NOTE: This was something I was really working hard on right after Worlds 2017 ended but I never got around to finishing it. I think it’s important for me to keep and remind myself of what could have been if I had stuck with it. Can’t possibly hope to recapture the thought process and motivation I had when I originally started writing this, so I won’t attempt to complete it.
It’s been two weeks since the League of Legends World Championship concluded. I have been thinking nonstop of all the games, the crazy upsets, the confidence of individual play and brilliant teamwork it took to complete this month-long journey to crown this year’s champion. It has been nothing short of exceptional.
Through all of this, what made this Worlds better than others, from spectator point of view and a dedicated LoLEsports viewer for years, was the monumental storylines and arcs that developed organically through years of previous play. I’m talking about regional gaps closing of skill, ever closer and ever closer, teams’ failures to overcome high pressure situations and others literally defying all expectations to come back from the brink of elimination. Perhaps the most fun to watch were the rivalry rematches we were able to enjoy again, some with the same results, and others shockingly different.
How can we trace the making of this Worlds adequately–how can we do the players and teams the justice of importing to the audience what this all means?
It all began in 2013.
In North America, the third season of domestic competitive play was coined the League Championship Series (LCS). TeamSoloMid (TSM) had emerged with a dominating show of force at international and domestic tournaments before being relegated to second in summer by Cloud9, who went on to set a record for most consecutive wins in a regular season and made the jump from Challenger series (sort of the minor league to the LCS) to North America’s first seed. TSM and Vulcan, another team that entered LCS from the domestic Challenger series entered the group stages confident that North America was ahead of the meta compared to the eastern regions of China and Korea, and that only Europe would be a real challenge for them based on the fact the players and regions had a longer history of playing each other and also that Europe pioneered the standardized role assignments to lane meta (1 top, 1 jungler, 1 mid laner, and 2 bottom) we still play by today. Despite their assumptions, the Chinese and Korean squads decimated North America with stronger team-based play and macro strategies that crippled individual outplay potential with superior vision control and rotational objective play that choked the map. North America’s hopes were high in the first week of groups, after closing the week with a 3:5 record, the chances of accruing a 50/50 record and forcing tie breakers or taking second in both groups seemed like a possibility. Then, what would become an internet meme was born: North America international performances on the second week of play. This infamous meme/curse/history was demonstrated for the first time in a 1-7 record in the second week of play, with numerous reasons given why the over-confident contenders had been eliminated from entering the bracket stage with their North American champion. Things did not bode well for Cloud9 either, as European Champion Fnatic (FNC) went on to eliminate the boys in blue from contention all together. While C9 and TSM ultimately came up short, their taste for international competition would not be sated with the result. Cloud9 would go on to win smaller international tournaments IEM San Jose and the Battle of the Atlantic in 2014, while TSM was crowned IEM Katowice World Champion (Intel Extreme Masters Season IX
Across the world, in the Esports mecca of South Korea, another legacy was forming. Lee San-hyeok was developing his skills and understanding of the game on a completely new level. Rising to top of the solo queue ladder in South Korea at the age of 17, arguably the best roster acquisition of all time saw Lee joining SK Telecom T1 2 (SKT). Debuting in the Olympus Champions Spring 2013 tournament, Lee, having now adopted the infamous moniker “Faker,” picks up his first kill in his campaign to be the best against opposing veteran CJ Entus Blaze midlaner Ambition. Faker ended the game with a scoreline six kills, seven assists and zero deaths against the tournament favorites. SKT would go on to place third here, and then take first as SK Telecom T1 K in the summer, by now having garnered the acclaim of one of, if not the most famous outplay in League of Legends history. Ambition fared worse, having come second in the spring Olympus tournament to MVP Ozone, a team that would be bought by Samsung Electronics, placed6th in the Summer, and knocked out of their final chance to make it to Worlds in the Korean gauntlet. At the Season 3 World Championship, SKT quickly became the favorites to win it all, and under the leadership of Kkoma, they would. Though SKT won, and went on to have an unprecedented, never replicated undefeated spring split in Korea, the Season 3 world champions would be eliminated from even competing in the Season 4 world championship by the newly named Samsung Ozone, which became Samsung White, the season 4 World Champions. Decimated, devastated, and defeated, SKT was forced to rebuild, retaining only their Jungle Bengi and Midlaner Faker. CJ Entus struggled to regain its early season 3 form, and never quite recovered, Ambition was eventually swapped to the jungle role from mid, and later switched teams to join what had become Samsung Galaxy in 2016.
The first European Dynasty of Fnatic has reigned, briefly replaced by the first super team Elements.
China’s Worlds Contender Uzi fights faker in Worlds Finals, coming short.
fast forward to 2017.
The Final Hour. Fnatic’s reign has been overcome by G2, Fnatic has the best regular season using “animal style” playing around bot lane and lose at rift rivals to NA dynasty TSM who played a mid-centric style “showing EU the way” Fnatic tried to Adapt, G2 and Unicorns of Love rise to the top, G2 wins their 5th final against new challengers, rising red tide of Misfits, a team chasing “the perfect game” https://slingshotesports.com/2017/04/27/misfits-coach-hussain-moosvi-perfect-game/
The Contenders. In China, RNG makes it to finals but the domestic curse of Uzi never winning domestically again becomes true. Suspected World Elite, a team that Knocked out KR team Gamma Bears from IPL5 and went to the final to battle TSM, is supected to be the best CH team with rookie star Mystic at adc. China is known for raising strongest ADCs, and the region is favored in Ardent censor meta
The Weak Link. In North America, TSM returns to former 2016 roster to 3-peat in their region against the new challengers Immortals who almost matched TSM game for game in regular season, carried by a strong bot lane and veteran jungler. Cloud9 goes to worlds through the Gauntlet run once again. TSM hopes to break the NA curse and TSM curse of bombing in groups, talked all year of bringing out a variety of strategies practiced during the regular season at worlds to be more dynamic and adaptable. TSM is playing still mid centric with a strong bot lane in ardent censor meta.
The Favorite. Korea, the SKT super team is forced to play through their playoff gauntlet and rises to the finals, where they play LCK champion Longzhu, featuring a seemingly unstoppable and true super team. Longzhu plays with a dominating top laner that plays carries in a tank meta, a mid laner with one of the best K/D/A scorelines since Faker himself, a veteran Bot Lane that took Gamma bears to IPL5 and challenged SKT last year while on their former team, the ROX Tigers. Their only weakness is their rookie jungle Cubbz who plays a more supportive role to the team. Samsung Galaxy has struggled since meeting SKT at Worlds 2016 finals and staying together to try again, while making it through Spring in poor shape, becomes the 3rd best team in Korea.
The wildcard. Wildcard regions are all but relegated to fail when Vietnamese American kryptonite Gigabyte Marines once again disprove expectations and break out of Play-Ins into groups. In their first international appearance at MSI 2017, they upset TSM and knocked them out from the tournament showing their willingness to take every and any fight and catch opponents off guard. The prevailing theory was that Gigabyte Marines would play upset to whichever group they would land in, but not be true contenders to get out of groups and into the bracket stage.
Gigabyte Marines Challenge Longzhu and Fnatic and Immortals with a variety of unexpected strategies and display a successful defiance of the meta.
Fnatic comes back from 0-3 week 1 as predicted to fail out of groups and gets to bracket stage in miraculous
TSM bombs out of groups 3-4 not showing any of their practiced strategies through the season and Misfits wrestles out of a tie-breaker match exploiting TSM’s early game weakness developed from G2 Weldon’s philosophy
SKT drops a match in groups