A preview of the 2021 League of Legends World Championship.
Play-in Group B 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 B 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 team to be drawn into the group was…
Name: Cloud 9
Roster: Fudge (Top), Blaber (Jungle), Perkz (Mid), Zven (ADC), Vulcan (Support)
Region/Seed: LCS (North America) #3
Summary: The reigning LCS champs have an underwhelming split.
After such an underwhelming MSI, Cloud 9 had a lot of doubters to silence in Summer Split. You had people tearing them apart for losing to teams from minor regions, their rivals nipping at their heels, and the 35-2 summer collapse of 2020 fresh in everyone’s minds.
They kind of... didn’t do any of that.
To start off the split, Cloud 9 announced that they would be giving their Academy ADC K1ng a shot at the big stage while Zven rested up. They began the season by losing to the 3-13 Golden Guardians.
Great start boys.
They followed it up with a loss to an upgraded 100T where Perkz went 0/7/0 but won a key turnaround match to finish out the week against TL. Team Liquid were the other finalist and were going through even more turmoil than C9. While C9 gave clear reasons for their benching, the Team Liquid offices were currently on fire from a PR disaster with them benching Alphari for seemingly no reason. This made them easy pickings for Cloud 9 as K1ng and Perkz had some of their best games of the split.
Cloud 9’s first 9 games were a mixed bag. They would go undefeated in week 2, but winless in week 3. K1ng wasn’t terrible, but he also wasn’t anything special. Blaber still looked lost after MSI. Perkz would have some great showings in week 2 but was silent in week 3. The team looked uncoordinated. After putting Zven back in the lineup in week 4, he didn’t fix all of C9’s problems. The team was good but was far from the top tier team they were in spring, or the dominant juggernaut that was advertised. Cloud 9 would regularly beat the middle and bottom of the table, not suffering too many upsets. The only 2 losses to teams they really should’ve beaten was to a reinvigorated FlyQuest in week 6 and an Immortals entering a hot streak in week 7. They even had the pleasure of absolutely dunking on one of their biggest rivals in Team Liquid. They beat them in all 3 meetings in the regular season and only the final one was even close. Unfortunately, C9 against the top of the table was a different story. They would get swept by the top 2 teams in TSM and 100T and only win 1 game against the new hotness Evil Geniuses. C9 would finish Summer at a decent 15-12. This put their overall record at 28-17 and 4th place in the regular season. Fudge stepped up and was a rock for C9 even when the rest of them weren’t performing their best. He won Most Improved Player and got 1st team All-Pro. Blaber and Vulcan picked up a 3rd team All-Pro. Noticeably the 11-million dollar man himself was nowhere to be found on the All-Pro list, only being slightly above average in most stats and leading the mid lane in share of team deaths.
C9’s summer playoff run would stall out of the gates as the tables were turned and Team Liquid beat them 3-1. TL’s jungler Santorin would make big things happen early, working with Jensen to get 1st blood on Perkz in game 1. Fudge was on a tank and couldn’t stand up to Alphari early while Perkz couldn’t dig himself out of the early hole. Santorin ran circles around Blaber while Zven and Vulcan couldn’t 2v8. Cloud 9 would look even worse in game 2 as Team Liquid jumped out to a gold lead early and never let go. C9 could do nothing to fight back and only got 2 dragons (that TL mostly gave away while they were doing other things on the map), 2 towers and 1 kill. Everything else went to Team Liquid. Thankfully, Cloud 9 would show signs of life in game 3. Perkz would stomp Jensen in the mid lane with the help of Blaber, while Zven was untouched on Varus thanks to Vulcan’s protection and hooks on Thresh. They wouldn’t carry the same momentum in game 4 as a Taliyah jungle pick from Blaber wouldn’t work as well as he hoped it would. It wasn’t the reason they lost and he wasn’t awful, but Santorin was his superior on the day. Team Liquid would crush C9 in the final fight to win the series and send C9 to the loser’s bracket.
In the 2nd series, the 4th place team with a bigger budget than some entire minor regions played the 8th place team that lost their entire promising roster before the season and had to rebuild with table scraps. It went exactly as expected as Cloud 9 cruised their way to an easy 3-0 sweep. Everyone was miles better than their opposition and it wasn’t even close. It was an argument for why 80% of the league shouldn’t make playoffs.
