After they defied all the odds and claimed their maiden championship in their first LCS split after their return, NRG now find themselves at the biggest stage in League of Legends Esports as an underdog. Can they defy the odds and make it out of the Swiss stage?
There has barely been a story this spectacular around the globe, now imagine how spectacular a strong run at the 2023 World Championship by NRG would be! After a miracle grand finals performance, the newly rejoined organization now carries the flag for the LCS as their #1 seed.
This is particularly unexpected after the team that joined from the Counter Logic Gaming organization had some promising splits, yet would always falter early in the playoffs. NRG has come to the LCS to win it all – but their hardest challenge is still ahead of them, and it is held internationally.
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Worlds 2023 Preview: What Are NRG's Chances To Win The Title?
Realistically, NRG's chances to win Worlds 2023 are extremely low. This is not even down to them being bad or their LCS title being a fluke – North America is just way off the opposition in recent years, with only Cloud9 recording a deep run into the tournament with their semifinals qualification at Worlds 2018.
On paper, nobody had reasons to believe NRG would win the LCS. Top laner Niship 'Dhokla' Doshi has not been at an international tournament ever, just like mid laner Cristian 'Palafox' Palafox. Both of them also spent a lot of time in the LCS but were never able to take it to the top level – until now.
They are supported in their journey by veteran jungler Juan Arturo 'Contractz' Garcia, now-two-time LCS champion Ian Victor 'FBI' Huang and former Misfits support Lee 'IgNar' Dong-geun. All of them shared an early career high before they fell and found themselves in moments of uncertainty. Now they are proven as LCS champions – but they'll have to prove themselves once more at Worlds.
A big part of their success is the adaptability that coach Thomas 'Thinkcard' Slotkin added to his drafts. It seems like he brings the calm to a team that is excited to play in any circumstances. In the end, NRG looks more like a group of friends enjoying their time together rather than a team that is serious about winning it all, but that may be the key to their unexpected success.
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Worlds 2023 Preview: Can NRG Hold Up To The Pressure On The Worlds Stage?
Before NRG returned to the LCS for the first time since their demotion in 2016, the team was still playing under the Counter Logic Gaming brand. With NRG purchasing CLG, the League of Legends infrastructure has been taken over too.
However, it was not all smooth sailing for the organization. Despite their promise to keep the entire infrastructure intact, NRG would disband their Challengers team after the LCS announced that academy teams would no longer be mandatory. They were not the only LCS organization to make that step, which caused a huge earthquake.
The regular season has also been difficult for NRG. With their new bot laners FBI and IgNar still having to adapt to the previously existing core of Dhokla, Contractz and Palafox, the start to the summer split was not clean and the team had to fight for the upper bracket.
After securing the upper bracket, NRG could only be stopped by Cloud9. Learning their lessons from a painful 0-3 in the upper bracket finals, the team turned the tides in their favor to win the organization's first ever LCS title with a convincing 3-1 grand finals performance.
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However, the playing field will be a lot different at Worlds 2023. Gone are the familiar faces in Evil Geniuses, FlyQuest and Dignitas, and NRG will have to prove themselves against the likes of three-time World Champions T1, MSI Champions JD Gaming and many other world-class teams.
With eight available spots in the knockout stage and Korea and China sending four teams each, with everyone of them being considered way stronger than NRG, the Swiss stage will be a difficult hurdle to get by for the newly crowned champions. With question marks even accompanying the likes of G2, Fnatic and Cloud9, their task seems ever the more difficult.
However, it is not entirely impossible – even if it may have to happen through a major upset. Almost nobody believed NRG would be able to beat Cloud9 – who is to say they can't beat an EMEA team or the likes of Dplus KIA or Weibo Gaming if they can't get into the groove? It is unlikely, but League of Legends has written more unlikely stories than this potential one before.
If they defy the odds and make it to the quarterfinals, they would be the first North American team other than Cloud9 to reach the knockout stage at Worlds since TSM in 2014. This is definitely an accomplishment worth fighting for.
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