I’ve been quiet for a while now due to having to work overtime and moving to a new town recently. But I figured it’s Worlds 2020 (aka 2020 League of Legends Season World Championship) and I cannot let it pass without writing a few lines about it. And groups are just the time when the teams from the weaker regions get filtered out (hello NA). Therefore, we haven’t got to the exciting part yet and I am hopefully not late to the party. So, here are my two cents on League of Legends World Championship 2020 Shanghai. What are the highlights so far, which teams over- and underperformed in the groups stage and how I expect the quarterfinals to unfold.
This year’s Worlds is taking place in Shanghai, following last year’s Chinese champions FunPlus Phoenix (FPX) winning Worlds 2019, which took place in Europe. Ironically, FunPlus Phoenix didn’t even manage to qualify this year to defend their title. Similarly, another Chinese ex-world champion Invictus Gaming (IG) didn’t make the cut. While that seems like a great upset at first glance (especially after FPX splashing a serious amount of cash signing T1’s jungler Tian at the beginning of the season), it is not all that surprising looking at the rising stars on the Chinese scene.
Starting with this year’s Chinese champion Top eSports (TES). TES were an upper-mid table team in China for a long time, however it was not until signing IG’s ADC JackeyLove and the rise of their fantastic Mid knight that they started messing with the big boys in the league. Not only that, the duo pulled up some iconic performances, like this Baron play against JD Gaming (JDG), which was one of the greatest displays of LoL skills I have ever seen. It was a massive year for TES and it is not surprising that after taking the Chinese title the public considered them one of the main contenders for the World’s trophy. Would have even said the main contender, have it not been for Damwon Gaming (DWG), but more on that later.
JDG were basically the team breathing in the neck of TES this whole season. They even managed to win the Spring split against them after winning a 3-2 thriller game. However, their steam ran out a bit in the Summer split, so it was a second place for JDG in China, after nevertheless a great performance from them so far this year. JDG’s jungler Kanavi is probably the strongest part of this overall very balanced roster
LGD Gaming & Suning
Having won Worlds 2019 China got 4 teams qualified for this year’s worlds, so the above two were accompanied by LGD Gaming (LGD) & Suning (SUN). 4th seed LGD Gaming qualifying effortlessly from the play-in stage has shown that the 4th seed is fully deserved. Both solid teams with some potential to surprise on the big stage.
Korea – the other main Worlds contender
(I won’t make best Korea jokes since you surely know who I am talking about)
In my opinion, the dark horse on Worlds 2020 were S. Korean teams (if that can ever be said about Korea in a LoL-setting). Everyone was expecting this to be the Chinese year , among everything else due to the tournament taking place in China. However, my model had Korean teams rated significantly higher on average than any other region, including China. S. Korea has always been the LoL stronghold and the main talent export region, with many of the star players in China and NA actually being Korean.
The big schock this year was Faker’s T1 not making the Worlds cut. Well, it wasn’t really Faker’s T1 since in the second part of the season T1 started transitioning and gave youngster Clozer quite a bit of playing time. So it is likely T1 called it a gap year and decided to use the time to help Clozer feel more comfortably in Faker’s position – and these are big shoes to fill. Whether the transition has been agreed and coordinated with Faker or there is more than that – I wasn’t following, so don’t know. But in any case all eyes will be on Clozer next split to see if he will manage to step up. T1 aside, let’s see who represents SK this year.
The reigning Korean champions Damwon Gaming (DWG). Remember when I said above TES would have been the clear favourite have it not been for DWG? Well, DWG are here and in my opinion the two are not even a close match. DWG not having the lowest outright odds at the beginning of Worlds certainly surprised me. DWG had an absolutely massive summer split, not only swiping through everyone and everything in LCK, but doing so in record times and numbers.
The team entered Worlds looking unstoppable and to this point it is not quite clear who is going to stop them. Nuguri (Top), Canyon (Jungle) and Showmaker (Mid) are amongthe best players in the world in their respective roles – I have Nuguri and Canyon rated 1st and Showmaker 3rd. If you ask me, DWG are the absolute top contender for the title and no one even comes close. Time will tell if I were in the right here.
