History was made yesterday as Albus NoX Luna, the wildcard team from the CIS region, advanced from the group stages in second, narrowly missing out from first place after losing the tiebreaker to ROX Tigers. What was considered to be a straightforward group suddenly became a three-way death group as Albus and CLG stepped up, while ROX Tigers didn’t play at the level expected of them and G2 floundered completely, only playing spoiler to Albus’ first place bid.
I’ve been asked for my thoughts on the ROX Tigers in this group, and I will admit their sudden fall off in the early game is striking. I know from watching their games in groups with how they have conducted team fights from gold deficits that they are still the favorites to take this tournament, but trying to ascertain the reason why they haven’t been as good as projected is a minefield of mental gymnastics and excuse making. I can’t say it’s because Song “Smeb” Kyung-ho is sick, because several other professionals, including Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black on CLG, are as well, and one just has to power through that.
The Tigers seemed to have an air of nonchalance about them. Lee “Kuro” Seo-haeng stated that the Tigers played picks they hadn’t prepared against G2 in the first week. They’ve played similar comps before, but that in-the-moment approach, if one takes Kuro’s words to face value, suggests the Tigers are just coasting for now. I’m not saying they were sandbagging, but I feel like they weren’t playing at their fullest. We know they’ve been a team that prepares very well for its opponents, yet it let CLG get every single one of their best picks in week 1. “Hit me as hard as you can,” is what I hear the Tigers say in my head when I look at that draft. It’s like the Tigers wanted to see what everyone had to bring to the table without showing their hand. I contrast it with SKT in group B, where they show their top form, only to be exploited by Flash Wolves.
But perhaps I am wrong. Maybe when we see the Tigers in quarterfinals, those early game problems will persist. Perhaps their dominant roust of Albus in the tiebreaker was just a result of Albus having to play a fourth best of one after playing an intense 60 minute battle.
Also, that 60 minute battle was probably my favorite game of the year.
It’s an understatement to say Albus impressed me. They were clean in macro. Alexander “PvPStejos” Glazkov was an animal all groups, minus that last game against ROX with his awful level 2 cheese. Their vision and objective control is truly top notch, only tested with how cunning the Tigers are in the late game. I wish for them to somehow make LCS, or for more international competitions to be available so we can see them.
For CLG, I got to tip my hat to Trevor “Stixxay” Hayes. He showed up, though the smallest of his mistakes was enough to doom CLG. CLG didn’t lose because of him, but he failed to be the reason for victory.
There was buzz when CLG demolished ROX in week 1, but I thought it was what sealed their group stage. They showed their hand, and though Choi “Huhi” Jae-hyun had the game on his career wtih Aurelion Sol, he guaranteed that he was never going to get that pick again. Huhi’s performances have been wildly inconsistent, ranging from demi-god Sol to boosted Karma. I found the rematch against ROX to be the perfect underlining to his issues: three mid lane bans, getting rid of his pocket pick, a safe late game pick, and the current OP burst, and he doesn’t do anything. CLG can certainly be a top NA team with Huhi, but they are never going to be internationally relevant with him. I look forward to seeing what, if anything, changes with CLG.
As for G2… Kim “Trick” Gang-yun tried his damndest. I hope Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen and Alfonso “mithy” Aguirre Rodriguez find better. I know Luka “PerkZ” Perković said G2 would be staying together, but let’s be real, that’s an immediate PR response and we got a couple months of the off season ahead. With how awful Europe (so far) has shown up, I would not be surprised if Zven and mithy went to NA as a pair.
I suppose to play the role of the villain, you have to lose in the end.