A preview of the 2021 League of Legends World Championship.
Play-in Group A pool 1 seeds
The World Championship (also known as Worlds) is the second of two yearly international tournaments in the League of Legends Esports scene, where players compete on franchised teams for fame, pride, a considerable salary, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash prizes.
22 teams from 12 regions (The Vietnam Championship Series couldn’t send their 2 teams due to covid travel restrictions) will compete for the ultimate prize in LoL esports, the 70-pound Summoner’s Cup. The tournament will start with the play-in stage starting October 5th, before advancing to the main stage groups which will take begin on October 11th before eventually ending with the finals on November 6th. As the teams prepare to do battle in Reykjavík, Iceland, let us look at our participants and how they got here.
This piece will preview the two pool 1 seeds in Group A of the Play-in stage. As the Play-in groups consist of 5 teams with two distinct levels of play, it made sense to split them up like this. The first of the minor region teams to be drawn into the group was…
Name: Infinity Esports
Roster: Buggax (Top), SolidSnake (Jungle), cody (Mid), WhiteLotus (ADC), Ackerman
Region: LLA (Latin America)
Summary: The LLA powerhouse rebounds in a big way after MSI with massive improvements all around.
Even after going 1-5 at MSI 2021, LLA powerhouse Infinity Esports were not discouraged. They made 0 roster changes yet would look significantly better in Summer. Infinity would be a dominant force in the LLA going 11-3 in stage one, and 3-1 in stage 2, getting 1st place in both. While the Spring squad had some significant holes in the top side of the map, Summer would be a well-rounded well-oiled machine. 4/5 members of Infinity would make All Pro (Buggax was the only one who missed), while cody would win league MVP as he stepped up in a massive way over the course of the split. Cody’s inexperience would lead to him having a rough Spring Split and MSI, as he was near the bottom of the table for mid laners, but he showed significant improvement in Summer as he had the 2nd highest kills (66), 2nd lowest deaths (25), best KDA (7.1), 1st in XPD@10 (217), tied first for CSPM (8.1), and lead the LLA mid laners in DPM (582) and GPM (274). He came a long way from Spring, and was a big part of why Infinity got a free pass into the finals. There, they would face Estral Esports, the #2 seed.
The series was incredibly competitive as Infinity and Estral would trade the first 3 games back-and-forth. Each game was a stomp, but the losing team would reset their mental and come back and return the favor. Estral took game 1 through the top side of the map, Infinity returned the favor in game 2 as Buggax, SolidSnake, and cody all put up valiant performances, and Estral would do the same in game 3 through mid and jungle. With their backs against the wall and down 2-1, Infinity would fire back in game 4. The game would go even for the longest time, but Infinity would pull through thanks to some great Lee Sin kicks from SolidSnake, and a massive carry performance from Buggax on Jayce. Game 5 would once again be an even affair. Cody and WhiteLotus were doing well, but Buggax had a terrible early game, being 1/4/2 at one point. The game rested on a knife’s edge for most of it. In the decisive fight at 37 minutes Buggax, having fought his way back in the game, laid down some good Jayce poke, Cody hijacked an Ornn ultimate and knocked up two, Ackerman blocked Esrtal’s actual Ornn ultimate, and WhiteLotus would take on 3 members of Estral by himself after cody fell. He would have perfect spacing and his Ezreal Q’s would hit their mark as he took down 4 in the final fight and Infinity would win their 2nd straight title in the 4th straight LLA finals to go to 5 games.
Expectations: Making it to group stage is a hard sell, but they can at least contend with the other minor regions just fine.
This team is practically the LLA’s All-Star team. They have experience in Buggax and WhiteLotus, Ackerman and SolidSnake have stepped up despite not having much, and cody has been a transcendent talent in the LLA. The LLA really couldn’t have picked a better representative to send to Worlds. Unfortunately, they are in the group of death for minor regions. The pool 1 seeds on the opposite side of the bracket are looking a bit shaky and could reasonably be upset, but against LNG and Hanwha Life? Cody is talented, but he shouldn’t be able to stack up against Chovy. SolidSnake is great in his home region, but Tarzan is going to run him over. Against the other minor regions? Well, they got two of the historically easier teams in the LCO and CBLOL reps so they should at least hang with those. Even with all of the improvements, its hard to shake the shadow of the 1-5 MSI run. Seeing what DFM did later at MSI, their one win was honestly a fluke. Their matches against the other two minor region teams will be the benchmark of just how far they have come since that dark moment. I’m mostly looking at Infinty to make it competitive. If their talents can perform at the level they did in Summer, perhaps there is some hope for them after all.
Roster: Vizicsacsi (Top), Babip (Jungle), Tally (Mid), Violet (ADC), Aladoric (Support)
Region: LCO (Oceania)
Summary: The newest org in the LCO has a turbulent regular season with confusing roster moves, but runs the gauntlet come playoff time.