DragonX (DRX) nicely filled the gap T1 left and confidently took the spot as a top 3 Korean team (as was by the way expected of them at the beginning of the season). Very solid in the Mid (Choivy) and ADC (Deft) roles, DRX has put their trust to 17-year old talent Keria in the Support role, who has pulled off some impressive performances, like a great Bard against T1 earlier in the summer split. Overall a very adequate team to represent LCK on the second seed.
Probably one of the most underrated Worlds teams by the public and by the bookies this year has to be Gen.G (GEN). Granted, GEN only finished third in LCK, but let’s not forget they were very close to DRX, this is LCK, and this is the heir to Samsung Galaxy, a former World champion the highest Elo-rated LoL team in history. The star of former Samsung Galaxy and current bot laner for GEN, Ruler, surely has what it takes to lead GEN to glory on the big stage.
No surprises here with G2 and Fnatic taking the first two spots (yawn) with the same roster as each year (doble yawn). The third seed went to MAD Lions, who ended the miracle run of S04 in the playoffs. Having S04 on worlds would have been incredibly fun, but we can’t say MAD did not deserve it.
Europe is always a factor on the international stage. G2 won the last year’s MSI (and due to Covid the last one until today) as well as qualified for the Worlds 2019 final game (even though qualifying is all they did). G2 and FNC are household names and it is never a surprise to see them among the strongest teams in the world. As for MAD, the hopes were never too high due to them being a relatively new team, but either way you can’t hate them. A young roster with great talent development, quickly improving and showing results, combined with an attractive and aggressive style. Future looks bright for MAD.
A great source for disappointment for its own fans and memes for everyone else, NA traditionally kind of underperforms on the big stage. Save for the great performance of Team Liquid on the last MSI, one can hardly think of a lot of examples where an NA team impressed on an international tournament.
Kind of surprisingly, Team SoloMid (TSM) took the top seed this year, followed by Team Liquid (TL), who had a great comeback after a disappointing spring split and FlyQuest (FLY), led by their fantastic Mid PowerofEvil (PoE). All that at the price of Cloud9 completely crumbling in the Summer Split, after looking like the hope for NA on this year’s Worlds earlier this season. But as usual, all seeds did what they had to in the playoff stage and deserved their spots on Worlds
Worlds 2020 so far
The big surprise in the play-in phase was certainly MAD underperforming and not qualifying for the group stage. Disappointing for EU and MAD fans given their performances earlier this season. But perhaps the lack of experience in the roster has shown and they weren’t able to show up when it mattered the most. A valuable experience nevertheless, which will certainly help them the next time they are on the international stage. Expectedly solid performances from LGD and TL, with Unicorns of Love (UOL) from CIS, Russia and PSG Talon from PCS, Taiwan completing the final 16.
What drew perhaps the most comments in the world stage was the underperformance of NA and especially NA first seed TSM, who finished the tournament 0-6 and managed to lose a game against GEN which seemed impossible to lose at a certain point. This understandably brought a lot of frustration to NA fans. As said above the NA performance in the past on the international stage was sub-par, even though NA offers the most generous pay packages to its players, sometimes going up to 7 figures per year.
On the other hand it must be said that TSM had drawn a very difficult group, especially considering their first seed. They had to face 2nd seed from EU, 3rd seed from LCK and the play-in qualifier from China, so it is safe to say the draw could not have gone worse for them. Obviously, their performance didn’t help their situation, but there is that. Granted, TL and FLY look much better on paper. TL even had a chance to make it to the quarterfinals and FLY pulled off a win against TES. However, FLY’s win didn’t really matter and TL didn’t qualify after all (in perhaps the easiest group of all) – so I am not a big fan of trashing TSM for those 6 games. Nevertheless, certainly a lot of food for thought for NA orgs on how to put all those Benjamins to a better use.
How about the rest?
A bit surprising for me (and perhaps for no one else) was DRX losing both their games against TES (even though by a tiny margin) and DWG losing a game against JDG – I guess, sometimes, even DWG can lose. FNC were great and G2 a bit shaky, but both EU teams made it to the quarterfinals. All 3 Korean teams made it as well, with two of them winning their groups, joined by 3 out of the 4 LPL teams. Unsurprisingly, in the quarterfinals again we only have Korea, China and Europe.
And here we are with the quarterfinals starting in a few days, DWG vs DRX coming first.
