The First quarterfinal of Worlds wraps up. An all-time classic plays out in front of 3.5 million.
Updated: Nov 1, 2021
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 will take begin on October 11th before eventually ending with the finals on November 6th.
The first semifinal has concluded, and I was very worried this series wasn’t going to live up to the hype. I felt there were too many storylines and too big a chance it would be a complete stomp and disappoint everyone like G2/Damwon last year. I am very pleased to say that this was not the case. This might have just been the best Worlds match since ROX vs SKT. Let’s break it down shall we?
Match 1: (LCK)
TLDR: T1 play an incredible 5 games, but the defending champions are just too good.
Summary: That might have been one of the best series of League of Legends I have seen in a very long time. Everything from the storylines heading in, to the plays on the rift, both individuals and teamplay, the parity and how it could go either way until the very end. This was an all-time classic, I am glad I watched it live, and I highly recommend you watch the replays of the full 5 games yourself.
However, if you were to just look at game 1, you wouldn’t think this would be a competitive series. Although Faker’s Ryze made a great teleport play topside, and T1 would punch back in the early game, Damwon KIA would completely rout T1 in the mid and late game. This itself was not strange, T1 is a very good early game team but sometimes struggles to close it out in the later stages, that early game being shut down was a death sentence. What was odd was how they did it. They did it by playing through the bot side. While they left Khan’s Lucian on an island, Showmaker’s Leblanc and Canyon’s Lee Sin would visit the bot lane to counterpunch. Good fighting and positioning would secure DK the rift herald to shut down any momentum T1 had in the early game. From there, the game was all Damwon KIA. Ghost reminded everyone why he has a Worlds skin for Jhin as he completely outmatched Gumayusi (who was forced off Aphelios), and BeryL’s Maokai support would enable him to carry while shutting T1 out of any chokepoints. Things were looking bad for T1 as their biggest point of power was stymied by DK’s supposed weak point.
Then game 2 happened and T1 would begin to turn this into the must-watch match it was advertised as. More unexpected picks came out as Ghost would grab Draven, while Canna would take Yasuo top. The game would be completely neck and neck. Both teams unwilling to make the single mistake that could cost them the game. Both teams constantly made cross map plays as both sides amassed their own advantages. Ghost cashed in 855 gold with his Draven passive and had the potential to carry the game. But T1 had better playmakers and never gave him the room to work. Keria’s Rakan would find big engages which Canna would follow up on, Oner would dive in and out on Lee Sin, Gumayusi’s Jhin was almost untouchable with how well he was positioning.. And Faker topped it all off on Lissandra. In his 8th year as a pro, he has found a new role as a defensive stopper. He can completely shutdown the key carry of an opposing team while enabling his teammates to shine. He had Showmaker’s number this game. His Leblanc which had only lost once in 11 games was unable to impact teamfights or the map as Faker put all his effort into locking him down. It would pay off in a big way.
Despite that big fight, Damwon KIA would not roll over and die. The game was still on a knife’s edge. The game wouldn’t ever get further than a 3k gold lead for T1. DK would even get a good shot at taking Baron Nashor to swing the game. That was when the 18-year-old rookie, Moon "Oner" Hyeon-joon stepping up in a massive way to all but win T1 the game.
Game 3 saw even more draft adaptations from both sides. Jhin became an incredibly high priority champion as T1 took it with their 1st pick. Showmaker would continue to run the predator Syndra and BeryL would run back the Maokai. T1 would truly turn heads on the last pick. Ziliean support for Keria. The game would be incredibly even in the early game once again. Canna’s Kennen was struggling, but Oner’s Xin Zhao, Faker’s Ryze, and Gumayusi’s Jhin were all becoming threats. Keria’s Ziliean was an incredible pick for this game. Most of Damwon’s damage was frontloaded (Syndra burst, Jarvan/MF combo) and being able to revive someone stopped DK from securing picks that would’ve led to won fights and crucial objectives. The game would be on a knife’s edge for a majority of the game, but a massive play from Keria and Gumayusi would win T1 the crucial fight. From there, Gumayusi and Faker were just too strong, Oner was too tanky, Canna scaled up, and Keria kept everyone safe. Against all odds, T1 took Damwon KIA to match point!
Damwon KIA was not ready to have their dynasty called dead yet and fired back in a massive way in game 4. Canyon got a jungler with agency in Qiyana and Showmaker picked up his Leblanc. Ghost picked up the all-important Jhin, Khan would play weakside on Gragas, and BeryL would get an engage champ in Rakan. They had one game plan coming into the match. Shut Faker down. It worked wonders, aside from a counterkill from Oner after Canyon got first blood in mid lane, all T1 would get were 2 towers. The rest of the game was all DK. Showmaker finally got to impact the map again, and he completely ran over Faker and the rest of T1. By the mid game, he could kill almost anyone on T1 with one combo. Everyone stepped up and was simply better than their T1 counterparts and Showmaker was the biggest part of it. Faker ended the game 0/6/0. Showmaker and the rest of DK never even gave him a chance to play the game. Off of a dominating victory, Damwon KIA would take us to silver scrapes.
