Day 4 of Worlds groups wraps up. North America makes history. Everything is in chaos
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 which are happening now, before eventually ending with the finals on November 6th.
Day 4 has wrapped up what even just happened? I don’t even think the diehard fans of the teams that got out drew up the day quite like this. To prevent this from becoming a jumbled mess of repeat logos and headlines, I will be going over each team individually from the top to the bottom. The first team to the escape the group of death is....
Damwon KIA (LCK) 6-0 – Business as usual, but not without surprises.
Damwon KIA are still looking like heavy favorites for the title. With FunPlus Phoenix looking like they might have turned things around, the rematch of champions was a very hyped-up match to start the day. It couldn’t have been further from the truth. Even though they kept it closer for longer, FPX only lasted about as long as they did on day 1. Showmaker continued his deathless streak and Ghost’s Miss Fortune ripped through FPX. They never even gave FPX a chance. Khan handed his replacement his ass on a silver platter. Their next game against Rogue was a very competitive one to start off, but then Ghost’s Draven found a cash-in with an ultimate. From there, Damwon KIA was just one step ahead. Rogue would try to fight back but DK had their number. Khan would even get a pentakill on his Lucian top!
What wasn’t expected was a nail biting fight to the finish with Cloud 9 to end the day. The North American underdogs would give it their best shot, but Showmaker’s Kassadin was just too strong. Canyon’s Lee Sin was also a thing of beauty. 6-0. Nobody is really looking like a weak spot. Khan is having the tournament of his life. It took Showmaker 5 games to die once. Their mechanics, game sense, clutch factor are all almost unmatched. When looking at the likely 2nd seeds, drawing Damwon KIA in quarterfinals feels like a death sentence for any of them. The question coming into the tournament was “can DK match their 2020 dominance after a shakier regular season?”. They have surpassed it. There will be no quarter for anyone unlucky enough to stand between Damwon KIA and a repeat of 2020.
The other team to escape the group of death was…
Cloud 9 (LCS) 3-4 – History made; expectations subverted
Yeah, that isn’t a typo. Cloud 9, despite starting the day 0-3, despite everything that had happened up to this point and only needing to drop a single game to be eliminated, made it out of group A! Cloud 9 began the miracle run with a complete stomping of Rogue. The expected battle for table scraps quickly swung into C9’s favor off of a botched level 1 play from RGE. C9 would make sure to keep Hans Sama’s signature Draven pick behind with constant jungle attention from Blaber’s Lilla. Perkz’s Irelia would destroy Larssen’s Ryze while Vulcan couldn’t miss on Leona engages. Rogue looked completely outmatched while C9 played their best game of the tournament. There would be no weak links, no strange, disconnected plays. Only a one-sided beatdown of their opponents. C9 cruised their way to a 25-minute victory and 1-3 in the group. Although a minor upset, it wasn’t anything special, coming in, people expected Rogue and C9 to split games or even for C9 to take both. It was only a novelty, not a sign of things to come.
Then they beat FunPlus Phoenix
It wasn’t even close. Perkz would stare down the team that denied him a Summoner’s Cup two years ago and walk all over them. Blaber could not be contained on Xin Zhao. He was anywhere Cloud 9 needed him to be. Bot lane grabbing first blood, mid lane getting a triple kill in an early skirmish to put Cloud 9 massively ahead at 5 minutes, the neutral objectives, which Tian wouldn’t even get one all game, he was everywhere. Fudge made a world champion top laner look like an amateur as Fudge went 7/0/5 with a 2.8k gold lead over Nuguri. The bot lane was aggressive and making great plays left and right. They beat a tournament favorite 1 minute quicker than they beat Rogue.
Thanks to some support from the EU 3rd seed, Cloud 9 had their destiny in their own hands. A win against Damwon KIA would advance them through with no complications. Lose, and be the final opponent of a 3-way tiebreaker. Cloud 9 gave DK the closest fight of anyone in the tournament. The gold deficit was never more than 2.5k for 30 minutes, C9 even holding a lead at some points. Fudge’s Kennen almost gave Damwon their first loss, but Showmaker’s Kassadin was simply too strong for anyone to handle. If Cloud 9 wanted to do the unthinkable, they would have to do the impossible. Win a tiebreaker as a team from the LCS.
Before this game, the LCS was 2-8 in tiebreakers, their only wins coming from play-ins. Cloud 9 was 0-4 in tiebreaker games, even having lost one earlier in the tournament to DFM. Their final opponent Rogue was from the LEC, who were 10-3 in tiebreakers and had never lost one that would eliminate them. C9 were the favorites, but there was so much history hanging over the match. NA vs EU in a match nobody even expected to happen.
