The day has finally arrived: the 2016 World Championship is about to begin. The sixth iteration of League's biggest tournament of the year will kick off Thursday at 4:00 p.m. PT (7:00 p.m. ET) with an opening ceremony at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco, California. After that, we'll head straight into an inter-regional League Championship Series clash between European champion G2 Esports and Mid-Season Invitational finalist Counter Logic Gaming of North America.
ESPN was lucky enough to sit down with two AD carry legends of the game, South Korea's Kang "Cpt Jack" Hyung-woo of Longzhu Gaming, 23, and China's retired Gao "WeiXiao" Xuecheng, 24, to get their thoughts on the tournament before the action starts in the Bay Area.
"[It] feels like most Koreans think this way: that from all the NA teams, [Team SoloMid] is the only team that has the potential of going to the finals," Cpt Jack said. "TSM is the most prepared and has the best plays versus the other NA teams.
"[I] feel like TSM has a great chance, great potential to go to the quarterfinals and semifinals," said Jack. "And if they have a little bit of luck, also, they'll make it to the finals, so I'll be cheering for them. I'd love to see all of NA's fans cheering for them and see what happens."
"For NA LCS, I didn't pay that much attention, but I still know about TSM," WeiXiao said. "I think TSM is really strong with their AD carry and mid lane. Both of them have a really stable performance, and especially for the ADC, as I'm an AD carry myself, I'm looking forward to seeing [Yiliang "Doublelift" Peng's] performance at Worlds."
Although WeiXiao may not have been following the NA League Championship series closely, he certainly remembers the highlights. From his perspective, Cloud9 has a lot to live up to at Worlds as a team with international renown. CLG, on the other hand, shoulders a lighter burden of expectations because its roster has changed so much since 2015. On the topic of rosters, there are certain individuals in the NA scene that have caught both Cpt Jack and WeiXiao's attention.
"[I] would pick [Søren "Bjergsen" Bjerg] and [Jung "Impact" Eon-yeong]," Cpt Jack said when asked which North American players he preferred. "But Impact is a Korean so maybe [that] cancels it out. Bjergsen is the number one of all of NA. [I] consider him as the [Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok] of [North America]."
"Doublelift, I've played with him before and I think he's a really, really strong player to play against," WeiXiao said. "After I retired, Doublelift is still playing, and is still keeping his performance to a high level. I really respect that and think that he is overpowered. It's really hard for players to keep up their skill level for a long time."
The topic then turned to which teams would show well at Worlds overall, in particular non-South Korean teams, since South Korea tends to dominate the competition. Cpt Jack was bullish on China's Edward Gaming and Taiwan's Flash Wolves; WeiXiao agreed on EDG, especially given the team's group draw. This led to a discussion on China's chances in general.
"For [Royal Never Give Up] I think they are a pretty new team with some new players they combined together, but I think the individual skill of the RNG players is good," said WeiXiao. "But they are really weak at overall strategy, so if they have a better overall strategy, they'll be [strong]. The only thing about [them] is their group is pretty difficult.
"And lastly for I May, good luck! They are so new from the [LoL Secondary Pro League] straight to [LoL Pro League] and now straight to Worlds, they don't have lots of international experience and their group is too strong."
On the topic of the best AD carries in the professional scene, although they had slightly different top picks, they both held Edward Gaming's ace in the bottom lane in high regard. Their other picks ranged from players in South Korea to Europe to China once more.
"[I] think [Kim "Deft" Hyuk-kyu] has the most surprising elements of being an AD carry," Jack said.
"The first one is [Kim "PraY" Jong-in]," answered Weixiao on which AD carries he respected the most, excluding the already-praised Doublelift. "[We've] been pro players during the same period of time before, and then Pray disappeared for a time and then came back again to win and kill all the other teams. He's on a really great team now, and I think that is really great."
"Second one is Deft," WeiXiao continued. "He wasn't doing so great in  but he's improved a lot [this year] and has worked hard with [EDG] a lot. He has good results this season and went straight to Worlds. There is also [Jian "Uzi" Zi-Hao] -- everyone knows him. He's really young, really good skills, and that's it. He is a good player. Lastly, it's [Konstantinos "FORG1VEN" Tzortziou] from Europe. I met him in Poland for [Intel Extreme Masters] and [scrimmaged] against him. He is a really skilled player with lots of mechanics."
We put the two players on the spot to give their top four predictions for the entire competition. Cpt Jack and WeiXiao both agreed on the ROX Tigers, SK Telecom T1 and EDG as the top three, but had some difficulty deciding on a fourth-best contender.
"I feel like the fourth team is tricky. I [pick] Flash Wolves, but I don't think Samsung [yet] because they have to prove themselves," Jack said.
"Flash Wolves, G2, and RNG have a really big opportunity to get into the fourth position. That's just my personal impression," echoed WeiXiao.
And Jack and Weixiao's Summoner's Cup finals prediction?
"ROX Tigers [versus] EDG. Whichever team has the most Koreans will win," Jack laughed.
"EDG vs. either SKT or the Tigers," replied Weixiao. The winner? "EDG," chuckled Weixiao, cheekily siding with his home country to bring back the world championship.