Game 1: Afreeca Freecs 1, Flash Wolves 0
The Afreeca Freecs took the first step in turning around their previously abysmal group stage when they smashed the Flash Wolves at the beginning of Group A's second round robin during the 2018 League of Legends World Championship in Busan, South Korea.
It was a game that was a close to being a perfect demonstration from the Afreeca Freecs, who proved well-schooled in the lessons that this worlds has been teaching the South Korean teams. No longer did the Freecs prioritize late-game compositions, and instead went all-in on a bevy of global ultimates, combined with the split pressure of top laner Kim "Kiin" Ki-in's Akali. The Flash Wolves, on the other hand, put their hopes on ADC Lu "Betty" Yu-Hung, and his Kai'sa pick, a hope that proved misplaced as the game ended before the hyper-carry could get herself off the ground.
Pressure on the bottom side of the map was the name of the game for the Freecs, who armed ADC Ha "Kramer" Jong-hun and support Bak "TusiN" Jong-ik with the most iconic lane-winning duo in South Korea: Varus supported by Tahm Kench. Together they slowly wore down the Flash Wolves' bottom turret, and the global ultimates on the side of the Freecs meant that the Flash Wolves could simply never find an opening to push back against the relentless pressure. An exceptionally bad rotation by the Flash Wolves after a mid-lane scuffle resulted in the Freecs taking both bottom and mid turrets in one fell swoop -- a play that all but ended the game on the spot. From there the Flash Wolves slowly bled to death, never able to find a window to engage, nor ever able to match the split pressure of Afreeca's oppressive solo laners.
A single kill onto Kiin would be the only prize that the Flash Wolves could take from the game, and soon after their attempts to force another fight backfired and opened the door for the Freecs to push straight down mid lane and end the game just as the clock struck 31.
-- James Bates
G2 1, Phong Vu Buffalo 0
G2 Esports came out with a crucial victory after it scraped Vietnam's Phong Vu Buffalo to death in a 47-minute heartstopper during the second round robin of Group A at the 2018 League of Legends World Championship in South Korea.
While fans of the European squad are sure to be thrilled with the result of the match, there were quite a few reasons to be less than enthusiastic about the side's chances going forward. First was the catastrophic loss of the early game, as Phong Vu's laners and jungler all seemed more comfortable during the laning phase than did G2. By the 20-minute mark, Phong Vu's jungler Hoang "Meliodas" Tien Nhat had double the farm of Marcin "Jankos" Jankowski, and more kills to show for his efforts. Monday's result was the first time a team had won at worlds this year despite yielding at least two Barons and five dragons in the same contest. The rest of G2's laners didn't fare any better, as the team was choked out in the early game, with Phong Vu enjoying a 150 CS lead as a team by the time laning phase ended -- a huge hole to climb out of.
To offset such a deficit would require a heroic effort, and G2 has just the man for the job in the form of mid laner Luke "Perkz" Perkovic. His Akali was the crux that shifted the balance of the game in favor of G2 Esports and by the end of the game, Perkz singlehandedly had more kills than the all of Phong Vu Buffalo -- a feat only made possible thanks to Akali's Twilight Shroud. Perkz's 11/2/11 KDA (kills/deaths/assists) tied the mark for most kills at this worlds, and also was the most kills by a mid laner since Soren "Bjergsen" Bjerg's 13-kill performance in 2016 against Splyce.
While Phong Vu did its best to keep the game from slipping out of its control, it fell victim to individual skill discrepancies, as the late game made it clear that Perkz was the best player on the Rift and would not be challenged.
-- James Bates
Flash Wolves 1, G2 Esports 0
The Flash Wolves reined in the ambitions of Europe's G2 Esports when it devastated its opposition at the tail end of a 45-minute bloodbath, once again throwing the fate of Group A at the 2018 League of Legends World Championship in Busan, South Korea into uncertain territory.
Both teams reapplied their respective formulas from the first time they met during this rematch. G2 Esports once again focused on a composition that looked to pressure via the sidelanes, and once again armed its top laner, Martin "Wunder" Hansen, with a carry pick in the form of Irelia. The Flash Wolves, on the other hand, opted into a teamfight-heavy front-to-back composition, but this time with legendary mid lane assassin player Huang "Maple" Yi-Tang piloting Akali to threaten G2 Esports' backline.
