A preview of Worlds 2021 quarterfinals
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 started with the play-in stage on October 5th, before advancing to the main stage groups, before eventually ending with the finals on November 6th.
The group stage has wrapped up and it was quite possibly the best group stage of the tournament’s 11-year history. Upsets happened, the games were good, and anyone could beat anyone on any given day. Only 8 teams remain now and have been drawn into a single elimination best-of-5 bracket. I will be previewing each quarterfinal in order of when they are actually happening. Starting with…
Match 1: (#1B)
(LCK #3) vs (LCK#4)
How they got here: These two teams have had very similar paths to the knockout round, with one team having a bit more success. The winningest team in League of Legends history topped their group at a 5-1 record thanks to an undefeated 2nd half. While they didn’t have stiff competition to get out, they certainly had some in the battle for 1st. Detonation FocusMe and 100 Thieves were never expected to put up a fight, but what was unexpected was the absolute massacre of LPL champion and tournament favorite Edward Gaming. EDG never even really had a shot in the game as T1 completely ran them over in all 5 positions. Thanks to some help from 100 Thieves at the end of the day, T1 got out in first place with no tiebreaker necessary. T1 looked significantly better than they did week 1. And they didn’t even look particularly bad in week 1!
Hanwha Life Esports on the other hand had a weaker 1st week. Although they won against a Fnatic in turmoil, they were outclassed by Royal Never Give Up, and suffered a suprisng loss to PCS giant, PSG Talon. Fortunately for them, they continued the trend DK and T1 started of the LCK having a masterclass week 2. The most vital game of the day was the first one, a rematch against PSG Talon. Thankfully, HLE completely destroyed PSG. They never even had a hope or a prayer as Willer, Deft, and Chovy all went deathless. Chovy in particular showed up in a massive way. The second game of the day would seal the deal on one team’s Worlds run. Fnatic did overcome the outside influence to pull off an incredible upset win against RNG to stay alive, but HLE slammed the door shut. Fnatic put up the best fight anyone could’ve asked for, and they kept the game even, but Chovy had one of his “I am better than everyone and I know it” type of games. The final game of the day saw HLE pull off an upset by destroying RNG. Everyone showed up as they qualified for the knockout round, and a tiebreaker for 1st place with a rematch against the MSI champions. It would be a hard-fought match, but HLE finally ran out of steam. HLE couldn’t push their early lead and RNG would win the day with superior teamfighting.
What to watch for: These two teams met in the Regional Gauntlet only a little over 2 months ago. There, T1 took the series after HLE almost came back and took it to the full 5 games. The most noteworthy matchup in that series and the same one here is in the mid lane. Faker vs Chovy. The most successful player of all time against one of the fastest rising talents in the LCK. Both these players are the stars of their squads, but in different ways.
Faker is the lifeblood of T1. His experience in the biggest moments is almost unmatched. Even when his stats aren’t the best, he will always make plays for his team around the map.
Meanwhile, Chovy is the 1v9 machine. Even when HLE were at their lowest, Chovy could always be counted on to pull the team out of bad situations. His mechanics, and especially his laning are transcendent. Although his mechanics in fights and game sense are still great, his ability to farm well is almost legendary at this point. He has a +18.3 CSD@10. At this point, some fans are wondering if extra minions spawn just for him. He always manages to find more than his opponent.
The other big matchup to watch is the bot lane. Gumayusi/Keria vs Deft/Vsta. Gumayusi and Keria are absolutely showing up at Worlds. Despite having little international experience, they are making a case for themselves as one of the best bot lanes in the tournament. They stomped out Viper and Meiko in the rematch. That is no easy feat. Meanwhile, Deft is the other star of the show for Hanwha Life. He is tied for the most kills of any ADC in the tournament, tops the ADC’s in CSD@10 16.1, and is a major carry in the teamfights on champions like Aphelios. It is sure to be a star-studded match in those two positions.
Prediction: T1 3-1 Despite the teams having individuals matching each other blow for blow, T1 have the edge in individual firepower, and teamwork. Despite T1 being a bit notorious for bad decision-making being their downfall in the regular season and playoffs, they have cleaned up that aspect in a massive way. HLE haven’t really done the same. They have left a lot to be desired in their defeats. Deft not building 60% crit before IE and not capitalizing on the early lead in the tiebreaker are the biggest examples.
