The culmination of months of competition started yesterday, with Day 1 of the WNS Championship! Are you like me and unable to attend at the Mall of America? I got you covered. Of course, you can watch live from noon CDT over on Twitch too.
SuzakuGG vs Cloud9
We started the day with SuzakuGG and Cloud9. SuzakuGG is the highest-seeded unsigned team coming into the Championship, and the last time they met Cloud9 it was a 2-0 victory in the Lower Bracket Finals of Major 3. Also, Jotu is back and subbing in for Premonition.
Suzaku looked for quite an assassin-focused composition in Game 1, with an Akali and Rengar, but Cloud9 answered with a lot of beefy tanks that Suzaku would struggle to eat through. While the opening minutes looked good for Cloud9, with First Blood and early priority in the Midlane, Suzaku soon started snowballing over the map. With good rotations to find picks and getting isjerboa ahead, Suzaku held onto a slight lead. We saw the weakness of Cloud9’s tank comp as they didn’t have the damage to deal with TSuki’s Garen, but it all came down to an explosive 15-minute end. Demon King looked for a pick, but Suzaku couldn’t win the 3v5 in the Midlane. Cloud9 decisively turned to Baron, but Jotu was there to challenge it. In a 1v4, Jotu’s Akali not only stopped the Baron but also claimed a Triplekill. And while all that was happening, TSuki was pushing in the Dragon lane for the win! An exciting end for our first game of the Championship.
Game 2 started similarly, with Cloud9 gaining an early lead before Suzaku bit back through picks and scrappy fights. As we hit 10-minutes, the teams were an even 7-7, but Rift Heralds had helped give Cloud9 a slight Gold lead being 3-1 on Towers. However, out of nowhere, Suzaku found fight after fight, and within minutes it felt like they’d taken over the game. But Meals was off split pushing with the Tristana, and with the Baronlane Inhibitor down, there was plenty of pressure to help Cloud9 stall out the game. As Cloud9 started winning teamfights, it meant they had somewhere to go to exploit the lead and, on their second attempt, were able to even the series with a 19:30 win, 20-22 on Kills.
Cloud9 went into Game 3 with all guns blazing, finding an early lead and sitting with a 4k Gold lead at 10 minutes, but Suzaku had a late-game comp so all they had to do was survive. Isjerboa had his hands on Vayne, and started putting on a performance to bring Suzaku into the game. We hit 15-minutes, and the teams were an even 13-13 after Suzaku had a perfect four-for-one fight around Baron, but Cloud9 still sat over 6k Gold ahead. Gold didn’t matter when Baron Buff was involved, however, and SuzakuGG slowly started pushing in for the win. Cloud9 had nothing left, Suzaku wiped them from the rift and into the Loser’s Bracket with a 17-minute win to end the series.
Meanwhile, everywhere else was 2-0s in Round 1. As would be expected, Immortals and Tribe Gaming beat their opponents in Ailish and Saint respectively, while Sentinels also found their win over No More Ego, and we moved to the Upper Finals.
Tribe Gaming vs Sentinels
Tribe Gaming versus Sentinels was a fight of the reds, as our red jerseyed teams faced each other for the first time since Major 1. Sentinels had been on an upward trajectory through the Majors, being the first behind Immortals, but Tribe Gaming looked revamped as of late. Sentinels would be the first test to see if the first kings of NA are really back.
It was a slow start for Game 1, but the first Dragon of the game gave Sentinels a chance to take control. While they were claiming Rift Herald, they also stopped Tribe from taking the Dragon as a trade. Mali found one pick for First Blood, and it just kept going, kill after kill, until Sentinels sat 4-1 up at 5 minutes. Sheeesh was even able to drop the Rift Herald while the skirmishes were going on, claiming First Turret in the midst of all the kills, meaning Sentinels also had a decent Gold lead to start things off. From there it was clear sailing, and it took nearly 16 minutes into the game for Tribe to find their second Kill. Sentinels kept trying to use Baron as a way to force a 5v5 fight so they could close the game, but Tribe wouldn’t take the bait. Getting restless, Beginnings found an engage on an overextended Tribe, and chased it down to end the game. It was dominant from Sentinels, but it still took nearly 19 minutes for them to put the nail in the coffin.
