If there's a group ripe for an upset in this year's play-in, it's Group D.
All eyes will be on this group to see if Turkey's 1907 Fenerbahçe can knock off the League of Legends Master Series third seed, Hong Kong Attitude. While minor region teams such as 1907 Fenerbahçe fight for international respect, HKA fights for the LMS, a region that forever seems to be hovering on the edge of Riot's chopping block -- scrappily earning its place thanks to the Flash Wolves' performances at international events during the past few years.
Hong Kong Attitude
This is the first time the LMS has been granted a third seed at the world championship, and many LMS experts actually argued that the region itself wasn't strong enough to support three seeds because the region is so top-heavy. The Flash Wolves have dominated the LMS since 2016, winning every LMS title. Even with J Team's supposed rise -- and more recently Raise Gaming's strong summer season -- it has been difficult to argue for teams' strengths past Flash Wolves. For context, Hong Kong Attitude didn't even make LMS Summer Playoffs.
However, after a few fairly controversial roster changes at the time, HKA's current lineup of Baek "Riris" Seung Min, Cheung "GodKwai" Wo Kwa, Chen "M1ssion" Xiao Xian, Huang "Unified" Jun-ji and Ling "Kaiwing" Kai Wing has seemingly found its stride and has a strong early laning focus that shouldn't be underestimated. Although ahq eSports Club earned the No. 2 seed out of LMS, HKA are coming into the play-in with more momentum and arguably stronger performances after beating J Team and Raise.
Fenerbahçe also play around strong lanes. Jungler Kang "Move" Min-su facilitates mid laner Kim "Frozen" Tae-il, creating control around the mid lane that was impenetrable for other Turkish teams this past split. Although HKA should be able to go toe-to-toe with Fenerbahçe's side lanes, Fenerbahçe has a stronger understanding of its win conditions than HKA once the laning phase ends, especially with the tag team of Move and Frozen. HKA stumbles on what to do once it's past the laning phase, and it's hard to gauge just how much the team will be able to get away with against different opponents. If Fenerbahçe finds itself behind early, it appears to be the more solid mid-game team, making the race for the first seed in this group an exciting one. Neither HKA nor Fenerbahçe can afford to lose to the other, and both teams will have to ensure they aren't upset by Rampage.
Unfortunately for Rampage, both HKA and Fenerbahçe appear well out of the team's depth. Rampage is given many allowances from its Japanese counterparts, which unlock Jeon "Dara" Jeong-Hoon from the bot lane, or allow jungler Lee "Tussle" Moon-Yong to take advantage of opponents' passive playstyles without much resistance. Against HKA and Fenerbahçe, it's hard to imagine Rampage's lanes being able to do much early, never mind when it comes time to rotate for objectives or trade neutrals come mid game.
1. 1907 Fenerbahçe
2. Hong Kong Attitude