While the compositions might have been the same, that was where the similarities ended. This time it was the Taliyah on the side of Flash Wolves, piloted by jungler Kim "Moojin" Moo-jin, who controlled the early game, as opposed to G2. While G2 Esports managed to pull the game back into its control briefly during the mid-game -- the mismatch between Wunder's Irelia and Su "Hanabi" Chia-Hsiang's Sion was just too much to bear at that point -- the moment the two teams clashed in a pure 5-vs-5 it was clear which team would triumph. G2 Esports' teamfight plan largely revolved around the potent crowd control offered by its Skarner and Lissandra picks, both of which struggled for relevancy once the Flash Wolves all purchased a Quicksilver Sash to negate the big ultimates on the side of G2 Esports. G2 still made a good run of it, after all the cumulative 46 kills was the most at a worlds match since 2015, but the team inevitably fell before the superior scaling of Flash Wolves' more standard teamfighting composition, especially since Maple all but negated the entirety of G2's backline. It wasn't a clear cut victory, but it was victory nonetheless for the Flash Wolves, whose chances to escape an increasingly competitive group suddenly look better than ever.
-- James Bates
Afreeca Freecs 1, Phong Vu Buffalo 0
The Afreeca Freecs continued its dominant showing during the second half of group A's round robin at the 2018 League of Legends World Championship when it crushed Phong Vu Buffalo in decisive fashion.
From the moment the game began, it was clear that both teams were happy to balance their playoff ambitions on the edge of a knife, as both teams drafted high-risk high-reward compositions for themselves. Phong Vu's top laner, Pham "Zeros' Minh Loc, threw the gauntlet at the Afreeca top laner, Kim "Kiin" Ki-in when he locked in Camille, opening the door for a carry battle between the two respective top laners.
Unfortunately for Zeros, not only was he opening himself up for a devastating counterpick thanks to being on the blue side -- which Afreeca opted into with a Jax pick for Kiin -- but he was also facing down a Nocturne pick from Afreeca's jungler. Lee "Spirit" Da-yoon. While Zeros might have been able to endure either of those two setbacks alone, both of them together proved too much to bear. Phong Vu gave up pressure in the side lane early on in the game after Spirit secured Kiin a kill onto Zeros via Nocturne's Paranoia, and that sacrifice went on to define the game, as Kiin's split push pressure meant that no matter how many picks Phong Vu found with Zeros' Hextech Ultimatum, it was still playing on the back foot. Eventually the pressure built up to unsustainable levels for Phong Vu, who were forced into making a play or ceding the game to Kiin's pressure in the side lane. Phong Vu chose to try for a play, failed, and lost the game more or less immediately, as Afreeca's patient play around its top lane paid off in the form of a destroyed Nexus and the end of the Vietnam representatives hopes to escape group A.
-- James Bates
Phong Vu Buffalo 1, Flash Wolves 0
Phong Vu Buffalo, the Vietnamese representative at the 2018 League of Legends World Championship, exited the stage in style when it crushed the Flash Wolves during its last game at worlds, throwing into question whether the Taiwanese representatives would even be able to make it out of Group A.
It was a game which Phong Vu had only honor to lose, as the Vietnamese squad had already been eliminated from Worlds contention earlier in the day. The Flash Wolves, on the other hand, had everything on the line, as a victory against Phong Vu meant a guaranteed ticket to the quarterfinals, while a loss would set the stage for a potentially dangerous tiebreaker against either Afreeca Freecs or G2 Esports later in the day. Both teams came ready to play, however, with the Buffalos even going so far as to sub in its secondary jungler, Bui "XuHao" Hoang Son Vuong, for his first and only game at worlds.
And what a game it would end up being. A dose of creative early game pathing not only put Huang "Maple" Yi-Tang, the star mid laner for the Flash Wolves, into a deep hole, it also made XuHao the star of the show thanks to a stream of early kills. While the Flash Wolves found a bit of purchase in the mid game thanks to an equally impressive set of kills for Maple, the overall momentum was clearly the Buffalos from start to finish in what was easily the most convincing game from the Vietnamese squad in the entire tournament. Both teams fought hard once the late game came around, but no matter how hard the Flash Wolves -- or Maple and ADC Lu "Betty" Yu-Hung in particular -- tried, it simply couldn't make any headway, even with a few isolated pick offs. When it was all said and done, the teams combined to register 49 kills, only the second time in five years that a worlds' game has totalled 49 or more, and it was Phong Vu who registered its second victory of Worlds 2018, and throwing the Flash Wolves' future in the tournament into question.
