LCO champions The Chiefs are already boot camping in North America ahead of their Worlds Play-Ins campaign — with yesterday’s group draw providing a major opportunity to go where no Oceania team has gone before.
Traditionally consigned to the unluckiest of group draws, Oceania rejoiced today as our nearly-undefeated squad were drawn into Group A of the Play-In Stage, alongside teams like former Worlds finalists Fnatic, perennial Japanese powerhouses DetonatioN FocusMe and LCS Spring champions Evil Geniuses.
With twelve teams from across four major regions and seven minor regions, the likelihood that The Chiefs would need to go through multiple regional squads was always high. In previous years, Oceanic representatives such as Dire Wolves have faced off against Cloud9 and Edward Gaming in their quest to advance to the group stage.
Famously, the 2020 Legacy Esports roster went 3-1 in their group, qualifying second behind Team Liquid and above teams like the LEC’s Mad Lions. Unfortunately, they ran into the LPL’s LGD Gaming in their qualifying match and bowed out — but not before setting the marker for our teams to aspire to.
However, this year’s Group A draw—already dubbed by some as the Group of Life—provides ample opportunity for The Chiefs to advance. Both Fnatic and Evil Geniuses looked shaky over the course of their domestic playoff campaigns, while Beyond Gaming finished sixth in the PCS regular season and only qualified to Worlds via a miracle playoff run.
The draw also places The Chiefs alongside fellow minor region champions LOUD, who conquered CBLOL from fourth in the regular season. The team’s jungler, Park “Croc” Jong-hoon, also played for the Chiefs back in the final splits of the OPL before spending stints on multiple Brazilian teams and will be a familiar sight when he takes to the Rift against the Chiefs’ current jungler Park “Arthur” Mi-reu.
In order to make the Group Stage, however, The Chiefs will either need to pull off numerous spectacular upsets and advance directly by virtue of winning the group, or take the longer and harder road of facing a team from Group B in a best-of-five to secure their place.
Unfortunately, as much as Group A presents as the Group of Life, Group B is one of the most stacked groups in Play-Ins history — and could be mistaken for a main event group quite easily. MSI champions RNG are the favourites to make it out, but teams like DRX (led by their stalwart ADC, Deft) and the LEC’s MAD Lions will be eager to push for a spot.
With the LEC gaining a fourth spot due to the absence of the LCL, the region has two opportunities to make it to the main stage—but Oceanic faithful will remember when Legacy put down MAD Lions in 2020 and hope will be strong that LCO > LEC once more.
The Chiefs themselves are excited for the challenge, with support Ryan “Aladoric” Richardson telling Snowball Esports that despite it being a “very strong year for Worlds”, the squad were “hoping for this pool”.
He was also quick to shut down any talk on whether their run was going to be easy, saying that “every team is pretty solid” and that the team’s preparations “will be just as intense as they would have been for Group B”.
It’s the second Worlds campaign in a row for Richardson as well as midlaner James “Tally” Shute and coach Leo “Babip” Romer, all three part of the triumphant 2021 Peace roster. However, Richardson believes they can go further this year, saying “no OCE team has made groups before, and that is still our goal, so we will be pushing as hard as we can to make it to New York”.
The Play-In stage of the 2022 League of Legends World Championship starts at the end of September, and while most of The Chiefs have prior experience on the international stage, it will still take a phenomenal performance to get Oceania to the main stage for the first time.
We’ll just have to wait and see if this is the team to get us there.