1. Do you remember the winner or the loser?

Fnatic’s Rekkles and Hylissang elated after their victory against Royal Never Give Up, securing their place out of Groups on Day 7.

Fnatic’s Rekkles and Hylissang elated after their victory against Royal Never Give Up, securing their place out of Groups on Day 7.

The winners are written down in the history books and the losers are left behind, their inked names just waiting to fade away. But is it really like this?

Sometimes, the loser is remembered over the winner. Being a winner not only comes with the victory and moving on to the next stage, but it also avoids the backlash of losing. The internet is a cruel, cruel place, and when your sole career has been built on top of the internet, then your career hinges on how the internet perceives you and how you handle it.

People remember when Longzhu Gaming (LZ) were swept by Samsung Galaxy (SSG) right after they had 6-0’d the Group stage, and you know what they said? LZ choked. Khan choked. Bdd choked. Their whole team were no good in high pressure situations. And that followed them from 2017 Worlds to Kingzone Dragon-X. At MSI 2018, people didn’t believe in them again because they were chokers! Right? SSG went on to win Worlds… so does that mean that team was just unlucky with the draw?

When Fnatic (FNC) made the miracle 3-0 run this year and the miracle 4-1 run at 2017 Worlds, we remember them for their crazy Week 2. But they were only the second seed. Do you remember who was the first seed?

On Worlds Day 7, the day of Group C, there was barely any mention of SK Telecom’s (SKT) wins. When we discuss that day, we don’t say “SKT locked in the first seed”, we say “FNC made it out, Royal Never Give Up didn’t”. This is because SKT was what we expected, and if it was all expected, what else is there to think about? What we really remember is how FNC, who many had lost hope for after an abysmal Week 1, beat them, and how FNC finally buried their demons and took down RNG for the second time ever. FNC were supposed to be the losers, everyone was angry at them after Week 1 but now, there are people out there who are diverting all their energy towards SKT and RNG because of these losses to FNC. People remember Faker’s failed dive into Nemesis’ Event Horizon. People remember Xiaohu’s 2.2k damage on Ryze Mid.

Do you really remember the victor? Or do you prefer shaming the loser until they finally, if ever, redeem themselves?

2. The end of the LMS.

CTBC J Team’s Lilv after his victory against GAM Esports on Day 5.

The LMS was separated from the Garena Premier League (now known as the League of Legends South East Asian Tour (LST)) in early 2015 as a result of the success of their teams at international tournaments, the most famous being the Worlds Championship by Taipei Assassins in 2012. Prior to this year, the LMS never failed to reach the Knockout stage of the Mid-Season Invitational, but the LMS only ever reached the Knockout stage at Worlds 2015. It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that they are now losing their independence as a region and recombining with the LST.

Ever since I started watching League of Legends (season 6 – I only started playing at the end of Season 5 okay), the LMS to me was always described a one team wonder. Flash Wolves (FW) were dominating the region with six consecutive titles from 2016 Summer to 2019 Spring and they have been to every international tournament representing the LMS besides this one. Looking at their results in each of their domestic splits, there was at least one team each split that was always just one step below them. And even if there was a team one step above them, FW just decimated them in the finals.

Since FW once had great dominance, there must be a reason to why they have lost their dominance. Last year, they lost Karsa to the LPL when he was given a position on RNG and at the beginning of this year, they lost Maple and SwordArt to the LPL when they were given positions on Suning Gaming (SNG). Karsa still maintained his status as a World class jungler by helping Uzi achieve his first ever LPL title and winning every tournament that year besides Worlds. However, Maple and SwordArt have seemingly disappeared off the stage, their highest placement in the LPL this year being 7th/8th. Now the question arises, were the FW ever strong? And hence, there is another question, is the LMS strong enough to keep their status as the fifth best region in the world?

Yes and no are my answers.

I believe that the LMS is at least the fifth best region in the world. What other regions outclass it? The LCK, LEC and the LPL definitely do. The LCS went 5-13 while the LMS went 3-15. The results of the two most recent international tournaments say LCS is better than the LMS. That’s four. I don’t think the VCS outclasses the LMS currently, but the VCS still have much more room to grow with such a large player base. Hence, the LMS have a solid placement at fifth.

However, the LMS doesn’t appear to be growing and improving as much as the other regions. Are CTBC J Team (JT) the next FW? The next one team wonder? Once upon a time, Europe didn’t reach the Knockouts at MSI and now, they have two strong contenders to win Worlds. The LMS, to me, appears to have hit their ceiling and need something else, something new to rejuvenate the region’s hopes.

And so, the final decision had been made earlier this year for the LMS and the LST to merge once more.

Goodbye LMS.

3. Expectations allow for disappointment.

Splyce shaking the hands of FunPlus Phoenix after their win on Day 5.

Pre-tournament predictions and Worlds Top 20 lists; conversations about who are the best, who are the worst, who will improve from last year and who will win are always exciting, but these come with a risk. And no, I’m not talking about how Jatt or Vedius will get flamed on Reddit for putting almost all FunPlus Phoenix (FPX) players on their Top 20 lists… sort of.

