The League of Legends World Championship countdown is officially on, and the groups for this year's tournament held in Europe have been drawn.
The play-in round, which begins in Berlin on Oct. 2, was determined before matters turned to the main event, where the favorites to hoist the Summoner's Cup learned their fates.
The top four teams from the play-in stage will advance to the main event, with the only caveat being that teams from the same region cannot be drawn in the same group. This means some play-in teams are already locked into where they will end up in the main event depending on who advances from the opening stage of the tournament.
Here are the official groups for both the play-in round and the main-event group stage:
Unicorns of Love
Hong Kong Attitude
SK Telecom T1
Royal Never Give Up
Now, let's get to the winners and losers of today's group draw.
They might be rebranding after this worlds is over, but maybe OverActive Media should keep the Splyce name depending on how deep the team gets this tournament. While I think Splyce is just alongside Clutch Gaming as the No. 2 team in the play-in stage, the European underdog might have had the best day during the group draw.
Their play-in group might be one of the toughest, but does that really matter? Regardless of how tough a play-in group is, a team from Europe should still make it to the main event. After that, Splyce have a 50/50, a coin flip, of landing in the two easiest groups, either Group B or Group D.
If they land in Group B, they might be favored to make it out in second place. If it's Group D, they could match up well with the top team in Team Liquid and could catch a deflated reigning champion in Invictus Gaming.
Before Monday, I didn't expect to talk about Splyce being a potential quarterfinalist, but here we are. Every year there is a play-in team that gets a good roll, and this year it's Splyce.
Loser: Clutch Gaming
When one team cashes in with the group draw, another rolls skulls and crossbones.
In a different world, Clutch Gaming are the team that has the chance to get into Group B and make it to the quarterfinals, but alas, it was not meant to be. If everything goes to plan in the play-ins, then Clutch Gaming will join Group C, possibly the most stacked group in worlds history.
Clutch, the North American team that was never supposed to make it here, is probably rolling up into a group with the winningest franchise of all-time in SKT, last year's world finalists in Fnatic and last year's Mid-Season Invitational winners in RNG.
Clutch's chances of getting out of that group? Non-existent. On the positive end, though, Clutch have all the makings of a quick-paced spoiler with the knockout power to upend one of these legendary franchises. There's a strong possibility Clutch exit Group C with a 1-5 or 2-4 record, but those one or two victories might be the sweetest of the entire tournament.
Winner: FunPlus Phoenix
One of my hesitations with betting on FunPlus as a team was that they were going straight into the main event group stages with a starting five that doesn't have a single game of worlds experience between them. How do you rectify that? You give them a cupcake group devoid of any top challengers. This narrative might shift a bit of South Korea's Damwon Gaming becomes the fourth team drawn into the group (50/50 with Splyce if play-ins are chalk) but even then, FunPlus should make it to the knockout rounds in pretty good shape.
Truth be told, if Splyce rolls into Group B, then there's an argument that the entirety of Group B for the main event are winners. It would truly be the group of life, where FunPlus are expected to finish first and three teams that before the tournament were longshots to make the knockout rounds now all believe they're going to the quarterfinals. If Damwon gets in this group, though, then it should be a straightforward FunPlus and Damwon one-two finish (or vice versa).
Losers: Fnatic, SKT, RNG
Similar to how everyone who gets into Group B is a winner, everyone who is in Group C is a loser today.
Clutch might be drawing dead if they make it through play-ins, but it's mind-boggling to think that one of Fnatic, SKT and RNG won't be making it to the quarterfinals. All three teams would have been favored to make it to the knockout rounds if they were separated, but now at least one of these legendary squads will see their 2019 end prematurely. Coming into worlds, I wouldn't be surprised if the Group C trio thought they'd all be making deep runs in the tournament. They're now in a fight for their lives to even survive the group stage.
If SKT lose, then it's the first time they ever failed to make a final when qualifying for worlds. Huge failure.
If Fnatic lose, then Europe's most famous and popular team fails to make the quarterfinals in front of their home fans. Huge failure.
If RNG lose, then China's golden franchise that upgraded its roster to make up for last year's disappointment will do even worse than their meltdown in 2018. Huge failure.
One of these storylines is confirmed to be happening. How wild is that?
Winner: Team Liquid
This was one of the best preliminary groups the North American champs could ask for: ahq eSports are probably the weakest main event team at worlds, so Team Liquid should take care of business there. Invictus Gaming are a threat as the reigning world champs and will want revenge for Liquid starting their slump when they eliminated them from MSI earlier this year, but they were also one of the better options on the board.
Team Liquid have already shown they can beat iG, and this is a weaker iG than the team they faced in Taiwan all those months ago.
The fourth team could be the game-changer, however. If it's Splyce, then Liquid should prove to be the superior of the two similar teams and get out of the group in a breezy place. If it's Damwon, then Liquid will have more problems on their hands. Although I believe TL's bottom lane can definitely exploit Damwon's and withstand the South Korean team's monstrous solo lanes, I don't see Damwon being an easy out for any team in this tournament.
Either way, Team Liquid should make it out of this group. They're MSI finalists, four-time domestic champions and the best roster ever built in North America. If Yiliang "Doublelift" Peng & Co. don't get out of this group after drawing ahq eSports and a struggling iG, then no matter how matter domestic titles they win, they'll never hear the end of it.
Winner: The fans
Yes, this is cheesy.
Do I care? No.
These are great groups. Although Group B seems pretty soft currently, there is no way of knowing what GAM Esports are cooking up in their mad-scientist kitchen for this group. GAM always bring excitement, and the same can be said for FunPlus. If Damwon get in that group, then you might have the three most fun teams of the tournament excluding G2 Esports off in Group A.
Speaking of Group A, how isn't that going to be a barnburner? G2 are wacky and will have the pressure of being the best team in front of their home fans. Griffin have the ceiling of winning worlds without dropping a game but the floor of bombing out in the group stages. Cloud9, while the odd man out at first glance, are a good team with some of the best coaching at the tournament and the pedigree of turning impossible groups into memorable conquests.
Group C, as we've already talked, about is going to be one for the ages. And Group D has the delicious Team Liquid and Invictus Gaming storyline where we might see these two giant organizations truly become heated rivals in front of our eyes.
Let the fun begin.