Following NA’s results at Worlds 2020, there have been talks of Liquid and Flyquest getting unlucky for being eliminated with a 3-3 scoreline. In fact, that was by far the most expected outcome: while going 3-3 at Worlds used to commonly result in a tiebreaker at least, almost no team has made it to Quarters after finishing 3-3 in Groups since 2018.
The only one achieving this was G2 in 2018, through a tiebreaker.
From 47% to 10%
Over the history of Worlds with this format (since 2014), 8 teams have made it to Quarters after being 3-3 in Groups (4 of which through a tiebreaker), while 17 have gone out that way (13 immediately).
But while true, this stat is misleading. Here is what it looks like instead when looking at it more precisely:
- Between 2014 and 2017, 7 teams out of 15 have made it to Quarters while being 3-3 in Groups, with 3 tiebreakers.
- Between 2018 and 2020, only a single team out of 10 has advanced with a 3-3 scoreline (and it was through a tiebreaker).
- In 2019-2020, 6 teams have finished the Group stage being 3-3. All of them were immediately eliminated.
This is too drastic a difference to be a coincidence – and, well, it isn’t one.
Worlds performances beyond scores
At Worlds, the score you get doesn’t tell the whole story. A 3-3 scoreline can be more or less impressive based on the other teams of the group – and it will also be worth more or less depending on it.
If a team performs outstandingly poorly, ending up 0-6, all other teams in the group get two easy wins. So going 3-3 in a group like this means having a score of 1-3 against the other two strong teams, which is obviously almost never enough to qualify for Playoffs. In a group where a participant goes 0-6, a 3-3 scoreline is eliminating in all cases but one (if the first place goes 6-0, in which case going 3-3 gives a tiebreaker).
Alternatively comes the case of Team Liquid, who went 1-1 against all their opponents, giving Machi Esports their only win. So while they had a score of 2-2 against the other strong teams, they were one win behind in the race due to only claiming one of their two “easy wins”. A 1-5 team is no better sign than an 0-6 one for the line-up that gave it its win.
On the other hand, in a group whose leader goes 6-0, a 3-3 scoreline guarantees at least a tiebreaker. In short: The more competitive the worst team of a group is, the more impressive each win is. And the more competitive the worst team of a group, the fewer wins a contender needs to advance.
The fall of the LMS
Alright, now you might say that this is an abrupt transition. And you’d be wrong, because there’s straight up no transition. But there is a reason why 3-3 eliminations went from making up half the cases to cropping up nine times out of ten (akin to million-to-one chances, if you’re a wizard). As of recently, there have been more teams that were outclassed at Worlds, and part of the reason is the level of the LMS (now PCS).
Everyone remembers the LMS of the old days, and how fearsome they could be. Flash Wolves, topping their groups here and there. AHQ, “the Koreanslayers”, who went 0-3 against SK Tele… okay, maybe not the best example. Point being, the LMS used to send two teams, and to have two strong teams. Over time, however, their level dropped – and simultaneously, they received a third seed.
In 2018, the region had three representatives in Groups. One who did fine, two who finished 0-6. 2019 was a repeat of this. And as of today, PCS teams aren’t rated much higher than Wildcards.
Since 2018, only one group hasn’t had a team go 1-5 or 0-6 (with five of them – almost half! – being LMS/PCS representatives). This group was the one a 3-3 team was able to make it out of.
The point of this is that unless a fifth region rises again as a reasonable contender, 3-3 will not be a scoreline that qualifies for Playoffs anymore, and shouldn’t be seen as such. Because if the PCS is akin to a Wildcard region, it means that each group of Worlds 2020 contained one Wildcard-like team (MCX, PSG, UOL, and TSM), and it will be the new norm – up from only two minor region representatives.