The Worlds Play-in is around the corner and it’s time to talk expectations.
With the end of playoffs in all major regions, the League of Legends pro play world focuses on the upcoming Worlds. The top teams of the major regions already wait in the group stage, but first, their lower-ranking seeds and the representatives of the minor regions will have to battle through the Play-In. The groups have already been decided and it’s time to see what we can expect. Will EU make use of the opportunity they were given to send a fourth team to the entry phase? Will the LPL or LCK stumble? Will we see another year when a minor region makes it to the groups? Let’s dig in.
A quick refresher: this year, the Play-In teams are separated in two groups of six teams each, playing a single round robin. The top team of each group directly qualifies to the group stage, while the next three teams go into a knockout round of Best of 5 series.. There, the third and fourth seeds of each group play each other, with the winner taking on the second seed from the other group.
Somewhat surprisingly, for a second year in a row one group has neither a LCK nor a LPL representative, and we expect this will have a significant impact. Fnatic is coming as the likely favorite for second place, with EG and Beyond the likely runner up. The three remaining teams are close, but we would probably give Chiefs the nod.
- Fnatic: being a Fnatic fan in the EU must have been a rollercoaster. The team got get their act together just before the playoffs and fought to the third place. If they prepare well, their players can carry them to the top of this group.
- Evil Geniuses: A very strong regular split followed by an playoff series full of ups and downs leave EG in a precarious position. They should do well in this group, but we are not confident they will be comfortable on the Worlds patch, which is why we put them behind Fnatic.
- Beyond: While the PCS teams do occasionally surprise, Beyond will have a hard time cracking the top 2. It entered the PCS playoffs in sixth place and despite a 3-2 upset against MSI participants PSG Talon, lost to the eventual champion CFO twice.
- Chiefs Esports: The LCO champion went undefeated in the regular split and only lost a single game in the playoffs, defeating PGG 3-1. While the region's international performance is sketchy, we think Chiefs might snag the last knockout stage spot.
- Detonation FocusMe: DFM has won the Japanese league once again after defeating their only serious rivals Sengoku Gaming twice. Without superstar mid laner Lee "Aria" Ga-eul, though, we don't see DFM pulling an upset like last year.
- LOUD: After missing out on playoffs in the spring, LOUD had a respectable showing in the summer. Still, while the last three teams may be close, this is probably the team we would put as the likely last place.
Putting DRX and Royal Never Give Up in this group was already enough to make it top heavy, but the fact that the VCS second seed and the LEC fourth team were also added makes it even more competitive. Istanbul Wildcats and Isurus bring up the rear.
- Royal Never Give Up: The LPL has won the majority of international competitions in the last few years and we think RNG will represent them well. We expect them to be able to take on any LPL or LCK team (except maybe Gen.G or EDG) and are the likely winners of the group.
- DRX: DRX took down both KT Rolster and Liiv SANDBOX to get to Worlds, and having star AD carry Kim "Deft" Hyuk-kyu in a botlane-centric meta will serve them well. We expect RNG to come first in this group, but DRX may upset them.
- Saigon Buffalo: the Vietnamese teams bring fast and aggressive play reminiscent of the LPL, though they have generally been more fragile and exploitable on the map. Saigon Buffalo showed their horns at MSI and we expect them to be the top contender for the third spot.
- MAD Lions: The 2021 LEC champions have had a sobering spring, but bounced back in the summer. Adding Yasin "Nisqy" Dinçer proved to be a winning more, and his synergy with his jungler was a big plus for MAD. If all players are in shape, a third seed is quite feasible, thought we rank Saigon Buffalo higher.
- Istanbul Wildcats: the TCL has produced a lot of good players, yet as a region it has often failed to deliver. The Wildcats struggled at MSI, only getting a single win off the Red Canids, but their experience could be the decider that puts them ahead of Isurus.
- Isurus: Latin America’s representatives have traditionally struggled to make a mark on the international stage and sadly, we don’t see this changing this Worlds. Isurus eliminated the spring champions Team Aze in the playoffs, but had a hard time getting to the title and it won't be any easier here.
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