Meanwhile, as far as skill is concerned, the reason the top and jungle matchups weren’t really touched on are because they should swing heavily in T1’s favor. Oner came into the tournament with a little bit of a reputation for being feast or famine. He has been feasting on the entirety of group B so far with little resistance. Canna, meanwhile, despite only making his first ever international experience is stepping up in a massive way in the top lane. He has been on fire on Kennen and Jayce.
As for HLE, there is a reason people don’t like to talk about the top side that much. Despite having plenty of opportunities to show up, Willer and Morgan have been hit-or-miss at the best of times. There were plenty of times both in domestic play, and at this tournament where those two have made it much harder on the key members of HLE to carry them when they have a poor game.
Hanwha Life may be able to take a game off T1 thanks to some stand-out individual performances, but T1 just have too much star power, and play too well as a team for this to end any other way.
Match 2: (#1C)
(LPL #3) vs (LPL#1)
How they got here: Neither of these two teams, nor the league they represent have had the best of endings to the group stage. Royal Never Give Up suffered a massive upset loss to a winless Fnatic to start the 2nd round robin. They did turn it around by beating PCS rep PSG Talon to at least garuntee a spot in the knockouts, but lost in a stomp to Hanwha Life to force a tiebreaker. Even then, they almost lost it going down early and had to fight back from a 6.1k gold defecit at one point. Fortunatley for them, their resilance paid off and they stalled it out long enough for their teamfight comp to come online with big AoE ultimates like Kennen, Galio, Miss Fortune, and Rell. They would win eventually, but it was far from the one-sided stomping of the group people expected when the opponents were revealed.
Edward Gaming meanwhile, embraced traditon by completely fumbling it in the key moments of the group stage despite the hype. A crushing victory against LJL rep Dentonation FocusMe (who were just happy to be there) was the only highlight of the day. T1 would decimate them in an under 26 minute victory. The true low point was getting stomped by an already eliminated 100 Thieves. The NA 1st seed had nothing but pride to play for and looked completely lifeless in the previous games, but EDG choked at the worst possible moment to hand the group over to T1 and fall into 2nd place at 4-2.
What to watch for: It’s an LPL civil war in the quaterfinals, and one that has a lot of storylines surrounding it for a variety of reasons. Not only are EDG and RNG the two winningest teams in the LPL, the only two LPL teams to win multiple titles, and the two have been major rivals for years, this match is special for another reason. Despite the streak of dominance in the regular season, thanks to RNG bombing out of playoffs in the 3rd round via the LNG miracle run RNG and EDG didn’t get to play eachother in the LPL Summer Playoffs. A best-of-5 between two of China’s best never even happened.
Now that it’s finally here, it feels like a battle between two teams that really haven’t lived up to the hype. EDG were expected to be tournament favorites alongside their LPL brethren FPX and defending champion Damwon KIA. Yet they got upended again in the group stage, just like so many years prior. Meanwhile, RNG despite making it out in first place, it was anything but clean. They had to go to tiebreakers with HLE, even in victories, they had moments where everything fell apart. These are two teams not only fighting to regain the glory the once had, but to become the last hope of a region suffering an incredible collapse.
Coming into Worlds, the LPL had 2 teams as tournament favorites, 1 as a dark horse, and 1 with a very real possibility of getting out of groups as a 4th seed. The LPL went a combined 4-11 in week 2. 2-3 against the LCK, and 0-8 against the LCS and LEC. Two teams didn’t even make it out, including the much hyped up FPX. And now their only two representatives are going to knock one another out in the quarterfinals.
As for individual matchups, the one to look out for is in the bot lane. Viper and Meiko vs GALA and Ming. The RNG bot lane is still riding the wave of MSI 2021 and haven’t really missed a beat since then. Despite RNG’s less than stellar week 2, GALA in particular could almost always be counted on to be a consistent force of damage. Viper meanwhile was hyped up to be the best ADC in the tournament with Meiko being a major threat in the support position. While they certainly lived up to the reputation in week 1, Viper even going deathless 4 games. They didn’t really live up to it in week 2. Meiko looked extremely uncomfortable on Lulu and Yuumi. They will have to return to form if they want to beat their old rivals.
Prediction: EDG 3-2. This is probably the hardest match to call. It could really swing either way. EDG have never made it further than quarterfinals despite all the hype surrounding them every year while RNG have been the more successful international team, and got 1st in their group. Despite history pointing RNG’s way, and them having a very real shot at winning if key players like Xiaohu come out swinging, I mostly give the edge to EDG for two reasons. One: I am still not sold on Cryin in the mid lane, and few are. His stats aren’t anything spectacular, and he almost lives and dies by the Twisted Fate pick. He practically one-tricked it all throughout group stage and looked significantly worse on anything else. He has been the weak point of RNG all year and I have full faith in Scout and EDG to exploit it relentlessly.
