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League of Legends news » Takeaways from Quarters Day 3

If a tiger kills its prey with a quick snap to the neck, then the ROX Tigers almost lived up to their namesake here in their Quarterfinal against Edward Gaming. 

They certainly showed those qualities in the first two games of the series -- though a valiant fightback from EDG kept the killing blow at bay for as long as they possibly could.

Coming into Worlds 2016, both the ROX Tigers and Edward Gaming were considered to be in the top three teams in the tournament. Though the roads they walked to the Quarterfinals were littered with similar messy mistakes. Both lost to wildcard teams -- but it was EDG who fell deeper into that ditch, losing a tiebreaker with H2K to become Group C’s No. 2 seed, setting up this series in the first place.

The biggest question mark coming into this Quarterfinal hung over the top lane and the departure of Mouse due to a family emergency. While Mouse had his questionable games in the Group Stages, he was also pivotal in some of EDG’s wins -- particularly when he was on playmaking tanks like Poppy. Thankfully, this was Mouse’s rookie split as top laner for EDG. He has plenty of time to recover, grow, and hopefully we will see him on the Worlds stage again.

To replace Mouse, EDG turned to their former top laner Koro1, who hadn’t played a game in the entire Summer Split. He was going to have to go toe-to-toe against Smeb, the man we considered to be the best top laner -- and overall player -- in the world right now. He thinks about the title a bit differently, though. 

"I think I haven’t yet shown the performance level of the strongest player in League of Legends," he says. "I actually pondered about the title a lot. I felt like I was under a lot of pressure because of the title. But trying to perform like the strongest player in League of Legends doesn’t actually help the team."

"So, if my team is the strongest, and I’m an excellent player in it, then I could be the best player in League of Legends -- so that’s where I’m headed," Smeb continues. "I’m trying to make the team the best first."

Smeb gave Koro1 a baptism of fire in Game 1. With the help of Peanut, he feasted in the top lane, taking the first top turret in 11 minutes and ballooning his CS lead. From there he was able to give everyone watching a masterclass on Jayce top, showing why he can be so strong in the current meta -- rotating all over the map and taking even more turrets with ease. 

Much like last year at Worlds 2015, ROX were starting to show the kind of form that they lacked in the Group Stages. Their claws were out, fangs bared, ready to rip the EDG to shreds. They escaped team fights on slivers of health time and time again, demonstrating why they are one of the best engage/disengage teams in the world. 

Smeb completely shifted gears in Game 2, opting into a Maokai vs. Kennen matchup. To go from a Jayce to Maokai is a tough swing, your entire mindset and playstyle has to flip as you’re now there to enable your teammates to carry instead of carrying yourself. But what’s most impressive about his performance here was how he managed to get ahead in CS, something which a Maokai just shouldn’t be able to do in this matchup.

"Maokai wasn’t actually a pick that we prepared," Smeb admits. "But [EDG’s] lineup had a lot of champions who were powerless against Maokai." Powerless indeed. Smeb wasn’t the only dominant Tiger here though. ROX managed to close the game out in just 26 minutes -- one of the fastest of the tournament.

People were getting ready for an early night, but EDG had other plans. With their backs against the wall they came out swinging. For the third time of the night a team blind picked Ryze, was counterpicked by Aurelion Sol, and ended up losing the game. This time the shoe was on the other foot and EDG showed that they weren’t dead yet. Though ultimately, it would not be enough to salvage their Worlds hopes.

With their Game 4 victory, the ROX Tigers put on one of their cleanest performances yet. Everything from their engages, rotations, to Peanut going 11-0-5 in his first professional Olaf game was on point. If SK Telecom T1 is the best reactive team here at Worlds, then ROX are surely the best proactive team.

These teams will now face off in the Semifinals, a rematch of last year’s Final. It will be like watching an unstoppable force vs. an immovable object.

"Our mindset facing SKT is definitely different from last year," says Smeb. "The evaluations of SKT last year was that they were enormously strong and would probably win Worlds without a single loss. The evaluation about ROX was we were comparatively a lot weaker than SKT and that actually affected our mindset. We built SKT up in our heads into a monster." 

Going into their Semifinals rematch against the reigning World Champions, Smeb and ROX's aren't going to let their fears get the best of them. "This year we know they are strong, but this year we are the monster.”

One thing that may help the ROX Tigers in the upcoming battle! "You know how players always go for the three syllable cheer? Like T-S-M and S-K-T?" says Smeb. "I know that shouting out R-O-X is kinda weird, but I would really like it to happen just once.”

You can cheer for ROX when they face off against their rival SK Telecom T1 in the Worlds Semifinals on Friday, October 21. 


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