Thursday night, North American second-place seed Counter Logic Gaming needed one win in its final game of the group stages to make the quarterfinals. But it lost to the group favorite, ROX Tigers, and was eliminated from the tournament.
Saturday afternoon, another North American team faced a do-or-die match in the group stages. This time, it was the region's champion, Team SoloMid, who only dropped a single best-of series the entire summer split. In an elimination match with China's Royal Never Give Up, TSM also failed to advance into the bracket stage, giving up three early kills and never regaining control.
On Sunday, in another win-or-go-home matchup against a Chinese foe, the North American club prevailed.
Cloud9 bested China's third-place seed I May to keep its quarterfinal hopes alive. Defending champion SK Telecom T1 sent the boys in blue a ticket to Chicago by eliminating Taiwan's champion Flash Wolves in the last group stage match of the tournament.
After qualifying for the playoffs and being drawn into a Thursday matchup with "Group of Death" winner Samsung Galaxy, ESPN sat down with C9's William "Meteos" Hartman to talk about the World Championships.
"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," Meteos admitted. "Compared to how we played in the [summer domestic] season, I thought our level of play was really bad. A lot of that can maybe just be contributed to harder competition because [during] our bootcamp, we sort of changed how we played quite a bit. I don't think it was even for the better - a lot of weird things would go wrong in our games, so we would try to change our strategies, and we lost sight of the basics, I feel."
"I was disappointed on how we played," he continued. "I feel like we played just good enough to make it into the bracket stage, kind of lucky. All we need to do is keep looking forward and try to work on everything."
"A lot of weird things would go wrong in our games, so we would try to change our strategies, and we lost sight of the basics." William "Meteos" Hartman
All three North American teams went 3-3 in the group stages, but only C9 were lucky enough to get out. A loss or win in one of the other matches could have left C9 with the rest of the North American teams watching the bracket stage from home.
"Korea still seems pretty dominant," he said. "I don't know if it's super one-sided because especially in scrims and stuff, it doesn't really feel like we [can't win], and it seems like a lot of teams do have similar goals for what they're trying to do."
"I do feel like almost every team went through what we did," he continued. "Where our overall level of play decreased going into Worlds, somehow. I don't know what it was about the practice leading up to it, but it doesn't feel like every team is playing as well as they could."
The ROX Tigers, the odds-on favorite to win, dropped two games -- including a game to a Wild Card team -- in the group stage. Undefeated domestic winner Edward Gaming from China needed to make a gigantic comeback in its last game of the group stage to advance as a second-place team.
"The first time we played SKT, we kind of just bent over," he said.
Meteos would later admit the team's lack of knowledge of how well Syndra fit into the meta destroyed them in the first game, and C9's lack of snowballing correctly from an early lead in a winnable Game 2 came back to bite them.
"TSM probably deserves to be here more than we do, just on how the group stage went," he said. "Our wins were in the right places, and Flash Wolves lost to I May twice in games where they probably should have won. They lost to I May when [I May] used their their jungler as a support and mid as jungler. So that's kind of like, 'What the hell?' But I guess the stars aligned for us, and I think we agree as a team we s--- the bed this group stage. And we're just going to try to use the motivation of being the only NA team here."
Meteos then went on to mention how he felt betrayed by the scheduling, with C9 playing the last games of the group stages on Sunday and then suddenly playing the first best-of-five quarterfinals across the country on Thursday against Samsung Galaxy.
After some much needed rest and a long flight, the team will only have two and a half days to prepare for the biggest match of their careers in an attempt to become the first North American team since 2011 to make a Worlds semifinal. "But this might be the fire we need - 'Hey guys, we're in a real s--- situation, and we need to come together,'" he added.
"I think Samsung is pretty solid," Meteos said. "We scrimmed against them quite a bit leading up to the second week of group stages, so I think we have a lot of experience playing against them. I think Crown is an extremely good mid laner, especially on Ryze and Viktor, two of the hot picks right now. Ambition kind of plays similarly to me; he's probably one of the more farm-oriented junglers here at Worlds. He plays Zac, too."
"We'll do our best," he said. "The group stage was tough, and we have a lot of stuff to work on, but, hopefully, we can bring it together and give a good performance."