Things started a lot better for Tribe Gaming in Game 2, First Blood coming through from a 2v2 in the Dragon lane within the first minute before another two kills came in to give the Varus a 3/0 start within the first three minutes. It continued to be all about the Dragon lane, as Sentinels pulled things back before Tribe found a four-for-one trade to set themselves with a 5k Gold lead before we hit the 8-minute mark. Sentinels simply had no answer, and Tribe controlled the map and objectives. With a Flash over the wall, DNZio picked up a Triplekill in the Dragon lane, and, with Rift Herald’s help, Tribe Gaming pushed for a 12-minute win. This was a statement comeback, and we went to yet another Game 3.
After a dominant game from both teams, it all came down to Game 3, with only one staying in the Upper Bracket. MaxGreen made the case for Tribe early on, with a Doublekill to kick the game off alongside DNZio. It looked like Tribe’s game as they sat with a comfy Gold lead, growing it over the first 10 minutes, but Sentinels held on. As they found picks, they slowly started to claw their way back in, and Sentinels were soon knocking down Inhibitors with a 4k Gold lead. The teams clashed over Elder Dragon at 19 minutes, and Beginnings yet again found a pick to kick things off. A Corki package split Tribe apart, and Sentinels tore through their opponents to claim the series victory.
SuzakuGG vs Immortals
We then moved to SuzakuGG as they took on Immortals. With Immortals being the number 1 seed and rightly feared, Suzaku knew they had nothing to lose. Could the Jotu factor help deliver an upset, especially as IraqiZorro was having to play remotely for Immortals?
SuzakuGG definitely showed their individual prowess through Game 1, but it always seemed to be defensive. Isjerboa outplayed a dive to claim First Blood, while Jotu repeated it, later on, to outplay a 4-man dive and take a favorable trade. But Demon King was consistently going too deep, and Immortals were able to punish the mistakes to grow their lead. Immortals were 6-2 at 10 minutes, with a near 5k Gold lead and control over objectives, and they weren’t slowing down. With Baron on the cards, the teams clashed as Suzaku attempted to steal the objective away, but Demon King fell and Immortals started to clean house. With only two left to defend against Baron Buff, it was easy for Immortals to claim their 16-minute win
Game 2 looked like a repeat, Immortals had control but Suzaku did what they could to survive the onslaught. We saw Jotu lose an early trade to Hoon, but had the confidence to stay in the hopes of cheating the cheater recall. This was soon punished and allowed Hoon to move to the bottom of the map for the plays to start. First Blood came onto Jotu as the Jayce followed the roam before Immortals dived to claim two clean kills between Suzaku’s Dragon lane towers. Over the first few minutes of the game, Immortals had claimed five kills, and Suzaku had nothing to answer for it. Immortals were speedrunning the game, and by 10 minutes they were 14-0 and over 10k Gold ahead. Suzaku claimed their first kill nearly 12 minutes into the game, and it was too little too late. It looked like Immortals wanted to play with their food, or simply wanted to keep it clean, as they drew the game out and claimed Baron before going for the 15-minute win, 28-1. It was absolute dominance from our top team, and they moved to the Upper Finals to play Sentinels.
With our Upper Finals set for a clash between Sentinels and Immortals, we moved to the Lower Bracket to see who would survive and move forward to face Tribe and SuzakuGG.
No More Ego vs Saint
No More Ego and Saint took to the stage, and while we were expecting a win from NME, as they are an old favorite who performed well through last year, they’ve always seemed to fall just short so far in Season 1. Would they fall short again here against Saint?
It looked like the upset might happen in Game 1, as Saint started racking up kills. Tibe, as usual, was claiming or stealing, objectives, as the Wukong looked to control the map, but at 10 minutes, NME found themselves 2k Gold and 3-6 kills down. Saints had the burst, and could constantly find picks, but as the game went on and the teams started to group, that's where NME made their mark with their teamfight wombo-combos. Finally, as we approached the 16-minute mark, NME found what they were looking for, chasing down Saint to claim a clean Ace to even the scoreline. This gave them priority over the map, and they claimed the Baron before setting up for the Elder Ocean Dragon. Saint couldn’t contest the objective, especially as they had to defend their base, and NME eventually found their sub-18 minute win.
