The 2017 World’s draws have past and the groups have taken shape. With this, the only question left is which of the play-in teams will round out each of the four groups.
The most threatening of all these teams is Chinese 3rd seed, Team WE. Having had a well-rounded and consistent year of play, many analysts rank them as the top team from the LPL region despite their 3rd slot ranking coming into the tournament.
The Dark Horse
On the backs of their powerhouse carries Jin “Mystic” Sung-jun and Su “Xiye” Han-Wei the team overcame Invictus Gaming in the LPL’s regional Qualifier through a hard fought 3-2 victory. Heading into the play-in stage Team WE are immense favorites to be the first seed out of group A and for their Bo5 in the following round. For this reason, many are looking ahead to the group stages and the damage they could cause for many teams.
Due to the rules, we already know that Team WE are incapable of being placed in group A or C. This is due to there already being a Chinese squad residing in both groups in EDG and RNG respectively. This would leave groups B and D, both of which could see their identity warped in the matter of seconds if WE were added.
Group B consists of Longzhu, Immortals and Gigabyte Marines and is one of the two possible landing spots for Team WE if they make it to the group stage. Currently there is a clear hierarchy in the group led by Korean first seed Longzhu followed by NA 3rd seed Immortals. Even with a strong performance at MSI the Marines are big underdogs coming into the group and in many eyes, have regressed from their previous form. If Team WE were to join it would send a shockwave through the top teams. Not only would it most likely spoil IMT’s chances of making it out of groups but it could even provide a real adversary for Longzhu. A group with a preset hierarchy and relative calm could quickly descend into chaos.
The other option is group D, which once again will be the home for North American favorites, TSM. The draw was very kind to TSM this year – much different than what happened a year ago as they drew the weakest one seed in Flash wolves and 2nd seeded EU team Misfits. If group C is the group of death then D is surely the group of life. Both C9 and Fnatic are incapable of joining the group due to the aforementioned teams already in the group. This leaves only an option for Team WE or a team not from one of the five major regions. The difference between these can’t be overstated as it could mean all the difference for who is capable of escaping into the bracket stage.
Regardless of which route we end up taking it is certain that heading into the play-in stages all eyes will be on Team WE. Teams from both group B and D will be watching intently and hoping to avoid the Chinese lineup. The threat that WE pose represents the great change that has taken forth in the format this year. In the past, nearly all play-in teams were an afterthought and seen as a lay-up. This year a legitimate contender and a true dark horse will be competing inside of the play-ins potentially sending an entire group into disarray in its aftermath.