North Texas Television
A preview of the 2021 League of Legends World Championship.
Play-in Group A pool 2 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 three pool 2 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 of the minor region teams to be drawn into the group was…
Name: Unicorns of Love
Roster: BOSS (Top), AHaHaCiK (Jungle), Nomanz (Mid), Argonavt (ADC), SaNTaS (Support)
Region/Seed: LCL (Commonwealth of Independent States)
Summary: The LCL juggernauts get their first real test. They pass after much effort and struggle.
The Unicorns of Love have had a stranglehold on the LCL ever since joining and have won every split they’ve played in. Unfortunately, 2021 has not been too kind to them. Their previous bot laner Gadget left for the EU regional leagues to start the year and his loss has hit them harder than expected. They placed 4th in the regular season of Spring, and although they won the playoffs, they got embarrassed at MSI. They had a very poor read on the meta, almost nobody showed up, and they went 2-6 and got upset by the LCO representative. The group was considered all but a free win after the VCS had to cancel and yet UoL completely blew it. Considering just how poorly Lodik played at MSI, they made the decision to drop him for Dragon Army’s Argonavt. This looked to had paid off as UoL got back to their old dominant form. Nomanz was as much of an X factor as ever, and the rest of the team picked up the pace. UoL cruised to a 12-2 record, a first-place finish and a 1st round bye. They were heavy favorites for the title and another Worlds appearance.
Things wouldn’t quite go to plan as 3rd seed CrowCrowd handed them their 1st playoff loss 3-1. It was almost a completely one sided 3-0, and was only thanks to the heroic efforts of BOSS that it went to a game 4. Even though UoL would put up a fight, CC would take the game and pull off the upset. Things got even worse in the losers bracket as 2nd seed One Breath Gaming also almost swept the Unicorns. Games 1 and 2 would be very close but OBG’s ADC Mirbs would come up clutch in the key fights. Thankfully, Nomanz led the charge back on his Kassadin and Sylas. The man in the mid lane wouldn’t let his team die so easy as he helped tie up the series, while the deciding game 5 wasn’t even close. This would lead to a fateful rematch with CrowCrowd in the finals. The teams would trade punches, kills, and games. CC were a match for UoL in almost every position. The series could go either way. But in the end, UoL’s experience in big situations and individual skill would win the day, as the Unicorns of Love scraped their way past CC in a 5-game series to win their 5thstraight LCL title.
Expectations: This team brings experience and star power to the table, but still have massive question marks hanging over them
The Unicorns of Love have been one of the most successful wildcard teams in LoL from the most successful wildcard region in Lol history. They have made the group stage at Worlds, took major regions to 5 game series, and another LCL rep even made Worlds quarterfinals in 2016! Unfortunately, the shadow of MSI hangs over the head of the Unicorns. They absolutely failed to adapt to the meta and looked, quite frankly, terrible.
Now the question is, “did that MSI and the playoff losses make them stronger? Or are they just shadows of their former selves?”. They will be seeking redemption for that in this tourney and the man they will count on to grant it is Nomanz. He was by and far the best individual player in the LCL this split. He was the driving force behind most of UoL’s victories and the games he didn’t show up were the ones they lost. He led almost every stat category you could think of: Kills, KDA, Gold differential, kill participation, CS per minute, you name it, he led it. There is one big question that could prevent UoL from finding redemption, and its in the same place that cost them so dearly at MSI.
How well will Argonavt perform? He wasn’t terrible, far from it, but he was also very volatile. He led the LCL ADCs in CSPM, but also lead them in share of team deaths. While they don’t need him to be the main carry, if he has a bad game, it will bring down the rest of UoL. If he can clean up the deaths and just get more consistent, UoL could remind the World why they received so much praise in years past.
Name: Galatasaray Esports
Roster: Crazy (Top), Mojito (Jungle), Bolulu (Mid), Alive (ADC), Zergsting (Support
Region/Seed: TCL (Turkey)
Summary: Summer split roster swaps lead to total domination
Galatasaray Esports are owned by the Turkish football club of the same name and have been in the TCL for 4 years now. They have had some truly talented players wear their jerseys, (Broken Blade and Abbedagge have played for them) and they weren’t afraid to make moves in pursuit of success. However, its never quite been enough to get them over the hump. Their highest placements have been semifinal exits in 2019 Summer and Winter, and 2021 Winter. In summer, they subbed out top laner Luana for Crazy from the LPL’s Rogue Warriors. They also replaced ADC Padden with Alive, who has played in 4 separate major regions and had just finished up a split at Beşiktaş Esports.
These changes proved to be the correct ones as Galatasaray looked unstoppable for almost all of Summer. The team finished 15-3. A far cry from the middle of the pack placements of years past. Alive and Crazy have been key parts of Galatasaray’s success. Zergsting also made the All-Pro team alongside Crazy. But the true star of the show has been Mojito. Mojito lead the TCL junglers in KDA at 5.8 and was above average in almost every stat like CSPM, XPD, CSD, GPM. He won the most Player of the Game awards, got 1st team All Pro, and won TCL MVP.
