By Edward Brady
The League of Legends World Championship has wrapped u the semifinal round and there are now only 2 teams left standing. The championship match will play out at 5 A.M on October 31st. But before any discussion can be had about that, let’s look at the two matches that brought us here.
The first semifinal between the LEC’s (Europe) G2 Esports and the LCK’s (South Korea) Damwon Gaming was possibly one of the most hyped up matches in competitive League of Legends’ 10-year history. On one side you have G2, the reigning kings of EU. 8-time LEC champions 2019 Spring and summer split champions. 2019 Mid-Season Invitational champions, the first and only European team to do so and the finals were the fastest international best of 5 in League history. 2019 World Championship runner ups. 2020 spring and summer split champions. (MSI was canceled due to covid) The most dominant roster in European League of Legends history.
On the other side you have Damwon. They may have only been around in the LCK since 2019, but after a shaky 2020 spring, they utterly demolished the LCK summer split with a 16-2 match record, only dropping 5 individual games. They claimed the summer title with a curb stomping of DRX that only lasted 100 minutes. They had a grand total of 3 matches all summer that were even remotely competitive, Damwon crushed every other match. Damwon entered Worlds 2020 with possibly the most dominating stats from top 4 region ever.
This was advertised as a match of titans. While the LPL (China) has earned their spot as the best region in the world the LCK and LEC have been fighting for that 2nd spot and to challenge the LPL overlords. This matchup was also quite personal. In almost every interview leading up to and during worlds, when asked what team Damwon wanted to play most, they always answered that they want to face G2 and avenge their previous defeat. On the other hand, G2 appeared to be playing into the trash talk quite nicely, stating that they didn’t really didn’t see Damwon as a rival and that they were just another team they beat on their road to glory. This was supposed to be one of the best matches in League of Legends history, an exciting, bloody back-and-forth battle between true equals.
This, was not what the audience of 2,713,380 (excluding Chinese viewership as it is infamously hard to track and verify) watched. Instead, what occurred was a 3-1 Damwon victory with the 1 making it seem a lot closer than it really was. In game 1 G2 picked a composition that focused on the early stages of the game and needed to get a lot done quickly in order to win… and Damwon won the early game and rapidly accelerated their advantage to an insurmountable level. The final kill score was 6 to 22. The 15-minute pause due to technical difficulties before the game was half as long as the actual game. Game 2 saw Damwon do something unexpected and pick Fiora in the top lane for Nuguri, a champion that was only picked once in the entirety of Worlds 2020. This backfired to put it bluntly, Nuguri ended the game 0/7/1 (kills/deaths/assists). G2 forced Damwon to play to their tempo and it payed off. It looked like we had a series on our hands. Game 3 saw G2 continue their momentum and take control… for all of 3 minutes before a dive onto Damwon’s ADC Ghost saw him get 2 kills and then Damwon just snowballed out of control. Once Damwon has a lead, they do not give it back or let up as G2 found out the hard way. The only things of note for G2 in game 3 was that they put their best player Caps on a champion that did not synergize with the rest of the team comp, and their support Mikyx ended the game 3/9/4. Damwon looked to close things out and become the first Korean team since SKT and Samsung Galaxy in 2017 to make a World final but G2 still had a chance to turn things around, as their ADC Perkz was 22-3 in game 4’s over his entire career. Things were looking Damwon favored but it could still go either way.
Then game 4 actually happened, and what transpired was a literal record setting slaughter in favor of Damwon. At no point in the game did G2 have any semblance of control or even the faintest of hope. Damwon were looking even more on fire than they usually do and G2 looked completely lost, over forcing plays where there just weren’t any to be made and getting caught out of position over and over again. The game lasted 19 minutes the fastest single game in Worlds Championship history. It was a completely one-sided end to a series that honestly didn’t live up to the hype. At least Damwon looked like they were having the time of their lives, with the players spamming Invictus Gaming and Funplus Phoenix emotes (the former beat Caps and Fnatic to win Worlds 2018 while the latter beat G2 to win Worlds 2019) and they even did the same victory celebration G2 did against Gen G last week which involved 4 players picking up their mid laner ShowMaker and pretending to throw him into the (Alternate Reality) Water.