What was surprising was Cloud 9 sweeping Evil Geniuses 3-0 in the next round. EG had just finished taking 2nd seed 100T to 5 games while the rookie ADC Danny made one of the most memorable plays of the year. It was expected to be an exciting close contest that would go the distance. Instead, Cloud 9 would dominate game 1. Perkz completely dominated the 1st team All Pro Jiizuke. In game 2, things would look dire for Cloud 9 as EG won the early game and even had a 4k gold lead. But at 25 minutes, Zven did this.
The solo laners of C9 and Zven would take over the rest of the game from there. Game 3 would be almost the same story. EG jumped out to an early lead, Blaber and Zven won a crucial fight, and Cloud 9 stomped the rest of the game. Playoff Perkz was back and C9 were looking better than Summer. Their final challenge would be an old rival they were very familiar with.
Cloud 9 vs TSM in playoffs with the final World Championship seed on the line. The LCS couldn’t have planned a better script. If you recall the group C preview, TSM/C9 is the FNC/G2 of NA. Even older than the other western rivalry, C9 and TSM have been trading games, titles, and insults since the introduction of the LCS. The reward for beating a hated rival was ultimate bragging rights. Game 1 would be a stomp as TSM coordinated a 4-man dive bot with SwordArt’s Pantheon to get a massive early gold lead. While Blaber and Vulcan made good plays to keep C9 hanging around, TSM was just too strong. In game 2, Zven answered the Pantheon with Ezreal, a champion who can stay out of Pantheon’s effective range and burst him down. It paid dividends as SwordArt would die many times without accomplishing much and he would be a key factor in C9’s eventual victory. The teams would go neck-and-neck for 44 minutes, and TSM would be set up for success with ocean soul, but C9 would wether the storm of a buffed up TSM and take the critical Elder Dragon fight thanks to Perkz forcing Huni away from the fight and Zven stealing the Elder and securing the game. Game 3 would go TSM’s way. Huni got an early lead on Camille and never gave it up. He and the rest of TSM would be far too strong for C9 to handle and they would cruise to a 2-1 lead. If TSM play that elder fight better, this is a piece about TSM and this series ends in a sweep.
But this isn’t a section to talk about “maybes” and 1-2 is Perkz’s comfort zone. The man is known for being incredible in game 4 and it was no different here. He would completely stomp the game on Syndra as he went 8/1/6. One of the most hyped-up series in years was going to game 5. Fortunately for C9 and unfortunately for the viewers, game 5 was an anti-climax as C9 won it before it even began as TSM bet their season on Nocturne top. It did not pay off as Perkz would get a triple kill at a baron fight to blow the game wide open. Every member of C9 was massively ahead. The solo laners were a combined 14/0/16. Blaber had 100% kill participation. Zven was untouchable under the watch of Vulcan’s Braum. C9 crushed their biggest rival in game 5 to punch a ticket to Worlds and rip up TSM’s in the process.
Unfortunately, all that momentum meant very little in their series against 100 Thieves. FBI would get much focus from 100T early and it paid off in a big way as he was all but unstoppable in game 1. Cloud 9 would get everything they needed to end game 2 in a victory, but Closer would be there to deny C9 every time. C9 would lose a heartbreaker in 49 minuites. To their credit, it didn’t collapse their mental as they fired back in game 3 with stellar performances from Zven and Vulcan, but FBI would take over once again in game 4. Closer and FBI were the stars of the show and there was little C9 could do about it. Although it was definitely better than last year, Cloud 9 still went from a dominant champion to a distant 3rd place.
Expectations: If any play-in team is going to get upset, its this one. Even if they take care of business, they go no further than groups.
I really don’t know what to think about Cloud 9. When you look at the names, Cloud 9 should be a lot better than they are. The names have been successful in the past, the team was projected to stomp the LCS, yet the team looked like shadows of their advertised self in Summer. In their current forms, I wouldn’t call any player in C9 elite in comparison to the rest of tournament. Now if Perkz regains his G2 form and the rest of the team steps up it’s a different story. But as they are now, they are quite vulnerable to upsets. It showed at MSI that you can’t just expect Cloud 9 to take care of business without issues. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that C9 won’t make it out, but if any of the top 4 major regions are going to underwhelm, I would bet on this one. It doesn’t hurt that they are in with 3 of the strongest Wildcards at the tourney in DFM (who beat them last time) UoL (who have made groups before), and GS (TCL is historically strong). Even if they make it out, if all goes to plan, C9 has a 100% chance of being drawn into group A. While I wouldn’t favor Cloud 9 to make it out of any main stage group, getting drawn into the group of death with all their current issues is just going to make it worse.
