I wrote up a League of Legends World Championship power ranking before the tournament began two weeks ago. Now that we're on the verge of the quarterfinals at the historic Chicago Theatre, it's time to see how wrong I truly was and try to right some wrongs from the initial ranking. How are the teams stacking up heading into the playoff stage, and which teams left the tournament without a whisper?
The teams are ordered by "retroactive rank," with pre-Worlds ranking listed below.
1. Samsung Galaxy (South Korea)
Fionn's pretournament ranking: 5th
Samsung's group stage performance: 5-1 (1st, Group D)
This might cause some debate between the ordering of the top two teams in the retroactive rank, but Samsung was nearly flawless in its second week of the group stages. It ran over two good teams in China's Royal Never Give Up and Europe's Splyce in fewer than 25 minutes, and Samsung was also able to exact revenge against North America's Team SoloMid from its only loss the week before. The scary thing about Samsung is that it feels like it hasn't reached its full potential, unlike the other two South Korean titans at Worlds. Lee "Crown" Min-ho has a chance to break into superstar status depending on how he fares in a favorable side of playoff bracket, and his play on champion Viktor should be on the top of the ban list for any team that encounters him in the upcoming rounds.
2. SK Telecom T1 (South Korea)
Fionn's pretournament ranking: 3rd
SKT's group stage performance: 5-1 (1st, Group B)
Albus Nox Luna's star support Kirill "Likkrit" Malofeev said it best in an ESPN interview last week, so take it away, "League Jesus:"
"No one wants to face SKT! They always come to the tournament with people saying they're not as good as they used to be and --" Likkrit starts clapping his hands furiously. "[They] clap your face. I don't want to be that guy that gets clapped."
Every tournament, SKT seems like the too-easy prediction to win. However, the team has issues in some areas. Ah, people then say, this will be the international tournament where the king might finally fall off. Nope. SKT T1 only dropped a single game the entire group stage, and it showcased a variety of styles across the first two weeks going into the bracket stage. Samsung Galaxy might have been the best team in San Francisco, but come Chicago and the best-of-five format, there is nothing scarier for an opposing team than seeing the trademark red jackets of T1 take the stage.
"No one wants to face SKT! They always come to the tournament with people saying they're not as good as they used to be and [then they] clap your face." Kirill "Likkrit" Malofeev (ANX)
3. H2k (Europe)
Fionn's pretournament ranking: 10th
H2k's group stage performance: 5-2 (1st, Group C)
There was never a question about H2k players' individual talents, especially the bottom lane; the question was whether the European club could play well enough as a team to prevail on the international stage. Week one, it didn't look like H2k could, going 1-2 and possibly a single loss away from being eliminated. Instead of crumbling, the team's core strengthened during the off days, and H2k reeled off four straight victories, including two against group-favorite Edward Gaming to take the top spot leading into the quarterfinals.
4. ROX Tigers (South Korea)
Fionn's pretournament ranking: 1st
ROX's group stage performance: 5-2 (1st, Group A)
What a weird group stage for the ROX Tigers. The South Korean domestic champion wasn't able to get its early game going until the last few games of the opening round; it was pushed to an elimination match against NA's Counter Logic Gaming before finally turning on the jets to clear out of the group as the first seed by beating CLG and then ANX in the first-place tiebreaker. The Tigers should feel more at home now in the best-of-five format, but their laning phase will need to drastically improve if ROX wants to make another deep run at Worlds. The stumblings might have not killed them in Group A, but these initial mistakes, if they persist, will be the death of them against the likes of Edward Gaming, ROX's quarterfinal opposition.
5. Royal Never Give Up (China)
Fionn's pretournament ranking: 8th
RNG's group stage performance: 3-3 (2nd, Group D)
RNG's ranking at fifth is more of a statement about the weakness of the field than RNG's excellence through the first two weeks. Not to say Royal was bad -- it was able to get out of the most difficult group in the opening round -- but there were clear deficits in its play that will most likely be exploited by SK Telecom T1 in the quarterfinals. But honestly, that's the case for almost every team outside of Samsung, SKT T1 and possibly H2k who all came into Week 2 looking better than Week 1. Royal is a team that runs everything through its bottom lane, and it's not as though even the players are keeping it a secret.