PEACE had practically no presence in the League of Legends esports scene before 2021. They were the team that stepped up to take the spot of long-time middle of the pack Avant Gaming. They were fairly good in Spring, getting 2nd after being double eliminated by the most successful international team in OCE history in Pentanet.GG. They made some key moves picking up Babip and Tally, who were mainstays of the OPL. Their stints in NA did not work out, as neither player made an LCS roster, and they were kicked from some of the lower ranked academy teams. PEACE had a strong start to the split. Even though they weren’t playing Tally yet, sticking with previous mid laner Halo, PEACE was 6-3 and only a game back of first by week 4. Babip was a welcome addition to the team and was giving them the push over the edge they needed. Things were looking bright for them.
Then things got weird.
In week 5, PEACE inexplicably made some roster swaps. They were just putting Tally in the midlane finally right? That seems reasonable. You’d be wrong. PEACE played Tally alright. They played him as a top laner. Support Aladoric would be benched as top laner Apii swapped to support. While this isn’t quite as insane as it sounds as both players have history in those roles. There was no reason to make those drastic changes. I’m honestly still not sure what PEACE management was thinking.
To say things didn’t work out well would be an understatement. They didn’t just fall out of the race for first, they lost 9 of their next 10. Their only victory was against the 3-18 MAMMOTH. They looked terrible and were in danger of missing the playoffs. Thankfully, PEACE pulled their heads out of the sand and put Tally in mid lane, Apii back top, and put Aladoric back at support. This allowed them to win their final two games (1 against 2nd place ORDER) and limp into the playoffs as the final seed at 10-11. The team had talent, Violet and Aladoric made the All-Pro team, and Tally and Babip probably would’ve made it too under normal circumstances. PEACE just decided to shoot themselves in the foot. With a nuclear warhead.
Come playoff time, PEACE got it together in a big way. As the last place seed, there would be no loser’s bracket, no 2nd chances. PEACE would have to run the table. Thankfully, they were more than up to the challenge. Against the #4 seed Chiefs Esports Club, they had a dominant 3-0 victory. Aladoric was the star of the show as his engage champions like Leona and Rakan were on point. He went a combined 4/5/54 over 3 games. To die so few times as the main form of engage and frontline is astounding. The run looked to end in a disappointing sweep to #2 seed ORDER, but PEACE would not lie down and die so easily. PEACE would rally the comeback in game 3 with a great performance from all members, but Babip and Tally in particular. The mid/jungle duo would run over the game again in game 4 while Violet went deathless on Ezreal, and Tally would seal the deal on Twisted Fate in game 5. PEACE successfully reverse swept the 2nd seed. With all the momentum in the world, the #3 seed Dire Wolves were easy pickings for PEACE. Dire Wolves would put up a commendable fight in games 2 and 3, but PEACE would close out the sweep off of massive poke damage from Apii all 3 games on Jayce, and the rest of PEACE being their playoff selves. Even as considerable underdogs against the #1 seed Pentanet.GG, as the incredibly successful team from MSI was expected to repeat, PEACE didn’t falter. PEACE would crush PGG in 3 games. They swept aside the MSI reps like they were nothing. The bot lane of Violet and Aladoric put on a clinical performance against the PGG bot lane. PGG never even stood a chance as PEACE closed the miracle run in the most dominant fashion possible.
Playing your upgraded roster as advertised pays off. Who knew?
Expectations: Should just be fodder, but divine intervention arrived. Now who knows what will happen?
Despite all the praise being heaped onto them for their great playoff run, especially with Babip upgrading the team by so much, I would find it hard to believe in PEACE. Despite all the accolades around the indaviduals, the LCO is one of the weakest minor regions historically and one MSI apperence with a group stage exit isnt enough for me to believe in them. The fact that they even made it to group stage has a huge asterisk as the VCS didn’t make it, so they only had to beat a Unicorns of Love team with no read on the meta to get out. Every other OCE international run has ended in failure, and I see little reason to believe this one will be any different.
Or that’s what I would’ve said if I wrote this article before September 22nd.
With Apii having unresolved visa issues and not being able to fly out with the team to Iceland, PEACE found a replacement not in another LCO top laner but in Vizicsacsi. Vizicsacsi was the longtime top laner of Unicorns of Love when they were an EU LCS team and made it to Worlds on Splyce in 2019. He has been around and playing the game for an incredibly long time and has always been a threat. Even recently, MAD Lions hired him as a positional coach for Armut for the playoff run. Its no coincidence that Armut massively stepped up come playoff time and found his Spring Split form. Apii wasn’t horrible, but going from an inexperienced minor region player to a major region veteran who can become a leader for the young squad is huge. While 1 great player alone isnt enough to make me bet against HLE and LNG, this could very well push them over the edge against the minor region teams in group A. Keep a close eye on PEACE. They could surprise you.