Name: Beyond Gaming
Roster: Liang (Top), Husha (Jungle), Maoan (Mid), Doggo (ADC), Kino (Support)
Region/Seed: PCS (TW/HK/MC/SEA) #2
Summary: The distant 2nd place might not be so distant after all
Beyond Gaming is an organization owned by former Taipei Assassins player DinTer. They only just joined the PCS this year, acquiring longtime LMS organization ahq e-Sports Club. The members come from various LMS squads and they got together in hopes of taking over the PCS. In spring, Beyond Gaming were head and shoulders above every team except PSG Talon. Who, in turn, were head and shoulders above them. BYG finished Spring 16-2 and had the distinct honor of being the only team in the PCS to take a game off of PSG Talon in spring. They would rout J Team, get routed by PSG, have a close 5 game series against Machi Esports, only to get routed again in finals by PSG. Most notably, their ADC Doggo would sub in for Unified at MSI 2021 and would make a name for himself on the international stage as one of the most fearless, aggressive, and fun to watch ADCs at the tournament.
In 2021 Summer, the PCS was still mostly status quo. PSG cruised to an 18-0 record while BYG would stand atop the rest of the pack at 14-4. Even though the record was worse, BYG and the rest of the PCS in general were playing a lot better. BYG were different from the top teams of past LMS years as they won their games mostly around smart map play rather than just being better. They still had mechanical skill in spades, but they had strategy to go along with it. Doggo getting experience playing against the best of the best and bringing it back to BYG can be credited for the level up in play.
BYG would begin their playoff run with a 3-1 victory over the 3rd seed Machi Esports. To Machi’s credit, they at least took a game and made BYG work for their victories. But BYG were just the better team overall. The mid/jungle duo of Husha and Maoan would be critical to BYG’s victories while Doggo would flourish under the protection of Kino. This was the expected result but the writing was on the wall for what was supposed to happen next.
Beyond Gaming would flip the script by snapping PSG Talon’s 46-match PCS winstreak! The series would be an incredible 3-2 upset that would go down to the wire. Doggo was the star of the show as always, as his Aphelios, Ziggs and Varus would play crucial parts in the games they won. Liang outperformed Hanabi throughout almost the entire series. Husha stepped up to the plate on Xin Zhao and Diana. Maoan was beating the previously untouchable Maple in fights. BYG did the unthinkable and punched their ticket to Worlds in their first year of existence off the back of one of the biggest upset in LoL this year!
Unfortunately, BYG couldn’t quite seal the deal in the finals as PSG would win the rematch. BYG deserve a ton of credit, they took PSG to the brink in the finals. BYG were firing on all cylinders as Doggo went 16/1/12 in their 2 victories in the series. Husha and Liang were River and Hanabi’s equals for most of the series. Maoan and Kino had their moments. BYG just ran out of steam first as PSG had more left in the tank. Game 5 may have been a stomp but it hardly does what Beyond Gaming did in the finals and what they had to do to get there justice.
Expectations: Not guaranteed to get out but still favored. Hard to see much happening beyond that.
If there is one player to watch on Beyond Gaming this Worlds, it is Doggo. His MSI performance is still fresh in everyone’s minds, and he hasn’t missed a step in summer. His aggression has been a key factor in almost every BYG victory. The man is 13-0 on Aphelios and is flexible in draft. He is very much the X factor of BYG. Husha and Liang are the other two main threats of BYG. Liang was a strong laner and his ability to splitpush on champions like Camille is yet another threat teams must look out for. Husha is a flexible jungler who is the bridge between the early and late game. He is the one giving time to Doggo for him to get items and pop off.
Beyond Gaming are seen as favorites to get out of Play-in stage. That is not to say it will be effortless, how they match up into Cloud 9 has yet to be seen and there are some scary wildcard teams, but they do look stronger than the other 3 wildcards. The new org is looking to defy the stigma that “the PCS region only ever has one good team” and a strong start to the Play-In stage will go a long way towards proving it. Unfortunately, if the team makes it to group stage, I just think the other teams are better than BYG. If all 4 pool 1 teams make it through, BYG goes into group B. There, the x-factor of Doggo only means so much when he’s up against Viper. Perhaps BYG will surprise everyone, but it feels like the writing is on the wall for a good play-ins only for an early exit in groups.
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.