On the road to Worlds, there are clear paths to qualification. The easiest way--and we use the word easiest there loosely--is to compete in one of the five major professional leagues: NA LCS, EU LCS, OGN, LPL, and GPL. But what happens if you’re a talented League of Legends team that doesn’t happen to hail from North America, the EU, Korea, China, or Southeast Asia?
Well, it turns out you’re in luck. Five other regions - Russia, Oceania, Turkey, Latin America, and Brazil - feed into the League of Legends 2014 World Championship through their respective regional tournaments:
Russia - Starladder Season 2
Oceania - Oceania Winter Regionals
Turkey - Turkish Grand Finals
LATAM - Copa LatinoAmerica
Brasil - Circuito Braziliero
The two South American teams face off in a Best of 5 match at this year’s PAX, with the winner advancing to the Groups stage of the World Championship. Meanwhile, the teams from Russia, Turkey, and Oceania will compete at Gamescom. They’ll first face off in a Bo1 Round Robin, and the two teams that emerge with the best records will play in a Bo5 final. The winner of that match advances to Groups.
The International Wildcard is quite obviously the most diverse qualifying group eligible to compete on the Worlds stage. And given it’s relative newness (the IWC qualification path was first introduced for Worlds 2013), it’s perhaps unsurprising that it has yet to make a truly competitive showing.
Mineski and GamingGear.eu were the two qualifying teams last year, and between the two of them, they went 1-15 in the Groups stage. Despite the disappointing start, both teams cited the experience as very helpful, thanks to being able to compete against the most competitive teams in the world.
However, since then, neither team has made a huge splash in the competitive scene. Mineski competed in the 2014 Spring GPL under the name Manila Eagles, but after a lackluster performance, have since lost their spot in the GPL series.
GamingGear.eu also continued on under the name Team Ultra Vires, but have not qualified for any major leagues since. Their mid laner, Mazzerin, subbed in for the Copenhagen Wolves in the 2014 Summer EU LCS.
Russia - Russian Force (formerly Hard Random)
What is it it about Russian teams and solo laners? Gambit Gaming has been known for strong jungler synergy with their solo laners for years, thanks to Diamond’s ability to make aggressive early plays to help snowball former starters Darien and Alex Ich. And just like his LCS comrade, it seemed that Russian Force jungler Symphony made a play in the top lane early on in every match of the Starladder 2 finals. Once top laner pvpstejos got going, he got going as the game slowly became defined around him.
Flashy, Russian Force’s mid laner, also put up a distinguishing performance in the Starladder 2 finals. He has a tendency toward support-oriented champions such as Orianna or Lulu, often pairing the damage-heavy top lane builds with a surge of tankiness from shields to allow pvpstejos even more teamfight power.
That said, if Russian Force hopes to compete on the international stage, they’ll need to shore up their bot lane. While dayruin and Archie never reached the point of collapse in their Starladder 2 finals, they were heavily supported by pvpstejos, who used his Teleport to good effect when things got hairy.
Oceania - Legacy Esports (formerly Avant Garde Ascension)
Legacy Esports is a very patient League of Legends team. They seem content to outscale their opponents in the late game, and it shows in their champion selection as well as their playstyle. Of note, the Oceania representative attempted to force a lane swap in four out of their five Winter Regional Finals games, seeming in a bid to avoid laning entirely.
The team’s top laner, Minky, highly preferred Jax in the finals, picking him in three games and winning two. Their ADC, Cardrid, played three games on Twitch, shifting to Corki for their last two wins. Their mid laner, ChuChuz, also played a number of damage-heavy champions who scale well into the late game, picking up wins on Kassadin, Zed, and Orianna.
Overall, Legacy Esports is a very solid (but vanilla) team, with a good ability to hang onto games and get into the late game
To complement this style, Legacy jungler Carbon prefered to play utility-heavy champions who can provide good mid-game pressure. That said, his clear jungler of choice was Elise, on which he was 3-0. He focused on Ancient Golem and Locket, providing utility and tankiness to the carry line of his team.
