BERLIN -- The first round-robin of the League of Legends World Championship group stage wrapped up Tuesday, with each of the 16 teams in contention for the world title having played three games at the Verti Music Hall in Berlin.
Here are some of the takeaways from the first week of competition and what to watch for when the second half of groups begins Thursday.
It's time to change the draw format ... somehow
Based on group stage performances thus far, T1, Royal Never Give Up and Fnatic (yes, I said Fnatic despite their drafting) look to be among the top five teams at this tournament.
They're also all in the same group.
Meanwhile, there's Group B, where, despite their blistering win over Gigabyte Marines, favored team FunPlus Phoenix has looked anything but consistently strong. Games in Group B, which is comprised of FunPlus, GAM, Splyce and J Team, have been messy across the board.
This isn't a new criticism of the worlds group format. It comes up every year. Figuring out how well teams match up from all around the world while they play in different regions is self-induced pain at best. And this is before they draft against each other in a single game, which can cause massive swings in ease of execution and who is favored to win.
Part of the issue is that group stages are played in a single-game format, but because that is another fight altogether, let's look at the way seeding is decided.
There have already been excellent arguments out there in the League of Legends esports ether as to why being a second seed is actually favorable to being a first seed, thereby defeating the purpose of winning your region in the first place. Then there's the problem of how regional seeding is decided based on past performances. This worked in the past when certain regions (South Korea) were massively ahead of others. Now the best teams from Europe, South Korea, China and, yes, even Team Liquid from North America, are close enough in terms of gameplay regardless of region that basing their projected performance on prior results doesn't work.
Whenever you have a take or opinion like this, you're supposed to have an answer. Unfortunately, I don't have one. I just know that at this world championship, it looks like a would-be finals contender will exit earlier than they could have, not because of choking (or even poor drafting) but because of seeding.
-- Emily Rand
Klepto or not to klepto, that is the question
Rivalries are what make sports great, and no player rivalry has been better at the tournament his year than reigning world champion Kang "TheShy" Seung-lok of Invictus Gaming and the hotshot rookie from Damwon Gaming, Jang "Nuguri" Ha-gwon.
Both players are considered world-class and seen as superstars in their respective domestic leagues, but that's not the only intriguing thing about the matchup. So what's the issue between the two?
Nuguri loves the late-game mastery, reveling in the gamble of having less impact in the laning phase to roll the dice on possible gold that could get him to an unstoppable status when the match result is in the balance. TheShy thinks Nuguri's way of playing is inefficient and believes the comparisons to the mechanically talented teenager are inaccurate; TheShy prefers to be praised for his brain and not how fast he can hit keys on his keyboard.
The result thus far? TheShy won the battle, outdueling Nuguri on an individual level in their only match against each other, but Nuguri won the war as Damwon took the win in Group D on Monday. Hours after their clash, TheShy went to solo queue and began running Kleptomancy on his champions.
We'll see how this rivalry unfolds into the second week of the group stage.
-- Tyler Erzberger
The bot lane has a new look at worlds
If you haven't paid much attention to the games at worlds thus far, you have to get caught up on the rise of non-marksmen in the bot lane.
Yes, Sona is back, and yes, Garen/Yuumi is still a viable bot duo. Syndra, Veigar and Yasuo have all made successful appearances in the bot lane, too.
This is not the summer of 2018, when we saw almost complete domination of mages at the bot lane. Instead, there seems to be a fine balance between the two approaches. Royal Never Give Up have stayed faithful to the traditional AD carry champions, with Jian "Uzi" Zi-Hao playing his League of Legends Pro League comfort pick, Xayah, three times in a row. Cloud9, meanwhile, have decided to fully rely on mage champions at the bot lane, with Zach "Sneaky" Scuderi drafting Heimerdinger, Cassiopeia and Sona in his first three games so far at worlds.
Most teams balance themselves somewhere between these two extreme ends of the scale, flexing to marksmen or mage champions depending on the situation. It's definitely a more exciting, colorful meta to spectate, with a variety of matchups making appearances in the bot lane and the lane priority also impacting where the jungler applies pressure and whether the teams look for early- or late-game advantages.
-- Ashley Kang
Pressure, meta changes lead to European hosts' mixed results
European teams are facing three challenges at worlds: playing against the best teams in the world, adapting to a meta change and doing so in front of a home crowd. So far, G2 Esports have conquered those challenges through their staple draft flexibility and in-game adaptation, but they are the exception.
Fnatic and Splyce have struggled mightily in their groups for different reasons. Fnatic's lackluster drafts hampered their ability to teamfight against Royal Never Give Up and SK Telecom T1, and Splyce's underwhelming teamfight execution with new picks and macro lapses have set them back in an otherwise wide-open Group B. Fnatic, the No. 2 seed out of Europe, is 1-2 with their sole win over a winless Clutch Gaming; Splyce sit at 1-2 as well after an embarrassing loss to J Team on Tuesday.
G2 have an easy path to the knockout round at this point, but their LEC counterparts are on the brink. With a brief break to refresh themselves following the first round robin, they'll hope to turn things around on a fateful day later this week.
-- Adel Chouadria
Griffin players caught in tough spot
Before the members of Griffin ever took the stage at the world championship, their enigmatic coach Kim "CvMax" Dae-ho parted ways with the team. Since that announcement -- which was baffling to most, given its odd timing and abrupt nature -- Griffin management and CvMax have been embroiled in a series of public reveals regarding internal conflict on the team.
I want to take time in this space to say that the side that matters above all else is that of the players. As these rumors swirl around in multiple social media communities and accusations continue to snowball, there are five players on Griffin who have to take the stage every day, the largest stage available in League of Legends, with the expectations of their region, their fans and themselves on their shoulders.
This is certainly not what they expected when making it to the worlds stage, and Griffin can only benefit from some empathy.
-- Emily Rand