No More Ego had momentum and went into Game 2 swinging. Gum and YikeZ claimed First Blood and two kills in the Dragon lane 2v2 in the first couple of minutes, mirrored as YikeZ then visited the Baron lane to set NME with a 3-0 start. Saint’s early game goal of snowballing their early power hadn’t paid off, and Tibe added insult to injury as he stole the Rift Herald to stop Saint from finding a footing in the game. As we hit 10 minutes, NME was 10-3 and over 7k Gold ahead, and while Saint looked to challenge every step of the way, NME was just too far ahead. No More Ego put on a show and brought it to a close at 15 minutes, 21-5, as they looked to keep their WNS dreams alive.
Ailish vs Cloud9
Our final series of the day brought the first upset of the Championship, as Ailish took on Cloud9. It looked like a good start in Game 1 for Cloud9, claiming early objectives, First Blood, and sneaking a lead, but Ailish came back as Dolph’s Irelia found a Doublekill to keep the game even. It was all put on hold, as we were hit with pauses and our casters played Rock, Paper, Scissors, losing to Sentinels. It took Ailish a minute to get back into the zone as we came out of the pauses, but we soon saw them outplaying Cloud9 to take the lead. The teams continued clashing, but it was always Ailish that seemed to come out just on top as they kept a grip over the game. Having clutched so many fights, Ailish found a 17-minute win over Cloud9. Zenith’s Shen providing so much utility and allowing Dolph’s Irelia to tear through fights, they gave Tarzaned’s Rengar its first loss.
Ailish kept the momentum going, and quickly took charge of Game 2. Tarzaned invaded as Olaf, but was collapsed upon. Ailish took the fight and claimed the three-for-nothing trade to start the game, as Zenith dived Zelo for a one-for-one trade, leaving a 4-1 score before we hit 3 minutes on the clock. Tyrant’s Akali was fed, and Dolph’s Rengar wasn’t faring too badly either, and it meant they could continue slaughtering Cloud9. It was by no means clean, and by 10 minutes Ailish was only 500 Gold ahead as Cloud9 kept things close, but after even fights, Ailish finally found an Ace at 15 minutes. This gifted them the Baron, and Tyrant just needed a Triplekill to finish the game. Ailish did the unthinkable, and in one fell swoop, sent Cloud9 home on Day 1 of the WNS.
With that, we bid goodbye to Saint and Cloud9. Both have been strong contenders throughout the WNS, and deserve celebration for getting this far. Cloud9 has been a force to be reckoned with, and it is genuinely surprising to see them fall this early. We can only hope to see them come back stronger in the future. Meanwhile, Saint feels like a story that ended too quickly, they found their spot after appearing in Major 3 where they beat Cloud9 only to later lose to Cloud9. The team showed talent to get here, and we hope to see more from them in the future.
But let's look ahead. Quite simply, we have some incredible matches still to come over the weekend. Immortals vs Sentinels in the Upper Finals will see the top-seeded teams clash in what will be an explosive series. The Lower Bracket won’t exactly be lackluster either, SuzakuGG and No More Ego look to be evenly matched, as I at least hope to see NME continue their run. Meanwhile, Tribe Gaming continues to be tested. We expect to see a resurgence from them. I want to see the redemption arc. But Ailish has just taken Cloud9 down in a clean fashion. Will Ailish be the dark horse? How far will they go? Or will tomorrow see Tribe’s Lower Bracket run to the WNS Finals?
Put simply, I expected to see No More Ego and Tribe Gaming face off in the Lower Bracket, giving us a Top 4 mix of the old guard from Season 0 and the dominant forces of Season 1. But SuzakuGG’s performance hasn’t exactly been short, and it's definitely possible to see them take down NME. Likewise, Ailish could easily continue their upset run if they can repeat their performance against Tribe. It’s all to play for, and there’s so much excitement still to come. This was only the beginning. Tomorrow, the fight continues over the $80,000 prize pool, and one team will have their Icons Global Championship ticket locked in.
It is important to remember that this is Season 1, we’re seeing signed Orgs take on groups of friends. Some of these players get paid for this, while others are doing it for fun and fitting it around school and work. Some players have come from a mobile esports background, already having a ton of experience, while others are just finding their home with Wild Rift. This crazy mishmash creates weird narratives, like a premier esports organization such as Cloud9 falling to an unsigned team who squeezed through the Last Chance Qualifier as the 8th seed. This is what makes Season 1 so fun, and this is what will make the Lower Bracket so exciting.