After three days of Worlds, one thing is certain - anything can happen.
Is this the upside-down?
EDG, widely power-ranked #2 in the world, were taken down by a team from Brazil. CLG placed 2nd at MSI, and ANX competed like equals, then beat them like masters. And the memes poured forth like salt through the shaker of social media.
No one expects anything of Wildcard teams. These smaller regions’ geographical locations require their own server; the speed of light is a fickle mistress. However, like everything in League of Legends, there is a trade-off. With lower ping, you also accept a lower population, less funding, but most importantly, less competition. Many Wildcard regions play professional matches from home, still distributed across their home countries. They must work second jobs to support their League habit. When they compete on a World stage, they play against opponents who get double or triple the in-game time, and a focused headspace in which to use it.
The fundamental difference between the major regions and the wildcard regions is how much they require of the player. In response, they must become stronger mentally. The hardships they experience in order to even begin to compete are unimaginable. Stories of people kicked out of their parents homes for committing to professional video gaming are common. Compare and contrast people who go through this and remain mentally strong with how many teams you've seen tilt off the face of the planet this week from giving up a kill.
With Korean bootcamps and increased funding, the weights and gloves are off. These teams that were once a joke are proving they cannot be dismissed as a speed-bump on the road to glory.
The Wildcard regions deserve our respect for what they must commit to become esports athletes, but this week, they proved they must be respected for their play as well.
INTZ retakes the stage on Sunday at 4pm against AHQ, and ANX takes on G2 at 6pm.