The best (and worst) bets of the 2019 League of Legends World Championship group stages

BERLIN — Qualifiers are done, the play-in round is finished and the 2019 League of Legends World Championship main event is ready to begin. Sixteen of the best League of Legends teams from across the globe have been divided into four groups, with a double round-robin format implemented to determine which eight of those teams will advance onward to Madrid, Spain for the best-of-five knockout rounds.

Before play-ins, I imparted my wisdom to give you, our dear reader, the best preliminary bets going into the world championship and identify which teams to avoid. With the play-in stage now done and the real meat and potatoes of worlds set to begin, there is a slew of new odds and prop bets that need to be sifted through.

Let’s begin by going through each of the four groups to see which are the best (and worst) bets on the board heading into Saturday, when everything kicks off between Europe’s Fnatic, the franchise that won the first League of Legends world championship in 2011, and South Korea’s SK Telecom T1, the winningest franchise in League of Legends history, having won the tournament three times in 2013, 2015 and 2016.

Note: All odds come from Bet365.

Group A

(To Advance From Group / To Win Group)

G2 Esports (1.90 / 1.062)

Griffin (2.10 / 1.10)

Cloud9 (11 / 4.50)

Hong Kong Attitude (101 / 31)

Stay away from this group and don’t even try to throw money into the ring unless it’s a small amount. In my opinion, this group is the most volatile of the four, and picking the winner or which two teams will advance is anyone’s guess. On paper, the Mid-Season Invitational champions, G2 Esports, and South Korea’s Griffin should make it through, but nothing is certain.

G2 are probably the safest bet to at least advance from this quartet, yet, their off-the-wall and flair isn’t best suited for this format. They’re prone to dropping games to teams they have no business losing to, and the lack of a best-of match in the group stage means the European champions don’t get a mulligan if they make a misstep.

Griffin are the most unpredictable team at the world championship. They have the talent to win it all but have been affected in domestic play by the pressure of performing on a big stage. Beyond nerves, though, Griffin enter the world championship without the head coach that molded this young team into what they are today, parting ways with skipper Kim “cvMax” Dae-ho days before getting on the flight to Berlin for the group stages.

North America’s C9 is another team for which appearances are deceiving. They’re a run-and-gun squad, and although they aren’t favored to make it out of this group, the franchise has repeatedly defied expectations at this tournament. C9 have made it to the previous seven world championships (including this year’s) and have only failed to make the knockout rounds once, back in 2015, when they were a tiebreaker game away from qualifying into the quarterfinals.

Hong Kong Attitude are overmatched in this group. Still, they showed some unique champion picks in the play-in stage, and all it takes is one win over the likes of G2, Griffin or C9 to shake up the entire hierarchy.

In any case, just stay away from this group.

Group B

(To Advance From Group / To Win Group)

FunPlus Phoenix (1.01 / 1.083)

Splyce (2.25 / 13)

J Team (2.50 / 17)

GAM Esports (3 / 19)

This is a better board to make some plays depending on which of the three non-FPX teams you feel comfortable in getting out of the group. FPX were gifted the easiest group in worlds history, so their qualification as the top team should not be in doubt unless they have a meltdown of catastrophic proportions.

For the second team qualifying out of Group B, though, I really like GAM Esports as the oddsmakers’ longshot. They’re from Vietnam, which has been the only non-major region to steadily improve every year, and this is the Vietnam superteam of sorts. Stylistically, they match up beautifully with Splyce, as GAM’s robust early-game way of playing the game should cause fits for the LEC squad that can find it difficult to navigate until the later parts of a match.

I’d even say throwing a small amount on GAM to win the group isn’t the worst bet. FPX is the clear pound-for-pound strongest team in this group, but it is a team made up of five players who have never played at the world championships before. GAM’s best players have played and starred at worlds before, and all it takes is one upset and a possible tiebreaker with GAM’s cardiac style to turn them from long shots to toppers of the group.

Group C

(To Advance From Group / To Win Group)

SK Telecom T1 (1.14 / 2.20)

Royal Never Give Up (1.50 / 2.80)

Fnatic (1.83 / 3.50)

Clutch Gaming (34 / 67)

This is the inverse of Group B, with one team seemingly dead on arrival (Clutch Gaming) and then three tournament favorites battling it out to see which one of the famed franchises will be left in Germany as the victorious pair ride off to Madrid. While I’d love to sit here and write about how Clutch Gaming is a frisky underdog and might have been the most impressive team in the play-in rounds, looking good against Turkey and Russia isn’t the same when we’re talking about arguably three of the best five teams at this event.

I feel like Fnatic has been underrated since the betting lines were open, and I still feel this way. They were twice a game away from upending G2 Esports in the European playoffs, and if they do just that, the narrative is flipped and they’re the favorites to win this group. My go-to bet in this group would be to ride Fnatic as one of the two teams to make it out and a fair shot at even getting first place if they can beat SKT in the opening match of the main event. I love experience when it comes to worlds, and Fnatic has four of the five players from last year’s starting roster that made it all the way to the grand finals.

Group D

Invictus Gaming (1.10 / 2.10)

Damwon Gaming (1.16 / 2.20)

Team Liquid (2.50 / 6)

Ahq Esports (51 / 101)

Here we have another group with three teams fighting to get out of the group and one side hoping to play spoiler.

I can’t buy into the Invictus Gaming hype. Their ceiling is high, and yet, that doesn’t mean they’re going to reach that peak. This is a team that has been in disarray ever since the MSI, when Team Liquid knocked them out in unceremonious fashion in the semifinals, and they’re projected to be starting a rookie jungler to begin the tournament instead of the player who won worlds final MVP in 2018.

Damwon, an eerily similar team to iG, has similar issues. The ceiling they have is monstrous, but they also have holes in their gameplay and inexperienced players who showed real growing pains in the play-in stage, where they dropped a game to Vietnam’s Lowkey Esports in a testy best-of-five elimination series.

Team Liquid is the opposite of these two teams. They’re all in their mid-20s with experience in numerous world championships, and although they don’t have the ceiling of either Asian team, they also don’t have the same pitfalls that could plague their more talented counterparts.

With that being said, I do think the best bet on the board here is Team Liquid getting out in first place and advancing out of this group. At all equal odds, I’d maybe side with the potential of a Damwon or Invictus. That’s not the case, though. TL is being looked at as the trailing third team in this group, while I see them more as neck-and-neck with the two technically superior Asian squads, especially when the group stage can be so turbulent.