Following three days with eight games each, the first round robin of the Worlds 2021 main event group stage has concluded. Three games per team may not be enough to draw proper conclusions about them, but here are some patterns that we have observed so far.
The LPL have a rocky start, but manage to assert dominance
The opening match of the 2021 World Championship group stage was FunPlus Phoenix against Damwon Kia, the world champions of 2019 and 2020 respectively. The LPL second seed decided to pick a more dive-oriented team composition with Jarvan IV and Galio, but this did not work to their advantage. They lost the game to the defending world champions.
Their fourth seed, LNG Esports, also lost to the LCK that day. Gen G overpowered them from start to finish, with LNG getting only one kill in the entire game. Royal Never Give Up had a strong early game against PSG Talon, but then fumbled for a sizable chunk of the mid game before closing the game out. Edward Gaming, the region’s first seed, dealt with North American representatives 100 Thieves with relative ease.
Given the LPL’s current reputation as the best region in the world, their first day sent a wave of panic for fans. It raised questions about the region’s strength in general, but the LPL teams won all of their games in the next two days. Their meta reads improved by the day, and their play showed an improving understanding of how the game is to be played in this meta.
— LoL Esports (@lolesports) October 14, 2021
The LCK has the best meta read going into the tournament
In their match against FunPlus Phoenix, Damwon Kia took Yuumi as their first pick in the draft, and then followed it up by taking Graves for the top lane. They dealt with the match with ease, with the Graves being a proper carrier for the Yuumi. T1 also showed the Magical Cat against Japanese Representatives DetonatioN FocusMe, and while Graves was in the game, the South Korean third seed also picked Talon in the jungle. The important thing for Yuumi was for it to have someone else to empower, and given the current state of bottom laners, the one being empowered had to come from elsewhere in the map.
Because of their judgment about the current power level of Yuumi, and of enchanter supports in general, they got a head start against the competition. In addition, their proper understanding of playing through the top side in this meta ensures that they do not have to make adjustments in the middle of the group stage.
With the rest of the world catching up to them, we are left to wonder whether or not they have responses to what the others will come up with to counter the perceived meta champions at the moment.
PSG Talon are not going down without a fight
With the unfortunate elimination of Beyond Gaming against Hanwha Life Esports, PSG Talon are the only PCS representatives left in the event. They are currently locked into a struggle for second in the group, as Royal Never Give Up are first in Group C with a 3-0 scoreline and while they look a bit shaky at times, are still the favorites to emerge as this group’s first seed. PSG Talon are currently at second place with a 2-1 record, but they are competing against the LCK’s Hanwha Life Esports at 1-2, and European fan favorites Fnatic, who are winless in the group.
If the group plays out the same way as it did in the first round, PSG Talon would make it out in second place. However, all of the PCS first seed’s games have had moments where it seemed like things could have gone either way (even their loss against RNG). In such a hotly contested group, the unexpected can happen. After all, Fnatic was able to make it out of their group after going 0-3 in the first round of the Group Stages in 2017. Hanwha Life Esports is a team with players who are very hungry to prove themselves on the international stage. Royal Never Give Up did not look indestructible.
This may be the PCS’ best chance in years to advance to the Knockout Stages.
Regions ranked after day 3 of #Worlds2021 Groups:
— LoL Esports (@lolesports) October 13, 2021
The West struggles
There is no way around it: North America and Europe have had a collective record of 4-14 in the first round robin of the group stages.
Aside from the fact that some teams were in rather difficult groups, like Rogue and Cloud9 getting into a group with DK and FPX, others have perhaps the worst meta reads in the tournament. Other teams have an adequate understanding of the meta, but lack the proper champion pool to fully apply said understanding. While Fnatic, for example, had to deal with an emergency substitution due to a personal emergency on the side of one of their players, some of their in-game habits that were ignored in their home region were punished by international competition.
There is a lot to be done to catch up, and the Western teams do not have a lot of time to do so. The Knockout Stages may be an all-Asia show, and it will become a reality if North America and Europe fall short.
(Header image via @lolesports)