Worlds 2022: C9, 100 Thieves, Evil Geniuses carry North America’s hope

by Nick Geracie

Throughout League of Legends esports history, North America has fared the worst of the four major regions. Aside from the very first League of Legends World Championship in 2011 that only featured teams from Europe and North America, only one NA team has finished in the top four at Worlds, and none have made it to the final.

Despite history, however, North American fans have reason to be excited for Worlds 2022. The 2022 League Championship Series (LCS) Championship, which concluded earlier this month, was the most competitive postseason in LCS history. In addition to many veteran players making their return to the Worlds stage, promising rookies are playing pivotal parts for the teams representing North America as the region hosts its first world championship since 2016.

Let’s take a closer look at the three LCS teams competing at the Worlds 2022 and dive into what North America can expect from its regional representatives this fall.

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Cloud9

NA first seed

Photo credit: LCS via Twitter

After qualifying for the 2022 LCS Championship as the fifth seed, C9 went undefeated en route to the organization’s fifth domestic title. The team’s solo laners returned to form -- top laner Ibrahim “Fudge” Allami played mid lane in spring and mid laner Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen was teamless for the first half of the year. Jungler Robert “Blaber” Huang is in perhaps the best form of his career. And Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen’s role swap to support has been a success, while his lane partner -- rookie AD carry Kim “Berserker” Min-cheol -- is heading to his first Worlds as the LCS’ top performer.

Cloud9 are facing a tough start in Group A of the Worlds 2022 group stage. League of Legends Champions Korea (LCK) second seed T1 and League of Legends Pro League (LPL) third seed EDward Gaming are in the group with C9. Although the last team to join the group will be dependent on the results of the play-in stage, it is likely that another formidable foe in League of Legends European Championship (LEC) third seed Fnatic will round out the group.

Read more: Fudge confident he and C9 can take on best teams at Worlds 2022

China’s regional depth is unmatched, and T1 didn’t lose a single game this season until G2 Esports beat them at the 2022 Mid-Season Invitational in May. However, EDG were not able to win the LPL summer playoffs, and T1 are not quite as strong as they were in the first half of the season.

In addition, C9 is no stranger to this situation. They have been in the proverbial “group of death” at previous world championships. In fact, at Worlds 2017, C9 were in a group with T1 and EDG and managed to make it out over the Chinese side. It will be a tall task for history to repeat itself, but Cloud9 are historically the top international performer among all North American teams and enter Worlds as the first seed for the first time since 2013.

100 Thieves

NA second seed

Photo credit: Colin Young-Wolff / Riot Games via ESPAT

100 Thieves won the 2021 LCS Championship, but despite reaching finals in both the spring and summer postseason this year, they failed to defend their title against Evil Geniuses and Cloud9, respectively. As the second seed, 100 Thieves also will start in the group stage with C9, but in Group D.

Joining 100 Thieves in Group D is LCK No. 1 seed Gen.G and Pacific Championship Series (PCS) first seed CTBC Flying Oyster. Because of the seeding rules for Worlds, it is extremely likely that China’s fourth seed Royal Never Give Up -- arguably the strongest team in the play-in stage -- will be rounding out Group D.

Should RNG round out the group, 100 Thieves will be in a tough spot. Gen.G are definitively the strongest South Korean team at the tournament after sweeping T1 in the final of the 2022 LCK summer playoffs, and RNG are the back-to-back MSI champions. Flying Oyster should not be underestimated either. This team is attending its first world championship, but multiple players on the roster have competed internationally before.

Read more: How Ssumday found a home with 100 Thieves

However, 100 Thieves have one trait that no other team can boast, and that is unparalleled familiarity among its players. 100 Thieves are one of the few teams in history heading to a second consecutive world championship with the same roster, and while the roster as a whole has been together for the better part of two years, jungler Can "Closer" Çelik, AD carry Victor “FBI” Huang and support Choi “huhi” Jae-hyun boast over 1,000 consecutive days together on the same roster.

“I'm not sure if it gives us an advantage,” Closer said when asked about 100 Thieves returning to Worlds with the same roster in their postmatch press conference following the LCS Championship final. “It's something good, though, because we are all friends, and that gives us some positivity in and outside of the game. I don't know if it brings too much advantage, but it's something positive, for sure.”

In a tough group, being able to keep morale intact is paramount, and that could be the difference-maker for 100 Thieves to qualify for the knockout stage.

Evil Geniuses

NA third seed

Photo credit: Peter Chau / Riot Games via ESPAT

Evil Geniuses were unable to defend their spring title, but their third-place finish in the 2022 LCS Championship was understandable. EG were not the dominant force in the LCS Championship that they had been in the Summer Split. AD carry Kyle “Danny” Sakamaki had to step down due to mental health fatigue and burnout before the final weekend of the postseason, and the team had about four days to start from scratch with EG Academy AD carry Muhammed Hasan "Kaori" Şentürk.

This isn’t to say EG are dead in the water at Worlds. They weren’t terrible against 100 Thieves in the penultimate match of the LCS Championship. Despite having less than a week of practice with Kaori in the starting lineup, EG pushed 100 Thieves to five games, and Kaori -- considered one of the top players in the LCS Academy League -- looked every bit LCS caliber on an individual level.

Read more: Evil Geniuses defend home turf in winning Fragadelphia 17

How EG will do at Worlds 2022 depends entirely on how much synergy they can build with Kaori. Because they will start the tournament in the play-in stage, they have less time than C9 or 100 Thieves in terms of preparation for the competition. In addition, Kaori’s playstyle differs greatly from Danny’s and changes the complexion of the team, and while this change is not necessarily for the worse in the current meta, it adds to the complexity of the late-season player swap for EG.

If EG can return to their peak level of play exhibited this season with Kaori in the lineup, they should have little trouble qualifying for the Worlds 2022 main event. However, with teams like Royal Never Give Up, Fnatic, LCK fourth seed DRX and LEC fourth seed MAD Lions among the top contenders in the field, the play-in stage has never been this formidable.

Even a slightly weaker EG than what was shown at their best points this season may fall short in play-ins. With very little time to re-establish synergy among five players, EG will look to defy expectations once again just as they did when they won the 2022 LCS spring playoffs.

Lead photo credit: LCS via Twitter

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