Cloud9 , RNG roll out of Group B at the League of Legends World Championship

North America's Cloud9 take on defending world champion Gen.G in the group stage of the League of Legends World Championship in Busan, South Korea. Courtesy of Riot Games

Game 1: Vitality 1, Royal Never Give Up 0

Team Vitality turned Group B on its head early when it upset tournament favorite Royal Never Give Up in decisive fashion during the second round robin at the 2018 League of Legends World Championship in Busan, South Korea.

When these two teams first met, Royal Never Give Up had the European side just as figured out as it did the other super-aggressive teams in the LPL. AD carry Jian "Uzi" Zi-Hao's Tristana carried Royal to a swift victory in that game, looking a cut above Vitality.

The rematch started in much the same way, as RNG jungler Hung "Karsa" Hau-Hsuan did an excellent job keeping Vitality's early game from snowballing out of control -- especially relevant considering VIT AD Carry Amadeu "Attila" Carvalho's Draven pick. Karsa's stifling control of the map in the early game was so effective that it forced Vitality to make a hail mary play in the top lane, diving RNG top laner Yan "LetMe" Jun-Ze's Ornn with nearly the entire team, finding the crucial first kill onto their Draven in the process.

Vitality wasn't content to sit on its lead, however, and what followed was the European representative going on a merciless hunt for LetMe wherever he appeared, which brought Atilla from an unimpressive one kill to five. RNG responded in typical fashion, by teamfighting but, unfortunately, Uzi was incapable of matching the speed at which Attila shredded through RNG's frontline. In desperation, Karsa forced a last-ditch engage that was immediately countered by a sublime Death Sentence from Vitality support Jakub "Jactroll" Skurzynski's Thresh, spelling the end for RNG in this game, and Vitality took a crucial win as it stayed alive in the Group B hunt.

-- James Bates

Game 2: Cloud9 1, Gen.G 0

Cloud9 proved that there's fight left in the North American region yet when it beat the defending world champions, Gen.G, in the second upset of the night in Group B.

Cloud9's gameplan was simple but effective: C9 pointed everything it had at Gen.G's Achille's Heel -- that is, the laning phase of Gen.G mid laner, Lee "Crown" Min-Ho, and prayed that Gen.G would crumple under the pressure. Fortunately for the hopes of American fans, the gamble paid off. Crown died four times before the laning phase ended -- an unacceptably high number in professional play -- and was all but removed as a carry threat for the rest of the game. This freed up Cloud9 and, more importantly, mid laner Nicolaj "Jensen" Jensen's LeBlanc to focus exclusively on Gen.G's ADC, Park "Ruler" Jae-Hyuk.

To the credit of Gen.G, it managed to make the game far more difficult for Cloud9 than it should have been. By the game's end, Gen.G came out ahead in teamfights despite C9's lead as Crown's Scatter the Meek was still an effective peeling tool for Ruler, even if his damage was negligible. It was a daring Baron play that sealed the game, however, as Cloud9 reacted to a lost teamfight not by licking its wounds, but by instead taking on the game-ending objective head-on before Gen.G could mobilize to defend it. Gen.G did its best to salvage the game but lost all of its members piecemeal trying to slow Cloud9's advance, which only made victory an inevitability for the American team.

-- James Bates

Team Vitality 1, Gen.G 0

Team Vitality eliminated the first team from the 2018 League of Legends World Championship early Sunday morning when it wiped the floor with none other than the defending world champions in the LCK's Gen.G.

Pacing has long been the weakness of Gen.G, a team that can be described as sluggish at the best of times, and few teams at worlds are as well equipped to punish a slow team as Team Vitality. The European squad has come out blazing in every game it's played, and this one was no different. Mateusz "Kikis" Skudlarek, the jungler for Team Vitality, exposed a crucial opening in Gen.G's ward coverage on the top side of the map early on in the game, finding an easy kill and setting up top laner Lucas "Cabochard" Simon-Meslet for continued success throughout the entire game.

