The world's top four teams have fought their way through the quarter finals and are prepping for a showdown at the Galen Center. These are the matchups, times and dates of the World Championship semifinals.
9/27 8PM PST
A test of Korean might kicks off the semifinals. They're now in the same place, but these two teams took wildly divergent paths in gaining semifinal berths.
SK Telecom tied for first place in Group A with the (now eliminated) OMG and then took out the Gama Bears in a dominant 2-0 showing. NaJin Black Sword earned a bye to the quarterfinals, skipping group play entirely. Black Sword practiced in near darkness, playing only against their sister team, NaJin White Shield, to keep their strategy and playstyle a well-guarded secret.
When NaJin finally took to the Rift, facing off against Russia's Gambit Gaming, the Koreans took game 1 on the chin. Roaring back, NaJin skewered their European foes in two dominant performances, carried by star AD carry PraY and substitute midlaner Nagne.
SK Telecom is ten games deep into their championship run while NaJin has played only three. Don't call NaJin inexperienced though: they're the only team still in the tournament that played in last year's World Championship.
This battle comes down to two considerations: First, what matters about the games played differential? There's no question that NaJin can research their opponent more thoroughly, given that they've played few games in the tournament and refuse to practice against other World Championship teams. SKT, on the other hand, holds the advantage of playing hot for more than a week straight. What happens when homework meets momentum?
The other huge question is who will shoulder their team. Nagne and PraY both turned in amazing performances for NaJin, but Nagne is a substitute. Can he be relied on? There's no denying PraY's skill and star power, but he'll face off against an SKT team that has been firing on all cylinders. Top laner Impact and AD carry Piglet have turned in stellar performances throughout the tournament—and that doesn't even account for their legendary midlaner Faker. He's considered by many to be the best midlaner in the world. Worse still for PraY, Faker specializes in playing assassin-style champs that excel at hunting down squishy, back-line damage dealers. Will NaJin be able to keep PraY alive and spraying damage, or will Faker score the most important kills of his career in Friday's semifinal matchup?
9/28 12PM PST
Season 1 World Champion and Europe's final hope, Fnatic take on the red hot Chinese team Royal Club. Fnatic finished atop Group B before facing off against North America's Cloud 9 in the quarterfinals. The first two games in the transatlantic showdown were close; the teams split the difference in desperate battles featuring heroics from both sides. Game 3 was a different story: Fnatic shattered Cloud 9, winning the decisive game by a 26-2 margin in kills. Fnatic midlaner xPeke looked especially dominant, using his trademark Kassadin skills to Rift Walk to a 6-2 score in game 1 and a terrifying 11-0 in game 3.
Royal Club earned a bye into the quarterfinals after winning China's regional qualifier. Their quarterfinal matchup turned out to be a rematch of the series that won them their place at the World Championship. In China, Royal Club eked out a win in a ferocious 3-1 series against OMG. In the rematch, Royal Club again asserted their dominance. Royal Club's AD carry Uzi went 9-1 and 9-2 in an action-heavy, two game dismantling of OMG.
Royal Club's midlaner Wh1t3zZ and support Tabe played in sterling style, recording great scores in matches against OMG. Simlarly, Fnatic's All-Star toplaner sOAZ and jungler Cyanide proved instrumental in stopping the Cloud 9 hype train. But even with top talent dispersed through each roster, this matchup rides on each team's best player. Similar to the NaJin v SKT matchup, this contest hinges on a battle between the midlaners and AD carries.
In China, the Royal Club refrain is “Protect the puppy!” The puppy is Uzi. It's no secret that this sixteen-year-old AD carry prodigy is the catalyst to Royal Club's winning formula. He'll have to use every ounce of skill he's so far shown to avoid Fnatic's xPeke. The European midlaner will stop at nothing when trying to take down opposing carries, especially with a shot at the Staples Center on the line.
Take your picks. Which Korean team will advance to the finals? Will Fnatic gain a chance to compete at the highest level once again? Watch what are sure to be among the most amazing matches of the year this weekend at lolesports.com.