Who should fans be watching at the Play-In stage?
While in many people's minds the Play-in stage for the World Championships is mostly decided, LGD, Team Liquid, MAD Lions, and a team from a smaller region making it through, there is still some room for upsets and surprises from the stage. Smaller regions like Turkey, Latin America, Japan, and Brazil have steadily improved since their inclusion in the event in 2013 and should be seen as more than just cannon fodder for the major regions before the main event.
Here are three teams in the Play-in stage that fans should look out for.
The No. 1 seed out of the Latin American League, Rainbow7 are looking to make waves in a group where the second spot to the main stage is hotly contested. With most fans and analysts predicting LGD to top Group B, the most decorated Latin American team is hoping to take that second spot through the bracket stage.
The Mexico-based team is coming into Worlds after fighting through three best-of-five matches against the top of LLA competition in the Closing Playoffs. This team knows how to ride momentum through a game and a series. Rainbow7 won the right to compete at Worlds after reverse sweeping the best LLA regular-season team All Knights.
The team owes a lot of its success to its jungler Brandon Joel "Josedeodo" Villegas. The 20-year-old won the Player of the Series award in all three playoff series and is coming into the first international event of his career. Josedeodo likes to play champions like Lee Sin and Trundle and is the main catalyst for the team when it comes to early-game snowballing. He has the highest gold differential in the regular season and was top five for junglers in almost every statistical category. If this team makes a run to the main stage, it will be because of Josedeodo and his early-game prowess.
This is not Papara SuperMassive's first time on the World's stage or an international event, and the team is full of Turkish and Korean veterans that could upset the more jaded LCS and LEC teams in Group A. The No. 1 seed out of the TCL, SuperMassive eased its way through the Summer Playoffs before defeating the regular season champions 5 Ronin in five games in the finals.
The team has a strong mid-lane and jungle duo with a reliable ADC player in Berkay "Zeitnot" Aşıkuzun who can play to dominate the early lane phase or scale to the late game with picks like Ashe and Ezreal. Lee "KaKAO" Byung-kwon, the team's jungler, will be a major player to watch as most of the team's leads come from his early game plays on current meta picks like Nidalee and Graves. Fans should also keep an eye on Onur "Bolulu" Can Demirol, the squad's mid laner, who dominated his lane opponents all season and put up an 8.8 KDA and 76.4% kill participation in the regular season.
Papara SuperMassive are capable of playing to both the top and bottom side of the map. The team is comfortable prioritising either the Drake or Rift Herald as its win condition, putting their top laner İrfan "Armut" Berk Tükek on either Ornn or a carry depending on which they prioritise.
The team's flexibility should scare Team Liquid and MAD Lions as both have problems that the TCL side can exploit like MAD's poor top lane form and Liquid's inactivity in the early game.
The No. 1 seed out of the LJL, V3 Esports dominated the Summer Season finishing first and then walked into the Summer Finals to defeat DetonatioN FocusMe in a five-game series. The team is mostly green to international events, the only player with any international experience is former Flash Wolves jungler Lee "Bugi" Seong-yeop.
This team is hard to quantify in terms of strength because of how dominant it was over the Summer Season. V3 only lost two regular-season contests and dropped three games in the playoffs. It has the highest gold spent percentage difference in the LJL while also holding an 86% first blood rate across the season.
The LJL and Japan as a whole is looked down upon as a region. It has never fared particularly well at international events and does not make waves with off-meta picks or strategies. What Japan, and V3 Esports, do have is access to both Korean and Chinese servers so the individual level of the players and practice should be highly competitive.
V3 Esports is an interesting team that does have a shot at making it through Group B in that second Main Stage spot. Fans should pay attention to the LJL side and see if Bugi and his insane first blood and objective control rate can carry the team out of international irrelevancy.
Images via lolesports