Meanwhile, Gen.G managed a rather inspired defense on the rest of the map, especially around the mid lane. Lee "Crown" Min-ho, the mid laner for Gen.G, actually managed to win his first lane of worlds thanks to his trademark Malzahar, which largely negated the LeBlanc pick that Daniele "Jiizuke" Di Mauro brought against him. Unfortunately, the top lane mismatch was simply too extreme for Gen.G to overcome, and the South Korean team's scaling advantage wasn't enough to overcome the unstoppable map-wide pressure that Cabochard's Urgot was able to put down. It only took a pair of fights to break the game wide open, and a crucial fight in the mid lane ended the game more suddenly than anyone expected, as a 4-for-1 fight left Gen.G's base quite vulnerable to the structure demolishing power of Team Vitality's Tristana, who ended the game before Gen.G's most crucial members could respawn.

Now Gen.G must face a grim reality, as this loss firmly secures them as the last place team in the group, meaning Gen.G is eliminated from worlds.

-- James Bates

Cloud9 1, Royal Never Give Up 0

Cloud9 kept the upset train running when it took down tournament favorites Royal Never Give Up early Sunday morning in the 2018 League Of Legends World Championship Group Stages in Busan, South Korea.

As if a victory for Cloud9 against the Chinese juggernaut wasn't enough of an accomplishment, the North American team also found said victory through the most unlikely of places: the bottom lane. Royal Never Give Up drafted a composition that was full of difficult to punish tanks but relied entirely on the damage output of its ADC Jian "Uzi" Zi-Hao -- normally a safe bet considering the caliber of player that Uzi is. While such a composition is a natural extension of Royal's strengths, it also painted an enormous target on Uzi's back, a target that Cloud9 took shot after shot at and found hit after hit.

Cloud9 once again took a global-heavy composition onto Summoner's Rift and wasted no time putting those globals to work in shutting down Uzi. While the side's jungler, Dennis "Svenskeren" Johnsen, had his Nocturne banned away, he found a functional substitute in the form of Taliyah, which he used to great effect to swing the balance of the bottom lane in his team's favor after Uzi, as expected, asserted dominance in the early game. By the time the laning phase had ended, the pendulum had swung entirely in C9's favor as Uzi and his support, Shi "Ming" Sen-Ming, had died seven times between the two of them, all without finding a single kill. With the Chinese ace all but out of the game, Royal Never Give Up couldn't do much to stall the advance of Cloud9, who easily won every teamfight and took every objective across the map, culminating in an easy push for victory just after the thirty-minute mark.

Suddenly, two matches that seemed like they would have little importance are now all-important, as Cloud9 now have a realistic shot of getting out of the group, while Royal Never Give Up are in danger of only taking the second place slot. If Cloud9 managed to defeat Europe's Team Vitality then Cloud9 will punch its ticket to the elimination stages, while Royal Never Give Up now are even more eager to slaughter the flagging Gen.G during its last match of group stage, as to do any less means that the tournament favorites risk not even winning its group, much less the entire tournament.

-- James Bates

Cloud9 defied all expectations for itself and its region when it beat down Team Vitality on Sunday and punched its ticket to the quarterfinals of the 2018 League of Legends World Championship.

What was meant to be a "group of death" for both Cloud9 and Team Vitality proved to be anything but, as both teams were poised to make their way out of the group stage, barring one deciding match between the two. Both entered the match within spitting distance of the quarterfinals, as Team Vitality was tied with the presumed group leader, Royal Never Give Up, while Cloud9 was sitting on an even record that was just enough to escape the group if it managed to pick up a second win against Team Vitality.

Cloud9 didn't let the pressure of being NA's best chance get to it, however, as it drafted a composition that suited its established strengths. Dennis "Svenskeren" Johnsen, the jungler for Cloud9, was once again armed with his Nocturne, which was supported by not only a Shen pick from Cloud9's support, Tristan "Zeyzal" Stidam, but also a Zilean pick by Nicolaj "Jensen" Jensen. With such a dynamic dive coming in for C9, all the peel in the world couldn't keep VIT's AD carry alive, which left the game in the hands of mid laner Daniele "Jiizuke" Di Mauro and his Ekko. Shutdown by Jensen and a tough matchup, Jizuke faltered as Team Vitality simply rolled over in all of the game's teamfights, which left Cloud9 to take a relatively easy victory, despite a few moments of individual brilliance from the side of Team Vitality.

