Day 5 of Worlds groups wraps up. A rather predictable day with one big surprise.
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 5 has wrapped up, and it was a mixed bag. The 2 qualifying teams were decided by game 2 but there was a bit of spice in how the rest played out. Notably, all 4 teams honored a different Worlds time-honored tradition. 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 make it out of Group B was…
T1 (LCK) 5-1 – Everyone ramps up at the best possible moment.
Despite the stiff competition for the top spot, T1 cruised their way to a 3-0 day and first place in the group, being the 2nd LCK team to top a group this tournament. Thus, upholding the narrative of the LCK being dominant in group stage and that T1 always ramps up over the course of a tournament.
It all started with a clean victory against 100 Thieves that clinched them and EDG a spot in the knockout round. It was a story the World has seen a million times in Korea vs NA matchups. The LCK team outmatches the LCS squad while their opponents do nothing and wait to die. 100T would draft a composition with massive teamfight ultimate engages, and then just never actually try to fight. T1 certainly weren’t complaining about 100T’s lack of proactivity, as it allowed the individual members of T1 to shine. Oner and Faker would roam around the map early to make plays, Canna had a great game on Jayce. Gumayusi served as late game insurance (that they didn’t really need), while Keria’s Thresh hooks would be vital as the helped secure 7 out 8 of T1’s total kills. While the game wasn’t explosive, there was never a point where T1 really looked threatened.
Their match against EDG was the most surprising thing of the day. Last time they met, EDG was consistently a step ahead and the game was quite one-sided for a match between two top teams. This time, T1 would be the ones to take the game in dominant fashion. The draft certainly helped as Jiejie’s Talon had a miserable experience against Oner’s Poppy (who could cancel his dashes), Faker’s Twisted Fate (who could point-and-click stun him), and Keria’s Lulu (who could shield his targets and shut him down when he tried to go in). The game was practically unplayable for him. Canna’s Kennen was as good as ever. His ultimates secured picks and won the crucial teamfights. Faker’s TF was there for the Destiny’s and gold cards. Gumayusi was massive on Aphelios, nobody on EDG could outdamage or kill him. And Keria kept the key carries safe as T1 marched their way to a 25-minute victory. All EDG got was 1 kill and 2 towers.
Their final match against Detonation FocusMe was about as standard as a major vs minor region game gets. Even with Aria showing his skills by solo-killing Faker, and busting out the surprise Shaco pick for Steal, T1 got a big gold lead early anyway. By the time it actually came time for the deciding fights, even with an even kill score, T1 were 6k gold ahead. Oner would find a 4-man Qiyana ultimate to stop DFM from challenging for the Baron and the rest of T1 wiped DFM from the map. The game really wasn’t close, and thanks to some help from 100 Thieves in the final game of the day, T1 made it out in first place without any need for tiebreaker.
Not only do T1 get to dodge fellow LCK giant Damwon KIA, T1 look significantly better than any of the projected 2nd seeds they’ll play. I would pick them against C9 any day of the week, as this squad is not one to crumble under pressure or look past an opponent. Whether it’s PSG Talon or Hanwha Life, T1 would be a pretty big favorite either way. I don’t think the team who comes out of group D in 2nd has a shot against them (maybe LNG, but I see them finishing 1st). MAD Lions have been underwhelming, they’ve already beaten Gen. G in a bo5, and I really don’t see how TL takes down this team. I wouldn’t go so far as to say they are favorites for the Summoner’s Cup, but many of the flaws people thought would stop T1 from hoisting it (bad drafts, poor communication and decision making, and inconsistency) haven’t really shown themselves. T1 are playing their best League of Legends of the year and with how much star power they have, it might just be enough to win it all at this rate.
The second team advancing from Group B is…
Edward Gaming (LPL) 4-2 – Practically Tradition
For those of you who are surprised Edward Gaming blew the group lead in agonizing fashion as the LPL’s 1st seed, welcome to Worlds! You must be new here.
For those of you who believed this iteration of EDG was different with the amount of firepower and smart play, and still picked them to get out in first despite the reputation and history, welcome to the Club! I made us t-shirts.
