Cloud9 3, Afreeca 0
For the first time since the inception of the League of Legends World Championships, there will not be a representative from South Korea playing in the semifinals, much less the finals, as Cloud9 shocked the world early Sunday morning by defeating LCK's final representative, Afreeca Freecs, in a swift and brutal 3-0 series.
While Afreeca certainly did prepare a few unusual champion selections -- Kim "Kiin" Ki-in's top lane Viktor being the most obvious of these - the team seemed woefully unprepared for its series outside of 1-vs-1 champion matchups. Cloud9's control of the early game relative to their Korean opponents made the difference between the two especially clear, as neither of Afreeca's junglers looked prepared for the extremely aggressive skirmish style that has come to define Worlds 2018, while Denni "Svenskeren" looked positively in his element during what could only be called an MVP performance.
Svenskeren wasn't the sole member of his team to overperform expectations, however, as every member of Cloud9 had moments in the sunshine. Mid laner Nincolaj "Jensen" Jensen started out in the limelight thanks to a breakout performance on LeBlanc in Game 1 in which he dominated the early laning phase to the point of no return for the Freecs -- all while being counterpicked by Lee "KurO" Seo-haeng's Kassadin. Zachary "Sneaky" Scuderi, the ADC for Cloud9, also made his presence known over the course of the series, as his Lucian was a terror for the side of Afreeca, who struggled throughout the entire series to effectively answer it.
Cloud9's performance was far more than the sum of their parts, however. While their individual skill certainly wasn't lacking, it was their collective initiative that truly defined the series. With the exception of Game 3, each game seemed well decided before the 20-minute mark, with Cloud9's aggressive -- yet measured -- playstyle being mostly to thank for the short game timers. The North American team was more than willing to push its advantage at every turn, especially when it smelt the blood pouring out of the beleaguered Afreeca Freecs' many wounds. The Korean side's hope for a controlled late game teamfight was dashed time and again, as Cloud9 knew when it was the stronger and pushed their leads without hesitation -- a tendency which made for an explosive and exciting series for everyone involved excepting Afreeca.
Not only have Cloud9 made it to the elimination rounds of the World Championship more than any other North American team, but it is now the first North American team to defeat a Korean team in a best-of-five at Worlds, as well as the first North American team to advance past quarterfinals. While the road ahead of them remains difficult -- neither Fnatic nor EDward Gaming will prove easy semifinal opponents, much less the reinvigorated G2 Esports or Invictus Gamin waiting in the other bracket -- but Cloud9 proved Sunday that it has what it takes to make history, and it's anyone's guess how much more history it can make before its time at Worlds 2018 wraps to a close.
Fnatic 3, EDG 1
Fnatic punched its ticket to the semifinals of the League of Legends World Championship when it took down Edward Gaming at the end of a four-game series -- a feat which makes it the only regional first-seed to make it out of the quarterfinals of the tournament.
It was a series that easily could have gone the entire distance as Fnatic and Eward Gaming were no less evenly matched than any of the pairs of teams that went to five games earlier in the week. Edward Gaming's laners, especially Lee "Scout" Ya-chan, proved to be at least the match to their Fnatic counterparts, which led to an explosive series of games that largely came down to the teams' decision making and teamfighting prowess. Unfortunately for the Chinese representative, the teams were only evenly matched while the game was a high-intensity brawl. The moment the series moved from an all-out-brawl to a chess match was the moment Fnatic took over the series and never let go.
Edward Gaming did have a strong opening game in the series, however. Jeon "Ray" Ji-won, the top laner for EDG, made quite a stir when he locked in one of the LPL's signature champions, Kled -- a pick that's all but unheard of elsewhere in the world. It was a pick that proved extraordinarily effective in the skirmish-heavy Worlds meta, as not only did Ray have the tools to start off advantageous fights with his Charge, but he also had the damage and scrappiness to win them, especially since he was flanked by two absurdly fed carries in the form of mid laner Scout and ADC Hu "iBoy" Xian-Zhao. Within 25 minutes Fnatic's base was in ruins and EDG had taken the lead in the series, all on the back of their superior early game scrapping.
Fnatic was far from broken after its rout in Game 1 and came back with a vengeance in the second game. Rasmus "Caps" Winther carried the team to a massive turnabout victory while playing his best games on Irelia to date. It was here when the cracks began to show for EDG, as it proved incapable of, or unwilling, to reinvent its winning formula from Game 1, and instead put all its hopes in iBoy's Kai'sa with a composition built entirely around his damage. Unsurprisingly, Fnatic doubled down on the early game plan and crushed EDG in no less convincing a fashion that EDG had smashed Fnatic in the first game.
The rest of the series was a wind-down on the side of Edward Gaming, who were both clearly out of steam and also clearly failing to read the series' meta correctly. iBoy spent the rest of the series on Kai'Sa, and was subsequently utclassed in teamfighting by Fnatic's ADC Martin "Rekkles" Larsson from then on. Scout and Caps performed at a level apart from every other player on the rift, thougha venture that Scout, to his credit, did a far better job at than Caps, especially during Cap's inexplicable Yasuo game in Game 3. After Edward Gaming lost the 45-minute long Game 3 which saw them stall out against Fnatic's defenses, it was clear the direction the series was headed. Game 4 featured another highlight reel performance from Scout, but it wasn't enough to fend off the strictly superior teamfighting and, more importantly in this game, decision-making from Fnatic, who more or less won the game instantly off an uncontested Baron sneak, taking the series for their own.
Fnatic move on to face the last hope of North America, Cloud9, in the semifinals.