Invictus Gaming 3, KT Rolster 2
In an almost unprecedented upset, China's Invictus Gaming took down Korea's number one seed KT Rolster 3-2 on Saturday in the 2018 League of Legends World Championship quarterfinals in Busan, South Korea.
The Invictus Gaming that took back-to-back losses to Fnatic to end the group stage was nowhere to be found on Saturday. China's second seed thrashed the tournament favorites two games in a row to start the series, as Invictus' dedicated 5-vs-5 teamfight compositions brutalized the scaling drafts of KT Rolster. Star mid laner Song "Rookie" Eui-jin had fantastic showings on Lissandra and Galio even after drawing nine of KT's 10 bans between the first two games, helping Invictus command teamfights through crowd control. Meanwhile, support Liuyi "Baolan" Wang was having an uncharacteristically strong showing as the latter half of the Xayah/Rakan bottom lane. The duo's laning was dominant, and Baolan's engagements were on point. IG put KT Rolster at match point after a total of just 55 minutes of play.
On the verge of being swept out of the tournament, KT Rolster doubled down on its scaling. AD carry Kim "Deft" Hyuk-kyu picked up his third straight Kai'Sa of the series, while mid laner Son "Ucal" Woo-hyeon moved onto Azir. Meanwhile, top laner Song "Smeb" Kyung-ho made his first departure from tanks throughout the series, picking up Irelia. However, with KT's insistence on choosing Blue side, IG was free to answer with Fiora for Kang "TheShy" Dong-geun. Blessed with KT jungler Go "Score" Dong-bin's pick of Gragas that ceded the early jungle dominance to Invictus, TheShy dictated the top lane matchup, and after a gank granted him first blood and solo first turret gold, he became nearly impossible for KT to deal with.
Miraculously, KT Rolster dug deep and held on against the odds. Able to slow down TheShy's split-pushing just enough to scale up while losing turrets, KT's carries came online just in time to start winning fights and taking objectives. In the end, Game 3 all came down to a matter of moments, as TheShy battled Smeb in the KT base while the rest of both teams fought it out in Invictus Gaming's, and KT took the base race and stayed in the series by the skin of its teeth. Game 4 was by far the slowest of the series, and predictably, that suited the South Korean squad. Without the chaos of the first three games to thrive in, Invictus Gaming looked lost. The kill score sat at a mere 3-1 in the favor of KT Rolster for the majority of the game, as controlled sieges gave way to a deciding Game 5.
Having come within inches of a sweep in Game 3 and getting virtually shut out in Game 4, the Invictus Gaming lineup that had started out so strongly suddenly returned to its role as underdog. Anyone who counted IG out, however, had something else coming. Rookie had yet another stellar performance, this time on LeBlanc, as Invictus met KT blow for blow throughout the early and mid game. Meanwhile, the surprise pivot to Kindred for jungler Gao "Ning" Zhen-Ning worked wonders as the game turned late alongside another Xayah pick for AD carry Yu "JackeyLove" Wen-bo. The latter earned a quadra kill at 32 minutes to secure Baron for the Chinese squad, tipping the scales sufficiently to finally nab the upset victory and marking the first time since 2014 that a Korean team has been eliminated in the knockout stage of Worlds by a non-South Korean roster.
G2 Esports 3, Royal Never Give Up 2
For a second time on Saturday, a tournament favorite was eliminated in the 2018 League of Legends World Championship quarterfinals when Europe's G2 Esports took down China's Royal Never Give Up 3-2.
Coming into the series as Europe's third seed, and having never before made it out of the group stage despite many trips to the tournament, G2 Esports was not supposed to put up a fight against tournament favorite Royal Never Give Up. The whole series was supposed to look like Game 1, with RNG AD carry Jian "Uzi" Zi-Hao and support Shi "Ming" Senming dominating the laning phase with the help of the remaining members before summarily taking the game through teamfights.
G2 Esports came to play, however, especially its two solo laners. After being dismantled by Uzi in the first game, mid laner Luka "Perkz" Perkovic and top laner Martin "Wunder" Hansen pivoted onto Irelia and Akali, respectively, attempting to put out as much backline pressure as humanly possible. The picks also came online much more quickly than the Ryze/Aatrox combination in Game 1, keeping G2 even in the early game. It all worked like a charm, with Uzi's low-range Lucian pick wholly unable to deal damage safely throughout the entirety of the late game, allowing G2 to tie up the series.
The European squad seemed to forget the lesson it had learned, however, putting Perkz on another scaling champion in Cassiopeia for Game 3. While Perkz' creep score and KDA were solid, and he was clearly capable on the pick, the lack of an active champion for its star mid laner was visibly problematic for G2, as the team largely sat idly by while RNG took objectives and slowly won the game.
It seemed like the dream might be over for G2 Esports when it locked in the same Ryze/Aatrox combination from Game 1, but this time there was a crucial difference: it was Perkz on Aatrox. The other important detail was that jungler Marcin "Jankos" Jankowski had found his way onto Nocturne, and the first blood king lived up to his name, getting his mid laner the first two kills of the match. With Perkz rushing a Youmu's Ghostblade for a huge early power spike, and Wunder scaling up nicely on Ryze, G2 was able to absolutely smash its way to a deciding Game 5, ending with a 15-1 kill score in under 30 minutes.
If Perkz was a monster in Game 4, he was the Devil in Game 5. His first kill came courtesy of Jankos on Olaf, who also had a fantastic game, but after being given an inch, he dragged down all of RNG. Throughout the mid and late game, if G2 made a play, got a kill, or won out on a situation, it was probably thanks to Perkz' immaculate LeBlanc. His target selection, decision making, and raw mechanical skill were all on full display when it mattered most, and Perkz found kill after kill after kill, taking the game well and truly into his own hands. Perkz ended with an absurd 11/0/4 KDA (kills/deaths/assists) as G2 ended RNG's run at Worlds 2018.
This is a painful loss for Royal Never Give Up, who'd won every possible tournament so far this year and were the favorites to take it all coming into the tournament, especially after the elimination of KT Rolster earlier in the day. For Uzi, Worlds remains the one tournament he just can't seem to win. G2 Esports, however, is shining brightest amongst its lowest ever expectations, and has proven that this tournament is anyone's for the taking.