It all started out fine. EDG had DFM dead to rights before they even stepped onto the Rift. While Evi would grab Poppy top lane to try and shut down Jiejie’s Talon, EDG still found more powerpicks. Scout’s Lissandra was a textbook counterpick to Aria’s Leblanc, DFM’s main point of power throughout the tournament would be shut down at almost every turn. Viper was put on a powerful ADC in Miss Fortune, Meiko got an engage support, Rakan, and Flandre got his Jayce. It was, much like the T1 game, textbook major vs minor region. This time, DFM wouldn’t even get the courtesy of a few early kills, it was complete stomping from start to finish.
The rest of the day would not go so well. Throwing it back to 2014, 2015, and 2017, EDG would have absolutely no answers for a top Korean team. T1 completely ran them over. Flandre’s Jayce would get nothing done. Jiejie had no options to play the game on Talon. To his credit, Scout got the only kill EDG would get in the entire game, but Faker did so much more than he did. Viper would die for the first time in the tournament, and his opponent Gumayusi would be a main factor to T1’s success. Meiko’s Yuumi was not keeping people alive. The game wasn’t close. EDG looked like they didn’t know how to play from behind. While this was a flaw people noticed in the regular season, I (along with others) thought they scrubbed that flaw with the comeback in finals. It came back in full force here as EDG would lose to their old international rivals to put the overall series match record at 2-6 in T1’s favor.
With a loss to their main rival for 1st place and only a cupcake game left in a 100 Thieves that looked completely lifeless, fans were waiting for EDG to turn it around in a tiebreaker game after a quick warmup game.
The tiebreaker would never come. EDG decided to honor the Worlds runs of 2016 and 2018 by losing a game to a team they had no right losing to to throw away the #1 spot. It bears emphasizing, 100 Thieves were eliminated after their first game and had to go down to the wire against Detonation FocusMe. They had to wait for DFM to throw the game before finally pulling off the win. This match against EDG shouldn’t have even been a game. The LPL champions should have completely run them over. And yet when it came time to show up, EDG dropped the ball. Viper was deathless coming into the day. He died 6 times this game while not even picking up a single kill. Meiko looked very uncomfortable on the Lulu. He also died 5 times and was nowhere near as effective as he usually was, or his opponent Huhi. Scout was decent, but Abbedagge was better. Jiejie looked completely outmatched on Xin Zhao against Closer’s Viego. Flandre was the only member who ended with a gold lead over their counterpart, and even then, Ssumday’s Kennen was the deciding factor in the teamfights while his Graves couldn’t do much. 100T beat EDG at their own game and made the LPL look bad while doing this.
This is the 2nd straight LPL representative who was hyped up massive amounts before the tournament only to collapse on the final day. Fortunately for them, their collapse was nowhere near as bad as FPX, but it is a worrying sign that after all these years and different roster iterations, EDG still can’t play a complete 6 games. That difference in placements is bigger than you might think. Instead of hoping to play a PSG or C9 that are happy they even made it this far. It is entirely possible for them to draw Damwon KIA in the quarterfinals now. And considering EDG’s track record of never making it further than quarterfinals, I both fully expect this to happen, and do not like their chances against them. Not if they play like they did today.
The first team eliminated from Group B was…
100 Thieves (LEC) 3-3 – A tale of two teams.
Despite only winning their first LCS title this year, this only being their 2nd Worlds appearance ever, and only being in the LCS since 2018 unlike the rest of the NA reps, 100 Thieves read up on LCS history well. They chose to retell the same story many other NA teams have over the years. Come out completely flat and lifeless only to turn it on in a massive way when it is far too late.
100 Thieves’ game against T1 was one for their tournament lives. If they win there, they have a shot at making it out. Lose, and the rest of the day does not matter. You would expect them to come out with fire like C9 right? Instead, 100 Thieves played one of the most scared, gutless, and soulless games I have seen in a while. Yes, NA failure at international events is nothing new. Yes, Closer had Visa issues that hampered the team’s ability to practice. Yes, few gave 100 Thieves a shot at getting out of the group.
But it looked like they didn’t even TRY.
They drafted a composition with a ton of teamfight combos and “go buttons”, Malphite, Orianna, Leona. Tons of layered CC, Lee Sin for playmaking, and Ezreal for damage. Nobody tried to start a fight. They just sat there and took T1’s poke for free. They did nothing proactive in the most important game of the tournament and looked like they had already booked the plane tickets home. Ssumday’s Malphite, which was supposed to be a primary source of engage, pressed his ultimate button twice all game. Only 31 minutes later, 100 Thieves were eliminated from Worlds and had nothing to show for it. Even worse, this game going the way it did had the side effect of making the final 4 games completely worthless in terms of elimination. You could have (and quite a few did) just tuned out of the other 4 matches and missed nothing important.