-- James Bates
Afreeca Freecs 1, G2 Esports
The Afreeca Freecs became the first team from Korea to qualify for the 2018 League of Legends World Championship quarterfinals Monday morning when it breezed through G2 Esports and took the lead in Group A once and for all.
Once more the match broke down into a clash of styles, as G2 Esports was committed to riding its now-iconic split push strategy until the end, this time with an Aatrox pick for top laner Martin "Wunder" Hansen and a Cassiopeia pick from Luka "Perkz" Perkovic. The Freecs, on the other hand, fell back unto the Kai'Sa pick that has largely fallen off the map in the later days of the worlds group stage, back with the side lane pressure from Lee "KurO' Seo-haeng's Galio and top laner Kim "Kiin" Ki-in's Ryze.
Fortunately for Afreeca, it quickly became clear that the game would not be one of the blisteringly fast slaughter-fests that have become so common in the worlds meta. Some early action in the bottom lane gave Afreeca control of the early game thanks to some outstanding playmaking from support Bak "TusiN" Jong-ik and his Alistar, and Afreeca predictably used its advantage to slow down the game and buy its Kai'sa and Ryze more time to scale. Afreeca's gambit succeeded, and scale its carries did, as a bold steal on the Rift Herald ensured that G2 Esports had no tool available to them to speed up the game until Baron spawned -- a situation that favored the team built around Kai'sa far more than it did a team built around Jhin.
While G2 never lost control of the game in terms of gold -- it had a healthy lead for the majority of the game, in fact -- it also never managed to take control from the side lanes as it had during the majority of its wins. Rather than threatening Afreeca's towers, Perkz and Wunder mostly just shoved waves into the waiting arms of Afreeca, who used them to scale into its potent late game. Once that late game came about, it was clear who would be leaving Summoner's Rift victorious, and Afreeca did indeed win the game almost immediately upon finishing its final item on Ha "Kramer" Jon-hun's Kai'sa, as a disastrous teamfight from G2 opened up Afreeca to simply end the game through the mid lane, securing its lead over Group A in the process.
-- James Bates
G2 Esports 1, Flash Wolves 0
G2 secured its first League of Legends World Championships quarterfinals appearance in organization history after winning Monday's tiebreaker match against Flash Wolves to conclude Group A action in South Korea.
The win locks in another play-in team to the top eight, as G2 will join Cloud9 as the second team to advance to quarterfinals in as many days.
Perhaps the most drama to come out Monday's tiebreaker match took place in the pick/ban phase, as Flash Wolves somewhat mysteriously allowed Heimerdinger to sneak through. G2 quickly selected the mage for botton laner Petter "Hjarnan" Freyschuss, and unsurprisingly he dominated, improving to 10-0 on the hero (including 2-0 at worlds). Registering a 2/0/6 KDA (kills/deaths/assists), Hjarnan tacked onto his absurd 24.3 KDA with the champion, manipulating the entire game and stymying any hope of potential aggression from Flash Wolves. The fact that the Taiwanese squad's win condition fell solely on the shoulders of bottom laner Lu "Betty" Yu-Hung didn't help matters either, as Flash Wolves secured its first drake approximately 29 minutes into the game - or in other words, just five minutes before its eventual defeat.
While the Heimerdinger pick rightfully will earn praise, mid laner Luka "Perkz" Perkovic solidified G2's relatively easy win with an excellence performance in his own right on Irelia. A lane swap in the early stage allowed Perkz to pick on Flash Wolves top laner Su "Hanabi" Chia-Hsiang, at one point scoring a solo kill in what would amount to a 3/0/1 scoreline before the clock hit 15 minutes. While he'd finish with a paltry 3/2/2 KDA line by the end of the night, Perkz successfully bought enough time for Hjarnan and top laner Martin "Wunder" Hansen to scale into their respective positions, with the latter registered a team-high in kills (6/2/4 KDA) in what unceremoniously turned into a rout.