Oceanic champions Mammoth’s long-awaited campaign at the 2019 World Championship begins this evening in the Play-In stage of Riot’s massive international tournament.
The Oceanic Pro League representatives were placed in Group A of the early stage, alongside two well-known organisations – LCS wildcards Clutch Gaming, and former EU LCS veterans turned Russian champions Unicorns of Love.
Mammoth is ready for the challenge that will play out over the coming weeks – superstar bot laner Calvin ‘k1ng’ Truong even promised the team was hunting a new narrative for fans Down Under – but who exactly is standing in the way of them making OCE history?
Snowball Esports writers and analysts Harry Taylor and Emma van der Brug have gone behind enemy lines to figure out what makes the LCS and LCL representatives tick, explain just how they found themselves facing Mammoth in Berlin, and the path to victory for the OPL stars.
LCL champions Unicorns of Love
Fans across the world likely already know the name Unicorns of Love from their extended stint as one of the EU LCS’ most charismatic organisations that could never quite make it to the international stage. After not being granted a spot by Riot Games for the newly franchised LEC, the Unicorns spent a split out of the spotlight before making the switch to Russia.
UOL burst onto the scene with the acquisition of Team Just in the League of Legends Continental League (LCL) ahead of the 2019 Summer split, and bolstered their stable with the top half of the Vega Squadron roster who had recently represented Russia at MSI.
The organisation also recruited Nihat ‘Innaxe’ Aliev from Excel Esports for the bot lane, and legendary support Edward ‘Edward’ Abgaryan, who originally forged a legacy in the early seasons of League under the name ‘GoSu Pepper’ with Moscow Five.
Picking up a roster with this level of talent saw the Unicorns head into Summer as one of the league favourites to collect the Russian trophy. They finished first with a tie at the end of the regular split, before falling to second with a loss to Gambit in the tiebreaker match.
From there, the champions swept Elements in the semi-finals before facing Vega Squadron in the final. After a back and forth battle, the Unicorns claimed victory in five games.
With a playstyle that seems them play both meta picks, and the occasional spice, the Unicorns will be a formidable challenge for both Clutch Gaming and Mammoth, but will not be impossible to defeat for the Group A competitors.
LCS third-seed Clutch Gaming
If you’re a Clutch Gaming, or even just a fan of North American League of Legends, you know well and truly know they’re a ‘clutch’ team. They managed to reverse sweep six-time LCS champions Team SoloMid in the regional gauntlet, earning them a place at Worlds.
They are set to represent North America alongside Team Liquid and Cloud9, after joining the competition in 2018’s franchise flurry. This year, they were purchased by Dignitas, and are currently midway through the branding overhaul that will see them become the new org in 2020.
For now, though, Clutch has a Worlds campaign on their mind. They are represented by a strong cohort of NA and international talents in their quest too, including Nam ‘LirA’ Tae-yoo and Heo ‘Huni’ Seung-hoon on the top side of the map. Tanner ‘Damonte’ Damonte, Sun ‘Cody Sun’ Li-Yu, and Phillippe ‘Vulcan’ Laflamme fill out mid, bot, and support.
The lead-in to the Play-In stage couldn’t have been better for Clutch. After finishing fourth in the LCS 2019 Summer playoffs, they had a mission to make Worlds. With vengeance on their mind, the team had no small mountain to climb – FlyQuest, Counter Logic Gaming, and TSM all stood in their way in the regional finals.
First, they downed FlyQuest 3-1 in an expected victory. Then, they claimed revenge against CLG in another 3-1 win. That left just TSM to down as the gauntlet’s final boss. With Clutch finding themselves defending match point in the third game, the boys in yellow managed a do-or-die reverse sweep. With some clean Qiyanna plays from Damonte, and an astounding mental fortitude, CG booked their spot at the 2019 World Championship.
Overall, Clutch have proven their aptitude for best of five series, where their mental strength and wide range of picks enable them to make comebacks from the direst of situations, all the way to Silver Scrapes. However, Play-Ins is a double round-robin system, and only best-of-one games.
This could play against the NA representatives, and if the Unicorns of Love and Mammoth can formulate smart drafts and gameplans, they could bowl over the Clutch Gaming-Dignitas representatives from the Championship Series.
Emma van der Brug
Group A’s matches begin this evening with Clutch Gaming vs Unicorns of Love at 9pm AEST. Mammoth’s first game will be played at 11pm AEST, when they clash with UOL.
Full details and schedule at lolesports.com.