SEOUL, South Korea -- G-Rex doesn't get respect.
To the outside world, G-Rex is the lowest seed from a region that only has one team (Flash Wolves) that has consistently shown any sort of fight against the best squads from the other power regions. To the fans in Taiwan, G-Rex was a team that fell apart in the summer split of their domestic year, going all the way from finishing as runner-up to Flash Wolves in spring to having a below .500 record and missing the playoffs entirely the next season.
Last year, Hong Kong Attitude, LMS' third seed, was the only major-region team in play-ins to not make it to the group stage of worlds. G-Rex, overlooked and counted out, was expected to be the same, cast aside like any LMS team in history not named Wolves, AHQ or Taipei Assassins.
G-Rex didn't need respect or manufactured pre-event hype to make it through, though, as the team went on a tear through the play-ins, winning all four of its opening stage games before advancing to Busan and the top-16 of the event with a 3-1 victory over Gambit Esports.
"I'm not offended at all [by being overlooked]," Lee "Stitch" Seung-ju", the team's ace AD carry, told ESPN following his team's win over Gambit. "People tend to forget that we were second place during the spring split, and I think that meta [from spring] is coming back right now, so that's why we were able to perform better."
In a play-in stage that housed teams with storied legacies such as Europe's G2 Esports or China's Edward Gaming, G-Rex, the fresh-faced brand crafted around former world champion Lau "Kurtis" "Toyz" Wai Kin, turned out to be the story of the first week of the tournament. Where other teams stumbled, G-Rex remained on a clear path to the final 16 throughout, only losing a single game at the LoL Park in Seoul, and that being the first game with Gambit before firing off three straight to take the train to Busan for groups.
Getting out of the main-event group stage is going to be an entirely different story, however. In Group D where G-Rex landed, it will have to play a slew of different styles from a trio of teams across the world.
Invictus Gaming, the regular-season king of China this year, smashing both domestic splits and only losing out to worlds favorite, Royal Never Give Up, in the final of the summer split. From top to bottom, iG sends one of the most talented teams at the competition, led by its monstrous mid laner Song "Rookie" Eui-jin, who returns home to South Korea after playing professionally in China for the last four years.
"I think iG is beatable," said Stitch. "We can go 50/50 against [them] in the mid lane. [I give us] 40 percent to [beat them], because iG is a very tough opponent."
Fnatic, the hope of the western world, considered by pundits and by the English-speaking community-at-large as the west's only hope to make it far in South Korea.
"We have a little bit more confidence against Fnatic than iG," he said. "Fnatic is a little easier to beat. [I give us] 50 percent."
And finally, the unknown quantity of the generally maligned North American region, 100 Thieves, who are one of the few teams at the tournament coming into the event with their last match being a loss, that being to Team SoloMid, a team that didn't even make worlds, in the third-place of the summer split.
"I think it's the same as Fnatic. 100 Thieves is 50/50," he said. "I only know their ADC but not the rest of their team, so I have to go back and watch some videos of their play. I think I am better than Cody Sun. I want to meet him in the group stage."
From South Korea himself and a former backup on Samsung Galaxy, now Gen.G, the organization who has made it to back-to-back worlds finals and is looking for a three-peat, Stitch is a player who carries himself with the confidence of a player who has practiced with and played against the best in League of Legends. While realistic about his team's chances in their group and possibly beyond, he wants his return to South Korea and Busan to be the stage where he can show the whole world just how good he and his team truly is.
"I am the strongest carry player in LMS," he said. "I am confident. I am a strong player."
After play-ins, maybe it is time to start believing him.