After nearly a full month break from LoL esports competition, the 2019 World Championship has finally begun. The largest international League of Legends event of the year featured Group A and Group B from the Play-In. Let's take a look at how the first games of Worlds 2019 unfolded.
Cowboys, Unicorns, & a Mammoth
The first match of the 2019 World Championship would feature LCS 3rd seed Clutch Gaming and LCL Summer Champion Unicorns of Love. UoL might be a familiar name to fans of European League of Legends, but the current iteration of Unicorns features members LCL Spring Champion Vega Squadron, who represented CIS at the 2019 Mid-Season Invitational. Clutch Gaming, being a major region representative, was expected to take the opening game in relatively convincing fashion.
Unicorns of Love subverted expectations as the organization has done many times in the past, upsetting CG due in part to a Heimerdinger Bot Lane pick for Nihat Dzhelal "Innaxe" Aliev. A far larger contributor to UoL's first Play-In win was Clutch Gaming looking every bit like its Spring Split self as opposed to the surging Dignitas-fueled squad that took NA by storm over the past month.
Unicorns of Love got a lead early on and never looked back.
Unicorns of Love would play against MAMMOTH next, already coming into the match favored against the OPL reigning champion prior to the start of the day, and now, was heavily favored after an innovative dismantling of Clutch Gaming. However, the super team from Oceania had other plans, and gave UoL a taste of its own medicine with an upset win of its own.
Clutch Gaming and MAMMOTH faced off in the final Group A bout of the day, looking to even its score after its loss to UoL. Even after losing its first match against a perceivably weaker opponent, CG was still favored against the Oceanic representatives. Of course, that didn't mean it was going to be easy:
Aside from the small hiccup of a Baron steal, Clutch maintained control for the entirety of the game on its way to a 38 minute victory over MAMMOTH. CG came into Group A as the favorite, but at the end of day 1, all three teams sit at 1-1.
Group A is already half over, but it has been blown wide open.
Splyce strikes first
Clutch Gaming may have failed to live up to major region expectations in its first Play-In matches, but LEC 3rd seed Splyce had no intention of following suit. Seeded into Group B alongside Japanese champion DetonatioN FocusMe and Latin American champion Isurus Gaming, Splyce made sure its first showing on the Worlds stage since 2016 would not disappoint.
In its first matchup against DFM, the LJL champion tried to throw Splyce for a loop with a Nocturne pick for Mid Laner Kyohei "Ceros" Yoshida. However, a strong early game from Splyce Jungler Andrei "Xerxe" Dragomir on Hecarim, backed by stellar teamfighting courtesy of Bot Laner Kasper "Kobbe" Kobberup on Xayah, stuffed any chances at a surprise from DetonatioN FocusMe.
Isurus Gaming, a super team formed from the merging of Latin America North and Latin America South, would also triumph over DFM, primarily off of the back of a strong Ezreal performance from Fabián Esteban "Warangelus" Llanos Bernal.
However, nothing that the LAT champion could do would produce similar results against Splyce, as the LEC representative solidified itself as the best team in Group B by snowballing a massive early game gold lead into a convincing second win of the day.
The Road Ahead
On Day 3, Group A and Group B will resume play with its final matches to decide which teams will qualify for the Play-In Knockout. However, first, Group C and Group D must follow suit in Day 2 with their first respective round robins.
In the final two days of the Play-In Group Stage, all groups will conclude to see who qualifies for the Knockout Stage. The 2019 League of Legends World Championship pre-show for Day 2 will begin 30 minutes before the broadcast of the first game of the day, which will feature LCK 3rd seed DAMWON Gaming against TCL champion Royal Bandits.