Name: RED Canids
Roster: GUIGO (Top), Aegis (Jungle), Grevthar (Mid), TitaN (ADC), JoJo (Support)
Region: CBLoL (Brazil)
RED Canids began life as the former sister team of longtime CBLoL org INTZ, INTZ Red. Ever since, they have been a mixed bag. They won the Spring Split in 2017 and almost got out of Play-in groups at MSI going 4-2 (TCL rep SuperMassive went 5-1). They also finished last and got relegated in 2018. They didn’t make it back to the CBLoL this year. They would’ve gotten in the old fashion way by winning the challenger circuit in 2020, but the CBLoL switched to franchising and they paid $4M BRL (roughly $790K USD) to get in. They had a solid Spring Split, going 12-6 and winning a playoff series before losing 3-1 to 2nd seed Vorax.
Unfortunately, Summer Split was quite underwhelming. The highest placement the team had was tied 4th in week 2 at 2-2. After that, RED Canids mostly just tried to stay above .500 for the rest of the split. They snuck into the playoffs as the 6th seed at 10-8, but that can just as easily be attributed to the bottom 4 implosion than RED Canids’ skill.
Seeing the writing on the wall of a 1st round exit, RED Canids would gamble their whole season on one move. They would promote their academy mid Grevthar who had no experience on the CBLoL stage to replace their previous mid laner Avenger. Calling up such an inexperienced player, on such short notice, with such high stakes was a high-risk high-reward gambit. There was no way RED in their previous form were going to do much of anything. But to bet it all on a rookie? It surprisingly paid off in massive ways. Their first match against 3rd seed Flamengo Esports was a 3-0 sweep. Only game 3 was competitive while the rest of the series went all RED’s way. Grevthar showed no nerves on the big stage as he stepped up to the plate and hit it out of the park. The rest of RED Canids finally found their form. Their next series against #2 seed Vorax Liberty would be more of the same. Game 1 saw Vorax pick up 0 kills while TitaN and JoJo took over the game in the bot lane. Although Vorax would stomp game 2, Grevthar busted out his Kled mid lane for game 3. It wasn’t the main reason RED won that game, GUIGO and TitaN were great, but the fact that he was confident enough to bust out a pocket pick in semifnals as a rookie is a good sign. The game would be a hardfought one that lasted almost 44 minuites, but Grevthar would charge into the backline in the final fight to completley disrupt Vorax and TitaN and GUIGO were given time to clean up the fight. The final game would be a victory lap for RED Canids. Vorax Liberty didn’t even put up a fight as Grevthar’s Irelia dominated the game, going 9/1/4 in the deciding match.
In the finals, RED Canids would meet a kindred spirit in Rensga Esports. Rensga were the #5 seed, who were busy making a miracle run of their own. They had a less explosive start, only sweeping the #4 seed LOUD, but had a much more dramatic victory in semifinals as they took down the #1 seed, defending CBLoL champions, and MSI representatives PaiN Gaming in 5 games. The predictions were split down the middle and the title was up for grabs for either of the two most unlikley of underdog stories to take it home. RED Canids would be the stronger Cinderella run on the day as they won the finals 3-1. Grevthar stomped game 1 as he went 13/1/7 on Akali. Rensga had no answers for Ageis’s Xin Zhao in game 2 while TitaN’s Varus arrows would rip through Rensga. Grevthar was still being awesome in the mid lane on Ryze. Game 3 would see Rensga finally fire back as every member of RED would get outperformed. But RED Canids would end Rensga’s miracle run in game 4 with complete domination. Aegis and TitaN would go deathless while GUIGO would break the hearts of every Rensga fan on Viego. After being relegated in 2018 and having an undewhelming Summer, RED Canids were finally champions once again.
Expectations: Should get valuable experience but will only do much of anything if everything breaks right.
Unfortunately, Play-in groups is about as far as RED Canids should go. The CBLoL is only just starting to reclaim some of its international luster after years of failure. It should be a long road for them to fully get back on top of the minor regions. The key killer of RED Canids, aside from general skill discrepancy, will be inexperience. Only TitaN has been to an international tournament before, with quick exits on KaBuM! e-Sports at MSI and Worlds 2018. The rest of the team has a real risk of falling prey to international nerves. However, the RED Canids have made a recent history of defying the odds. Why should they stop now?
The World Championship will kick off on October 5th with Korea’s Hanwha Life Esports vs China’s LNG Esports at 6am CST You can find the full schedule at https://lolesports.com/, and catch every match there, on the LoL Esports YouTube channel, or at https://www.twitch.tv/riotgames.