It would live up to the hype. In front of 1.65 million viewers, a 54-minute back-and-forth struggle would play out. Both teams seemed equally matched. C9 made sure to pinch Hans Sama’s champion pool so heavily he was all but forced on a utility pick, Jhin. Neither team wanted to be the one to make the play that lost them the game. Or more accurately, 9 players were playing not to lose, and one man walked onto the rift with unmatched confidence.
Luka “Perkz” Perković played with absolutely no fear. Even with all the magnifying glasses on him for being the superstar who was supposed to take C9 to new heights. Even when he would make a really questionable play (distorting back into his death for no reason, getting caught out in mid to give RGE a shot). He never lost the aggression that made him so famous.
It would pay off in a massive way. Finding a flank onto Hans Sama to chunk him out, stopping him from picking off C9 members from a distance. Catching out Odoamne seconds before Infernal Soul allowing C9 to take it with no contest. Even wrecking shop in the final fight to send his new squad forward. He has been receiving criticism all year for any number of things. Some justified, some insane. He’s been mocked for saying he came here to conquer NA only to finish 3rd in Spring, he’s been mocked for some of the questionable plays, whenever C9 loses, he is the biggest target just from the name value.
He would bring the region glory it hasn’t seen since 2018, against their most vocal rival region, and make history by finally winning C9 a tiebreaker, and getting the Cloud 9 out of the group of death.
With all of the praise around Perkz, it is important to highlight the many other members of C9’s success.
Fudge went from a major region rookie who had calls for his head as early as the Lock-in Tournament, to completely outmatching Odoamne at every turn and giving Rogue even more reason to hate and fear Wukong. Blaber went from seemingly never being able to shake off the scuttle crab jokes, to landing the crucial Lee Sin kick onto Hans Sama to get C9 the first Baron and start swinging the game fully in C9’s favor. Zven’s most notable moment in NA before this was getting caught out in the 2019 Spring Finals on TSM to lose the series. He kept Hans Sama quiet this game, beat him convincingly in the first game, and he slammed Lwx to get them to tiebreakers in the first place. Vulcan has been one of the most talked up NA young talents, and he finally has international success to be proud of. The entire coaching staff of C9 deserve praise for shutting Rogue down in draft by forcing Larssen back onto Ryze and making sure Hans Sama had almost no way to carry the game. Founder & CEO Jack Etienne took a massive risk spending 11 million dollars to buy out Perkz from G2 and it paid off in ways people couldn’t have even imagined.
Cloud 9 has been the pride and joy of the LCS internationally ever since they were the only team to consistently make it out of groups. They truly cemented that status when they got out of the group of death in 2018 (with almost the EXACT. SAME. CIRCUMSTANCES: defending Korean World Champion, powerhouse LPL team, iffy EU team. Only difference was the LPL team collapsed this time), and they only reinforced it with the miracle run of a lifetime. I said back in the play-in stage that Cloud 9 had to get out of this group or all they will be remembered for is losing to DFM. I gave them little shot of doing so. They proved me wrong and passed the test in the most unexpected way possible.
Unfortunately, there had to be teams on the receiving end of the miracle run. The more successful one was…
Rogue (LEC) 3-5 – A bittersweet sendoff and an uncertain future.
If I looked at only the first two games, this writeup would’ve been far more scathing and my only advice for Rogue would’ve been to nuke the roster. Their game against Cloud 9 to start the day (the one team they were actually expected to beat) was absolutely horrid. In a group of death with one “guaranteed” victory before having to tackle the seemingly insurmountable task of beating 2 tournament favorites, Rogue decided to coinflip all their hopes on a level 1 play. It did not work out, and Cloud 9 basically won the game off it alone. Even if that play didn’t happen, there were still massive flaws with the drafting and play. Trymbi had a miserable time on Braum the last time they picked it, and I don’t think it really suits his style (He prefers engage supports like Rakan and Leona). Yet they defaulted to it again. It went about as well as expected. Larssen looked completely out of his depth against Perkz. He was practically invisible. They were still trying to play through top side while leaving Hans Sama to die.
Their game against Damwon KIA was a frustrating one. It was far more competitive than anyone ever expected it to be, but the usual offenders were still there. Odoamne picked Jayce and Khan completely ran him over with Canyon’s help. He went 1/5/3, ended 6.4k gold behind his opponent, and Khan’s Lucian was one of the key carries of the game. Trymbi put up another poor performance. His Leona was one of the only forms of engage and he either didn’t land it, or went in with no backup. He looked like he was playing an entirely different game than his teammates. In yet another running trend, Larssen was invisible on Ryze and completely failed to step up when it mattered most. In the game deciding Baron fight, as a 3 item + stopwatch almost 300 cs Ryze (one of the biggest sources of late game magic damage in the game) he dealt 217 damage. The only ones who did less damage was his own support, and Ghost, who was dead. This whole “being invisible” thing was a running trend as he had the lowest DPM of all mid laners at Worlds. Most egregiously from Rogue, Hans Sama had yet another incredible game that was completely wasted. The team was failing him. He had usurped Doggo for title of “biggest 1v9 player at Worlds”.
