Clutch Gaming Top Laner Heo "Huni" Seung-hoon has previously expressed interest in the possibility of facing off against his former teams Fnatic and SK Telecom T1. If all goes as expected at the 2019 World Championship, the Team Dignitas ace will have the chance to play against not one, but both of his former teams.
As the #3 seed from North America (LCS), CG holds one of the Pool 1 seeds for the Play-In alongside #3 South Korean seed DAMWON Gaming (LCK), #3 Taiwanese seed Hong Kong Attitude (LMS), and Europe's #3 seed Splyce (LEC).
Each Pool 1 seed is joined by two domestic champions from a Wildcard region. The only exception to this pattern is the Play-In representatitve from the VCS, which features the 2nd Vietnamese seed instead of the VCS Champion, who qualifies for the Main Event automatically as a Pool 2 team in the Group Stage draw. Due to China's recent international success, specifically Invictus Gaming's 2018 World Championship, the 3rd LPL seed also qualifies for the Main Event as a Pool 2 team.
The groupings of three are seeded into four groups through the same process that is used for the Group Stage draw. Since Clutch Gaming, DAMWON Gaming, and Splyce are major region teams, they are heavily favored against their respective Wildcard region opponents. LMS 3rd seed Hong Kong Attitude is far from infallible, but should possess a slight edge against VCS #2 seed Lowkey Esports and a significant advantage over Southeast Asia's LST champion MEGA Esports.
If all goes as planned, CG, DWG, SPY, and HKA will escape the Play-In and fill out the last four spots in the Group Stage of the Main Event.
Assuming the Play-In stage goes as expected, Clutch Gaming will 100% be seeded into Group C at Worlds 2019. Due to the rule of only one team from each region being allowed in each group, there are certain restrictions to the randomized options each team would have when seeding into the Group Stage after qualifying through the Play-In.
Because DAMWON Gaming is a representative of the LCK, it would be unable to be seeded into Group A, which contains LCK #2 seed Griffin, or Group C, which is topped by South Korean champion SK Telecom T1. Splyce would also be unable to seed into Group A or Group C due to the inclusion of #1 LEC seed G2 Esports and #2 LEC seed Fnatic, respectively.
Hong Kong Attitude would be unable to seed into Group B due to #2 Taiwanese representative ahq e-Sports Club, and would also be barred from Group D, which includes LMS champion J Team. Regardless of specifics, DAMWON and Splyce must be seeded into either Group B or D, respectively, which leaves HKA with Group A or C...except that Clutch Gaming is unable to join Group A because Cloud9 is already a part of it. Thus, Clutch Gaming would be automatically seeded into Group C.
For non-believers of HKA, this entire scenario ould play out the exact same way regardless of who escapes Play-In Group C because of the rigidity of the major region #3 seeds should they qualify for the Main Event at Worlds 2019. If Clutch Gaming shows up and plays like a major region team, Dignitas' first World Championship representation since 2012 will be in a group with SKT and Fnatic. In a perfect storm, Huni would be given the opportunity to face both of his former squads.
Group C forecast
In an interview with Inven Global immediately after reverse sweeping TSM and qualifying for Worlds, Huni spoke about the possibility of facing SKT and Fnatic in a realistic context:
"Honestly, it's going to be pretty tough, I'm not going to lie! Fnatic and SKT are good teams; I don't expect us to sweep SKT or kick Fnatic out of their home region. I know that's not how it's going to happen, but still, it's going to be fun."
At first glance, that sounds quite a lax approach to the largest international event of the LoL Esports season, but it's that fast and loose demeanor that has served Clutch Gaming well on its miracle run to Worlds qualification.
"I honestly feel like whichever team is having more fun is often the team that wins," said Huni. "This was our mantra to ourselves for the series today: 'Just have fun, dude. Today's game could have been the last of your 2019, or even your career. So prove to yourselves that you're worth it as team, and just play.'"
Clutch Gaming would have a tall task if seeded into Group C. Not only would Fnatic and SK Telecom T1 have to be overcome, but the fourth team in the group was none other than Royal Never Give Up, the 2nd LPL seed that features the greatest Chinese player of all time, Jian "Uzi" Zi-Hao. However, Huni is both aware of the odds, but understandably, unphased by the expectations.
"No one expects us to do well at Worlds, but no one expected us to qualify, either. That's the greatest part of not getting support — we have no pressure on us. If we lose, who cares? It was only expected. But if we win, it's almost like we're winning double."
It is likely that the stars align for Clutch Gaming to be seeded into Group C, but wins will not come easy to the NA 3rd seed. However, the Worlds 2019 Group Stage would not be the first time that Clutch Gaming has shocked the world this year, and if those wins were to come against SKT or Fnatic, for Huni, it would be winning triple.