Wild Rift Champions Southeast Asia (WCS) has bowed out of Wild Rift Icons after the region's first seed, Vietnam's Team Flash, lost to J Team from China's Wild Rift League (WRL) in a 3-0 sweep in the semifinals on Wednesday (6 July).
J Team were not supposed to be in Icons, as they came in as replacements for Oh My God (OMG), who dropped out before the tournament started due to visa issues.
However, Chinese team proved they were worthy of their spot in Icons during the Play-ins and the Group Stage, losing only one game as they qualified for the Knockout Stage.
At the Knockout stage, J Team eliminated WCS second seed Team Flash after a 3-1 win that secured their slot in the semifinals.
Team Flash, on the other hand, were directly invited into the Group Stage as the WCS champions.
The Vietnamese team swept T1 2-0 in the opening match of Group A. They then struggled in the Group A Winner’s Match, getting swept by China's Nova Esports 2-0.
However, Team Flash bounced back in the Group A Decider Match, where they swept the South Koreans (T1) once again to secure a spot in the Knockout Stage.
In the quarterfinals, Team Flash won with an upset sweep against another Chinese team, JD Gaming, 3-0 to earn the right to challenge J Team in the semifinals.
Here's how the showdown between J Team and Team Flash went down:
In the opening game of the series, Team Flash were quickly able to find secure map control by claiming most of the map objectives and pushing turrets. However, they made fatal mistake in the mid lane that allowed J Team to turn the tables.
J Team continued to chip away at Team Flash's gold lead and rotated around the map to find an opening in the Baron lane. And after a 19-minute encounter with a 16-14 kill lead, J Team destroyed the nexus of Team Flash to win the first game.
Team Flash started aggressively in game two, once again gaining an early game gold lead. However, J Team had a scaling team composition that allowed them to control the map once again in the mid game.
With J Team taking advantage of Team Flash’s lack of poke and crowd control, the Chinese squad overpowered their Vietnamese opponents in teamfights.
J Team destroyed the Team Flash Nexus after 21 minutes and with a 21-10 kill lead to take a commanding 2-0 series lead.
With their backs against the wall in game three, Team Flash’s pace was much slower, but this only allowed J Team to quickly gain the upper hand in the early game.
The Vietnamese tried to fight back, taking some kills in the process but could not find a way to make a comeback.
Despite Team Flash's best efforts, J Team stomped them in 17 minutes to the tune of a 15-6 kill lead to secure the 3-0 series sweep and a spot in the grand finals.
J Team will face fellow Chinese team Nova Esports in the best-of-seven grand finals on Saturday (9 July).
In the post-match interviews, J Team's He "Dawn128" Xiaolong admitted that he didn’t think they could win the semifinals match.
“We actually didn’t handle it [the first few minutes of their match against Team Flash] really well, since the team composition of Team Flash was better in the early game,” said J Team's Baron laner.
He went on to say that the [score] deficit in the first game was not acceptable, so they waited for the teamfights to happen. Dawn128 also attributed their success in the first game to their teamfighting skills.
When asked about preparations for the finals, J Team’s coach, "Kiwi9", said that "there is an obvious skill gap between Nova Esports and J Team. Both know each other pretty well in the WRL so the drafting phase will be critical".
He also said the team planned to strategize in the next couple of days to prepare for their opponents.
“I think it will be a very close match,” the coach added.
Dawn128 also said that “as long we make less mistakes [in the finals], we will be okay. [Nova Esports'] players are very good, especially An "Long" Xulong, their jungler.”
Nong "Cherry" Dingji, J Team’s jungler, agreed that they had their eyes on Long. However, he said he felt "pretty confident", calling the clash "a 50-50 match-up".
Meanwhile, Team Flash bow out of the competition in 3rd-4th place.
They are the only non-Chinese team in Top 4, a feat that wasn't easy to achieve in a tournament dominated by the WRL from start to finish. The team will take home US$160,000 in consolation.
Đỗ “Elly” Thành Đạt explained in the post-match interview why Team Flash performed differently in the semifinals match vs the quarterfinals match.
“In our quarterfinals match with [JD Gaming], we were considered to be the underdogs so we [were] 200% focused in the game, so we carried the team spirit so we got to do everything step by step. However, coming to this match, I think we didn’t have the concentration that we used to have. In the first game we were leading, but we got distracted… so J Team were able to win the game,” said Elly.
Team Flash’s coach Alex said in the interview that while he was proud of his team's run, he still thought they could have made it to the finals.
“I’m proud to stand with these guys and we fought so hard from the group stage, despite the mental pressure. We fought so hard until we beat JD Gaming. We thought we could make it to the Finals. But today, I think it was a small step [mistake] that made us lose this game,” said the coach.
“We should have been there [finals]. We could have been there. But [I’m still] so proud of my boys and so proud to be part of this team.”
While Team Flash exit Icons having fallen short of the ultimate goal, they have shown throughout the competition that they are indeed one of the best Wild Rift teams in the world.
The grand finals of the Wild Rift Icons Global Championship will be on Saturday (9 July).
Anna is a freelance writer and photographer. She is a gamer who loves RPGs and platformers, and is a League of Legends geek. She's also a food enthusiast who loves a good cup of black coffee.