The second reason is that EDG have been up against stiffer competition. Edward Gaming have had to slug it out with a T1 that has been ramping it up over the tournament and a 100 Thieves that finally turned it on in the last game of the tournament. Meanwhile, RNG had to fight tooth and nail with a Fnatic self-destructing due to factors both in and out of their control, an HLE with some very clear weaknesses RNG should’ve been able to exploit, and a PSG Talon that lost its luster by losing to BYG in the playoffs and looked much better with their emergency landed sub (Doggo) than their actual ADC.
Match 3: (#1A)
(LCK #1) vs (LEC #1)
How they got here: These two teams could not have had more different paths to the knockout stage. Damwon KIA have spent the tournament showing the dominance in almost every position that they were known for in 2020. What was expected to be a close match between two of the top teams in the tournament quickly turned into two one-sided massacres in DK's favor. FPX never really stood a chance in either game as Damwon would always be one step ahead. Surprisingly enough, their biggest competition in the group would come from the west. Rogue put up a good fight in the rematch, even taking the gold lead at one point, but Damwon simply swatted them aside in the fights when it mattered most, even getting Khan his 3rd ever pentakill in professional play. While Cloud 9 would take them to the brink, DK would edge them out in a fight to the finish to become the only team at Worlds 2021 to finish the group stage 6-0.
Meanwhile, MAD Lions road to the knockout round has been anything but easy. After ending the first round robin at a disappointing 1-2, MAD Lions would continue the trend by dropping the first match of the day (and a critical one) to Gen. G, off of a baron play that went horribly wrong. At 1-3 any loss would eliminate them and even if they won out, they would still need help. Fortunately for the LEC faithful, the champions and last hope of Europe finally kicked it into high gear. A few key mistakes from Team Liquid and some beautiful teamfighting from Armut, Carzzy, and Kaiser would keep their hopes alive. Thanks to some help from TL, MAD Lions had a must win game against LPL 4th seed LNG Esports to potentially end the day. What followed was a complete decimation of everything LNG held dear. The game was practically over by 3 minutes.
This meant as a result of everything, for the first time in World Championship history, there would be a FOUR-WAY TIE! All 4 teams ended 3-3 and were drawn into a single elimination bracket seeded by game time in victories for the 2 spots.
In one of the best games of the tournament, MAD Lions would secure a knockout berth in a 46-minute bloodbath in the rematch with LNG. MAD Lions won through the same strengths that they have relied on all year. Clutch teamfighting and a stubborn refusal to lie down and die. Even when LNG had them on the ropes, MAD would just hit back even harder. Unfortunately for them, the magic ran out in the seeding match against Gen. G. Though they would fight back from a deficit once again, Gen. G would seal the deal.
What to watch for: I for one, am very excited to see the top lane matchup. Khan is having the tournament of his life. This is his last ride before mandatory military service, and he is going out on a high note. No top laner has been able to stand up to him. He is serving as an incredible carry and looks as unstoppable as the rest of the roster. Meanwhile, Armut has been the one man MAD Lions have counted on throughout the year to bring them back from the brink. MAD Lions are going to need everyone firing on all cylinders if they want to stand a chance and Armut is a key factor in MAD Lions’ massive comebacks.
Prediction: Damwon KIA 3-1 MAD Lions probably really wish they won that seeding match, don't they? It was the difference between facing Cloud 9 and Damwon KIA. Every 2nd seed was hoping and praying they didn't draw DK and the MAD Lions were the ones to pull the short straw.
Any team would have an uphill battle against the defending champions. Damwon KIA are simply too good right now. While MAD Lions did take 2 games in their best-of-5 at MSI, and MAD have stepped up in a major way over the course of the tournament, Damwon KIA have run over almost every opponent so far and shouldn't stop now. If any 2nd seed was going to upset them, it would probably be MAD Lions with there ability to beat the odds, but Damwon's individual skill, game sense, and performance under pressure makes it impossible to bet against them until given significant evidence otherwise.
