Dominant domestically for over a year, many fans and analysts have portrayed the Flash Wolves as the weakest Pool A team at the World Championships, pointing to a decline in the play of mid-laner Huang “Maple” Yi-Tang and a less than perfect record in the LMS as signs of regression from the Flash Wolves.
Undeterred, Flash Wolves swept the LMS Finals against the surging AHQ e-Sports Club, showing crisp macro play and smart drafting that led to their 3-0 victory.
If ever there was a time to gain momentum, Flash Wolves looked to have regained their form in the regional finals.
The key for Flash Wolves will be the advantages created by star jungler Hung “Karsa” Hau-Hsuan, highly regarded as possibly the best player in the LMS.
Karsa is known for his ability to pressure the enemy’s jungle and his creative pathing, making him an unpredictable force that can consistently tilt the early game in Flash Wolves’ favour.
In addition to Karsa, Flash Wolves’ support Shou-Chieh “SwordArT” Hu has emerged in the Summer Split as a world-class talent. Unafraid to roam the map and a clear playmaker for the Flash Wolves, the combination of Karsa and SwordArT is able to dictate the pace of the game early and should be a troublesome combination for the other teams in Group D.
If Team SoloMid has any exploitable weakness, it is likely centered around the play of jungler Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen. In the NA Summer Playoff Finals series against Immortals, TSM found themselves at an early disadvantage in multiple games, advantages that could have easily cost them the series against a better team.
If Flash Wolves is able to mimic Immortals’ recipe for success, they have a legitimate opportunity to pass TSM in the Group D standings.
Add in the fact that Team WE may emerge from the Play-In Tournament as the fourth member of the group, and TSM’s golden ticket to the next round immediately loses much of its luster.
Just as TSM struggled with Royal Never Give Up at last year’s World Championships, Flash Wolves could follow in very much the same mold.
For Flash Wolves, entering an international tournament as an underdog is nothing new. Since the World Championships switched to a four-group format, the Flash Wolves remain the only team to have ever won a group over a Korean team, in a year when they entered the tournament as the second seed from the LMS.
With a veteran roster and coaching staff, Flash Wolves will come to the World Championships prepared and with a clear plan in place.
The embarrassment of last year’s World Championships should provide an extra edge to Flash Wolves, who will be eager to make amends for prior mistakes.
— Flash Wolves (@flashwolves2013) September 18, 2017
While many TSM fans have already trumpeted TSM’s easy path into the Quarter-finals, the underestimation of the Flash Wolves will comes at their own peril.
In the most recent tournament with both participants, the Mid-Season Invitational, it was Flash Wolves, not Team SoloMid, who advanced to the next stage. It is not hard to imagine the same scenario playing out again.