On the other side of the bracket, it was an all LPL semifinal between 1st seed Top Esports, and 3rd seed Suning. This was expected to be a fairly one-sided matchup. Although Suning had shown massive improvements over the course of the tournament and even upset the LPL 2nd seed JD Gaming to get to semis, Top Esports had slightly more experience, (2 players who have been to worlds before, one of them a world champion vs 1) a higher theoretical ceiling, (2 LPL 1st all pro team members and the league MVP vs no all pro players for Suning) a better head to head (Top was 7-1 vs Suning in 2020 before worlds with the only Suning win coming in spring) and a higher level of mental fortitude as they were tilt proof enough to come back and reverse sweep Fnatic in the quarterfinals. That’s not to say Suning was expected to roll over and die, but they were definitely the underdogs, and Top Esports vs Damwon was one of the most predicted finals matchups coming into Worlds. People even cheered that they were on opposite sides of the bracket so we would see this matchup between the best of the best for the highest stakes possible. The other big story line was that Top Esports’ jungler Karsa and Suning’s support SwordArt used to play for the same team. They were both once part of the LMS (Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau) titan Flash Wolves. They are both international veterans with incredible accomplishments. They were the pride of their region before heading for the LPL. They were great teammates, and still are good friends, but only one would move on to the finals. Top Esports were expected to be victorious and Karsa was a huge reason as to why they even pulled of the reverse sweep and made the semis.
However, Suning, in an incredible upset, defied the odds once again.
This was a strange series to say the least. Game 1 saw Top Esports jump out to an early lead in the bot lane, former world champion and 1st team all pro ADC JackeyLove was demolishing Huanfeng, especially worrying for Suning as Huanfeng is their star player and who they played through in their series against JDG. Not all was lost though, the top lane matchup was going unexpectedly well for Suning. While the kill score was back and forth, the objectives were a whole different story. Top Esports was up 3 dragons to 0, the 4th dragon gives a team the dragon soul which in this meta, is almost an instant win condition as it is a powerful bonus that never goes away. However, around the 4th dragon, Suning’s jungler SOFM out-smited Karsa to steal the drake and Suning won the teamfight. What was a 3 drake and 1.7k gold lead for Top Esports turned into 2 dragons, a baron, a 5.4k gold lead and a victory for Suning, all in the span of 5 minutes. Game 2 also saw a comeback victory, one team seemed to transfer their momentum well, jumping out to an early lead and going up three dragons to 0, until, once again, a crucial teamfight around the soul point dragon went the way of the losing team that allowed them back in the game and eventually claim victory. The only differences were that the lead was not as crushing as game 1, and that the names were switched around. Suning was the early aggressor that couldn’t close out while Top Esports came back to tie it up a 1-1.
Game 3 broke the trend of comeback victories as this game was quite back and forth. The fist few minutes saw Suning’s top laner Bin jumped out to an early lead thanks to a few mistakes from 369 and Karsa and with some help of SOFM’s jungle Shen, the first time Shen’s been picked as a jungler all tournament and according to an interview after the game, it was literally the first time SOFM has ever played the pick. He did not practice it at all, and yet he played it so well that it drew a ban the next game. To Top Esports credit, they did manage to mount a comeback as far as kills were concerned and even tied up the dragon count. However, the gold lead was always Suning’s and they broke the trend of 3 dragons being a death sentence and actually got the dragon soul to close out game 3 and take it to match point. Game 4 was another slugfest that saw Suning get a very early lead in the bot lane with Huanfeng and SwordArt wining the 2v2 against JackeyLove and Yuyanjia but Karsa was doing his best to keep Top Esports in the series. Suning had the gold lead, but Top Esports was, once again on soul point. For the third time in 4 games, Suning, the team with no dragons won the teamfight and took the dragon. The game did not immediately end, in fact, the kills still went back and forth with the score being 16-16 going into the final fight. Suning were wining in other ways though, they got the next 3 dragons, and extended the gold lead to enormous proportions. One final teamfight that saw Bin and SOFM (who was on Jarvan IV, a pick that was considered to be not that good in the current meta) run over Top Esports and the hopeful underdogs in Suning pulled off the upset over the LPL juggernaut and one of the de-facto tournament favorite 3-1.
This brings us to our final: Damwon Gaming vs Suning.
If you were to ask a League fan in Spring what to teams would be playing for the 2020 World Championship, I highly doubt they would have responded with, the incredibly inconsistent 4th place LCK team and the 11th place (out of 17) LPL team. This is a final between two teams that have improved immensely as the year has gone on. There are so, so many storylines that could be covered when talking about this final, but in the interest of not making this a 10K word piece, I will cover some of the most important ones.
Damwon are a special team. There is no denying it, this is one of the most dominant teams in League of Legends history. Over the past 37 games, Damwon are 34-3. Suning will have to take as many games as Damwon has dropped in 4 months to win the Summoner's Cup. The only teams who can match up to Damwon’s dominance are 2015 SKT who only dropped a single game all Worlds, and 2014 Samsung White who revolutionized the way teams play competitive league. There has not been a single team who has consistently stood up to Damwon. Those 3 losses can be written off as flukes. They lead the 22 team field in Major lead, Major Deficits, and Gold Difference at 15 minutes, even over Russia’s Unicorns of Love who only lost a single game in summer. Let me reiterate that Damwon were so dominant in South Korea, a region that is commonly considered to be the 2nd best region in the world that they were statistically better than a team that only lost one game all split. Damwon will beat you through top lane, Damwon will beat you through Jungle, they will beat you through mid lane, they will beat you through the 2v2, they will beat you in the early game, the late game, and everything in between.
