The group stages are now out of the way and we have our final eight teams ready to square off in the knockout rounds. Now, the best-of-five quarterfinals will take place Thursday through Sunday at the Chicago Theatre with the winner heading to a semi-final matchup in Madison Square Garden. Friday night’s match-up will feature the defending champions, SK Telecom T1, taking on Chinese up-start Royal Never Give Up.
SK Telecom T1 -480 Royal Never Give Up +330
SK Telecom T1 Breakdown
How many times are people going to doubt this team in an international tournament? After showing some weaknesses during the Summer Split and getting bounced in the semi-finals of the Summer Playoffs, many believed that this was the tournament where there would be a changing of the guard.
SKT silenced the doubters with a very impressive performance in the group stage. The two-time champions only dropped one game, to a Flash Wolves team that they just struggle with for some reason, and were pretty dominant aside from that. Unlike past games where Faker’s play was the reason SKT pulled through, everyone played a great game and this team displayed the dominance we have seen in the past.
The biggest mismatch in this match will be in the mid-lane with SKT’s Faker taking on Xiaohu. Faker is still the best player in the world and his play through the first round of the tournament did nothing to dissuade people from that sentiment. He dominated the opposition and should do the same against Xiaohu.
Royal Never Give Up Breakdown
RNGU started off the group stage strong with wins against TSM and Splyce, but a loss against Splyce and getting swept at the hands of Samsung Galaxy meant that the Chinese runners-up had to defeat North American champion TSM to make it to the Quarterfinals. Much to the chagrin of the hometown fans, RNGU made quick work of TSM, winning all the Baron and Dragon Buffs to snowball their way to victory.
That RNGU made it out of group play was a bit of a surprise to some. They were soundly thumped by Edward Gaming in the Chinese finals and many thought they would be the odd team out in the Group of Death. However, RNGU proved that they were better than TSM twice but now face a tough test against SKT.
Bottom lane dominance is paramount for RNGU’s hopes of pulling off the upset here. More than any other team, RNGU focuses on the bottom lane to achieve victory and with Uzi and Mata there it’s easy to see why. Uzi has been one of the best ADC’s of the tournament and is one of the few that has the potential to outclass Bang. He has very good chemistry with his Support, Mata, and that has led to Mata holding the highest kill participation rate of any Support player at Worlds. That bottom lane gives RNGU hope to be able to win here.
Xiaohu is going to have his hands full with Faker in the mid, especially since his best champion in the Group Stage will almost certainly be banned by SKT. After Flash Wolves’ choice of Aurelion Sol left SKT grasping for straws in their one loss in the Group Stage, the Korean giants have banned the champion in three straight matches. Without Aurelion Sol available, Xiaohu will have to at least try to hold Faker to a draw with another champion he is less skilled with.
These two teams met in the MSI and although RNGU won a game, SKT was extremely dominant. SKT dominated the mid-lane and the top-lane and left no question as to who was the better team in their semi-final duel.
However, this meeting is different. Uzi joined RNGU after MSI and following an adjustment period, the team changed strategies to play through him in the bottom lane and have been rewarded immensely. He has proven to be a far better ADC than Wuxx was and has made this team better.
Still, four of the five members of RNGU haven’t changed from their showdown with SKT at MSI and SKT dominated both top-lane and bottom-lane in those games. Although RNGU might win a game off SKT, the Korean side is just going to be too strong to overcome.