While Cloud9 are now guaranteed an exit from the group stage, that doesn't mean that Team Vitality is completely out of the running. Royal Never Give Up play the last game of the day against Gen.G, and a victory by the Korean underdogs will give Team Vitality a chance at the Chinese titans once more. A victory by Team Vitality in that tiebreaker would secure both western teams an exit from one of the most difficult groups in the history of League of Legends -- an ending that is both unexpected and yet seemingly inevitable on a day that seems meant to upset all expectation.

-- James Bates

Royal Never Give Up 1, Gen.G 0

Royal Never Give Up successfully defended its spot on top of the Group B rankings when it slaughtered a hapless and deflated Gen.G during the 2018 League of Legends World Championship in Busan, South Korea.

What was most striking about the match wasn't necessarily the play on the Rift -- Royal's performance was exceptional, but expected, especially against a Gen.G squad that had looked hopeless throughout the day -- but the compositions that both teams brought. Throughout the majority of the group stage, both Royal and Gen.G have heavily favored scaling compositions that relied upon their star ADC to carry late game teamfights. While both teams still drafted compositions that relied upon their respective ADCs, the teams instead relied upon the AD's to smash their lane opponents and carry, a wise adaption to the worlds meta where the more assertive teams tend to win.

Unfortunately for Gen.G, it couldn't hang with the RNG early game, where Royal Never Give Up shines the brightest outside of Uzi massacring everyone in late game fights. Royal even went so far as to sub in its original starting jungler, Liu "MLXG" Shi-yu, to commit to its new look and playstye. It was MLXG's consistent pressure on Gen.G's bottom lane that ended up defining the game, as he forced Gen.G to fight in the bottom river time and again in the early game. While Gen.G's early game damage might have been superior, it never had any time to use it thanks to the ridiculous amount of crowd control that Royal drafted. Any attempt by Gen.G to take the initiative was met by a Frozen Tomb and a Death Sentence from the side of Royal, which spelled death for any member on the side of Gen.G.

Royal's victory advances them out of the group but doesn't secure it victory in the group just yet. Instead, it must do battle with the upstart North American team, Cloud9, who overcame both Gen.G and Europe's Team Vitality earlier in the day to force a tiebreaker with the Chinese juggernauts.

-- James Bates

Royal Never Give Up 1, Cloud 9 0

The most upset-heavy day in the history of League of Legends ended in dramatic fashion on Sunday morning when Royal Never Give Up secured first place in Group B over North America's Cloud9 at the end of a close tiebreaker game that wrapped up Group B's run at the 2018 League of Legends World Championship.

Unlike the first time these two teams met on the day, RNG wasn't content to give over control of the early game unceremoniously to Cloud9, who steamrolled the LPL champions with it last time. Instead, RNG not only chose a more aggressive lineup -- rather than 4 tanks, Royal opted to run 0 this time-- that not only gave RNG more potent laners, but also the ability to carry through more lanes that just bottom, showing adaptability despite the confidence this team has in its superstar carry.

Royal's call ended up being the correct one as, while AD carry Jian "Uzi" Zi-Hao certainly had a good performance, he couldn't carry the game on his own -- the armor-stacking Poppy piloted by Cloud9's ace top laner Eric "Licorice" Ritchie ensured that. Instead, the biggest carries of this game were RNG's mid laner, Li "Xiaohu" Yuan-Hao on Syndra, and support Shi "Ming" Sen-Ming as Rakan. The duo carried teamfights with their combined crowd control in a fashion that demonstrated just why Royal is widely regarded as the best teamfighting team in the world.

Were it not for an impeccable initiation by Ming's Rakan, which was immediately followed by a massive Scatter the Weak from Xiaohu then Royal Never Give Up would likely have lost the game, as it was already at massive risk of being outscaled. Instead, the duo carried a crucial fight by the Baron that gave Royal the time it needed to barrel down the mid lane and avoid the trouble it would be in at 40 minutes by destroying Cloud9's Nexus at the 35-minute mark. In the process, RNG destroyed NA's dreams of taking first place in a Worlds group for the first time in League of Legends history, but fans of both North America and Cloud9 will be happy to see Cloud9 take the second seed in a highly competitive group.