League of what? A (not so) brief rundown of “Worlds 2017”

Matt Buchanan explains the eSports phenomenon, League of Legends, ahead of the World Championship quarter-finals in Guangzhou, China.

eSports is big… and nothing gets bigger than the League of Legends World Championship – or more simply, Worlds, which is currently underway in China.

The concept may seem foreign to some, but hundreds of thousands of people tune in over live streaming services such as Twitch, or turn up at stadiums and purpose-built studios, to watch teams effectively play a video game on stage.

The game, League of Legends, is a popular Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA), which pits teams of five against each other. Each player chooses a character (Champion), which has specific abilities that contribute to the team as a whole.

Games are played on a map called ‘Summoner’s Rift‘ where the sole objective is to destroy the enemy team’s nexus – a structure within the ‘base’ of each team.

Summoners Rift Map 

Turrets are set up along ‘lanes’ on the map that obstruct players from getting to the nexus.

These must be destroyed first.

It’s a simple enough concept that has blown-up since the game was released in 2009.

Riot Games, the studio behind League of Legends, recently announced that the monthly player base is now around 100 million.

A noticeable difference when watching competitive league compared to traditional sport, is that players are not referred to by their actual names but rather their screen names.

The same goes for the commentators.

Worlds itself has been running since 2011.

It sees the best League of Legends teams from some of the world’s biggest regions (Europe, North America, China, Korea and Taiwan) play-off to become World Champions and attain the Summoner’s Cup.

Past champions have been Europe’s Fnatic, Taiwan’s Taipei Assassins, and Korea’s SK Telecom T1 and Samsung White, with the most successful team being SK Telecom T1 with three Worlds titles to their name.

Some of the biggest names to watch right now are:

– SK Telecom T1’s mid-laner, Faker

– Fnatic’s marksman, Rekkles

Longzhu Gaming’s marksman, Pray – and support, Gorilla; and

Royal Never Give Up’s marksman Uzi

They are all League of Legends veterans, having been on the competitive scene for several years.

Australia’s contenders

An Australian team was also in contention this year as part of the wider Oceania region.

The LG Dire Wolves won the major regional competition the Oceanic Pro League (OPL).

They were the first Australians to ever play at Worlds, largely thanks to a new stage of competition called ‘play-ins’ where smaller regions like Brazil, Turkey and Southeast Asia, compete to take part in the group stages.

Previously teams from the smaller regions competed in the wildcard tournament where just two teams gained Worlds group stage spots. Despite strong showings in the past from OPL giants Chiefs eSports Club and prior to them Team Immunity, they were never strong enough to make it to the main event.

Unfortunately, the Dire Wolves failed to make it out of the play-in stage. But they were up against it from the start, after being placed in a group with North American powerhouse Cloud9, who are now the only team from that region in the quarter-finals.

Group results

After the play-ins, the Worlds group stage commenced and did not disappoint.
There was a massive upset as Vietnamese minnows Gigabyte Marines surprised the competition to defeat Fnatic, setting the latter up for a disastrous 0-3 start in Group B.

Fnatic however rallied to defeat Gigabyte Marines and North America’s Immortals achieving a feat that has never been seen before at Worlds.  No team has ever made the quarter-finals from a 0-3 start.

Korean Champions Longzhu enjoyed a dominant 6-0 run to gain first seed.

The rest of the groups went as expected, with the exception of Taiwan’s AHQ eSports Club who were able to gain an upset win over China’s Edward Gaming in the first week, which relegated the latter to a 0-3 start in Group A.

But there was to be no miracle for Edward Gaming, as they were soundly knocked out of the competition in the second week by SK Telecom T1 who topped the group.

To the dismay of many North American fans, Team Solomid, the best team from the region, was knocked out by European team Misfits Gaming in a tiebreaker for second in Group D. Misfits had failed to take a win from Team World Elite in the second week, which would have forced the tiebreaker to be for first spot.

Group C was rather run of the mill with Royal Never Give Up taking first spot and Samsung Galaxy picking up second. European champions G2 continued a poor run of results at Worlds by finishing third and only just getting across the line against Turkey’s 1907 Fenerbahce Espor in a dead rubber.

The Worlds quarter-finals get underway tonight (Thursday) when Longzhu faces Samsung Galaxy.

Friday will see SK Telecom T1 against Misfits Gaming; on Saturday Fnatic will battle with Royal Never Give Up for the right to keep their dream run alive; and Sunday closes out the quarter-finals with Team World Elite against Cloud9.

All games are broadcast at 7:00pm each day and you can watch for free on Twitch with uploads also made to YouTube– Matthew Buchanan

(Featured Image: League of Legends, Twitter. Map of Summoner’s Rift from the League of Legends site.)

About Matthew Buchanan 25 Articles
Matthew is a budding journalist and complete sports nut with a healthy appreciation for politics and history.