Finally, their support, Gymnast, played a variety of champions, but performed best on Braum, where he was able to build Face of the Mountain (to protect his carries) and use his abilities to initiate and enable chases.
When forced out of their comfort zone (most notably when Elise was denied to them), Legacy seemed to struggle in the early-to-mid game, giving up first blood in both games without Elise, and being unable to recover from their early deficits. By contrast, in their first win on Elise, they gave up first blood and fell behind in gold, but were able to claw their way back into the game thanks to a number of strong picks.
Overall, Legacy Esports is a very solid (but vanilla) team, with a good ability to hang onto games and get into the late game. However, they seemed to struggle with making plays of their own, seeming more concerned with simply getting to the late game. In that way, they will be nothing new to other professional teams, and it will be all on their ability to perform if they hope to survive.
Turkey - Dark Passage
Dark Passage steamrolled through their own finals in the Turkish Grand Finals tournament, running the same composition in both of their blue side games. Their jungler, Crystal M, just seemed to be a step ahead of the opposing team at every step, going a combined 14-4-46 en route to the team’s 3-0 finals sweep.
Their team compositions seemed very reminiscent of a certain Cloud9’s 2014 Spring Splits, with great top-jungle synergy. If Dark Passage got Jax, the early-mid game gank potential of Elise allowed him to snowball, while the later pick potential made his split-pushing extremely dangerous. On the other hand, on red side, when they missed out on the opportunity to secure Jax, they simply ran the old work lizard Renekton, picking up Evelynn for more teamfight presence.
Of note, Dark Passage had a clear preference for running one single-target burst champion and one AoE burst champion. With Ziggs, they paired Lucian; with LeBlanc, they picked up Graves. The strategy was nothing less than potent. It will be interesting to see how they deal with the adversity of the most competitive stage in League of Legends.
LATAM - Pineapple Express
Pineapple Express is another team that seems to favor the late-game. In the Copa LatinoAmerica, Latin America’s International Wildcard qualifiers), their mid Uri was almost always on an extremely late-game scaling champion like Ryze or Orianna. Additionally, the team seemed intent on avoiding teamfights and simply rotating around objectives until they had enough teamfight strength. As a result, their games weren’t nearly as much of a bloodbath as many of the other matches within the LATAM region
When PEX’s games were kill-heavy, though, it was typically thanks to one lane snowballing out of control, as opposed to early teamfights. Their top laner, MANTARRAYA, consistently outperformed his opponents in both CS and team-fighting presence.
On the other hand, PEX’s ADC, MegaJp, seemed to always fall behind in CS, even when he was ahead in kills. Given the extreme ADC talent on the international stage, it will be interesting to see how their bot lane matches up against the likes of Rekkles and other top-tier ADCs. And in the event that the bot lane dos collapse, how well the rest of the team can compensate.
Brazil - Kabum
Kabum really knows how to handle a range advantage. Their mid-lane ADC combo is almost always extremely high ranged, with Tinowns and MinervaTT showing preferences for champions like Ziggs, Xerath, Kog’Maw, and Jinx. They seemed extremely comfortable on such compositions, using the range of those champions as a weapon against any strategy.
Against dive compositions, Kabum simply backed off and avoided engages, poking the enemy team down over time. Against poke comps, they were too far away even to be poked. They locked down mobily teams at range, and used ranged CC to make picks on immobile teams. With range coming into a premium in other leagues recently, thanks to the rise of champions like Kog’Maw and Xerath, the meta may just be perfectly poised for Brazil to make a Cinderella run.
Oh and as an aside, if there’s something the League of Legends scene can take away from the Brazilian scene, it’s excitement. Listen to how the casters and the crowd get behind the first teamfight of the grand finals!
The International Wildcard scene is definitely the least developed, and thus faces the hardest road through the World Championship. Each team’s region has a very definitive style, and it remains to be seen how they will be able to compete with more diverse sets of styles. However, after a 1-15 showing last year, there’s really only progress to be made. These teams have nothing to lose, and that can only make them more dangerous.
Keep an eye on lolesports.com for more information and updates on the International Wildcard!