[box]The 2012 IEM World Championships will be held at CeBIT in Hanover, Germany from March 6-8. For a full schedule of play, please visit ESL World’s schedule page.
The stars are aligned for an epic event in Hanover, as some of the “World’s Best Gamers” head to the Intel Extreme Masters World Championship. Although the Chinese teams of Team World Elite (Gigabyte) and iG will be unable to attend this tournament due to visa complications, the field in Hannover, Germany is still highly competitive. The $100,000 prize pool, with 1st place taking $50,000, will make this one of the biggest competitions of the year.
Here is a breakdown of not only of who you are watching but what to actually watch for.
The Groupstage is played in a Best-of-One format.
SK Gaming | Team SoloMid | Moscow 5 | Team Sypher | Team Curse | EHOME
A New Roster…Again
SK stand alone as the sole team to attend every IEM event and, as a result, have accumulated enough points to earn the #2 seed. The SK organization has been a revolving door when it comes to players in League of Legends. The list of former talent is basically a who’s who of EU LoL players. Fielding a fresh roster yet again at an IEM event, the world will see if SK has made the right moves to win them the global championship. Their latest addition is Polish player Dedrayon, and many eagerly anticipate his upcoming performance. Kev1n shows generally solid, though occasionally questionable, play in top lane. The trinity of Candy Panda, Nyph, and Ocelote have been the team’s only constant, but SK’s success relies on how the other two pieces of the jigsaw puzzle will elevate their play to make a cohesive whole for the venerable eSports franchise.
The Rain Man
Team SoloMid remains one of the most influential, omnipresent squads in the League of Legends eSports scene. The casual use of the word “meta” and terms like “snowball meta” and “stall comp” exist because they were the ones to introduce them. They carry with them intrigue, excitement, and hype. They also bring a considerable amount of skill to back it up, though a lack of consistent play can be their downfall. They will either roll faces when they get into a game or lay a goose egg.
Their recent shortcomings in the Curse Invitational and IPL Killing Spree have many questioning whether they have what it takes to take an IEM tournament. So far they have fallen slightly short of their goal twice, taking 2nd place at Cologne against CLG.NA, and 2nd at Kiev against M5. However, it must be noted, taking 2nd place at any IEM event is no small feat. They also took part in IEM New York, but went (0-3) in the group stage. Many people will be looking for The Rain Man to step his game up in Hannover, as he did with his phenomenal play at MLG Providence, as he plays against teams stacked with Solo Top all-stars. Every member of the team has the ability to make plays, however the key to the success of TSM lies with theOddOne. Statistically he is a significant part of the offense; he basically runs it. When teams have neutralized him in competitive play, TSM is a .500 team. Will theOddOne go Tarzan at Hanover to stake his claim for the ever-disputed title as King of Jungle?
Fury of the Russianborn
As many no doubt remember, Moscow Five stormed onto the international scene with an impressive 1st place finish at IEM Kiev. It helped that they defeated Team SoloMid to gain fame, as that victory solidified them as one of the top contenders on the world stage. Their team coordination is their most awe-inspiring and impressive strength, even though their clever opponents seems to have adapted to their bold strategies in recent online tournaments. They somehow “reset” the standard on how to play the game while League of Legends was revamped with new Masteries and a new jungle. They continued to produce solid performances after Kiev with a 2nd place finish in the Kings of Europe Tournament and 1st in the Legendary-Gaming.org Cup. However, in the recent IPL4 qualifiers against Mono eSports (another Go4LoLteam made famous by a victory over Team SoloMid ), their in-game behavior has affected their image. They have also dropped games to aAa in the 4PL and Na’Vi in the January EU West Go4LoL. M5 is a favorite to make it past the group stage, but do they still have enough fury to bring the trophy home?
Will a last minute change make Team Sypher complete?
Sypher’s performance oscillates wildly from event to event. Months ago, no one from North America expected them to do well in IEM NY, and yet they took 3rd place after beating CLG.NA. However with Alth0r and Jothy leaving Sypher after New York, the organization has been searching for the way to create an elite caliber team. They picked up Moopz from Belgium, and a fellow Frenchman, ShLaYa, in the intervening months. They failed to qualify for IEM Kiev placing 5th in the qualifiers, but were given a slot because iG could not attend. At IEM Kiev, they went (0-3) in the “Group of Death” of Team Dignitas, aAa (which had their former player Alth0r), and Moscow Five. At Kings of Europe they took 4th place when they took games from fnatic, aAa, M5, and Absolute Legends. Individually, these guys are as strong as they come but they will enter Hannover with a new botlane with Lounet and German player Lyumi. Lyumi has played with several organizations in Europe, starting with Millenium and moving with sOAZ to the original Absolute Legends team as their AD Carry. He played in the Soundblaster Nations Cup German Team at Top Lane and played on Team Etheral in the Germany 2011 WCG qualifiers. Sypher will be tested again as they were seeded in a group of heavy-hitters. Will Team Sypher begin to have impressive results despite repeated roster changes?
This team has seen numerous roster changes ever since it was unR. With the most recent loss of Doublelift, Curse picked up Cop, Crumbzz, and Elementz. Their starting five is pretty strong on paper, however Pobelter will not be able to attend Hannover due to age restrictions, forcing substitute player SYDTKO to take his place. This is still a very strong team, but they are placed in a very difficult group. This starting rotation has been seen once so far in the IPL Killing Spree against RFLX. The bottom lane combo of Cop and Elementz has shown consistent results but have failed to compare with the other established duo bots like Chaox/Xspecial, Imaqtpie/L0CUST, Candy Panda/Nyph, etc. The duo of Crumbzz and Nyjacky will be what to look out for as they are responsible for a chunk of the team’s offense. Crumbzz is in the top 5 in the NA Solo queue ladder and Nyjacky is considered as one of the best APs in North America.
EHOME’s International Debut: Glory for their country!
Though the ESL intended for an Asian League of Legends team to be represented at all of the circuit events, this is the first time the world will see a Chinese LoL team on European soil. Not much is known internationally about this team recently other than Saintvicious has a problem with donating buffs to Max while streaming. EHOME are one of the top three teams in China and are confirmed to attend the tournament unlike their rivals iG and World Elite.
They took 4th at IEM Guangzhou but have remained relatively quiet on the international competitive LoL stage compared to the other Chinese teams. In November 2011 EHOME lost to World Elite in the Grand Finals of the League Heroes City of Heroes Competition, in which Team iG ultimately placed 3rd. More recently, in February, after dropping Game 1, EHOME fought through adversity with an epic comeback in Game 2 and beat iG in a best of 3 in the TGA Star Challenge. They primarily use the NA Solo Queue ladder as practice, but they also have other methods of training. They currently sit in the top 20 in the 5×5 Teams Ladder on the NA servers. If they manage to meet CLG.NA in the playoffs, I will bet that enemy buff control (especially the Crest of the Ancient Golem) will be a priority for both teams. A metacarpal fracture to PDD’s right wrist does not help EHOME’s chances, but their clan leader CR is confident about advancing out of the group stage.
Moscow Five and Team SoloMid are favorites to advance. The final spot can honestly be taken by any of the remaining four teams. SK and Sypher have new members, Curse is missing one of their star players, and most people do not know what to expect from EHOME. The pressure is on for EHOME to represent their country with the absence of iG and WE, so I’ll take EHOME for dark-horse/bracket-upset/Glory for China purposes.