Who Do I Root For At Worlds 2021?
The biggest tournament for the biggest esport in the world is reaching its final stages. The League of Legends World Championships known colloquially as “Worlds”, is all finished with groups and now the real drama begins. Everything from this weekend on is now win, or go home. There’s no more week two, no more round robin, only the best on the planet at League in a do-or-die week of top play. But of the 22 teams that began the journey, only 8 remain. So if you are just joining the festivities who should you root for at Worlds 2021?
I Love Powerhouse Teams
Say less, because there’s a clear favorite in the bracket and that’s Korea’s Damwon/Kia. The defending champions from 2020 are head and shoulders above the rest of the competition and proved it in the group stage. They are the only team to go undefeated in their group and in many cases made quick work of their opponents. Damwon dominates their games off the back of the current best player in the world, midlaner Heo “Showmaker” Su. But their jungler Kim “Canyon” Geon-bu had a breakout tournament in the last Worlds. At every position they are world-class and it will be tough (but not impossible) for them to drop a series.
The other top squad is T1. Formerly known as SK Telecom T1, they are the winningest franchise in LoL history with three titles. Their midlaner, Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok, is touted as the greatest player of all time. But it’s their bot lane that’s been showing up. Support Ryu “Keria” Min-Seok and Lee “Gumayusi” Min-hyeok are numbers 2 and 3 in KDA (kill- death-assist) behind Damwon’s Showmaker. T1 only dropped one match in Groups, falling to EDward Gaming. But since that loss T1 went on a tear and solidified themselves as one of the top teams in the tournament.
If it’s all about picking the strong teams you can’t go wrong with either. Damwon/Kia seems unstoppable and could become only the 2nd team to win back-to-back World titles. The 2nd since Faker’s T1.
What About The Chinese Contenders?
It wouldn’t be Worlds without a cadre of dynamic teams from China. This time around it’s the familiar faces of Royal Never Give Up(RNG) and EDward Gaming. Both teams are looking to avenge the early departure of Fun Plus Phoenix, the 2019 champion, who found themselves eliminated in groups. RNG didn’t look particularly dominant in their group losing two matches including one to the abysmal Fnatic. Even though RNG topped the group, they haven’t had the imperious form that former champions like FPX and Invictus Gaming have had in the past.
On the flipside, EDward Gaming has been the picture of team play. While midlaner, Lee “Scout” Ye-Chan has stood out EDward’s been mostly a consistent “get the job done” kind of team. They’ve only lost matches to T1 and didn’t look particularly troubled by the rest of the group. If there’s a team that’s looking to sneak their way into the semi-finals, this might be the one.
China’s going to have a tough go of it this time around. While both are very good teams, neither look as good as FPX did in 2019. The two teams will have to face each other in the knockout round so it’s anyone’s game. But it will mean that only one Chinese team will remain after the first round.
…A Shot But Aren’t The Favorites
Gen. G. is the bottom of a very talented Korean cohort. Group D was a nail-biter coming down to the final day where all teams were tied with a 3-3 record. A mini-tiebreaker bracket saw Gen. G. come out on top, but they have a lot of work to do. Even though Gwak “Bdd” Bo-Seong’s been a high point, Gen. G. still looks very vulnerable compared to the rest of the Worlds 2021 field.
Gen. G. has the seeding in their favor. If they win next week, they face the winner of RNG/Edward and could set up for an all Korean final.
A Good Underdog Is The Best
Let’s speak plainly. The West is at a major disadvantage at Worlds 2021. Both the North American and European regions have only one team in the knockouts. In the case of NA’s Cloud 9 it was a second week for the ages. At 2-4, they should have effectively been eliminated. But because of the poor form of FPX and Rogue, the stage was set. C9 needed Rogue to beat FPX in a tiebreaker and then needed to beat Rogue. This was after also beating BOTH teams in the second-round robin.
MAD Lions needed a similar run of form to make it out as they beat everyone in the group besides Gen. G. knocking out China’s LNG and NA’s Team Liquid. While they got hot when they needed to, they haven’t convinced many that they could make it out of the next match.
Cloud 9’s path to finals could go through Gen G. and RNG/Edward. All of which are entirely beatable teams for C9. And on the other hand, MAD has the same issue as Hanwa being on the stronger side of the bracket with T1 and Damwon. So like Gen. G they have the “easier” side of Worlds 2021. But unfortunately, they might be the reason why its the “easy” side.
Featured Image: Riot Games/LCK