Road to LoL Worlds Finals- Zeus vs TheShy Preview

Mush 2023-11-17 06:15:05

The Road to LoL Worlds Finals 2023 gets closer and closer to its destination. As we prepare for the most important match of the League of Legends year, we wanted to make a series of articles to get you up to speed on the match-up with Road to Worlds Finals 2023.  In order to achieve this goal, we decided to opt for a different approach than the usual "Match Previews". We'll go over each individual match-up, giving you all the historical context, narratives and stats needed. The closest thing League of Legends has to a duel: Top lane. The most unforgiving role in the game-- especially in the professional realm-- is one with a lot of legendary names. Smeb, Nuguri, Flame, Impact. Players with insane longevity or extremely high peaks, with trophies in their cabinets or their namesake etched into the game's esports lore for posterity. I left one name out intentionally, because you'll have seen it already in the title. Kang "TheShy" Seung-lok was already one of the all time great Top laners in the game before this remarkable run at Worlds 2023. His opponent in this Grand Finals is the young prodigy that still has a lot of prove if he aims to join TheShy in these lists: Choi "Zeus" Woo-je. The Tyrant of the Top Lane versus The God of Thunder.  

A Tyrant's rise and fall

  TheShy rose to glory almost as soon as he became a professional player.  He joined Invictus Gaming when he was only 17 and became one of the first South Korean phenoms to be fully created in the LPL. A little over a year after his debut, he was lifting the Summoner's Cup already at the 2018 World Championship in Incheon, South Korea. His performance at that tournament, alongside his mid laner Rookie, stands as one of the most dominant solo lane showings ever at a League of Legends competition. He was undoubtedly the best top laner in the World and, frankly, one of the best players at that time, in any role. As Duncan "Thorin" Shields pointed out in his 2019 article for Dexerto:
TheShy is too good. His mechanical prowess feels unfair. His outplays look like solo queue highlights, even when they are against the best players in his region and the world and in official competitive matches. Nobody can lane against him.
If you've started following LoL esports in the past few years, this might seem odd to you. Hell, he hasn't even made Worlds since that time, four years ago. He stayed true to Rookie and Invictus Gaming, but the magic never returned. The Tyrant's reign slowly and unceremoniously ended. Nuguri took his mantle in 2020 and 2021, displaying a similarly aggressive playstyle and absurdly high ceiling. Bin kept this legacy going when the 2020 World Champion lost his flame, becoming the hottest prospect coming out of the LPL in these past two years. He is confident and dominant, he doesn't crack under pressure and he doesn't fear anyone.  

TheShyImage via Riot Games

As Christian "IWDominate" Rivera put it in April of this year: "Bin is who Theshy fans think Theshy is.". The Tyrant's crown was getting passed around through this new generation of talents, while his fans reminisced of days of glories past. TheShy turned his back on IG and Rookie, the project that brought him his one and only International title, and decided to try something new at Weibo. This supposed Super Team of veterans and young stars was here to make it big, but as we pointed out in our previous article, things didn't seem to go as planned.
READ: Road to LoL Worlds Finals- Oner vs Weiwei Preview
  Yet, when Weiwei replaced Karsa in Summer, the tides began to change. The team's decent finishes in both Splits allowed them a slot in the Regional Finals, where TheShy eliminated Rookie's TES and upset the favorites EDG, making his return to Worlds after a 3 year hiatus. Expectations weren't high for this roster, let alone for TheShy. His brilliance highs still shone through at times in the LPL, but it was quickly shadowed by his appalling lows. At Worlds 2023, though, The Tyrant is back for his crown. He took it right out of Bin's head and is now ready to fight the title contender.  

How many times can lightning strike?

  Zeus shares the same path that Gumayusi and Oner did. We covered that extensively in the two previous articles of this series. He is a product of the T1 system, caught early and raised for success, like Lionel Messi in Barcelona.
READ: Road to Worlds Finals 2023- Gumayusi vs Light Preview 
When he joined T1's academy team he was only 15 years old. He is now only 19, although it feels like he's been around for a long time. He played his first professional game for T1 in Spring of 2021, when he was splitting time with Canna. Much like Oner and Gumayusi, his position was locked at the beginning of 2022, when T1 went one the most dominant rampage the region has ever seen. Watching Zeus play in Spring of 2022 was inducing me with flashbacks from TheShy's performances in 2018. This young prodigy was playing Jayce and Gnar seemingly every game, and destroying the isolated duels just as often.  

Zeus Image via Riot Games

Yet, he is one of the names that is highlighted the most in T1's crushing losses in finals. He was dismantled by Bin at MSI 2022 and MSI 2023. He's been dominated by Doran multiple times in LCK Finals despite being the better player of the two throughout the last two years. More recently, he got massively outperformed by Kingen in the Finals of Worlds 2022 despite being an overwhelming favorite in that specific lane match-up. Unlike TheShy, Zeus hasn't performed when the stadium spotlights shine on him. His lightning fizzles out and we're left with a harmless player that disappears into Summoner's Rift's grass. But, (there's always a but) Worlds 2023 has been his best international showing yet. To be fair, we've not yet arrived at the stage where T1 have crumbled (6 finals losses in a row), but Zeus had never been this dominant internationally. He has been one of the best players in this T1 roster and he's been facing his demons. He made Bin look like a toothless tiger in Swiss, destroyed the LPL's most recent Top lane phenom in LNG's Zika and, this past weekend, gave 369 a dice with nothing but 3s on it. Is he at long last bringing his lightning to the Grand Finals?   A Top lane Heavyweight bout   On Sunday, we will witness the two best Top laners at Worlds 2023 put it all to the best in front of a packed Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul. Their arsenal is nearly identical, and so is their playstyle. T1's young phenom has played 6 different champions in 12 games:  

ZeusImage via Games of Legends

He is an utter menace on Aatrox and Jayce, and has only needed to go to his long-time favorite Gnar once. The similarities between his and TheShy's picks is obvious.  

TheShyImage via Games of Legends

They both prefer Aatrox above anything else, but TheShy has opted a lot more for the Rumble and K'Sante than Zeus has. As can be seen in the images, they've both pulled off some unconventional picks, to mixed success in both cases. Zeus' Yone and TheShy's Graves were fantastic performances, while Gragas and Quinn, respectively, not so much. These are two confident players at the top of their game with very active early-game junglers. They share a lot of their champion pool and I expect nothing other than an electrifying duel for the entirety of this series. In the left corner: Zeus, the God of Thunder, the two-time, back to back, World Finalist. And in the right corner: TheShy, Tyrant of the Top Lane, former World Champion. Is the Tyrant back and here to stay, or did he only come to pass the torch to our new Top Lane overlord?
Featured image courtesy of Riot Games. If you enjoyed this article, follow the author on X @mushwrites. For more content like this, keep an eye on our LoL page.

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