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The Knockout Stage of the first-ever League of Legends: Wild Rift Icons Global Championship is almost here.
Only eight teams remain in the competition in a bid for the inaugural world championship title and lion’s share of the US$2 million prize pool.
FunPlus Phoenix (FPX), JD Gaming (JDG), Nova Esports, J Team, from China's Wild Rift League (WRL), Team Flash, Flash Wolves, Rex Regeum Qeon (RRQ) from Wild Rift Champions Southeast Asia (WCS), and KT Rolster from Wild Rift Champions Korea (WCK) have all made it to the Knockout Stage.
Which team will dominate the rest? Which team may pull a surprise win?
Let’s take a look at each team left standing in Wild Rift Icons, how they did in previous stages of the competition, and how we think they might perform in the Knockout Stage:
It’s no surprise that FunPlus Phoenix were touted as the tournament favourites.
Their roster, a mix of rookie and pro players who’ve either came from League of Legends' PC version or other titles, won this year's WRL title for this year after 39 wins and 12 losses.
As the WRL's first seed, FPX made good use of their automatic Group Stage berth and quickly qualified for the Knockout Stage.
They put on one stellar performance after another as they swept through Group C, dubbed the “Group of Death” for Icons, despite struggling to close out both matches against Brazilian first seed Omegha Esports.
Baron laner Zhang “Fadou” Shijun agrees that their team is one of the strongest in the Icons, along with the other three teams from the WRL.
Initially, he thought that Flash Wolves from the WCS were strong contenders, but changed his mind when “they struggled against Nova Esports” in the Group Stage.
Most players who remain in the competition have said that they want to face Fadou because they think he’s very good and they can also learn a thing or two from him.
But this doesn’t mean FPX feels like they can just sit back and relax.
"I can only practice and hope that we can make it all the way," FPX jungler Yu "0711" Hong said in an interview.
For 0711, FPX's biggest strength is their relationship as a team.
“I think the players all have a very good relationship with one another. Thus, even when we frequently get told off when we practise, the atmosphere is still pretty good,” said the jungler.
With the way FPX played in the Group Stage, we think they have a strong chance to continue dominating the competition.
They may struggle a little with teams that can be unpredictable, but as long as they continue to think on their feet as they did in their match against Omegha Esports, they have the highest chance to win the first-ever Wild Rift world championship.
WCS first seed Team Flash may also be one of the strongest teams coming into the Knockout Stage.
Although the Vietnamese team struggled and lost against Nova Esports, they swept South Korean team T1 twice to make it into the final stage of the competition.
Team Flash can also play from behind, as they’ve proven in their Decider Match against T1, where they were able to adjust and still win the first game of that series.
Team Flash have also proven in the WCS Finals that they’re a cut above the rest, after winning the title in dominant fashion, although it remains to be seen if they can keep up with the rest of the WRL teams.
Even so, Team Flash's Phạm "Coyote" Binh said he and his team are more than ready to face the Chinese teams.
“There's no doubt that the WRL are [some of] the strongest teams in this competition. But we, Team Flash are doing our best to adapt. We’ll come up with a new strategy in our coming match against JDG,” said Coyote.
Coyote also mentioned that the team looks forward to a rematch against Nova Esports and to meeting FPX at the Finals.
Rex Regum Qeon (RRQ)
RRQ, the third seed of the WCS, can be considered the Wild Card among the final eight teams in the competition.
The Filipino squad has showcased their signature flexibility in the matches that they’ve played, allowing them to make it this far.
At the Play-Ins, they swept Unsold Stuff Gaming in the opening match before losing to WRL team JD Gaming, but not without taking a game off their opponents.
This was the same story in the Group Stage, where they were able to sweep Sengoku Gaming twice, but lost to J Team 2-1.
Known to be one of the funniest, most animated teams at Icons, RRQ are sure to liven up the audience, make friends in the process, all while having fun and maybe winning their matches.
“This is our first time in an international competition and we don’t know when we’ll have the opportunity again, so we YOLO (you only live once),” Marc “Marky” Andrew Ilagan said.
He also revealed that Sean “Helios” Khierby Miranda Palisoc always starts the hype and the rest would follow up.
