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Worlds 2022- The LCK’s long road back to the top

Mush 2022-10-19 03:28:27
  In Beijing, 2017, after the Augmented Reality Elder Dragon wowed us all away, two dynasties came to an end: SKT lost a Worlds final for the first time, and the LCK cherished its last year as the most dominant region in the world.  The years that followed, LPL was undeniably on top of the game. Three World titles in 4 years (2018, 2019 and 2021). Even the year they lost, the LCK wasn’t the better region, Damwon were just the best team in the World. Now, with quarter-finals right around the corner, the tables have turned. South Korea is the strongest region at Worlds 2022, regardless of who brings the Summoner’s Cup home.   

Worlds 2017- The King is dead, long live the king

  Heading back to that impressive Beijing Stadium, in 2017 we saw the last all-LCK final ever at Worlds. To put in perspective how dominant South-Korea was, from 2015 to 2017 every Worlds came to an end with two LCK teams facing off for the title. In those three Finals, SKT were playing.  5 years ago, all three South-Korean seeds made it out of groups, and all of them were eliminated by another team from their region. Samsung 3-0d Longzhu, the LCK’s first seed and tournament favorites, in Quarters. SKT got rid of RNG in the Semis and then got smashed by Ruler and Ambition in the finals.  South Korea had the talent, the experience, the titles and the glory. But every good story comes to an end.   

Worlds 2018- Unmatched power

  2018 wasn’t the year of LPL dominance that it might seem like in retrospect. This was likely the strangest Worlds in LoL history. The LCK was bad. SKT had a terrible Summer Split, Afreeca were a dubious squad and Geng, the rebranded reigning World Champions looked lost with Ambition already half out of the door.  LPL wasn’t much better. EDG were insisting on building around two Korean imports and, despite having a strong roster on paper, never looked up to par. RNG had one of the craziest rosters anyone could come up with at the time (Letme, Karsa, Xiaohu, Uzi, Ming), but absolutely bombed it at Worlds.  Europe hadn’t found the G2 secret-sauce yet, but Fnatic had a very impressive showing until the Finals came around. The tournament seemed to come down to two teams from the strongest regions: the LCK’s KT Rolster and the LPL’s IG.  Since the Worlds format sucks, we obviously had the best series in the tournament in the Quarter-Finals. IG did lose two BO1s to Fnatic, but they didn’t break a sweat after the match vs KT Rolster. That quarter-finals was the best and closest series in the tournament and essentially decided the winner from the get-go.  The LPL lifted their first Summoner’s Cup and took their first true step in becoming the best region in the world.   

Worlds 2019- The start of the supremacy

  Worlds came to Europe in the most perfect year to do so. Everything seemed scripted, too good to be true. Fnatic had had a great showing in 2018, so G2 just brought Caps into the team and made the sickest roster Europe will ever witness. The Perkz-Caps project brought the first and only MSI win Europe’s had, and everyone was cheering for G2 to win Worlds at “home”. Yet, the LPL had other plans.  This was the first year that the LPL presence at Worlds felt like the LCK dominance of hold. The still-stacked RNG roster managed to bomb out in Groups, but the region still had two strong representatives.  Invictus Gaming weren’t the dominant roster that had just won Worlds the previous year, but they were a fearsome squad nonetheless. They quickly dispatched of Griffin, the most dominant regular split team in the LCK, and were only eliminated by FPX, the other LPL representatives.  LCK remained in their slump. Their three representatives made it out of groups, but didn’t get too far. Both Damwon and T1 were dismantled by G2’s superteam, who had their eyes on the cup. When they met FPX in Paris though, the LPL seemed inevitable.  Two years, two different teams, two Summoner’s Cups heading home to China. The LPL dynasty begins.   

Worlds 2020- The exception that proves the rule

  2020 will always carry an asterisk alongside it. COVID was in full-force and live events were only “lan-lite”, at best. Reykjavik was a good solution created by Riot, but it doesn’t carry the pressure a stadium event in Paris, Beijing or Seoul does. That doesn’t change the fact that the LPL was the scariest region at the tournament, even though they didn’t win the third Worlds in a row for the region.  This was the first year the LPL brought 4 seeds to Worlds. Again, as seems to be tradition for the region at this point, one of their representatives bombed out in Groups. This time, it was LGD. The 4 seed change meant that they still brought 3 teams to the Knockout Stage, though, and this was one of the most egregious bracket-draws we’ve seen so far.  Suning were the third seed in their region, yet they eliminated both the second and first seed coming out of the LPL. TES flew to Reykjavik as the favorites to win the whole thing and JDG and a terrific roster (Zoom, Kanavi, Yagao, Loken, LvMao). Not much different than the one they have now, as they head into Quarters as the strongest team alongside Geng.  These inner-region matchups always skew results in unpredictable ways, and Suning essentially made it easy for Damwon. They disposed of the theoretical strongest opposition, and crumbled when faced with the LCK’s only true contender that year.  Damwon did look unstoppable, but we never saw them face neither TES or JDG in a Bo5. Their strongest opposition in the Knockout Stage was a slumping G2, since both GEN and DRX were very disappointing.  

