Starting October 2, twelve teams qualified via their respective Regional Qualifiers or representing some of the minor regions will face each other in a preliminary phase, with one common objective — reach the Main Event of the League of Legends World Championship 2019. Divided into four groups of three teams, these twelve outsiders will be the first to play competitively on Patch 9.19.
After sluggish results in international competition this year, DAMWON Gaming eventually booked their ticket for Worlds. Fort the first time in the history of its league, Korea will have one of its representant competing into the Play-In phase, instead of having its three teams seeded directly into the Group Phase. It is also the first time that a Korean team has climbed the LCK and qualified for the World Championships in the same year.
DAMWON have been consistent since January, finishing their two splits in the Top 4 of the LCK — something which rewarded them with participation in Rift Rivals a few months ago. Driven by coach "Kim" — the coach who led Invictus Gaming to Worlds glory last year — DAMWON rely heavily on their playmakers: Nuguri in the toplane, ShowMaker in the midlane, and Canyon, MVP of the Summer Split, to police the jungle.
They booked their tickets for Worlds by beating KINGZONE DragonX in the final of the Gauntlet, and are now considered the best team in this Play-In stage — in theory. Unknown on the international stage, they will have to deal with their lack of experience. However, they were lucky enough to be drawn into a relatively easy Group D. Since they will have to face Flamengo eSports and Royal Youth, them not reaching the Main Event to meet SKT T1 and Griffin is unthinkable.
This Play-In phase will also determine whether the journey of Clutch Gaming will continue or not. The NA third seed overtook Team SoloMid during the last lap of the Regional Qualifiers. It was an amazing story — down 2–0 in the series, Huni and his teammates completed the reverse sweep to qualify for Worlds.
Huni gave everything to attend this event. Two years after the SKT1 saga and their defeat against Samsung Galaxy, the Korean veteran is now retuning to the Worlds' stage. He broke down in tears after losing against Team Liquid in the semi-finals of the Summer Split playoffs, but thanks to the constant support of his friend Damonte, Huni managed to give Clutch Gaming the boost they needed. In the botlane, Cody Sun registers his third consecutive appearance at Worlds — and not without reason. He is without a doubt the most underestimated ADC in the whole competition. Paired with the Canadian support Vulcan, their pairing is a major threat to all teams.
Clutch Gaming will wrestle with Unicorns of Love to escape Group A. The former EU organization have found their redemption in the CIS region, and ended up victorous — even ahead of Vega Squadron, who represented the region last year. Ironically, Unicorns of Love signed the three Russians who carried Vega Squadron during the mid-season event: BOSS, AHaHaCik and Nomanz now wear the famous pink jersey.
All three should be closely monitored, especially BOSS who distinguished himself during the Play-Ins of MSI in Ho-Chi-Minh City. Unicorns of Love have significant experience, especially because of Edward's arrival in the support position. The Armenian veteran previously played for Gambit and M5 — before moving to the position of assistant coach for Rogue (LEC) at the beginning of the year — and is more than ever in a position to share his vast knowledge of the game. Faithful to the position since the team's creation in 2013, his coach Sheepy is finally celebrating his first appearance at Worlds.
Former Unicorns of Love toplaner Vizicsacsi is now playing for Splyce. At his first Worlds, the Hungarian player might not have the opportunity to play Ornn and Maokai, the tank champions that made him famous. However, his ability to instigate team fights is still one of his main skills, and his detractors should perhaps recall the second week of the LEC Summer Split. Yeah, you know — the moment he obliterated Schalke 04 in the Baron pit, thanks to one Kennen ultimate.
The fact remains, Splyce is a team filled with talent. Human0id is surely a rookie, but he's one incredible midlaner. Xerxe, like JackeyLove a year ago, has had difficulty accepting the "Best Jungler EU" tag given to him since he joined the team. The 19-year old Romanian player is also a Unicorns of Love alum, and played a decisive role in the Regional Qualifiers — notably thanks to his Olaf. Last but not least, Kobbe and Norskeren played an almost perfect split, even if they were a bit weak against Fnatic.
We can't see Splyce failing the Play-in phase. Competing against DetonatioN FM and Isurus Gaming, the third EU Seed should win Group B without too much trouble.
