We have finally made it to the League of Legends World Championship 2022, perhaps the greatest Esports tournament on the circuit.
$2,250,000 will be up for grabs in the United States and Mexico, but before we get to the main event proper, we have 12 teams fighting for a spot through the play-in.
Established names such as Royal Never Give Up, DRX, Fnatic and Evil Geniuses will be looking to secure one of four places and the action in Group B kicks off on Thursday.
It would not feel like Worlds without Royal Never Give Up. Hailing from China, they have contested five of the last six Worlds, missing out just once in 2020.
Their odds tell that story and it is no surprise to see them as overwhelming favourites to leave the group on top. After all, they won the LPL Spring earlier this year before defeating international competitors to win the Mid-Season Invitational back in May.
A disappointing showing in LPL Summer and the LPL Regional Finals means they will have to do things the hard way, but they are the quality team in this group and should escape without a scratch.
DRX have failed to kick on since finishing 5-8th at Worlds 2020 and the South Korean roster have continued their slump 2022.
Granted, they hail from perhaps the toughest region, but a fifth-place finish in LCK Summer was another below-par showing and two defeats to Liiv SANDBOX have made the play-in a necessity for them.
Their roster should have the talent required to get through this play-in stage, but the fact they have not made the international stage since that World’s appearance does not instil confidence, given their shorter odds.
That being said, they do hail from the most competitive region and their LCK performances still make them comfortably the second-strongest team in the group.
EU at Worlds has not been a match made in heaven and history would dictate this will be a tough task for MAD Lions, especially as they have fallen into the tougher play-in group, on paper.
When looking at the group as a whole, they are the clear third-best choice, however, and it will take just one victory over Royal Never Give Up or DRX to put them in the hunt. Given DRX’s shaky regional form, that is not out of the realm of possibility.
MAD Lions produced a stirring LEC Summer performance, going 12-6 in the split, and that sort of form would give them a shout of excavating themselves from this group. They need to avoid being upset by the lesser lights of the group, however, which would have to be a worry.
Making their first Worlds appearance, Saigon Buffalo will be hoping to make Vietnam proud. They arrive on the back of a big bout of seconditis regionally, however, and they will be taking on a plethora of Worlds mainstays in this group.
Saigon Buffalo finished second in both the VCS Spring and Summer, falling foul of GAM Esports on both occasions, who will represent Vietnam in the group stage.
On paper, this is a very tall order for Saigon Buffalo, as the odds suggest. Their consistent regional form makes them the clear fourth choice, but it would ultimately be a surprise if they managed to claim one of the spots in the tournament proper.
A recognisable force on the global stage, Istanbul Wildcats have made the last iterations of the Mid-Season Invitational, albeit exiting with records of 1-5 on both occasions.
They are yet to make Worlds in any capacity, but their appearances at MSI make them a fascinating proposition in this group. They have the potential to upset some of the bigger guns and should not be underestimated in that regard.
Last seen at Worlds in 2019, ISURUS managed to claw their way to a victory in that year's edition. They arrive on the back of victory at the LLA 2022 Closing Playoffs, giving them their spot in the play-in stage.
As their odds suggest, this is a very difficult task for the Argentina-based organisation. They will be an unknown force heading into the group, but it would be a surprise if they managed to claim a victory in a very competitive heat.