The Japanese representatives again acquitted themselves well on the esport's biggest stage.
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What started off as an exciting, potentially historic international League of Legends series between DetonatioN FocusMe and Royal Never Give Up devolved into a smackdown in favor of China’s fourth-seed LPL team many expected coming into the bout.
The neutrals’ favorite since their historic run to the group stage last year, Japanese champions DetonatioN FocusMe had come off a 3-1 series win over Brazilian squad LOUD but weren’t given a snowball’s chance by most against the reigning MSI champions. The vast majority of fans of either minor region squad viewed the series as one simply for bragging rights before inevitable Play-In Stage doom against RNG.
Even though DFM eventually succumbed to the superior Chinese squad, they went down fighting and they did so their way.
The series served as the poster child for what’s been an intensely entertaining Worlds meta so far. Top lane carry champions are back in the fold, and not just Aatrox. DFM top laner Evi’s Kennen, despite being chain-ganked in the early game, threw his weight around in a major way in DFM’s dive composition with mid laner Yaharong’s Yone mid, Tristana, and Leona.
The match saw DFM play disciplined, fundamentally sound League that gifted them a 2,000-gold lead, as well as a Hextech Soul advantage at the 29-minute mark.
Despite RNG AD carry GALA soon after stealing away Elder Drake and DFM AD carry Yutapon dying on Tristana before the ensuing fight, the Japanese champions were decisive in their re-engage, and took the fight and the enemy nexus for a famous upset win to start the series.
Game two went similarly in many respects. Yaharong again locked in Yone with the same Sunfire Cape bruiser build, and again farmed much better than mid lane counterpart Xiaohu. But when the game again got to around the 30-minute mark in an even state, what many expected to happen in game one instead unfolded in this one. RNG smelled blood in the water and, thanks to superior vision setup, punished every slight misposition before grabbing their second Baron of the game, creating a 10,000-gold lead seemingly out of nowhere, and clinching the game in one fell swoop.
By game three, RNG took note of and respect-banned both Evi’s Kennen and Yaharong’s Yone despite a having just come off a victory.
In this, the 46th game of Play-Ins, three different champions made their tournament debuts. GALA and support Ming locked in Lucian and Nami, respectively, while Evi picked Tryndamere with the last selection on red side, bringing the total number of champions either picked or banned to 90. RNG’s bottom lane, as well as jungler Wei’s Viego pick, needed to get ahead early to snowball.
That’s exactly what they did, and they didn’t look back.
Though not quite as oppressive in lane as it once was since Nami’s Electrocute interaction was nerfed, thanks to some jungle help, one of the best teams in the world proved it’s still a viable win condition against respectable opposition.
To close out the series, DFM fielded a much more stock-standard composition with their backs against the wall. RNG ran out Fiora for top laner Breathe, alongside Lissandra and Varus, just to change things up. The result, however, did not, as Wei’s Viego again found himself extremely far ahead, and GALA and Ming enjoyed a similar advantage in lane thanks to their aforementioned jungler. Every single objective, including both Rift Heralds, a Mountain Soul, and Baron, all went to RNG before the 25-minute mark.
After their groups berth was confirmed, RNG were slotted into group D alongside Korean champs Gen.G, PCS winners CTBC Flying Oyster, and LCS runners-up 100 Thieves.
Their first match in New York will be against Gen.G on Friday at 9pm CT.