G2, Vitality find big wins one Day 1 of groups at LoL Worlds

The League of Legends World Championship runs through Nov. 3 in locations all around South Korea. Courtesy of Riot Games

KT Rolster 1, Team Liquid 0

KT Rolster pumped up the local South Korean crowd inside the BEXCO Auditorium in Busan, when it scored the country's first victory in the 2018 League of Legends World Championship by eviscerating the North American No. 1, Team Liquid.

It was a game that went both as expected and yielded some surprises, as KT Rolster had a commanding lead in gold and tempo throughout the game, yet managed to cede objectives to Team Liquid at an alarming rate. Of the four dragons in the game, three went to Team Liquid, and two were the coveted Infernal Drakes, making Team Liquid's late-game strategy look like a possibility. Even after KT Rolster wiped out the majority of the Team Liquid squad by the second Infernal Drake and took Baron's head for themselves, the gold lead was still just 7,000 in favor of KT Rolster -- a large sum, to be sure, but not one that Yiliang "Doublelift" Pang, the ADC for Team Liquid, couldn't punch through with a double-Infernal empowered Kai'sa with all the farm he could ask for.

That late-game fantasy was to remain just that, as Cho "Mata" Se-hyoung -- KT Rolster's legendary support -- shut down Team Liquid's only hope for victory. Armed with his Thresh -- a champion he's so strongly affiliated, a Worlds skin was made in his honor -- he singlehandedly spelled the end for Team Liquid. Mata caught out Liquid top laner Jung "Impact" Eon-yeoung just when it looked like Team Liquid had a chance to turn the corner, sealing the team's fate and earning South Korea its first victory on home turf.

-- James Bates

Edward Gaming 1, MAD Team 0

Edward Gaming took its first win of the 2018 League of Legends World Championships by edging out MAD Team in a 45-minute nail-biter in the second game of the group stage.

At long last, Edward Gaming seems to have found an opponent worthy of its attention, as MAD Team -- the No. 2 seed from Taiwan's League Master Series -- took the No. 3 Chinese squad to the limit in a way that no team in the play-in stage proved capable. Each team took turns hammering the other through the early and mid game, with Edward Gaming edging out MAD in objectives. But the Taiwanese squad countered by taking the lead in kills for the majority of the game. Eventually the contest turned into a battle of the team's respective stars, as both EDG's ADC Hu "iBoy" Xian-Zhao and Chen "Uniboy" Chang-Chu, the mid laner for MAD, did everything in their power to get their teams over the finish the line.

In the end, the game was settled in the most traditional way -- with a teamfight around Baron. EDG used its map pressure to make a push towards Baron for what seemed like an eternity, but MAD continued to persevere, racking up more kills in the process. MAD would finally blink, however, as a pick onto Uniboy left the team with no damage no way to resist EDG's inevitable push towards Baron. MAD's resistance crumbled the moment the purple wurm entered the equation. MAD's poke-reliant composition had no way to deal with the Baron-empowered minions, and a desperate last-ditch teamfight to save its base failed, leaving the gates open for EDG to cinch its first win of the world championship in decisive, if unimpressive, style.

-- James Bates

Flash Wolves 1, Phong Vu Buffalo 0

The Flash Wolves took its first victory for the team and for Taiwan's League Master Series in the worlds group stage, when it wiped Vietnam's Phong Vu Buffalo off the Rift in a 25-minute rout in Game 3.

The Flash Wolves victory was the fastest to grace the worlds stage thus far. The difference in skill between the two teams was evident throughout, as the Flash Wolves' ADC, Lu "Betty" Yu-hung, was a force of nature by the end of the game, while Phong Vu's ADC, Dang "BigKoro" Ngoc Tai spent more time dead than attacking enemy champions -- a fact that was reflected in his poor damage score at the end of the game.