Before joining G2 and Fnatic in the Group Stage, Splyce will have to beat the teams that are quite used to this stage of the competition. DetonatioN FocusMe return after representing the Japanese league (LJL) in 2018. Last year, their dream was crushed after a 3-0 defeat to Edward Gaming. This year, they will land in Germany with the same line-up as during MSI — where they played pretty well, ending second in their pool. Ceros is still the midlaner, while Yutapon continues to carry the hopes of his team from the botlane.
During the LJL Summer Split, DetonatioN FocusMe sailed through the competition and dominated the playoffs. Yes, the LJL is still a minor league, but we believe that it's not impossible at all to see DFM secure second place in Group B.
Isurus Gaming return to the stage after a disappointing MSI, where they finished an unflattering fourth place in their group. The Chilean team still has some names in South America — we immediately think of Seiya, their midlane star and former Rainbow7 alum. The same goes for Oddie — their Peruvian jungler — who won many LLN titles with the Rainbow roster. Their support Slow is also a regular at major events, and has played two world championships and an MSI with the Kaos Latin Gamers.
For their second international trip, Isurus Gaming are expected to suffer against Splyce, but they might be able to finish well in their group if they manage to prove themselves superior to DetonatioN Focus Me.
Thailand and MEGA will be part of Group C of the 2019 Worlds Play-In stage. Almost invisible during MSI, the team heads to Berlin with a surprise in its locker — Lloyd, who was previously ADC as recently as January, has held the position of jungler since the start of the Summer Split. An unusual and surprising change — combined with the arrival of DeuL from the late Machi E-Sports, it is perhaps the main reason for their almost-perfect Summer Split. They only lost once during the regular season.
With veterans Rockky and G4, MEGA will finally be able to face real competitors in their pool in the form of the Hong Kong Attitude, who are making their big comeback to Worlds after two years of absence.
After beating G-Rex during the finals of the Regional Qualifier, Hong Kong Attitude secured third seed in the LMS region, just behind ahq e-Sports Club and J Team. HKA land in Europe with at least one famous player. Crash, their Korean jungler, previously played for Vici Gaming and 1907 Fenerbahçe — the team with whom he attended Worlds 2017. The rest of their team is filled with rookies, unknown on the international stage — but that doesn't mean that we shouldn't expect them to shine...
This is precisely why we love the Play-In phase — each year, we discover new teams and new talents ready to sweat blood and tears to prove themselves to the world.
Coming from Brazil, Flamengo eSports managed to snatch their tickets for Worlds out of the hands of INTZ e-Sports during the finals of the CBLOL Summer Split. A big name in the Brazilian pro circuit returns to Worlds — brTT a legends on PaiN Gaming, with whom he competed at Worlds 2015. He'll go against DAMWON Gaming and Royal Youth in Group D. Flamengo also bring the Korean jungler Shrimp — formerly of Team Dignitas and forever one of the pillars of Team Coast — who is taking part in the very first international competition of his four-year career.
The Turks will have their say in the Play-In — as always. Underestimating the TCL is dangerous, as the Turkish league has established itself as a serious competitor in every international event for the past two years. This year, SuperMassive were beaten by Royal Youth in the Summer Split finals. That means we'll see Korean ADC Pilot, who formerly represented PSG and Jin Air Greenwings. In the midlane, Royal Youth have Cyeol as their second Korean import.
As every year, the last team we introduce is the courageous representative of the OPL — who never plays the beautiful role in a Play-In. This time, MAMMOTH will bear the Oceanian flag. Behind a name that imposes itself and could fool many, MAMMOTH has a majority of former players from the Dire Wolves, the region's historical representative. Triple, k1ng and Destiny will resurface at the 2019 Worlds and will be accompanied by authentic strangers from the international scene. The team is also enjoying the luxury of a Korean toplaner with Topoon — who has never played in Korea before. Caught between Clutch Gaming and Unicorns Of Love in Group A, MAMMOTH will surely struggle to play their cards right.
Finally, the Worlds are opening to a second Vietnamese Seed for the first time in their history. Lowkey Esports want to go for first place in Group C against Hong Kong Attitude and MEGA, and they can give themselves the means to do so. Winners three to zero of the Dashing Buffalo in the Summer Split playoff semi-finals — but still lurking in the shadow of the GIGABYTES Marines who flew over the VCS this summer — Lowkey are perhaps the real surprise of this 2019 League of Legends Worlds Play-In.
Two weeks before the League of Legends World Championship — their first ever international tournament — Griffin have announced the departure of Head Coach Kim "cvMax" Dae-ho.