FPX is the guiltiest of failing expectations this tournament so far. Many people had them as a title contender even though all their players have never played on a major international stage. And why was that? It was because FPX demolished the LPL in the regular season… twice. This past Summer split was their first title and they won it so dominantly that people were sure – absolutely sure – that this team could take it all. But FPX disappointed us this Group stage. People said before the tournament started, that if FPX didn’t 6-0 their group, it was a disappointment. Guess what? They were disappointed. FPX almost didn’t even make it out of their group. They were only one game away from being eliminated in the Group stage.

Team Liquid (TL) also failed their expectations. At the beginning of the year, TL added Jensen and CoreJJ to their roster. Jensen had a 3rd/4th placement at Worlds 2018 and CoreJJ who won 2017 Worlds. This team was built to succeed. They continued their dominance in the LCS with their third and fourth title in a row and they ended MSI 2019 as finalists. This was it. This was the year that Doublelift made it to the Worlds Knockout stage. But the four curse remains, and TL ended their Worlds run as 3-3 which was for Doublelift, the fourth year in a row.

GRIFFIN shaking hands with G2 Esports after their first win against them on Day 6.

Even G2 Esports (G2) failed their expectations. They were coined the best team in the world by many - a result of their MSI championship and their undeniable dominance in the LEC. They were hyped up to be the favourites for the tournament, but they didn’t even get first seed in their group.

These expectations are what make it so disappointing when our favourite teams don’t reach them, but these expectations also reduce the impact of a team’s success. Take SKT for example. They got first seed in their group. The supposed strongest group ever at Worlds. The casters try to hype it up, but it will never reach the same impact as GRIFFIN (GRF) or DAMWON Gaming (DWG) topping their group. Why? Because we expected it. We expected SKT to do it and anything otherwise would be disappointing.

GRF is a reverse example of this. There weren’t many expectations coming into the tournament. GRF wasn’t expected to top their group but G2 was. Some people didn’t even expect them to make it out. GRF were labelled as chokers ever since: they lost against KT Rolster in the 2018 LCK Summer Finals, they lost against Gen.G in the 2018 LCK Regional Finals, and they lost against SKT in both LCK Finals this year. Beating tournament favourites G2 and claiming first seed surpassed everyone’s expectations for this team.

After an underwhelming Play-ins best of five showing by SPY, everyone seemed to lose faith in this team. After their first week of Groups, they only had a scoreline of 1-2. In the “worst” group, they were still unable to make noise. However, they surpassed expectations in Week 2. They 3-1’d and almost, almost forced FPX – title contenders by the way – to leave the tournament early.

What if we just stop having expectations… haha, just kidding… unless?

4. The impact of the fans

FunPlus Phoenix’s Doinb’s wife (Umi) cheering her husband on Day 4.

On Day 5 of the Group stage after FPX beat JT securing their spot out of Groups, Umi, Doinb’s wife, took to Weibo to express her feelings of relief. When one fan told her not to let the angry fans get to her, she replied,

“There’s no need, they can’t hurt me. Regardless if it’s copypastas or if they really want to vent their anger, it’s always better if they curse at me than the team. They still have games left to play.”

Thank you for the translation @iCrystalization.

A live audience is always drastically more different than playing in the middle of the night with no audience besides your friends. These players know it better than anyone else after a year or years of playing in arenas and studios alongside thousands, maybe even millions of viewers online. Every person has once felt the need to impress others, so why is it such a surprise that the fans have such a large impact on the players?

In the arena, through the noise cancellation headsets, the players can still hear the cheers of the audience. SPY, FNC, G2 have all thanked their fans for the home crowd cheering, but what about the booing? If the players can hear the cheers, they can surely hear the boos. G2’s Jankos brought this up in an interview with Travis Gafford (here). He says that the fans should cheer for every play whether or not it’s the team they’re supporting.

I think you should agree with this too, because the reality is, the main reason you’re here is to watch some good League of Legends.

5. Who will win?

Invictus Gaming’s Rookie eyeing the Summoners’ Cup right after he just put it down.

So I have a prediction tournament going on in my Discord server. Here are the predictions for the quarters: The first two (GRF vs IG and FPX vs FNC) are both equally split between everyone. While for SKT vs SPY, everyone is betting on a 3-0 by SKT. And, DWG vs G2 has only one hopeful person cheering on for DWG. The fact that two of the quarterfinals are so close speaks volumes about how tight the race to win Worlds is.

However, if one looks at this analytically, then LCK is the best region in the world and SKT will probably win. LCK has three of the four first seeds. SKT is literally the winningest team in the world. What could possibly stop them?

Blind faith in your favourite teams. That’s right. If I just believe in IG, they’ll win right?

Jokes aside, you can never guarantee that the team that wins is actually the best team. In best of fives, it is more likely than best of ones for the better team to win. Just remember, the winners are only guaranteed to be the better team on the day, not the better team forever.

Maybe the best team in the world won’t win. Or maybe, because they’re the best team in the world, they will.

~ Clarissa “Cure Lemonade” Tatang