With just over 10 days left until the start of Worlds, let's check what's happening in the Play-In.
It's mid-september and the playoffs in all major regions are over. The EU Masters is still going on, but the major teams have their nose to the grind and get ready for Worlds. After all, the Play-In is just over 10 days away, where the champions of the minor regions will face off against the bottom seeds of the big leagues for one of the four main event group slots. With the LEC getting a fourth seed once again, the LCK and LPL fourth teams drafted in the same group and all of the other teams fighting for a chance in the sun, the Play-In will be spicy.
Quick refresher: The Play-In will feature 2 groups with six teams each, featuring the lower seeds of the major regions and the champions of the minor regions. The groups play a single round robin with a best of one format. The team on top of each group gets a direct bye-in for the groups.The fifth and sixth teams go home. The fourth and third seeds in each group, meanwhile, play among each other, with the winner taking on the second team from the other group for the two remaining slots. So, with that in mind, how are the Play-in teams shaping up?
Let's not mince words, this group looks weaker than group B. Barring any unwelcome surprises, Fnatic looks like the clear top dog, with Evil Geniuses and Beyond in the next two slots. The last 3 teams should be close, but we thing Chiefs have a good chance.
- Fnatic: EU's veteran team played with our hearts this year, but they got their act together in time to make playoffs and make a deep lower bracket run. While they showed some lapses in coordination, they mostly resolved that problem and Fnatic has the star power to overwhelm many teams.
- Evil Geniuses: What looked like a strong split ended in a less than stellar playoff and a third place for EG. The team has some strong players but we are not confident they will do well on the Worlds patch. Unless they overperform, EG will have a hard time against Fnatic or the third place Group B team.
- Beyond: There used to be a time even second seeds from the PCS were feared, but we are not confident that Beyond will do well against otehr major regions. Beyond barely made the PCS playoffs and despite eliminating MSI participants PSG Talon in a close series lost ot CFO. This should be the "gatekeeper" team separating the strong from the weak.
- Chiefs Esports: The Oceanian region has surprised us before, and considering how dominant Chiefs were in the summer we think they have a good chance to take the fourth spot.
- Detonation FocusMe: DFM represent the LJL once again after yet another strong summer and fending off the challenge by rivals Sengoku gaming. Last year, they made it to the main event, but we are not sure they can do it without star carry Lee "Aria" Ga-eul. Still, DFM can pop off.
- LOUD: Brazil has had some strong teams before and RED Canids gave a good account of themselves at MSI. Still, LOUD had some troubles winning the championship and did not seem as convincing as Chiefs and DFM.
The luck of the draw saw the two strongest teams - DRX and Royal Never Give Up - face off in this group. They are joined by two of the stronger Tier 2 teams - Saigon Buffalo and MAD Lions. Good luck to Istanbul Wildcats and Isurus fans, they will likely need it.
- Royal Never Give Up: The last few years have seen the LPL rise to the top of the rankings and we think RNG won't fall short of that tradition. They should easily be a Top 8 team at Worlds and the favorite for getting out of this group.
- DRX: The LCK representatives have at times beeen inconsistent, but they took down both KT Rolster and Liiv Sandbox to earn a spot at Worlds. Moreover, it's looking like an AD-centric meta, and Kim "Deft" Hyuk-kyu isn't slowing down. DRX can upset RNG and even if they don't, they should be a shoe-in for second place.
- Saigon Buffalo: The VCS is defined by early aggression, even if their teams don't always look as clean as the LPL elite. Still, Saigon Buffalo took some wins at MSI and while they are unlikely to break into the top 2 in this group, they are quite dangerous.
- MAD Lions: Last year's LEC champions looked quite shaky this spring, but the addition of Yasin "Nisqy" Dinçe was a good move and soon MAD returned tothe LEC elite. If the Lions are all in shape, this is a team that could contest for a third place and a place in the groups.
- Istanbul Wildcats: While the Turkish league has produced many stars for the LCS and LEC, its representatives tend to fall short in international tournaments. Still, the Wildcats fought at MSI and got a win off the RED Canids, and that experience could be handy.
- Isurus: Latin America has had little international success, and we doubt Isurus would buck that trend. This team did eliminate spring Champions Team Aze and defeated Estral Esports to get the LLA title, but they are facing a much tougher competition.
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The Worlds Play-In begins on Thursday, September 29th. Don't miss it!