When it comes to competitive gaming, League of Legends is soccer and the month long championship tournament that kicked off earlier this week is its world cup. The event, referred to as "Worlds" for short, sees 14 teams from five different regions, as well as two wildcards, compete for a grand prize of over $US1,000,000 ($1,305,225) in front of one of the largest audiences.
Last year, people spent nearly 60 million hours watching League of Legends on Twitch during Worlds 2015. This year it's likely to be even higher. If you want a brief primer on what went down at least year's event, we've got you covered.
The tournament starts with four groups of four teams competing to make it to the knockout stage. After teach team has played one another twice, the top two teams from each group will advance to a knockout bracket that begins with the quarterfinals. Below are the teams competing in each of the groups:
- ROX Tigers (Korea)
- G2 Esports (Europe)
- Counter Logic Gaming (North America)
- Albus NoX Luna (Russia)
- Flash Wolves (Taiwan)
- SK Telecom T1 (Korea)
- IMay (China)
- Cloud 9 (North America)
- Edward Gaming (China)
- ahq e-Sports Club (Taiwan)
- H2k-Gaming (Europe)
- INTZ e-Sports (Brazil)
- Team Solo Mid (North America)
- Royal Never Give Up (China)
- Samsung Galaxy (Korea)
- Splyce (Europe)
Please note all dates and times mentioned in this article are in Pacific Time. This includes the official schedule on the League of Legends website.
The group stage will run through next Sunday, October 9, with the quarter finals beginning the following Thursday, October 13. The semifinals will take place the Friday and Saturday after, on October 21 and 22, with the grand finals to follow a week later on October 29. You can find a full schedule of every match along with current standings here. All of them will be streamed live, with re-broadcasts in the off hours, here.
Each game of League of Legends (LoL) starts with a drafting phase where teams pick the characters they want to play as while trying to ban the ones that will help their opponents. LoL has over a hundred different "champions" to choose from, each with different strengths and weaknesses. Riot Games, the creators of LoL, put out a helpful series of videos for anyone not already familiar with the game's characters.
For help understanding the basics of how the game works, this Reddit guide is extremely concise. In short, two teams of five try to destroy one another's base, all while getting stronger as they collect resources, buy special items, and score kills. Think of it like boxing, but if the fighters actually got stronger as each round progressed.
Like a lot of esports, LoL can seem incomprehensible to anyone who hasn't spent a few hundred hours playing it. The key, however, is to just dip-in and try to soak up the game's unique rhythms and passionate rivalries. When the sports casters announcing the game start to scream and the gobbly gook coming out of their mouths makes even less sense than normal, you know something big is going down.
In the off moments when both teams are feeling one another out, trying to accumulate small advantages here and there, you can always try to keep tabs on the score. More than anything else, LoL matches are a test of efficiency and focus. The team with the most gold and kills doesn't always win, but it's almost always a good indicator of who has the momentum. Like a tug-of-war, even if you can't figure out what the hell any particular player is doing at any given time, you can always appreciate the slow war of attrition playing out along a single axis.
In that regard, the easiest way to dip into LoL during its biggest tournament is to simply pick a team and root unconditionally for their complete and utter domination. You don't have to love, or even understand soccer, to appreciate when a powerhouse like Brazil gets humiliated or less illustrious team like Ghana is able to holds its own.
As a team who made it to Worlds on a wildcard, effectively representing the entire continent of South America, INTZ e-Sports is one team to keep an eye on. Gabriel "Revolta" Henud made people pay attention when he helped his team defeat one of the tournament's favourites, China's EDward Gaming, in a one of the biggest upsets to-date.
On the opposite end, South Korea's SK Telecom T1, the only team to ever win Worlds back-to-back, will be looking to defend its legacy, with arguably the best player in the game's history, Sang-hyeok "Faker" Lee, looking to fight off rivals like ROX Tigers' Kyung-ho "Smeb" Song and EDward Gaming's Kim "Deft" Hyuk-kyu.