Origen has only been a bona fide League of Legends pro team for a year now. And today they just won themselves a spot in the 2015 World Championship semifinals. Talk about beginner's luck!
Origen secured a spot in the semifinals today after beating Taiwanese League team Flash Wolves (FW) in a best-of-five match-up. This means that Origen is advancing to the next round, and Flash Wolves has been eliminated. Who Origen will be playing against in the semifinals is going to be decided tomorrow when Taiwanese team ahq e-Sports Club and Korean superstar team SKT 1 face off in their quarterfinals match:
SKT is widely considered to be the strongest team at Worlds this year, so I think most League eSports fans are expecting them to be the ones to face off against Origen. I'd be surprised if Origen ends up surviving that match-up and making it to the finals. But hey, the team's already done very well for themselves and surprised everyone in the process.
Origen's success in the 2015 Worlds games so far is cool and not-really-that-cool at the same time. It's cool for two main reasons.
First, they're a brand-new team. There aren't a lot of those in Worlds right now. Formed at the end of 2014 by two ex-members of Fnatic, the reigning champs of Europe's League of Legends Championship Series, Origen got off to a strong start in the 2015 season and haven't really looked back since then. They went 4-2 in the group stage games at Worlds, which put them in second place in their group just under Korean juggernauts KT Rolster -- also thought to be one of the strongest teams at the competition this year.
Everyone already knew that the new-and-improved 2015 version of Fnatic was going to be a strong European presence in Worlds, but Origen making it so far into the competition is more surprising because they're so new. The fact that they're also European gets to the second reason they're an exciting force in Worlds right now: they're the first team from the region to make it into the semifinals since 2013.
This might not sound very exciting if you're not super well-versed in League eSports. But bear in mind: making it to the semifinals, let alone the quarterfinals, is no easy feat. North American teams have never done it! Taiwanese, Chinese, and Korean teams are generally considered to be the strongest ones in the game, so it's nice to see things shake themselves up a bit at the competition this year.
OK. Now for the very un-cool part of Origens...origin story (sorry, I had to). The shortest way to say it is: I don't think Origen really had to try that hard to get to where they are right now.
For all of Origen's achievements thus far in Worlds, I'd argue that the team hasn't been confronted with the most serious challenges. Besides KT Rolster (which Origen beat once and lost to once), the other two teams in their starting group were very weak. Chinese team LGD defied expectations in the worst way possible when they crashed and burned at beginning of Worlds, and Team SoloMid (TSM) was the weakest of the already weak American teams in the tournament. All Origen had to do to make it into the quarterfinals was beat two weak teams and then do their best to survive against a single strong team. Even if they'd gotten crushed in both their KT Rolster match-ups, they still would have been the top contender for second place in that group.
That isn't exactly what happened. But it's close. Origen actually won their first game against KT Rolster:
...before losing in the rematch:
And despite LGD's surprisingly weak showing, Origen still managed to lose to them once, which is more of a credit to their own sloppiness than it is a sign of LGD's prowess:
Origen continued to play somewhat sloppily today in their games against Flash Wolves, which were all surprisingly uneventful for high-stakes top-level matches like these (That Origen pentakill in the first game was pretty sweet, though). Flash Wolves gave up the first two games fairly easily. In the third and fourth game, they played so defensively that team fights barely seemed to break out at all. Origen was able to win by sheer persistence -- pressuring each of their lanes in turn until they finally broke a whole through them and destroyed Flash Wolves' nexus.
Nobody knows for sure yet if SKT 1 will end up being the team that Origen plays against in the semifinals. But I definitely wouldn't bet against them being it. Almost all of Riot's own shoutcasters and commentators have said they think SKT 1 will end up winning this year's Worlds or, at the very least, play in the grand finals. During the post-game interviews with Origen players held immediately after their win against Flash Wolves, the conversation immediately shifted to: What's it gonna be like to play against SKT for the first time?
We should never treat games as a foregone conclusion -- ahq could very well win against SKT tomorrow. But even if they did win, they'd be the first team in Worlds this year to win a single game against SKT. That in and of itself would prove how strong ahq is.
In conclusion: It will be really interesting to see Origen face off against either of the rival teams that make it into the semifinals. Both will present Origen with a larger challenge than they have faced so far in Worlds. And that's how we'll be able to see what this new team is really made of.