League of Legends world championship trophy the Summoner's Cup displayed on stage
League of Legends world championship trophy the Summoner's Cup displayed on stage

League of Legends Worlds 2021 group draw takeaways

by Xander Torres

It’s that time of year again! The League of Legends World Championship starts Oct. 5 and we now know exactly which teams are matching up. Earlier Wednesday, G2 Esports jungler Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski joined Riot Games’ Worlds 2021 Draw Show and pulled teams names to form both the Play-In groups and Group Stage groups. As always, there will be plenty of spicy matchups and a “group of death” or two in Reykjavík, Iceland, to entertain fans worldwide.

Play-In Group Stage

The 10 Play-In teams have been placed in two groups of five and will play a single round robin. The top team from each group will automatically advance to the Main Event Group Stage. The second team in each group will play the winner between the third and fourth teams in the opposite group in order to advance.

Group A: Hanwha Life Esports, Infinity Esports, LNG Esports, PEACE, RED Canids

Photo credit: Riot Games

The odds are always stacked against minor regions, but it doesn’t get more suffocating than dealing with Korea’s Hanwha Life Esports and China’s LNG Esports in the exact same group. Not only are Hanwha Life Esports and LNG Esports arguably the strongest Play-In teams, but they are flanked by some of the tournament’s best players in general -- Hanwha Life Esports mid laner Jeong “Chovy” Ji-hoon and LNG Esports jungler Lee “Tarzan” Seung-yong. The two players are the definitive stars of their former teams and also happened to be former teammates on 2019 Worlds semifinalist, Griffin, so sparks will surely fly as the teams joust for first in Group A.

Realistically, first and second place should be locked up by HLE and LNG. Infinity Esports, PEACE and RED Canids are some of the weaker teams at the world championship and will be competing for third and fourth place in order to progress to the Play-Ins knockout stage. Infinity Esports look to be the favorite with an experienced lineup, but RED Canids may push for third with a wealth of young, new talent.

Group B: Beyond Gaming, Cloud9, Galatasaray Esports, Detonation FocusMe, Unicorns of Love

Photo credit: Riot Games

Beyond Gaming and Cloud9 are certainly favored in Group B, but unlike Group A, they have competition from arguably the three best minor region teams in Detonation FocusMe, Galatasaray Esports and Unicorns of Love. As the final, lowest seeds of their regions, Beyond Gaming and Cloud9 will have to steel themselves and maintain their form in order to avoid a potential knockout stage matchup against either Hanwha Life Esports or LNG Esports. Don’t forget that Detonation FocusMe managed to take a game off Cloud9 at the 2021 Mid-Season Invitational.

While Beyond Gaming and Cloud9 will be doing their best to maintain peak positioning to make it into the Main Event Group Stage, the rest of the teams will be looking to knock them down. Unicorns of Love are one of the most successful minor region teams of all time and will certainly be the favorite to not only place third place but potentially challenge for second. Detonation FocusMe will be hot on their heels with support Yang “Gaeng” Gwang-woo back in the lineup, making the team that much stronger than their Mid-Season Invitational iteration.

Main Event Group Stage

The 12 teams already qualified to the Main Event have been placed into one of four groups, and they will begin play after four teams from the Play-In Stage join them. The top two teams from each group will advance to the Worlds Knockout Stage.

Group A: DWG KIA, FunPlus Phoenix, Rogue

Photo credit: Riot Games

Some fans might consider Group A to be a “group of death,” and not necessarily because any team can get out, but because Rogue’s chances are grim with DWG KIA and FunPlus Phoenix atop the group. DWG KIA profiles as one of the strongest teams at Worlds as the South Korean champion while FunPlus Phoenix look to be the strongest team, period. FunPlus Phoenix’s fumble against EDward Gaming in the LPL finals -- making the team a Pool 2 seed as opposed to Pool 1 -- was bound to ruin some team’s day and that appears to be Rogue. It doesn’t help that Rogue struggled in the LEC playoffs following their Worlds qualification, making the team’s chances of advancing to the knockout stage appear low.

Group B: EDward Gaming, 100 Thieves, T1

Photo credit: Riot Games

EDward Gaming and T1 stand out as clear favorites in Group B, but 100 Thieves are no slouch as North America’s champions. EDward Gaming dominated FunPlus Phoenix in the LPL finals and feel like a lock to top the group, while T1 struggled against DWG KIA in the LCK playoffs and Hanwha Life Esports in the LCK regional finals, making the Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok-led lineup feel more fallible. 100 Thieves round out the group as dominant North American champions and will look to outspeed both EDward Gaming and T1 with decisive early game skirmishing.

Group C: PSG Talon, Fnatic, Royal Never Give Up

Photo credit: Riot Games

Unlike Group A and B, Group C features a more balanced stable of teams. PSG Talon headline the group as champions, but hail from the weaker Pacific Championship Series. Meanwhile Fnatic and Royal Never Give Up were second- and third-place finishers in their respective regions. If there was a group for PSG Talon to be the first Taiwanese team since 2015 to advance to the quarterfinals, this one is it. Royal Never Give Up, though, are favored to exit the group in first as this year’s Mid-Season Invitational champion.

Group D: MAD Lions, Gen.G, Team Liquid

Photo credit: Riot Games

If there was a true “group of death,” this is certainly the one. Ignoring the likelihood that LNG Esports round out the group as its final team, MAD Lions, Gen.G and Team Liquid will certainly be at each other’s throats. MAD Lions profile as favorites, dominating the LEC all year long, but both Gen.G and Team Liquid have the early-game firepower to threaten some of the team’s suboptimal mid-game transitions. Team Liquid and Gen.G had down performances at the end of their respective postseason runs, but that doesn’t invalidate the talent on their rosters. Anything can happen in a round robin group, and Team Liquid will especially be looking to prove that and advance to their first ever Main Event Knockout Stage.

Lead photo credit: Riot Games

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