DAMWON Gaming vs DragonX
Neither I nor the bookies expect DRX to surprise DWG. Even though DRX are a very decent team, DWG are top of the pack right now, so it is going to be very tough for DRX. Both teams know each other from LCK and knowing LCK, the 3o5 promises to be very slow, defensive and tactical. The smarter team will come on top and given how well those players know each other, perhaps DRX still have a slight chance here, but DWG are certainly the favourite.
My number: DWG 83.27% DRX 16.73% / Pinnacle: DWG 83.09% DRX 16.91%
Suning vs JD Gaming
JGD were the better team this split in terms of results, won the Chinese second seed and managed to pull off a win against DWG. This makes them the favourite in this one according to the market. Still, I think Suning have a good chance to shine here. They managed to win more convincingly recently and finished first in their group, which granted them the advantage in side picking. So in fact I make Suning a slight favourite here and have bet on them to win this one.
My number: SUN 54.55% JDG 45.45% / Pinnacle: SUN 41.27% JDG 58.73%
Gen.G vs G2 Esports
As a European I will be rooting for G2, but as a punter I will be betting Gen.G. This also has to be my biggest bet for the quarterfinals as I see quite some value in Gen.G as it is. G2 are known for inting the not so important games so it is a bit dangerous to discard them due to some bad performances against not so strong opponents. But I am not buying this narrative on Worlds, where they certainly did not impress in their group and lost the game for 1st place against Suning. Given the circumstances Gen.G was certainly the best that could happen to them (with DWG and TES being the alternatives), but still perhaps a bit too much to swallow.
My number: GEN 74.18% G2 25.82% / Pinnacle: GEN 54.29% G2 45.71%
Top Esports vs Fnatic
Finally, Chinese champion and Worlds winning favourite TES faces off second European seed FNC. Doesn’t look good for FNC, on paper at least. Still, I think they have some chance to surprise here, certainly more so than the market accounts for. FNC pulled off a great performance in groups, have a very experienced roster and don’t come into the game with a lot of pressure upon their shoulders. While TES is undoubtedly the favourite here, FNC could give them a run for their money. I am backing FNC here and also rooting for them and my countryman Hyllissang, hoping for the big surprise.
My number: TES 74.49% FNC 25.51% / Pinnacle: TES 85.71% FNC 14.29%
Happy times for Elo models
I am certainly pumped up for the quarter-finals, have made my bets and don’t know what’s going to happen. But one thing that I really appreciate is the calibrating effect Worlds is going to have on my Elo model.
A big issue of the Elo model as it comes to competitions on the international stage is that it cannot fully capture differences in quality between regions. A great example are Unicorns of Love who entered Worlds with a rating north of 1500. That rating was very close to Damwon’s and ranked them as the second best team in the world. You don’t have to even see the games that followed to know that this is nonsense. UOL were by far the strongest team in their region and since they had no competition there they looked better than they are.
In general, the ratings are mostly based on games within regions, as international competitions don’t take place that often. So once they do take place, they have a great effect in moving rating points from weaker to stronger regions. After a certain number of international competitions the ratings become much more efficient, in the sense that in the stronger regions the winning teams have more rating points for the taking. Of course given the low number of international games this effect takes quite some time to unfold, but it is nice to see.
Other betting opportunities
In my interview for Trademate Sport’s podcast we talked about how smaller markets always offer more value than bigger ones and this is also the case here. If you are strictly looking for value, it pays off to check the prop markets. The kill markets for example are offering opportunities beyond what you can find on the ML markets. My historical ROI and CLV there were significantly higher, and the limits of course lower. There are many other interesting markets like first blood / dragon / turret that might offer value if you are willing to put in the work.
I was sad to see that Pinnacle has (for now) scraped my favourite prop market which was the game length. I did suppose someone over in Curacao has messed up the underlying distribution with some value to be found on some unders. But that might of course change in the future.
Who are you on?
These were my 2 cents on the upcoming quarterfinals, where I see advantage odds-wise and my general predictions and thoughts on the past games. I will keep rooting for EU, even though I see DWG as clear favourites. But of course in LoL fortunes can turn quickly – the Cloud9 breakdown this split quickly comes to mind – so of course anything can happen.
Where do you see value and who do you expect to lift the trophy? I’d be happy to exchange opinions in the comment section below. Until then, stay sharp, enjoy what is left of Worlds and see you around!