By the time they came into the final do-or-die game with FPX, Rogue was both considered dead, and looked dead. If you look back at some of the player cams, that was the look of a team that had mentally self-destructed.
So, imagine everyone’s surprise when Rogue out of nowhere, handed FPX their 3rd loss on the day!
It was a hard-fought struggle, but Rogue played their most complete game of the tournament. Everyone finally showed up! Odoamne had a great game on Jayce, reminding everyone just why he was the 1st team All Pro and one of the best top laners in the LEC. He went deathless on Jayce and was one of the biggest threats on Rogue. Inspired busted out the Fiddlesticks again and this time, he actually got to play the game! His ultimates won teamfights almost singlehandedly and he completely ran over Tian. Larssen popped off on LeBlanc against DoinB! He was consistently blowing up members of FPX. Hans Sama was keeping up with a late game Aphelios in teamfights. Trymbi was back in Spring form on Nami, keeping Hans Sama safe and just generally doing more than Crisp.
After Damwon KIA gave them a bit of help, Rogue would be the lowest seed in the 3 way tiebreaker (all teams were 2-4). First up was FPX. It was Rogue with expectations vs current form FPX. The stoppable force vs the movable object. Who would win this duel of the fates (and be seemingly easy prey for C9)?
Or at least, that was how I drew it up.
What I, and many others didn’t expect was a complete and utter decimation of everything FPX held dear. Rogue did the unthinkable and knocked a world champion out of contention in dominating fashion! The game might as well have lasted 20 minutes as a very even game was blown wide open by Larssen surviving a dive long enough for Odoamne’s Kennen to line them up for the rest of Rogue. From there, they never looked back. Inspired made plays on Jarvan IV early and served as a great source of frontline and engage. He ended up going 5/1/13 and secured almost every neutral objective on the map. Larssen had his game of the tournament on Sylas. He went deathless and outmatched DoinB in the key fights. Trymbi picked up a favorite of his in Rakan and looked amazing on him. His engages with W and ultimate were what got Rogue the lead and how they won many of the fights. He was involved in all but 3 of Rogue’s 22 kills.
And Hans Sama? The only consistent member of Rouge? The man himself?
He was a complete monster on Miss Fortune. In laning phase, neither Crisp’s Thresh (which he has a Worlds skin for), nor Lwx’s Jhin could hit him with any skill shots. Even when Trymbi would roam, he would just sit under tower and dodge everything thrown at him while still getting every CS. And in teamfights he was the main carry. He he flashed over a wall and galeforce’d in to kill off 2 retreating members from Odoamne’s ultimate. He ended with a 4.8k gold lead, an 81 CS lead, and went deathless with 26.3% of his team’s damage.
Unfortunately for them, Cloud 9 would prove to be the better team on the day in the tiebreaker. Cloud 9 knew Hans Sama was the main threat and banned his Lucian and Draven, while picking his Miss Fortune for Zven. He was forced onto a pick he had far less carry potential with, Jhin. Inspired also was given Olaf, a champion who he is very familiar with, but can have struggles carrying fights in late game. The game, as noted in the C9 section, was very long and back-and-forth. The teams would trade kills and objectives with each other all game. Rogue’s downfall primarily came from a flaw that has haunted them all year.
They played too scared.
Rogue had very little killing intent. They started the baron only to pull off it twice. C9 took advantage of it the 2nd time to swing the game in their favor and kick off the beginning of the end for Rogue. In fights and when playing the map, it always felt like Rogue were playing not to lose.
Cloud 9 had no such hesitations.
After getting Infernal Soul and Baron off a pick onto Odoamne from Perkz, C9 kept Rogue pinned in their base. With Elder Dragon coming up and only nexus towers remaining, Rogue were forced into a desperation realm warp into C9 territory. Zven would lay down a bullet time, Fudge would disrupt the backline, and Perkz would kill off the frontline. That would be the end of Rouge’s journey at Worlds.
This Worlds has been a mixed bag for Rogue and one that leaves a few questions regarding the long-term future. While losing like that may hurt, and even more so with who they lost to, one must remember that Rogue were never even expected to be a factor in this group. They took down the LPL 2nd seed and a tournament favorite twice! Most of these players are comparatively young, and they were one game away from advancing in the group of death. This is a massive accomplishment and leagues above what they did at Worlds last year. They are definitely better than their 2020 iteration.
