.
With all eyes glued to the mid lane for Fnatic, it’s easy to forget that they also have one of the most acclaimed ADCs in the West in Martin "Rekkles" Larsson. A safer, more clean-up focused ADC, Rekkles has nonetheless been a major point for Fnatic’s successes and looks to remain to be so, with a lengthy contract that extends into 2020. Alongside his lanemate Zdravets "Hylissang" Iliev Galabov, a silent addition that’s done wonders, Fnatic have two scary looking carries to play around in team fights with. A strong showing last year, eventually falling to RNG in the Quarters, gives hope that the team can truly make a name for themselves this year. In an uncertain group like Group D, that’s a real possibility too to even pull off a first seed placement. But that relies on them showing up against one of China’s most dominant teams ever in iG.
Whether they perform at a Worlds caliber or not, one cannot deny that 100 Thieves have had an impressive opening year as an organization in the NA LCS. From buying in to representing the region at Worlds in the same year, that’s an accomplishment few organizations can claim. That doesn’t mean the team’s appearance at Worlds isn’t without its controversy though. The team is… arguably weaker than their Spring selves, but due to the Championship points they did incur they’re NA’s second seed. Regardless of whether fans of the region agree or not with that, the team will be coming into Worlds to prove themselves as deserving to represent NA. With so much roster drama from the team, it’s hard to fully see how they can be the same power level they were in the Spring too. But, if we’re being honest, an NA team not making it out of groups isn’t anything new, it’s practically a Worlds tradition at this point.
While many may not expect much out of the current 100 Thieves roster, that doesn’t mean they lack the ability to do at least put up a good fight. Veteran and star Top laner Kim "Ssumday" Chan-ho brings years of play to the table, as well as the ability to be comfortable on a carry oriented champion or a tanky one. He’s been the rock constant for a roster that’s had its ups and downs this year. Outside of the steady talent in the Top lane, 100 Thieves boasts one of the greatest shot callers NA’s ever produced in the storied Zaqueri "aphromoo" Black. Questions abound though on the stability of the roster, on whether Cody "Cody Sun" Sun will be there or if newcomer Richard "Rikara" Samuel Oh will be filling in. The situation in the bot lane is complicated, and that’s further exasperated by the fact that Group D has a wealth of Bot lane talent. If 100 Thieves can figure that situation out, they might be able to cobble together some wins. If not, well, then these thieves may be sent packing after a failed heist.
In some ways I feel bad for the Invictus Gaming team. They’re good, like really good, and honestly were favoured to be China’s team multiple times this year. But they’ve so far been kept in the shadows by the rise of Royal Never Give Up. The team that denied them going undefeated in the Spring split. Then denied them the finals in Spring. Denied them another undefeated record in the Summer. Then beat them in the Summer playoffs. IG enter the Worlds stage with a chip on their shoulder, ready to flex their muscles and prove that RNG is not the only team to fear from the LPL. To remind the world that the LPL sent more than just the Royalty with RNG, but also the Tyrants that are Invictus Gaming.
It’s hard to pick out a single player to point towards as the one to watch, because iG is just filled with them. Lane kingdom is their style and they excel individually in almost every role. The dominance displayed by Top laner Kang "TheShy" Seung-lok has many Western fans turned iG fans alone. The Korean import that China has adopted as their own, Mid laner Song "Rookie" Eui-jin, has finally returned to the World's stage after three years, and is ready to impress the world once again. His placement as the second best player in the World is definitely well earned. Beside that you have one of the best ADCs not named Uzi, Yu "JackeyLove" Wen-Bo, who’s still insanely young (second youngest at Worlds!) IG are primed and ready to completely decimate Group D, and with how the LPL has done internationally, that isn’t likely to change. For iG, the chance to finally claim the limelight for themselves from their fellow LPL representatives in RNG would be sweet and a long time coming. Claim the first seed out of groups is the first step towards that goal.
With G-Rex stomping right into Group D, the darlings of the Play-In stage have a lot to prove. From fifth place in the LMS to representing their region at the Worlds stage, they’ve done a lot of the heavy lifting already, but to truly make the statement that they belong and the LMS is more than just the Flash Wolves, they’ll have to make a real showing in Group D. Against the likes of Fnatic and Invictus Gaming, that’s a tall task. But they’ve already exceeded expectations of many by even being at Worlds. In Group D there’s a lot of hope for those eyeing a second seed: Fnatic are considered the favourites, but are not immortal, and with 100 Thieves looking to be one of the weakest teams at Worlds, G-Rex have a decent shot at making it out of this group even and into the knockout stage of the tournament.
But for that to happen, they’ll have to come together even more than they did in their Play-In stage. Against Play-In opponents, G-Rex looked strong and ready. But whether they can hold up at the Main stage is up to them. The impressive plays out of Jungler Anson "Empt2y" Leung Tsz Ho will definitely be tested against the likes of iG and Fnatic, but almost more pressing is how the bot lane duo of ADC Lee "Stitch" Seung-ju and Lin "Koala" Chih-Chiang will hold up against the likes of JackeyLove and Rekkles. So many teams in Group D play around their bot lane effectively, and G-Rex will need to match that playstyle if they hope to make it out of groups. But if they can, they’ve already displayed some insane synergy across the team with wombo combos and can make their destiny their own in Group D.