After HKA’s Failures, Does the LMS Still Deserve a Third Spot at Worlds?

In the elimination stage of the inaugural World Championship Play-In Tournament, the third seed from the League of Legends Masters Series (LMS) Hong Kong Attitude (HKA) was soundly defeated 3-0 by the third seed from the European League Championship Series, Fnatic.

Despite entering the as the top seed of their Play-In group, HKA would amass a 3-2 record and fall to second. After being dismantled by to Fnatic, it is safe to say HKA has underperformed and further added to growing criticism surrounding the strength of the LMS as a region.

Source; Riot Games

With the introduction of the Play-In Tournament, the Legend Masters Series was granted the third seed at the World Championships for the first time. This third seed would represent the LMS as a favored region in the Play-In Tournament, competing against the best from the emerging regions of the world such as Brazil, Turkey, and Latin America.

After a tumultuous Summer Split saw HKA stumble out of the gates, a late-season surge had earned them a place in the Regional Qualifier where they rode their wave of momentum to earn the LMS’s final berth. With their strong showing at the end of the season, some analysts even considered HKA a stronger team than the LMS’s second seed, AHQ eSports.

Source; Riot Games

At the Play-In Tournament itself, HKA failed to live up to these expectations as they finished second in their group after losing a tiebreaker match against 1907 Fenerbahce. Although their play on the rift showed promise in the early stages of the game, mid and late game mistakes proved that HKA is still far from an elite team internationally.

After being swept by fellow third seed Fnatic in the elimination stage, the question has arisen of whether the LMS is justified in having a third seed or preferential seeding in the Play-In Tournament.

Whenever the LMS is characterized as the weakest of the major regions, most of the discussions around their recent string of poor international performances begin with the 2016 World Championships.

The Champion of the LMS, the Flash Wolves, was granted a pool one seed at the draw. Although they drew the reigning World Champion SK Telecom, their dominant performance domestically placed them as favorites to finish top two and emerge from the group that included both the third seed from the NA LCS and the LPL.

Source: Riot Games Flickr

Instead, the tournament proved to be a disaster for Flash Wolves as they finished last in the group with a 2-4 record, significantly damaging the LMS’s reputation in the process.

In addition to Flash Wolves failure at the World Championships, the LMS’s credibility has been hampered by a clear divide between Flash Wolves and the rest of their competition in the LMS.

Source: Riot Games Flickr

No other major region has such a distinct perceived divide between their first and second seed that the LMS has experienced in the past few seasons, and the Flash Wolves 3-0 victory in the LMS Finals this season shows there is still much ground for the rest of the LMS to make up.

After HKA disappointed in the Play-In Tournament, the third seed granted to the LMS may be short-lived as other regions continue to impress. With regions such as Turkey and Brazil consistently performing on the international stage, it may be justified to add another team from these regions or an additional region to the pool.

Source; Riot Games

At the very least, the preferential seeding given to the LMS’s third seed should be highly questioned if the format for the next World Championship remains the same.

After finishing first in their group at the Mid-Season Invitational qualifier and earning a place in the main stage of this year’s World Championship, the TCL Champion looks to be more deserving of a place in the top pool instead.

Source; Riot Games

Now that this year’s Play-In Tournament has concluded, we have seen the third seed from NA, EU, and the LPL all earn their place in the main stage with dominant performances in the elimination best-of-fives. While these three excelled, the LMS’s HKA faltered, a sign that granting a third seed to the region may have been premature.