My concern is how much did they really improve? And do they have much room to grow?
As you will learn in the FunPlus Phoenix recap, FPX looked nothing like their summer form. They played massively below expectations. How much of Rogue being in a position to get out was their own skill and how much was FPX completely collapsing? They still had massive issues with drafting in the first-round robin and throughout some of the second. They played scared in the tiebreaker. The drafting issues probably cost them the 2021 Spring Finals, and plenty of games at Worlds, and the off the rift issues have been here since 2019 and haven’t gotten fixed.
But it’s not just the coaches who have question marks surrounding them.
Odoamne looked outmatched in most games despite being one of the most veteran players on Rogue, making Worlds semifinals in 2016. Larssen didn’t have much impact in many games. It always felt like it didn’t matter how well he laned because he wouldn’t show up in the key fights or in the clutch moments. Inspired wasn’t always looking like his best self. I can excuse Trymbi as he is a literal rookie. Hans Sama was the only consistently good member of Rogue.
Speaking of off-season, that is my other main concern. With how many questions I had about the players, Rogue has very little flexibility in the offseason. Hans Sama and Odoamne are contracted until 2022, and Trymbi, Inspired, and Larssen are contracted until 2023. While this does mean that other teams are going to have to go through the effort of buying out your talented players contracts, if you are Rogue, you better hope that this core of players can get it done. Otherwise, a painful future of being good, but not good enough is all that awaits you.
The final team of group A not advancing and the odd one out on this sentimental streak is…
FunPlus Phoenix (LPL) 2-5 – The biggest flop in Worlds history
Absolute, massive, historic, complete and utter failure.
That is the only word to describe FunPlus Phoenix’s 2021 World’s run. FPX is a former world champion. Everyone on FPX is a world champion (4 from the original run, Nuguri from Damwon) They were 66-28 (LPL uses b03 for regular season) on the year. They made back-to-back finals. Many of their players were considered some of the best in their position and DoinB was considered the best player in the world along with Showmaker before the tournament. The three most common picks for the title around the world were Damwon KIA, Edward Gaming, and FPX. It wasn’t exactly uncommon for people to rate FPX higher than the team that beat them in finals!
For a team with so many accolades and expectations to perform this badly is mindboggling. The only team that comes even close to this level of failing to live up to expectations is 2015 LGD. And even that roster wasn’t quite as clear a favorite, didn’t have the same history, and was nowhere near as dominant in the regular season.
It wasn’t even like they were overshadowed by some of the best teams or anything, they looked genuinely bad all on their own.
Their matches against Damwon KIA were expected to be must-watch LoL, and FPX barely even showed up for them. Sure, they kept the gold close for most of their 1st game today against them, but Nuguri had died 5 times by 23 minutes. He was all his team’s deaths. Canyon’s Poppy knocked DoinB (their strongest member on Irelia) out of the fight and the rest of DK cleaned it up.
Their rebound game against C9 was a slaughter alright. For the other team. At no point did FPX look even close to C9’s skill level. This was a team they were expected to crush without a second thought and C9 made FPX look like amateurs.
Rogue, a team that looked mentally defeated, and hadn’t picked up a win on the day, actually beat them. It was a close game, but once again they were expected to destroy them. And when it finally came time to show up in the tiebraker?
Rogue ran away with the lead by the 20-minute mark. A team people had written a eulogy for when the group was drawn knocked them out in convincing fashion.
It wasn’t even one player in particular not pulling their weight it was everyone! Nuguri posted a 0.82 KDA on the day and completely crumbled under pressure in the biggest games. Tian was a complete liability in almost every loss and even one of their victories. DoinB had the 4th lowest KDA, 2nd worst GD, XPD and CSD@10, and the 3rd worst DPM of all mid laners at Worlds. Remember that he is contesting a Fnatic that is currently imploding and Detonation FocusMe for those statistics. Lwx had the highest deaths, 3rd lowest KDA, and lowest KDA of ADCs. Crisp was nowhere near the support god he was in the regular season and playoffs. The coaching staff didn’t have the best read on the meta. The team looked entirely disconnected from each other. At some points it looked like FPX had the comparative communication of a solo queue team.
This was supposed to be one of the most elite teams in the LPL and they got destroyed by teams from leagues that went a combined 0-6 on Wednesday. This performance is completely unacceptable by any metric. They looked absolutely nothing like their former selves, and I really don’t know what you do or where you go from here if you are FPX. All I can say is good luck. And make sure this never happens again.
The World Championship will continue October 15th with the conclusion of Group B, 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