The extended group stage fiasco
I explained last year why round robin is bad. It leads to ugly matches that don't matter at all, which generally lowers the quality of games. We were treated to one of the worst matches of professional LoL history when TSM decided to switch roles and play goof-around champions, including Teemo. They threw a game purely to get first blood on Teemo (with Reginald playing Teemo in the ADC position), but it didn't matter since neither TSM or its opponents had any chance of advancing. But that's hardly the end of the story. Mineski running four supports, OMG first-picking Veigar -- these are things that should not have happened, but the teams in question just didn't care.
Additionally, in Group B there was a stand-out situation where Gambit was 5-3, Ozone was 4-3 and set to play against MIneski. Mineski had no chance of advancing, but Ozone needed to win in order to force a tiebreaker game. While it's probably true that Mineski had very little chance of winning that game and I'm sure they put 100% effort into winning, the truth is that there should have never been a match like that in the first place. With one team needing the win but the other team having no stake in the match, bad situations arise. Every team should always have a benefit for winning and a penalty for losing. If not, it opens the situation up for match throwing and other kinds of shady dealings. Those kinds of matches have no place in real competitive gaming.
The worst part is that when the matches don't matter, the commentary gets worse. It's not the fault of the commentators, but when a match doesn't matter it's simply impossible for them to build hype. They certainly tried, but multiple commentators uttered the same thing more than once: "This match doesn't matter, but..."
The quarter finals go explosive
On the other hand, the quarter finals really made the long wait worth it.
Cloud 9 vs. Fnatic was the big clash between the top spots from EU and NA, and it really lived up to the hype train. C9 played incredibly well, keeping up with Fnatic who had utterly dominated in the group stage. It was the first time either team had really shown any cracks in their armor after C9's dominating performance in the regional qualifiers. The first two matches were down to the wire, and swung only in the last few minutes of each match. Anyone could have won the series, but an unfortunate pick from Fnatic at level 1 secured two kills for Fnatic and the third game victory before minions even spawned on the map. Yes, there was laning afterwards and C9 did the best they could, but they could not come back after that. It was a really unfortunate end to an otherwise fantastic series.
I was rooting for Gambit to win versus Najin Black Sword, but I think we all knew they had an uphill battle. However, NBS would be put to the test in a grueling three-game series. Like C9 vs. FNC, Gambit and NBS would split an extremely close first two games. The third game showcased an extremely risky Kog'maw pick by Gambit and the subsequent punishment from NBS. The real issue in all three games was NBS' constant preying on Gambit's considerably weaker duo lane. While Genja and Voidle had performed well in groups (including the controversial Trinity Kog'maw build), NBS really showed the holes in their game and it led to an early tournament exit.
SK Telecom T1 and the Gama Bears was definitely the least of the matches in the quarter finals. While Gama Bears are definitely a good team and they held up surprisingly well, they were simply not a match for the Korean powerhouse SKT1. No one knew what to expect from the Gama Bears, and they were quite the underdogs coming in. Unfortunately, SKT1 really showed mechanical excellence in the games and while Gama Bears' strategies were sound, the team was simply not up to the task.
It was perhaps a good and a bad thing to see Royal Club and OMG square off. The two Chinese teams in the tournament had the unfortunate luck to draw each other, so we were treated to a rematch of the Chinese qualifier finals. It was good, however, because the nigh-unbeatable OMG (beaten only once by SKT1 in groups) faced an opponent who knew them better than any other team in the tournament. What followed were two of the closest and most intense games of the tournament, but Royal Club won them both. Game 1 was the closest game yet of the entire tournament, with both squads being a hair's breadth away from victory until the final game-ending teamfight.
While the extended group stage was basically a failure, the quarter finals were unbelievable. I feel that seven of the eight teams in the quarter finals had a shot at winning the tournament, and even the Gama Bears put up a pretty good fight. Everyone had practiced for these games and it really showed in their play. I can't wait for the semifinals this weekend.
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