Worlds 2022: Breaking down the play-in and group stages

by Sage Datuin

The League of Legends fall classic is back for its 12th edition. Starting Sept. 29 and continuing through Nov. 5, the League of Legends World Championship brings together 24 of the world’s best League of Legends teams who have high hopes of hoisting the Summoner’s Cup in 2022. The play-in stage takes place in Mexico City (Sept. 29-Oct. 4), the group stage and quarterfinals will be in New York City (Oct. 7-23), the semifinals will be contested in Atlanta (Oct. 29-30) and the tournament concludes with the final in San Francisco (Nov. 5). With several returning teams as well as plenty of new teams making their debut on the international stage, here’s a breakdown of the groups at Worlds 2022.

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Play-in Group A

Fnatic, Evil Geniuses, DetonatioN FocusMe, Chiefs Esports Club, Beyond Gaming, LOUD

Photo credit: Riot Games

Group A is quite a tricky scenario for teams competing here. On one hand, you have avoided Royal Never Give Up and DRX, providing you a stronger opportunity to grab first place out of Group A and a direct seed into the group stage. However, if a team is unable to grab first place, they are almost guaranteed to play against one of these strong teams in the best-of-five to qualify for the group stage. Group A is the group of life for this reason. Every team truly has an opportunity to grab the first seed out of this group. Last year, DetonatioN FocusMe surprised the world by grabbing the first seed directly into the group stage, but this year, their group is a little more difficult.

Read more: Worlds 2022 diamonds in the rough: Wild card region players to watch

Evil Geniuses were North America’s top team until the LCS 2022 summer split playoffs, while Fnatic are scaling up in time for Worlds. You also cannot forget about last year’s PCS second seed, Beyond Gaming, who are back hoping they can exact revenge on DFM for knocking them out in the group stage. Although Brazil’s LOUD and the Oceanic region’s Chiefs Esports Club also have a shot in Group A, they are on the outs fighting for a top four spot within a competitive group.

In short, every team in this group needs to aim for first or you are at high risk of facing a much stronger team in the knockout round of the play-in stage.

Play-in Group B

Royal Never Give Up, DRX, MAD Lions, Saigon Buffalo, Istanbul Wildcats, Isurus

Photo credit: Riot Games

This is quite possibly the group of death for teams not named Royal Never Give Up and DRX. In this group, you have the back-to-back MSI champions in RNG combined with a Korean team that has Worlds 2020 champion Cho “BeryL” Geon-hee in DRX. Both teams are in this position because they are definitively the fourth-best team in their respective regions, but that is still nothing to scoff at given how strong Korea and China are.

Read more: League of Legends Worlds 2022: All qualified teams

Group B has a different atmosphere than Group A because, in truth, not every team is competing for first place. This group can be divided into three blocks. You have Royal Never Give Up and DRX competing for first and second. Then, you have MAD Lions and Saigon Buffalo competing for third or fourth and a chance to qualify for the group stage via the knockout round of play-ins. That leaves Istanbul Wildcats and Isurus on the outs.

Although first and likely second is off the table for teams not named RNG or DRX, teams that finish third or fourth place in this group have a legitimate shot at still making the group stage. Instead of looking at an opponent like RNG or DRX in a best-of-five, you could be up against the likes of Fnatic or Beyond Gaming. Viewers should pay most attention to the battle between the third to sixth teams because this is where some variance will occur. MAD Lions come into Worlds 2022 without having won a single best-of-five series all year while Saigon Buffalo just recently got all their visas accepted. If Istanbul Wildcats and Isurus have any shot of making it into the knockout stage, it will be to finish higher than MAD Lions or Saigon Buffalo.

Main event Group A

Cloud9, T1, EDward Gaming

Photo credit: Riot Games

It’s Worlds 2017 all over again when all three of these teams were slotted into a group together, and once again, Cloud9 are on the outside looking in. However, the last time these three teams were in a group together, it was Cloud9 who were able to gain the edge over EDward Gaming and eliminate them in the group stage. Historically, Cloud9 have been the pride and joy of North America in terms of making a deep run at Worlds. Now, with even more pressure to perform at Worlds 2022, Cloud9 are hoping they can conjure their international magic once again. EDward Gaming’s two primary carries, mid laner Lee “Scout” Ye-chan and AD carry Park “Viper” Do-hyeon will be looking to thwart any upsets from happening in this group.

Read more: Fudge confident he and C9 can take on best teams at Worlds 2022

Additionally, if things play out as expected in the play-ins, this group will likely either have one of Fnatic or MAD Lions as the final team in this group, which would make this group quite difficult. If it is Fnatic, then you have four teams that have a good track record of making it past the group stage, making this group even more interesting. Three world champions against North America's best performing international team? That’s quite a scary scenario.

Main event Group B

JD Gaming, G2 Esports, DWG KIA

Photo credit: Riot Games

It’s almost unreal that these three teams are together in one group. Many preseason Worlds 2022 rankings would have all three of these teams in the top 8, but now we are guaranteed that at least one of these teams will not be making it in the knockout stage. The pressure to perform is mostly on JD Gaming, who come into Worlds 2022 after a dominant LPL 2022 summer split performance. Longtime JD Gaming jungler Seo “Kanavi” Jin-hyeok is hoping to cap off 2022 as a world champion, but those dreams will not be easy going up against DWG KIA’s longstanding mid and jungle duo of Heo “ShowMaker” Su and Kim “Canyon” Geon-bu.

Read more: The top 10 esports orgs in the world in 2022, so far

Rasmus “capS” Winther and Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski also are back on the Worlds stage looking to finally call themselves world champions after coming so close in 2019. There are so many storied names in this group and it’s weird to think that one of these teams will have its run cut short in groups. This group will truly be decided by who can adapt to the meta best.

Main event Group C

Rogue, TOP Esports, GAM Esports

Photo credit: Riot Games

No matter how you put it, this is possibly the group of life if you are a European fan. The Group C teams will be up against the weakest LCK team in DRX if they make it out of play-ins. Although they still pose a likely shot at making it out of the group stage if they make it here, they’re a much better opponent than the LCK top three.

Read more: Worlds 2022: Europe’s road to North America

Each team in this group has a very unique storyline heading into Worlds 2022. Rogue finally head into Worlds as the LEC’s first seed after multiple second and third-place finishes in past years. TOP Esports were the LPL’s most consistent team but fell short of a title twice, while GAM Esports are eager to get back on the international stage after missing it for nearly three years due to circumstances out of their control. GAM Esports appear to be on the outs to make it past the group stage, but the possible Worlds 2022 meta that has seen buffs to Nocturne could prove game-changing for their star jungler Đỗ "Levi" Duy Khánh.

Main event Group D

Gen.G, 100 Thieves, CTBC Flying Oyster

Photo credit: Riot Games

If this group were just three teams, this would easily be considered the group of life. However, what makes this a scary scenario is that this group is very likely to be filled out with Royal Never Give Up. Although they are coming into Worlds 2022 at their weakest, having issues adjusting to their new carry top laner Chen “Breathe” Chen, Royal Never Give Up usually make it past the group stage. Combine that with Gen.G, who have a strong chance of going 6-0 in the group stage and you have a scary battle for second.

Read more: How Ssumday found a home with 100 Thieves

Realistically, it is very possible that 100 Thieves can finish the group with a 3-3 record. The question is if that will be enough going up against tournament favorites Gen.G and possibly the MSI 2021 and 2022 champions, Royal Never Give Up. For 100 Thieves, it is imperative this team wins both games against CTBC Flying Oyster, or their shot at making it out of Group D is shot.

Lead photo credit: Riot Games

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