KLG aims for group stage appearance at worlds

Kaos Latin Gamers jungler Sebastián "Tierwulf" Andrés Mateluna Cibrario competes at MSI 2018. Provided by Riot Games

The mission to represent Latin America in the League of Legends World Championship once again is in the hands of Kaos Latin Gamers.

The team dominated the region top to bottom this season as it conquered the two stages of the Latin America South Cup (LAS) and participated in other international tournaments like the Mid-Season Invitational and Rift Rivals.

"In the first stage, we had a lot of information and little work directed, while in the following stage, we had the right amount of information and a well-directed work," KLG analyst Rafael "RafaP" Pinheiro said of the LAS season.

The analyst points to the MSI as a turning point for KLG. According to the Brazilian, "the game against Gambit taught us a lot since they had all our patterns very well-studied, and they simply knew everything we did. In the second stage, KLG's coaches were able to do a very good job of preparing information and using it the best way."

KLG jungler Sebastián "Tierwulf" Mateluna also noticed an improvement. The Chilean player said the team "has evolved a lot en route to the top." Rookie top laner Damian "Nate" Rea, in particular, grew throughout the season.

"Nate was a player who came from the semiprofessional scene, not having played Challenger, to the highest-achieving LAS team and replaced a very renowned player at his position," Tierwulf said.

KLG qualified for the world championship by winning the second stage of LAS. The team was outstanding throughout the competition, with an 86 percent win rate in the qualifying phase, only three losses in 21 matches and big victories in the knockout stage against Furious Gaming and Rebirth eSports.

But that does not mean Kaos Latin Gamers comes to the world championship with no need to evolve.

"Basically we have to talk about what we are going to do and have a plan B in relation to the moves we make," RafaP said. "We have to improve this a lot because teams that compete in higher level tournaments respond better to the strategies they see. "

After KLG qualified for MSI by winning the first stage of the LAS, it went 2-6 in the play-in stage. Although those games were competitive, failing to make it out of a group including Rainbow7, Gambit Esports and Ascension Gaming showed KLG how far it had to go in international competitions. As Tierwulf said, its opponents, both at MSI and at worlds, "are also champions."

"In LAS, in Brazil and in any server, you can try to be a more complete team in your own region," the jungler said. "But when you play against a better team and one from outside your region, another champion, the guys are going to be very good at some things and not at others. So what you have to do is to attack that opponents' weak spot and prepare well to play against each rival."

Latin America has been one of Riot Games' emerging regions since 2013, but no team has managed to break through on the world stage yet. The best result yet was by the Lyon Gaming, a Mexican organization that participates in Latin America's North region: Lyon made it through the first round of the play-in stage but lost to Cloud9 3-0 to miss the main event.

The poor performance of Latin American teams in international competitions, RafaP said, is due to "the level of competition being low in general and the short boot-camp time before the international tournaments."

"The sooner you raise your level of play and start practicing at a higher level, the better your performance can be in this competition," he added.

Investment by both Riot and team organizations also matters, Tierwulf said.

"If you play in LAS, the ping is good, but the level [of] play is lower," he said. "But if you play on the Brazilian server, where the level of play is better, you get a high latency, which is bad for a professional who wants to improve mechanically. We have also never done a boot camp, and the coaching staff from many LAS teams is composed by only one person. I think it's much more important to work with two or three.

"It's just a matter of time for things to improve in LAS. The players are good, but we need those things so we can play well in the world championship and internationally."

KLG got to South Korea on Sept. 20 and began its boot camp shortly afterward. Scrimmaging and playing on the South Korean servers were both priorities for the team ahead of the play-in stage.

"We are going to play on a server that is way better than ours," Tierwulf said before his team's departure. "The training will be more fun because when you play against teams from other regions, you are more willing, more motivated to play well and learn."

For play-ins, KLG will be in a group with Gambit Esports, which it faced at MSI, and G-Rex, a League Masters Series team. If it wins that group, it will get the second-place team out of another play-in group for the main event qualifier. A second-place finish will mean a match against a first-place play-in team, and a third-place finish means elimination.

"Our goal is to reach the group stage," of the main event, RafaP said. "We focus all our time and daily work with that in mind ... We have to believe that we can."

Tierwulf is confident his team can do it. Other than EDward Gaming, he said he thinks KLG matches up well with every play-in squad.

"Our dream is to take the LAS as far as possible in international tournaments, to do something historic," he said. "We can beat the rest. We just have to train, focus a lot on the game and play what we know. If we do this, we will have a chance against all of them, because the games are best-of-ones. Anything can happen."