Their game against DFM with pride on the line and to avoid ultimate embarrassment, was, somehow even worse. 100 Thieves were losing to a minor region as a 1st seed for almost 99% of the game. Almost every position was being dominated by DFM, the LJL squad was in prime position, and it was only thanks to a hero play from Huhi’s Alistar and some massive throws from DFM that can be chalked up to nerves and inexperience at the highest level that 100T pulled out the win in a 49-minute game. FBI got melted by Yutapon’s MF ultimate with stopwatch up twice. Aria had Abbedagge’s number the entire game. The main change that took 100 Thieves to a championship was completely outmatched by the LJL superstar. 100T may have picked up the win, but it was not pretty, and it was more DFM losing it than anything else. DFM probably deserved the win, and I would hand a loss to both teams if I could.
So it’s an uninspiring 1-5 finish that requires heads to roll and people to be fired right?
Nope. In the final game of the day, against all expectations, with nothing to play for, 100 Theives played their best game of the tournament and pulled a win out of nowhere against LPL 1st seed Edward Gaming to deny them a tiebreaker for 1st. Where was this team the whole time? They played with fire, aggression, confidence. Everything the other 5 games lacked. They completely dominated EDG at all points of the game and through every position. Ssumday was known for playing bruisers in the top lane this year. He busted out his first Kennen pick of the year, and wrecked shop on it. He was the one who found the key flank to secure the victory and was just as on fire the rest of the game. Closer finally looked like his final’s self again on Viego. He made plays early and carried late. Abbedagge finally had a great game against a top mid laner. FBI and Huhi completely stomped one of the best bot lanes in the World! The EDG bot lane went a combined 0/11/3 and EDG never even looked competitive.
Now I’m just left with even more questions. Where was all of this confidence and aggression when it actually mattered? Which form is more indicative of 100T’s true level? If they play like this for all 6 games, do they actually make it out? Why did they go from looking dead on arrival to a bunch of world beaters in the span of one game when they had already been eliminated? How do they make sure they maintain their form from the last game and don’t regress to their former level of play? Those will be questions 100 Thieves will have to answer in the offseason. Regardless, at least they can exit on a high note. Even if the ending leaves me more frustrated than anything, there is no doubt about it that this has been the best year for 100 Thieves’ LCS team so far, and there might be something special next year if they build off this.
The final team of group B not advancing is…
Detonation FocusMe (LJL) 0-6 – Much to be proud of, much to look forward to.
I said DFM could still hold their heads high and fly home proud even if they don’t take a single game in group stage after they beat C9.
After their group stage run, I (and many others) still stand by this statement.
Despite the record, DFM showed some real promise on the international stage. The games themselves weren’t close overall, but they had their moments. Aria in particular matched up surprisingly well to some of the best mid laners in the world. Even when the game was a complete stomp, he was usually the lone bright spot. DFM even held a lead against EDG and almost pulled off a win against 100 Thieves! Sure, they lost it on a colossal throw by giving up ocean soul, but that can be attributed to nerves.
The LJL was considered as one of the weakest regions in the LoL ecosystem ever since its inception. No LJL team won a qualifier for international events against the other minor regions when that was a thing, and they were quick and early exits in the play-ins when the tournaments switched formats.
DFM shouldn’t have been anywhere near a group stage, yet they defied all expectations by escaping their play-in group in 1st place over Cloud 9! The same Cloud 9 that went on to escape the group of death! DFM made history by being the first LJL team to ever make it to the main group stage of an international event and that was already one of the biggest achievements the roster could have. They had already succeeded expectations, anything else they got in the group stage was just extra.
Assuming DFM has the finances to hold onto the roster (Aria, already being Korean has a very real possibility of being poached by the LCK), DFM will be back here soon enough. They can take a lot of learning experiences from the tournament and use them to dominate the LJL even harder than they usually do. And when it comes time for the next international tournament (MSI), I would keep a close eye on the LJL to do something special. You made your region proud DFM. Enjoy your time off and the praise from your fans. You’ve certainly earned it.
The World Championship will continue October 16th with the conclusion of Group C, 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