Worlds 2021- The LPL puts on the crown

  Last year saw the return of Faker and SKT, now T1, to the Worlds stage, again in Reykjavik. The landscape changed considerably between 2017 and 2021 and, although the LCK headed into the tournament as reigning champions, the true region to fear was the LPL.  It seems like history as a way of repeating itself, but things do get worse over time, so two Chinese teams bombed out of Groups. LNG, the LPL’s 4th seed, and FPX, the 2nd seed, were out.. And, yet again, the remaining teams which made it into the Knockout Stage were screwed by the Bracket.  The terrible draw saw EDG and RNG face each other in the first Quarter-final of the tournament. This time, there were no upsets though. The 1st seed secured the win and followed it with two victories over the LCK’s two best teams, leaving no room for doubts.  Worlds The LCK didn’t look as bad this year, to be fair. No one still seemed remotely close to Damwon’s level, but Geng’s superteam was still dangerous. T1's roster went on to absolutely dominate Spring 2022 with a single roster change (-Canna +Zeus). This year though, Damwon did have to face the LPL’s best, and they proved to be too much for the team to bear, especially without Nuguri.  Three World Championships in four years. Three out of four MSI titles (2018, 2021, 2022). The LPL cemented itself as the best region in the World, uncontested. And it headed into Worlds 2022 that way.   

Worlds 2022- The insurrection begins

  The United States has been the stage chosen by the LCK to make their comeback. It’s a fitting one, indeed. Faker began his unmatched dominance in the center of the Madison Square Garden nearly 10 years ago. He isn’t the Unkillable Demon King anymore, but the region has a few candidates in line.  The LPL did come into this tournament as the strongest region in the World, still. Perhaps it still is, but not at Worlds 2022. The four Chinese representatives are all foes to respect, don’t get me wrong, but the LCK didn’t put their eggs into one basket this time.  RNG, JDG, TES and EDG. These are all possible Worlds winners. RNG won MSI just a few months ago. JDG and TES dominated the region and were favorites to win the Summoner’s Cup back in 2020, with similar rosters. EDG are the reigning World Champions and retained their full roster.  The LCK looked like a three region team, but even if that’s the case, it seems like that’s what’s needed, as the LPL have lost yet another team in the Group Stage. As you’ve seen, this has happened every single year they’ve won. But, the LCK didn’t have multiple title contenders when it did happen.  TES are out of the tournament and South-Korea managed to take its four representatives to the Knockout Stage. The almighty RNG gods have blessed us for the first time in ages, and we finally have a good bracket for Worlds.  Worlds EDG have looked beatable and were dominated twice by T1 in Groups. Their bot lane is still insanely good, but Flandre is a liability in this meta. RNG looked better than expected, after barely making it out of the Regional Qualifier, but Geng absolutely destroyed them on the last day of groups.  JDG are insanely strong and might still win the entire thing, but they’re to the LPL what Damwon was to the LCK last year. The last true bastion of hope against the region that has looked strongest.  T1 smurfed during the entire Group Stage. The meta suits them incredibly well, Zeus is fighting for the title of best top laner in the tournament with 369 and Gumayusi hasn’t been as much of a problem. Damwon have had a resurgence and managed to push the LPL’s 1st seed to their limits. DRX surprised everyone with their performance and seem to finally have decided on who their jungler is.  And Geng, oh boy, Geng. No LCK superteam has ever worked. KT Rolster tried it, T1 tried it, and Geng themselves tried it last year. But if you fail, try and try again. This roster is unfair to look at. The sheer amount of talent on display is incredible, the experience on this team is much more than expected and the champion pool of most players is an ocean. They looked shaky in the first round of Groups, but the deciding day showed what they’re truly capable of.   

A war between regions, at last

  This beautiful bracket has finally blessed us with a true regional war to see who’s the most dominant. The teams are almost perfectly split between the brackets and, crucially, JDG and GEN are on opposite sides. Any team that wins this tournament will have to go through an opponent from another region, unless DRX beats EDG and T1 smashes the entire other side of the bracket.  Worlds This is where the real tournament starts, but from what we’ve seen so far, the LCK is for the first time since 2017, the strongest region at Worlds. JDG might still take the title, but they’ll have to work hard for it, perhaps harder than any other team before them.  The bugs do suck, the delays are awful, but this tournament has been an absolute banger. With how good some of these games have been and how lucky we’ve gotten with this bracket— friendly reminder, we wouldn’t have to get lucky if the format was decent — whoever lifts the Summoner’s Cup at the Chase Center will have goddamn earned it.
Images courtesy of Lolesports . If you enjoyed this piece, follow the author on Twitter at @mushwrites. For more League of Legends content, visit our League of Legends hub.
 

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