The opening round of the League of Legends World Championships has come to a close, and the field of 24 has been cut to 20 as the best-of-five elimination stage of the play-in rounds are upon us. Through the first four days of the tournament, some favorites have risen to the occasion, some have fallen by the wayside and a few clubs from fledging regions have put the world on notice in their quest to make the main event group stages starting next week.
Here are the five players who stood out above the rest to make my Worlds Opening-Round All-Star squad heading into the next stage of the tournament.
Top Laner: Berke "Thaldrin" Demir, 1907 Fenerbahçe
His stats don't stand out compared to some of his peers at the position, but Thaldrin's importance in the play-in group stage can't be measured through stats alone. The 23-year-old was the only member of his team with major international experience before worlds and is the captain and shot-caller on the squad. Despite the team making an emergency substitution, Thaldrin led 1907 Fenerbahçe to an upset of No. 1 seed Hong Kong Attitude in a tiebreaker match, and a first-place finish in Group D. His play through five games has been nothing but solid, and his smart roams and setups with tanks like Maokai and Galio are what has made his team's star carries, Kim "Frozen" Tae-il and Ege "Padden" Acar Koparal, stand out in the opening round. A team is only as good as its leader, and with Thaldrin at the helm, the Turkish champion enters its elimination match with Brazil's oNe Esports with supreme confidence.
Jungler: Xiang "Condi" Ren-Jie, Team WE
The rock of Team WE, Condi was his normal excellent self in the group stages. When his team fell behind through inconsistent laning phases, the jungler still kept pace and then whittled down the advantage of the opposing team come the midpoint of the game. While Cloud9's Juan "Contractz" Garcia was also a contender for this spot, Condi's consistency and signature steal on Baron are what helped him edge out the impressive rookie jungler. You can't go wrong with Condi or Contractz, as both were stars in the opening round of the tournament and their teams, Team WE and Cloud9, are favorites to move on to the main event next week.
Mid Laner: Nicolaj "Jensen" Jensen, Cloud9
In all honesty, every Cloud9 member has an argument for being on this All-Star quad. No team in the first week of play has been more impressive than the No. 3 seed out of North America; Cloud9 mowed down the competition in its group without having a single victory take more than 30 minutes. Jensen, especially, has been on his game, and the ace of the team even tried out Galio in one of the group stages matching, showing his versatility not only with high-damage dealing carries but utility champions as well. Contractz has become the right-hand man of the Danish mid laner, and the two were the leading carries on the team through its 4-0 group stage performance. Jensen's opponent in the elimination round, Lyon's Édgar "Seiya" Ali Bracamontes Munguía, was the closest contender for this mid lane spot. Seiya died only twice in the four games he has played, including two against one of the tournament favorites in Team WE.
AD Carry: Matías "WhiteLotus" Musso, Lyon Gaming
Two years ago, a lanky European by the name of Jesper "Niels" Svenningsen took worlds by storm, when as a rookie he played a primary carry role on OG and made it all the way to the semifinals of the competition. Now under the ID "Zven" and the star carry of four-time European champion G2, he's one of the most well-regarded marksmen in the world.
Lyon's WhiteLotus showed the same sort of composure in his worlds debut games as Zven did two years ago, and the ace from Argentina put the rest of the bottom lanes in the tournament on notice with his commanding play in the opening round. If I had to give an MVP award for the first four days of the tournament alone, WhiteLotus would get my trophy. Generally, when new players are put on the big stage and placed against the best players in the world, they flinch. Not WhiteLotus. From his laning phase to his positioning in team fights, there are few players who've made such a strong first impression on the worlds stage. Cloud9 might be favored in its matchup with Lyon, but with WhiteLotus on the Mexican team's end, victory is never impossible.
Support: Jesse "Jesiz" Le, Fnatic
As with most of these positions, it came down to a C9 player and someone else. An argument can be made for both C9's Andy "Smoothie" Ta and Jesiz for the best support of the opening round. After going back-and-forth between the two, the Danish support's importance to all of his team's victories -- he participated in an opening-round-high 87.2 percent of his team's kills -- is what gave him the edge in the end. His Janna and Rakan play was vital in his team's three victories to land atop of its group, and Jesiz will need to be at the same level when Fnatic faces Hong Kong Attitude in the elimination round this Thursday.