Damwon will just beat you.
On the other hand, you have Suning, the ultimate underdog story. This team has beaten incredible odds and has shown massive improvements over a very short time span. They went from a mediocre 11th place team in spring, to a 3rd place finish in summer, to winning the regional gauntlet 3-0 over LGD to claim 3rd seed, to getting out of their group in first, to making a World Championship Finals all in under a year, with no changes to the original roster from spring. There was no big move that put them ahead, their players just got that good that fast. Suning have quite possibly one of the most impressive road to finals in World Championship history to recap their story. They beat G2 Esports, 8 time LEC Champions, 2019 World finalists and 2020 Worlds semifinalists twice to make it out in first place in groups. They then beat JD Gaming, 2020 Spring Split champions, 2020 Summer split runner ups, and LPL 2nd seed, who were almost universally considered to be the 3rd best team in the tournament. They beat them convincingly in the quarterfinals. They then took on Top Esports. 2020 Spring runner ups, 2020 summer champions, LPL 1st seed, 1st or 2nd best team in the tournament. It was almost a forgone conclusion that they should make finals. To put into perspective how big of an upset this was, the LoL esports website has a pickem bracket, going into Top vs Suning, the last semifinal, 193 people had perfect pickems (the most people out of any year as this year has been fairly predictable) only 12 people have perfect pickems now. The only team standing in their way of a title is Damwon, the other tournament favorite and a forgone conclusion of making the finals.
This matchup is one of the biggest David vs Goliath stories. In all but one year, every time a Korean team has made the finals, they have won The only year this didn’t happen was 2012, the firs year Korea had a server, when the Taipei Assassins shocked the world by upsetting Azubu Frost 3-1 in the finals. Suning will have to do what they did, to one of the most dominant teams in League of Legends history, with approximately a 3x larger crowd. They carry the hopes of not only the LPL, but also the (now dissolved) LMS, and the VCS (Vietnamese Championship Series), as SwordArt is a household name in the former and as the VCS couldn’t make it to worlds this year due to covid, SOFM is the only Vietnamese player to even make it to worlds this year.
If Damwon win, they will cement themselves as won of the most dominant teams in not only League history, but possibly in all of esports. They will put the LCK back on top, after their 5-year reign of dominance was ended by the LPL in 2018. They will not only redeem themselves for their 2019 quarterfinal exit, which has evidently stuck with them ever since, but they will be the first Korean team to take the title in 3 years. The last 3 World Championship Finals have all ended in decisive 3-0’s, and if Damwon have their way, this year will follow the same formula. 4 of their players were on that 2019 Damwon that came straight from Challengers Korea to Worlds, and the only one that wasn’t was on a team that was relegated to CK and was widely considered to be one of the worst AD Carry’s in Korea. Now, they are 3 games away from etching their names into esports history.
If Suning win. They will cap off the single most impressive tournament run in League of Legends history. They will have upset one of the most dominant teams in all of LoL Esports history. They will have defied all expectations one more time. People were waiting for the magic to run out after their strong start in summer, they were waiting for it to run out in the playoffs, they were waiting for it to run out at worlds, and now people are expecting it to run out against Damwon. If there is any team who can pull of the upset one more time, it is this magical squad of Suning. Even though the LPL has won the past 2 world championships, Suning winning it all this year would be so much more than just that. This is a team of 4 players, who at the start of 2020 were complete nobodies and one veteran from a now defunct region. If this team wins Worlds, not only will they cement the LPL dynasty, but they will also quite possibly be the most impressive LPL representative to ever take home a cup. They have already built up a fanbase just from the improbability of their run, if they win, they will become legends.
It is a battle between 2 young rosters (the oldest player SwordArt is 23). It’s a battle between organizations with very little competitive League of Legends history. It’s a battle between the LPL and LCK, a matchup almost as old as competitive League of Legends itself. Its David vs Goliath. It’s the most dominant team in 2020 vs the team that has surpassed all expectations. It will be a battle in front of the first live crowd since the early spring split. Two teams will enter, their entire season has been building up to this, they carry the hopes and dreams of not only the fans of the team itself but the hopes of the regions they represent. Only one will leave with the 70-pound Summoner’s Cup, and the title of World Champion.
On October 31st at 5 A.M. Central Standard Time, we will have an answer to the one final question.
Which team truly is the best in the world?