"I think the reason TSM lost against us is because they didn't pay too much attention to our bot-lane duo. For enemy teams, if they actually heavily focus on our bottom lane, it'll give us a much harder chance to win. But [TSM] didn't do that," said RNG's AD carry Jian "Uzi" Zi-Hao in an interview.
"For enemy teams, if they actually heavily focus on our bottom lane, it'll give us a much harder chance to win. But [TSM] didn't do that." Jian "Uzi" Zi-Hao (RNG)
TSM didn't exploit that vulnerability. SKT, the two-time world champion, will.
6. EDward Gaming (China)
Fionn's pretournament ranking: 2nd
EDG's group stage performance: 4-3 (2nd, Group C)
So if you read my 'Top 5' at each position articles (under Features - Top 5 on our landing page) leading into the tournament, I had EDG players littered throughout. When asked why I didn't have the team first over ROX in my initial ranking, since ROX had fewer players in the 'Top 5' for their respective positions, I answered by pointing out the one EDG starter that I didn't include: Chen "Mouse" Yu-Hao. As a serviceable top laner in the domestic summer season, Mouse has been exposed in the enforced one-on-one laning phase in the top lane against some of the best players in the world. Although he did come up big on Poppy in the second half of EDG's must-win game against ahq when facing elimination in Group C, his time in lane has been miserable.
To put this in perspective, Mouse has a CS differential of -22 at 10 minutes.
EDG's next opponent? ROX and top laner Song "Smeb" Kyung-ho. Good luck, Mouse and Edward Gaming as a whole.
7. Albus Nox Luna (CIS)
Fionn's pretournament ranking: 16th
ROX's group stage performance: 4-3 (2nd, Group A)
I was wrong. I was wrong. I was super-mega-wow-I-need-to-give-this-team-respect wrong. I even ranked Albus below INTZ, the other wild-card team who advanced through the International Wildcard Qualifier, and ANX even looked better than the Brazilian side there. While no one could have expected ANX to do this well on the international stage -- even the ANX players themselves -- the CIS champion accomplished the historic achievement of being the first wild-card team ever to advance out of Worlds groups. It even has a chance of beating H2k and making the Cinderella run of all Cinderella runs to the semifinal.
The team, although sporting a few crafty pocket picks, is not winning through gimmicky strategies. There isn't a single individual standing out; rather, it's the roster's internal cohesion that shines. The team has been able to secure objectives with stellar macro play, and it was able to defeat ROX Tigers in an hour-long marathon that currently holds the title for best game of the tournament. ANX isn't unbeatable and can unravel quickly if things start to get out of control, but even as the underdog heading into Chicago, can we really bet against Likkrit & Co. in any circumstance?
8. Cloud9 (NA)
Fionn's pretournament ranking: 9th
C9's group stage performance: 3-3 (2nd, Group B)
It's hard to rank Cloud9. On one hand, it did make it to the quarterfinal stage. That's an accomplishment on its own. It played hard against SK Telecom T1 in Week 2 and could have upset the defending champion if a few less-than-decisive plays hadn't gotten in the way. On the other, the team was romped by Flash Wolves and had difficulty putting away an I May club that picked one of the weirdest compositions of the tournament and got stomped in the laning phase. C9 still has a chance to improve with a quarterfinal meeting with Samsung Galaxy, and yet, even the players know they're coming in at the bottom of the totem pole of the playoff teams.
"My general thoughts on the group stage are kind of that we didn't deserve to get out of groups just on how we played," said William "Meteos" Hartman in an interview following the team's advancement into the bracket portion of the competition.