This series, which was one of the most hyped-up series of all time, that had so many storylines, was going to a game 5. Both teams were showing up, both playing their best League of Legends they played all year and looking like the top 1 and 2 teams at Worlds. The final draft would see Gumayusi finally get his Aphelios and Faker pick up his most played champion Azir (97 games, 66-31). Canna got his Kennen that he has been so fond of while Oner picked a frontline in Xin Zhao. Keria ran back the Ziliean that worked so well in game 3. For Damwon KIA, poke was the name of the game with Zoe for Showmaker and Ziggs for Ghost. They also had mobile champions with playmaking abilities such as Talon for Canyon and Rakan for BeryL. And Khan got a power pick in Graves.
Much like games 2 and 3, this game would go down to the wire. Both teams were skilled, both had clear win conditions, and neither could deliver the deathblow to the other. DK were slightly ahead but T1 was always in the rearview mirror. There was always the threat of the perfect teamfight that could win T1 the game. But in the end, game 5 could be summed up with two sentences.
T1 played game 5 well. Damwon KIA played game 5 perfectly.
That poke comp worked wonders as they worked to shut down T1’s win conditions. Key Zoe bubbles or Ziggs bombs from Showmaker and Ghost would drop T1’s carries low and lock them out of key areas. No player on T1 could step forward into the darkness without losing 50% of their health if they were lucky. Canyon was everywhere and untouchable on Talon. He made the most impossible of escapes and was always where he needed to be. Despite having a quiet series, Khan played his best game of the day at the most critical moment. And BeryL found key Rakan engage after key Rakan engage. The statement can be best shown at the 30-minute mark. After a long Baron dance, T1 finally found the opportunity to take a Baron. As the game was dead even, this could have been what T1 needed to blow the game open. But then DK responded to it…
And the rest is history. The game would not end there thanks to a good base defense from Keria and Gumayusi, DK would get control of the map. This allowed them to actually get a setup around Elder Dragon, and DK getting time to setup while having a lead is all but a death sentence. Oner couldn’t get the steal, and Damwon KIA would win the fight to end this classic of a series and head to their 2nd straight finals.
This is the end of the road for T1, and a 3rd-4th place finish doesn’t quite do this season justice. By all means, T1 should’ve been nowhere near a Worlds Semifinal, much less taking the defending champs in peak form to 5 games. They had a hectic Spring Split with players swapping around left and right after every game. They got stomped by Gen. G in the playoffs. They dropped their coaching staff in the middle of Summer Split.They had to deal with the death of their COO John Kim. This was a team going through mental and emotional turmoil between the stress of the 10-man roster and the underperformance for 80% of 2021. They only fielded their roster that they took to Worlds for half of summer, and even then Gumayusi was subbed out in the playoffs.
And despite all of that, T1 fought their way to the LCK finals. They got first in their group over Edward Gaming, the champion of the LPL and a tournament favorite. The LPL was looking to be the deepest it ever looked and the LCK was being called a “1 team region”. And T1 defied expectation and beat them anyway. The Hanwha Life that took them to 5 games in the gauntlet was swept aside as an afterthought in quarterfinals. And they gave Damwon KIA one of the best fights of any team all year. This series will go down in Esports history as a classic. It is just unfortunate for T1 that they were on the wrong end of it.
Faker deserves all the credit in the World for finding new ways to impress and stay in the conversation of elite players after 8 years of competitive play. The other 4 members of T1 deserves a ton of credit for making it to Worlds semifinals and giving Damwon KIA such a fight despite being so young. Canna, Oner, and Gumayusi had never been to Worlds before and Keria only made it once when he was a rookie last year. And yet they looked like some of the best players in the tournament. They can all hold their heads high as they fly home and I fully expect them to return to the Worlds stage next year hungry for more.
Godspeed T1. Godspeed.
As for Damwon KIA, what more is there to say that hasn’t been said already? To many, that was the final boss. It was not as crushing a victory as they are used to, and the undefeated dream is dead. But this victory showed the elite level of Damwon in a different way. They showed the ability to adapt on the fly when things went wrong, the mental fortitude to show up in the clutch, and that every player can step up at any given time.
Khan may have had a weaker than usual series, but he knew how to play the role of backup and showed up when it mattered. Ghost and BeryL have fallen by the wayside this season as everyone rants and raves about the top side of the map. They showed up in a massive way with BeryL’s Maokai coming out of nowhere, and Ghost dominating T1’s most hyped-up players in game 1 and making the key Ziggs ultimate to stop the backs and set up Damwon KIA for the fight that sealed the deal.
Showmaker and Canyon are proving themselves as not only the best mid/jungle duo at Worlds, but one of the best of all time. Despite their youth, they continue to make impossible play after impossible play and outperform all that would call themselves challengers. Whether they come from around the world or his own region, Showmaker continues to rise above the competition. And Canyon is entering the conversation as one of the greatest players to ever play his role. He has shaped the jungle metas in massive ways over the past two years and at this rate the only thing stopping people from calling him one of the all-time greats is that he hasn’t been around long enough. His level of play is certainly good enough to qualify. Damwon KIA is hungry for their 2nd title in 3 years. And the future looks bleak for whichever team has to face them in the finals.
The World Championship will continue October 31st with the 2nd semifinal, South Korea’s Gen. G vs China’s Edward Gaming, starting at 7am 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.