IPL 5 begins on Thursday, and will bring 16 of the top League of Legends teams from around the globe to compete for a prize pool of $100,000. The League of Legends community has only seen one other tournament of this magnitude, the Season 2 World championships which topped stream records with ease. North America and Europe's best teams will look to knock the Asian teams off the top spot, while the Asians (including Season 2 World Champions Taipei Assassins) will look to remind the rest of the world they are playing for second place at best. Links to the stream schedule, brackets, groups, and team info can be found here. Let's take a look at what and who to watch for during what is sure to be a wild weekend of League of Legends.
Will this be Europe's return to relevancy?
Europe sends arguably its 4 best teams to Las Vegas to try and take hope the IPL 5 crown. Fnatic was a late replacement for Team Alternate, and is fresh off their Dreamhack win over fellow IPL 5 competitor CLG.EU. They certainly seem poised to make some noise, but drew a brutal group with both World Elite and Azubu Blaze in their group. Fnatic is a team that has been around the scene forever and has gigantic wins under their belt, and it will be exciting to watch and see if Xpeke and gang can knock out one of the Asian teams early.
Curse.EU is in a muddled group of teams that haven't been playing all that well of late. They have a recent LAN victory under their belt at Tales of the Lane beating the likes of Moscow 5 en route to that title. However, questions about their dedication and commitment swirl around the team. Their support, SuperAZE, left the team just days before the event and Curse.EU will reportedly use Digntas support Patoy to fill the void. Their group contains Meat Playground, Team SoloMid, and Singapore Sentinels, four good but not overwhelmingly great teams. If they can capture some of that Tales of the Lane magic, they should certainly advance out of the group stages.
Where does that leave the 1-2 punch of CLG.EU and Moscow 5? Moscow 5 seems to be reeling since their loss to Taipei Assassins in the Season 2 World Championships. They will get another shot at TPA early on though, with the teams facing off in Group D. Moscow 5 was the dominant team of the middle of Season 2, but continue to drop games to teams they shouldn't of late. This tournament will set the tone for Season 3, and should tell if Moscow 5 are major players. CLG.EU has certainly been practicing and playing just about everywhere lately. Froggen has continued his top level play on both Lee Sin and Lux of late, and if you had to bet on a single European team to win it would be CLG.EU. They are always in the mix at the end of the day, and their stiffest competition in the group stage will be fellow CLG team, CLG.Prime
North America: Contenders or Pretenders?
It's no secret around the League of Legends e-Sports scene that North America hasn't fared well of late. They were embarrassed at the Season 2 World Finals, and haven't looked competitive against the top Asian teams at other tournaments. Questions of dedication to the game, practice, and improving have plagued the teams lately, and a tournament in Las Vegas might not be the best place for teams with dedication issues. However, a win at IPL 5 would certainly silence critics for awhile particularly for Team SoloMid. TSM has the largest fan following in all of LoL, but are coming off back to back 5th place finishes on LAN (their worst showings since adding Dyrus). They should advance out of their group, and if they don't the team will need to do a lot of soul searching to figure out how to get back to the top of the mountain.
How about fellow old stalwart of the scene CLG.Prime? They have shown improvement since switching their roster around again and sending HotshotGG back top, Chauster to the jungle, and adding Locodoco to support, and they have to be favorite North America team going into this tournament. That might be all that needs to be said about the North America scene because Locodoco still struggles on support, and all of CLG's old problems of going on tilt and communication falling apart in games remain, but they play a different style from any other NA team. They apply pressure all over the map, and when things are going well it is hard to stop them from split-pushing everything in sight. They drew a favorable group with teams they historically have success against (CLG.EU and Fear), which edges them out over the likes of Curse.NA
So what about Curse.NA? They recently added Rhux to their starting lineup as their new support and have looked very strong in TSM invitationals and scrims, but this is a whole new stage. Voyboy has fit in well with the team and they seem to be on top of their games of late especially with their double assassin composition of Diana and Akali, but they will be facing stiffer competition than ever before with their current lineup. They drew a brutally tough group with the likes of Taipei Assassins and Moscow 5 in their way of advancing, and they will have to upset one of those teams in order to advance to the bracket stage of play. Rhux will get thrown into the fire quickly, but Curse.NA might just surprise some people this weekend
Fear, Dynamic, and Meat Playground are the last American teams competing, and they have yet to have good showings on LAN. There is talent on these teams to be sure, but neither one can consistently beat out the top teams in North America, much less the top teams from around the world. Of the three, Meat Playground is the most likely to make it out of the group stages, particularly if they can upset a struggling TSM team but it would be a major upset for any of these teams to finish higher than 5-6th.
Asian Dominance: Why it's likely here to stay
Teams from around the world have competed against Asian teams frequently over the last few months with extremely limited success. Asian teams again come into an event as the heavy favorites, particularly with Season 2 Champion Taipei Assassins and the MLG Fall Champion Azubu Blaze finding themselves in different groups. Their level of teamwork, strategy, and in-game adaptability have proven to be the difference as the continue finishing in first time after time. Azubu Blaze is fresh off their win at MLG Dallas, and is joined by their new top lane Flame. It's tough to not see this team contending with talent all around their roster and a history of dominance on American soil.
Taipei Assassins are competing in America again for the first time since their win at the Season 2 Championships and will be tested early with their group. Almost no one saw that kind of finish in this team going into that tournament, but they won't catch anyone by surprise this time around. Moscow 5 will be seeking revenge early and every team will want to be the ones that said they knocked out the champs. Despite getting everyone's best shot, it's tough to see this team doing any worse than playing on Sunday with a shot to win it all.
World Elite and Singapore Sentinels are both wild cards at this tournament. World elite is China's best team and their match against Fnatic will likely to determine which team makes it out of Group A along with Azubu Blaze. Weixiao is one of the best players in the world at AD Carry, and along with AP Carry Misaya this team has the talent to win it all as well. They have an adaptive style of play and know how to navigate against everyone from the likes of Azubu to CLG.EU. They aren't a favorite to win, but it wouldn't surprise to see them playing on the last day giving teams all they want and more.
Singapore Sentinels are the second best team from the Garena Pro League where the Taipei Assassins usually dominate. SGS has competed in the US before without much success, but honing their chops against the best in the world will help any team improve quickly. They have a deadly shield composition with Lulu that has taken games off even TPA and look for them to try something similar against the likes of TSM and Meat Playground.
Iceland (a team out of China) and Blackbean (out of Thailand) will be making their debuts onto American soil, and will look to make their mark on the competitive scene, but it will likely be a short weekend for them. It's always fun to root for the underdogs, and teams that come out of left-field have the element of surprise on their hand, but neither has a group that is favorable for them to advance in. We'll see just how good they both are on Thursday during the group stages, and teams should certainly expect the unexpected in best-of-1s.
So RoG'ers who do you think is the favorite to take it all the tournament? Which team will surprise us all both good or bad? Which teams is likely to indulge a little too much in those fabled Las Vegas vices and not compete as well because of it? Be sure to stay tuned to Reign of Gaming for post game analysis and more coverage of IPL all throughout the week!
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