Playoffs were a stomp in every sense of the word. Galatasaray Esports got a bye into the semifinals and only dropped 1 game to Alive’s old team Beşiktaş Esports on their way to the title. Zergsting’s Thresh and Rakan looked beautiful against #6 seed Beşiktaş, hitting hook after hook and finding knock-up after knock-up. The rest of GS looked as good as ever as every player had a chance to carry. The finals against #2 seed NASR eSports Turkey was a very good indicator of how far ahead GS were ahead of the rest of the TCL. NASAR went 12-6 and stomped their own semifinal against the #3 seed 3-0. They were a good team. Galatasaray made them look like amateurs. Bolulu went 13/2/22 over the course of 3 games. No game was even close as GS breezed their way to a 3-0 sweep and a TCL title that had eluded them for so long.
Expectations: Have talented players but are largely untested. Could pull off an upset or totally collapse.
Galatasaray’s dominant season might also be their biggest weakness. They looked head-and-shoulders above every other team in the TCL. Mojito looked incredible on aggressive champions. There is not much inherently wrong with them when you look at their domestic play.
The downside is that the team is inexperienced on the big stage and has yet to be tested on how they handle adversity. Fans saw just how much inexperience can cripple a roster last MSI as the young players of Istanbul Wildcats looked very little like their championship winning selves as they collapsed and went 1-5. I fear the same may happen to GS. Only 1 player (Bolulu) has any experience internationally. This is the first time for everyone else. The challenge for them is going to be bouncing back fast and maintaining the mental after going up against stronger opponents than they are used to. If they can do that, the TCL may return to glory. If they crumple under pressure, it could be a repeat of MSI.
Name: DetonatioN FocusMe
Roster: Evi (Top), Steal (Jungle), Aria (Mid), Yutapon (ADC), Gaeng (Support)t
Region/Seed: LJL (Japan)
Summary: The LJL super team is finally complete. And it (mostly) lives up to the hype.
After DetonatioN FocusMe had a much better than expected MSI run where they took down Cloud 9 and gave Damwon KIA a fight, the moment LJL fans had been waiting for finally happened. The jungler Steal finally was considered an LJL resident. This allowed DFM to put their previous support Gaeng back in as their coach no longer had to sub in due to import rules. The LJL All-Star squad was finally complete. The DFM mainstays were the best the Japan had to offer, and Aria is the shining star of the entire region. This is essentially the LJL’s all star squad. Total dominance from DFM like they have done for so many years was the expected result.
After losing the first 3 games unexpectedly, (which can be chalked up to the MSI hangover that hit so many other teams) DFM delivered on this promise as they went undefeated for the rest of the season. 11 straight victories + 1 tiebreaker for first. The team had a 2.17 KD ratio, 1.97 gold percentage rating, best early game rating, highest gold differential at 15, if there was a stat, DFM were above average or leading in it. Almost every single player was the best in their role, but the 3 standouts were Evi, Aria, and Gaeng. Evi took everything any team tried to throw at him very well. Teams trying to pressure him just didn’t work and his play on bruisers helps facilitate the rest of his team. Aria leads the entire LJL in KDA at 9.7. He is above average or leading mid lane in almost every important stat. His Leblanc has been played 7 times in 2021 and he has won every single game. And Gaeng has proven why he DFM was willing to wait for him to come back with engages like this. (Volume warning)
Unfortunately, DFM would get overconfident and would lose their first playoff series 3-2 to Rascal Jester. In interviews, DFM have stated that they believed going in “playoffs were a done deal”. That loss proved to be the motivation DFM needed to get back on track as DFM crushed both the semifinals and finals 3-0. The triumvirate of Aria, Steal, and Yutapon would be the ones to carry them to victory over AXIZ. All 3 carries looked completely unstoppable, and Yutapon proved that he was just as much of a threat as the rest of DFM, despite being a bit overshadowed in the regular season. The rematch with Rascal Jester wasn’t even close. RJ got a grand total of 3 kills, 4 dragons, and 6 towers over 3 games. DFM took everything else. Every player was miles better than their opposition and as a team. It was the domination that was advertised.
Expectations: Don’t want to get too excited about one of the worst performing regions, but I am cautiously optimistic.
This is the best roster the LJL has ever sent and will ever send to an international tournament. With the addition of Aria and Gaeng coming back into the roster, DFM can play through any lane. Every player is the undisputed best in their role, and they have looked dominant in domestic play.
My only question is this. Is it enough?
There is no way around it, if DFM don’t make it out of groups this year, it is highly unlikely the LJL will ever get a better shot. They are in the group with the two weakest pool 1 seeds. Their two wildcard teams may be from dominant regions, but they seem to have fallen a bit behind. It’s now or never for DFM. They have to show that the spark that lit at MSI is capable of turning into a fire. Every player needs to have the tournament of their lives and if they do so, DFM might be capable of getting out. I say they need to because I’m not sure how much hope is left for the LJL if they fail.
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.