One of their best moments on stage was when they ended up beatboxing during a game pause, which ended up viral in the Wild Rift community.
— Wild Rift Esports (@WildRiftEsports) June 21, 2022
But it’s not all fun and games for RRQ. Keith “Devil J” Janold Gonzales said the team needed to practice more because their next opponents would be the WRL first seed FPX, and "we must prepare and get ready for them".
The Filipino team’s aggressive playstyle can throw off their opponents, but they need to be careful with their drafts and with overstaying their welcome in the jungle.
However, they’ve shown twice that they can take games off the WRL teams, and they’ve always flourished in best-of-five series. If they study their opponents well, they can get far into the competition.
JD Gaming (JDG)
Another strong contender for the title is JDG, WRL’s second seed.
The team topped Group B in the Play-Ins, though they dropped a game against RRQ in the process. They once again dominated Group D in the Group Stage, but also dropped a game against South Korea's KT Rolster.
While JDG showed a few cracks in their armor during their matches against RRQ and KT Rolster, the team can easily adapt after losing a game, allowing them to bounce back and still take the series win.
And if JD Gaming continue to do this, they have a good chance at taking the title.
Taiwan's Flash Wolves may be the second seed in the WCS, but they’ve shown a lot of growth throughout the tournament.
The team swept Belgian team Game Lord twice but fell to Chinese team Nova Esports at the Play-ins.
Flash Wolves also had to face the “Group of Death” at the Icons, falling to FPX in the opening match but winning against fellow WCS team Buriram United Esports in the elimination match.
Flash Wolves struggled against the aggressive Brazilian squad Omegha Esports, but overcame them 2-1 in their group's Decider Match.
In the post-match interview, Chiu “Bruce” Chih-Chun revealed that there was a point in game three against Omegha that they thought they were going to lose, but the team coordinated, cleaned up their lanes and tried to look for ways to win.
“Thank you for the support to all our fans. Because of the COVID situation, we faced a lot of challenges, but we overcame them. We will thrive and win the game,” he said.
Should Flash Wolves continue to evolve and be more decisive in-game, they have a strong chance to make it to the finals.
Another solid contender is WRL third seed Nova Esports.
The team only dropped one game against Furious Gaming at the Play-Ins before they swept through all their games at the Group Stage.
Should they continue to be in their best form, Nova are more than capable of making it to the finals.
KT Rolster are the only team in the Knockout stage that experienced last year’s Wild Rift Horizon Cup, where they reached the semi-finals.
This seems to have worked in their favour.
The team won against Liberty Esports 2-1 in their Group Stage opening match, and even took a game off JDG in the winner’s match, where they lost 2-1.
KT Rolster also showcased they can play under pressure in their showdowns against North American first seed Sentinels, where they emerged victorious in the series despite being behind throughout both games.
Should the South Korean team find win conditions in the least winnable games, they stand a very good chance to make it far in the Knockout Stage.
J Team are a team that weren't supposed to be in Icons, since they replaced WRL fourth seed Oh My God (OMG), who backed out of the competition.
However, the team were quick to prove they belonged as they swept their competition in both the Play-Ins and the Group Stage, where they only dropped one game against RRQ.
J Team have already proven they have what it takes to make it to the Knockout Stage. We're excited to see them try to prove they also belong in the finals.
The Wild Rift Icons Knockout Stage will follow a single-elimination format. The quarterfinals and semifinals will feature best-of-five matches while the grand finals will be a full best-of-seven series.
The Knockout Stage quarterfinals matchups are as follows:
Nova Esports vs KT Rolster
FunPlus Phoenix vs Rex Regum Qeon
J Team vs Flash Wolves
JD Gaming vs Team Flash
The first day of the Knockout Stage on Friday (1 July) will feature the showdown between Nova Esports vs Rolster Y as well as FPX vs RRQ matches.
Which teams do you think will advance to the semi-finals and finals? Which team do you think will win?
Anna is a freelance writer and photographer. She is a gamer who loves RPGs and platformers, and is a League of Legends geek. She's also a food enthusiast who loves a good cup of black coffee.