Lane matchups were not the sole decider of the game, however, as much could be said about the Flash Wolves' attention to vision control, which netted them the majority of their mid game kills when combined with the ingenious Hexflash usage from Hu "SwordArt" Shuo-Jie, the Flash Wolves' support. Where the gap between the two teams was most apparent, though, was in the jungle. Kim "Moojin" Moo-jin, the jungler for the Flash Wolves, owned the Rift, and wherever his Taliyah went, there too went death for Phong Vu. He ended the brief game with a 6/0/3 KDA (kills/deaths/assists) and his first of what is likely to be be many MVPs under his belt.

-- James Bates

G2 Esports 1, Afreeca Freecs 0

G2 Esports scored Europe's first victory of the 2018 League of Legends World Championship when it toppled Afreeca Freecs in its most one-sided victory at worlds thus far.

Gone was the team who was taken to its utter limit by Latin America's Infinity Esports not five days ago, and in its place was a team that was intelligent and decisivw. G2 took control of the game early on and never let go, riding an advantageous lane matchup all the way to victory.

G2's victory would have been impossible were it not for the efforts of both of its solo laners, who not only stood up to their South Korean counterparts, but eclipsed them as if it was nothing. The performance of Martin "Wunder" Hansen, the top laner for the European side, was of special note, as it was his unwavering dedication to the split push that bought his team the mid and late game map control it enjoyed. The true man of the hour, however, was the AD Carry for G2, Petter 'Hjarnan" Freyschuss, who piloted his trademark Heimerdinger to victory against the Freecs.

-- James Bates

RNG 1, Cloud9 0

Royal Never Give Up took Cloud9's head as its first trophy on its path to dominance during the 2018 League of Legends World Championship after a sub-25 minutes dissection in South Korea.

There can be no question about it: Royal Never Give Up's performance against Cloud9 was the most dominant to yet grace the Worlds stage. That was largely due to one man, ADC Jian "Uzi" Zi-Hao, whose ambition to win every international event during the 2018 season is beginning to feel less like a possibility and more like an inevitability. The difference between Uzi and Cloud9's ADC, Zachary "Sneaky" Scuderi was so vast that by the time the laning phase wrapped up Sneaky was happy to have his turret demolished by Uzi, if only because it meant it would be more difficult for Uzi to continue to kill him.

The sole weakness of RNG came in the top lane, where Yan "LetMe" Jun-Ze fell behind in CS against Eric "Licorice" Ritchie, the top laner for C9, but was killed outright. If C9 want to rally back from this defeat and find a way to escape a group that most consider inescapable for the NA squad, then it'll need to double down on Licorice's ability to flatten his competition. Whether that will prove to be enough in a group that contains one of the most decorated top laners in the world, Gen.G's Lee "CuVee" Seong-jin, remains to be seen, but it's clear that C9, unlike the seemingly invulnerable RNG, need to change its formula immediately if it wants to find a way out of the group stage.

-- James Bates

Vitality 1, Gen.G 0

Team Vitality kept the EU hype train going when it won its first game of the 2018 League of Legends World Championship by defeating none other than the defending champions, Gen.G.

If there ever was a game that could be considered an embarrassment for Gen.G on the world stage, it was this one. While the defending champions have a spotty record in the group stage, it has never struggled against a team like Vitality. The inexperience and chaotic playstyle that was meant to hold down Team Vitality and remove it from contention instead proved to be its strongest asset against Gen.G.

Nowhere was the difference between the two teams more evident than in the mid lane, as the diametrically opposed playstyles of Daniele "Jizuke" Di Mauro and Lee "Crown" Min-ho clashed in a way that few saw coming. While it's true that Jizuke's bold call to teleport into Gen.G's base and directly attack their Nexus did end up winning the game, it's equally true that his reckless abandon was a big part of why Vitality needed such a move in order to win, even after having inexplicably stolen a seemingly secured Baron from under Gen.G's nose just minutes sooner.

Overall, the match was an important one for both teams, as it proves both that Gen.G's jaw is as glass as ever, and that Team Vitality aren't content going out meekly in fourth place as was previously expected. The rematch between these two teams is certain to be amongst the most interesting matches of the group stage, especially since either team's chances to advance from the group stage may rely upon the outcome.

-- James Bates