Match 4: (#1D)
(LCK #2) vs (LCS #3)
How they got here: Both of these teams have had a perilous path to the knockout rounds to say the least. Gen. G were a member of the incredible 4-way tie mentioned earlier. They started off the day just fine with a win against MAD thanks to a baron throw, but the rest of it would be a disaster. LNG would dominate them in the top lane, putting Burdol in an incredible hole for the entire game. This level of dominance would translate well across the map as LNG would hand them their 2nd loss of the tournament. Even when they subbed Rascal back in, Team Liquid would seal the deal with a hard-fought final game to put Gen. G at 3-3. Thanks to the seeding, the former World Championship winning teammates Ruler and CoreJJ would square off in an elimination match. Thankfully for the South Korean squad, Team Liquid would do what they do best.
Completely drop the ball at the most crucial moment. Alphari's early lead would amount to nothing as BDD's Zoe took TL to the cleaners. Tactical would throw it back to his Spring Split look as he jumped into the enemy with no vision. Gen. G were through, but they had one more match against MAD Lions for the vital #1 seed. Despite MAD's best efforts to come back, Gen. G would get a lead early and put them away late.
Meanwhile, Cloud 9 entered week 2 in a daunting position. 0-3. Lose any game and likely be eliminated without a prayer. Fortunately for NA's only consistent international team, Cloud 9 found their form at the best possible moment. Their game against Rogue was over at level one as the EU 3rd seed completely botched an invade and was heavily punished for it. More surprisingly was their game against FunPlus Phoenix. They almost pulled off the upset last time, but costly errors by Perkz I'm the late game cost them dearly. This time? It was a one-sided beatdown from the word go. FPX never even stood a chance as Blaber was an absolute terror. Their final game against Damwon KIA to get out was unexpectedly hard-fought. Cloud 9 never gave up, but Damwon KIA just got it done in the key fights. Cloud 9 would await the winner of Rogue/FPX to put a North American team in the knockout round for the first time since 2018 (C9, in the group of death. Go figure). What followed was one of the best games of the tournament. Both teams traded kills and map pressure back-and-forth, but Cloud 9 was always one step ahead. Perkz's unrelenting aggression was the X-factor and Larssen couldn’t keep up with it. A final desperate realm warp into the Elder Dragon was punished ruthlessly as Cloud 9 won the battle of the unexpectedly good western teams and clinched a spot in the round of 8. What to watch for: It says a lot that both teams' reactions to their quarterfinals opponent was the same. Complete euphoria. It's no secret that these are the weakest 1st and 2nd seeds left in the tournament. Their records speak for themselves. Gen. G had to go through a 4-way tiebreaker at 3-3 and Cloud 9 had to go through a 3-way tiebreaker at 2-4! Both teams have very clear flaws (Gen. G's slowness and C9's inconsistency) but still have stand out players. The biggest matchup to watch is the one in the mid lane. BDD vs Perkz.
Both players have showed up for their squad when it mattered most. BDD made Icon look like an amateur in the first game, and his Zoe bubbles in the tiebreaker were almost heat seeking. Meanwhile, Perkz was the one to send them to the knockout round with his proactivity. Even after making a bad play, he was never afraid to step up and try to make one. This aggressiveness was what got C9 past Rogue in the tiebreaker, and it is what can get then back to the semifinals for the first time since 2018 and for the 2nd time in NA LoL history.
Prediction: Gen. G 3-2 This is also a matchup that could go either way, much like EDG/RNG. You can quite easily make a case for either team to take the victory. It will all come down to who steps up on the day. The only real reason I am giving a slight advantage to Gen. G isn't because of anything on the rift. On the rift, it is a clear clash in styles that could could easily see Cloud 9's aggression overwhelm Gen. G's patient style. Or Gen. G could outlast C9 and take the key fights.
I am betting on Gen. G because I feel like they are in their comfort zone. The underestimated Gen. G is the deadliest, and it feels like a not insignificant amount of people are writing the LCK 2nd seed before it begins. Perhaps it is because C9 is coming from a group with bigger names, perhaps it is just NA optimism overflowing as hope returns to the region for the first time in 3 years. It just feels too perfect for C9. Just ask Longzhu how writing off Gen. G (then Samsung Galaxy) in 2017 worked out for them. Cloud 9 has a very real shot at making it to the semifinals, but it would be very characteristic of Gen. G to shut them down. This one is probably the match to watch the closest. A match between 2 regions with a lot on the line that could truly swing either way.
The World Championship will resume October 22nd with the 1st best-of-5, South Korea’s T1 vs South Korea’s Hanwha Life Esports starting 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.