"My general thoughts on the group stage are kind of that we didn't deserve to get out of groups just on how we played." William "Meteos" Hartman (C9)
9. Team SoloMid (NA)
Fionn's pretournament ranking: 4th
TSM's group stage performance: 3-3 (3rd, Group D)
This was a team that wanted to be in the Summoner's Cup Finals, and it will now find itself watching the festivities from home without even having a shot at a best-of-five series. TSM was the only team to take a game from group juggernaut Samsung Galaxy, but it threw away its chance of making the quarterfinal with sloppy decisions and lackluster map play when it played SSG for a second time. It lost another game it was ahead in against RNG in the first week, and then was eliminated by the Chinese club after it gave three kills to Uzi at the start of the game which, for all intents and purposes, buried the North American champion six feet under.
I have TSM as the best team not to make the bracket stage, but really, what does that mean to a team that wanted and practiced for so much more?
10. Counter Logic Gaming (NA)
Fionn's pretournament ranking: 12th
CLG's group stage performance: 3-3 (3rd, Group A)
I have the three NA teams ranked in order from 8th to 10th, and if you look at all three fared, I feel like this is pretty fair. As a whole, NA had the second-best record after South Korea as a region in the group stages, but it didn't have a single team like Europe's H2k Gaming stand out in front of the pack. All three had the ability to go from average to a contender, but each failed in its own special way.
For CLG, its lack of success against wild-card teams was once again its death at Worlds. It went 1-1 against the ROX Tigers and 2-0 against G2 Esports, something any CLG fan would have been ecstatic about on paper going into the tournament. Alas, despite the success against the favorites in the group, it was Albus Nox Luna who took both games from CLG and sent them out of the group stage.
11. Ahq e-Sports Club (Taiwan)
Fionn's pretournament ranking: 14th
Ahq's group stage performance: 3-3 (3rd, Group C)
Like TSM and CLG, ahq was one win away from the quarterfinals. Unlike the other two, however, ahq had a gigantic lead against its do-or-die opponent in the game it lost. Edward Gaming was on its deathbed and the Taiwanese second-place team couldn't close the casket. The team meandered around, played too passively when it had chances to finish, and was once again eliminated from the tournament by its Chinese 'big brother' EDG.
12. Flash Wolves (Taiwan)
Fionn's pretournament ranking: 7th
FW's group stage performance: 2-4 (4th, Group B)
Taiwan was the only region this year not to send a team to the bracket stage. The Flash Wolves were the hope of the League Master Series, and the team failed to live up to expectations. The Taiwanese champion was able to take a game off of SKT in Week 1, but its ineptitude and lack of understanding against China's eccentric I May sent them out of the tournament. The FW will keep wondering how it let a team that played with its starting mid laner as support and starting support as jungler kill their chances at advancing from the first round.
13. I May (China)
Fionn's pretournament ranking: 11th
IM's group stage performance: 2-4 (3rd, Group B)
Even talking about I May makes my head hurt. Its only two wins of the tournament came from the Flash Wolves in two games that the Flash Wolves almost certainly should have won. The first was a throw in Week 1, and the second was a game where I May's starting support Yun "Road" Han-gil was suspended and had to use a crazy makeshift starting five. The Chinese team that had always found a way to survive and advance was ultimately eliminated by C9 in a game where IM was once again on the cusp of pulling another gigantic comeback.
Fionn's pretournament ranking: 14th
SPYs group stage performance: 1-5 (4th, Group D)
Although Splyce was only able to pick up one victory, it shouldn't feel too badly about its performance at Worlds as a rookie organization. It was in the "Group of Death" that lived up to the hype, and it was able to take a thunderous victory over RNG in a blowout that kept it from going home winless.
15. INTZ e-Sports
Fionn's pretournament ranking: 15th
INTZ's group stage performance: 1-5 (4th, Group C)
Sure, INTZ did lose five in a row to close out the tournament; even though it wasn't a rosy end to the journey, the Brazilian champion will always remember its debut match on the Worlds stage where it knocked out EDward Gaming in one of the biggest upsets the tournament has ever seen.
16. G2 Esports
Fionn's pretournament ranking: 6th
G2's group stage performance: 1-5 (4th, Group A)
Another poor performance by G2 on the international stage in 2016. It was able to win a game in its last match against Albus Nox Luna, but other than that, there was nothing to show for the back-to-back European champion. This team is better than its position on the ranking, and it's sad we possibly may never see this starting five reach its full potential on the world stage.