Written by Toralar | Originally Posted Nov 9, 2021.
Image Credit: Riot Games
The 2021 League of Legends World Championship has come to a close and once again Cloud 9 is the only NA team that made it past the Group Stage. After weeks of chaotic teamfights, nail-biting baron fights, and superb displays of skill, one team has risen to the top to claim the Worlds trophy. The tournament started in early October with the Play-In Stage, where wildcard teams and the third seeds from the major regions vie for the chance to make into the Group Stage.
The play-in matches are typically quite competitive and fun to watch, although the Chinese and Korean teams tend to rise to the top. This year was no exception, with LNG Esports and Hanwha Life Esports, third seeds from China and Korea respectively, taking first and second place in Group A. LNG finished with a perfect 4-0 record, and Hanwha Life came in at 3-1 behind them. Third place in their group went to PEACE, an Australian team that was formed in 2021.
In Group B, Japanese team DetonatioN FocusMe, also known as DFM, took the first spot with a 4-1 record, beating out LCS team Cloud 9 (C9), as well as teams from Eastern Europe, Taiwan, and Turkey. In typical NA fashion, C9 squeaked into the second place spot with a 3-2 record, losing their tiebreaker match against DFM at the end of Play-Ins. Galatasaray Esports, a Turkish team, took third place with two wins and two losses. Unfortunately for PEACE and Galatasaray, only the top two teams in each group move on to compete in the Group Stage.
16 teams, divided into four groups, started the Groups competition on October 11. Group A consisted of Damwon Gaming (DK), FunPlus Phoenix (FPX), Rogue, and Cloud 9. Damwon absolutely dominated the first — and second — round of matches in their group, going undefeated against all three of the other teams. FPX managed to best both Rogue and C9 in the first few matches, garnering them the second place spot.
But that was followed by one of the most impressive collapses in this tournament, with FPX getting stomped by both Rogue and C9 across the next series of games. The two western teams vied for second in a tiebreaker match and North America won out, leaving Rogue and FPX to scramble for third. Unfortunately for the Chinese team their losing streak wasn’t done yet and they slid into last place — a disappointing end to their earlier success.
In Group B, T1 (formerly known as SKT), Edward Gaming (EDG), 100 Thieves, and DetonatioN FocusMe faced off. The results were rather predictable, with the Korean T1 coming in a solid first at 5-1, Edward Gaming, representing China, second with a 4-2 record, and 100 Thieves from NA in third with a 3-3 record. Somewhat surprisingly, DFM didn’t win a single game despite their excellent showing during the Play-In matches. Of course, they were in an incredibly tough group, facing the LPL and LCS first seeds and the LCK second seed, so it’s difficult to blame them.
Group C had Fnatic, Hanwha Life, PSG Talon, and Royal Never Give Up (RNG), from Europe, Korea, Hong Kong, and China, respectively. RNG took the first place spot with five wins and two losses, but it was a close thing as they faced off against Hanwha Life in a tiebreaker match. Ultimately, they pulled it off, relegating Hanwha to second place and a 4-3 finish. PSG Talon finished with a respectable 3-3, earning them third place. Fnatic rolled into last place with a resounding single win, losing all five of their other games. Their roster changes, with Rekkles leaving for G2 Esports and Upset abruptly dropping out of Worlds, seem to have shaken the team up in a bad way, as they usually put in a good showing by making it into the quarterfinals and previously made it all the way to the finals in 2018.
Group D, with Gen.G, LNG Esports, MAD Lions, and Team Liquid, saw the Korean team once again leading the group, albeit with a less dominant record. Gen.G fought two tiebreakers, one against MAD Lions and one against Team Liquid, but ultimately won both. MAD clinched their second tiebreaker game against LNG, placing second with a 4-4 record. Because of that, Team Liquid and LNG tied for last place, both with a 3-4 record. Group D was definitely one of the closest groups, and with all those tiebreakers it was anyone’s group to win.
Quarterfinals began the first best of 3 matches, where the top two teams from each group paired up to start the journey to finals. The first match saw two Korean teams, T1 and Hanwha Life, clashing. T1 carried the match solidly, not giving up a single game against Hanwha, and securing their spot in the semifinals bracket. Of course, with world-famous mid laner Faker on their team, it’s no surprise that they pulled off a clean sweep. The confusing and ineffective draft phases from Hanwha didn’t help at all though, despite being smashed in Game 2, the team picked the same top lane, ADC, and mid lane champions in Game 3.
The next match was a showdown between RNG and EDG, and it was a much tougher contest than the previous one. The match went the full five games, but EDG won in the end, proving themselves the superior Chinese team. EDG’s jungler, Jiejie, was instrumental in their victory, stealing Baron from RNG multiple times. Despite their loss, honorable mention goes to RNG Cryin’s Annie performance in Game 4, forcing a ban in the fifth game so that EDG could close the match out with a win.
Not much can be said for the next two matches that hasn’t been said before. In a tale as old as time, EU and NA teams make it to quarterfinals only to lose 3-0 to Korean teams on the way to semifinals. C9 was handily defeated by Gen.G, with credit going to Gen.G Clid for pulling off two devastating games as Lee Sin and C9 Zven for dying multiple times with flash available. Game 2 was a stand out, with Clid getting nine kills, six assists, and only dying once. Meanwhile, MAD Lions were destroyed by Damwon, with the DK jungler Canyon making an absolutely insane showing on Lee Sin in all three games. In the future, historians will look back at Worlds 2021 and wonder why MAD and C9 refused to ban Lee Sin in a single quarterfinals game. Not even one.
The Semifinals matches were much more competitive, thankfully. Damwon and T1 played each other first, with the match going to five games. It was a tough contest, with Damwon winning the first game, then losing the next two to T1 before coming back and clutching the win with the last two games. Both teams played excellently, but between Damwon’s mid, bot, and jungle, T1 just couldn’t keep up. DK Showmaker displayed his Leblanc mastery, not dying a single time in games 1 and 4. And Canyon, consistent as ever, showed off dominating games on Lee Sin, Qiyana, and Talon.
Gen.G and EDG faced each other in the second semifinals match, taking it to Game 5 as well. EDG Scout, the team’s mid laner, was huge on the scoreboard, going deathless in two games and only dying once in another. And, showing more intelligence in draft phase than either C9 or MAD Lions, EDG banned Lee Sin. That seemed to hobble Gen.G Clid in the jungle and no doubt helped win the last two games. With this victory, EDG secured their spot against Damwon Gaming in the Worlds 2021 Finals.
After nearly a month of competition, Damwon and EDG rose to the top, facing each other for the chance to hoist the Worlds trophy and go down in esports history as one of the top League of Legends teams. Game 1 started off slowly, with both teams testing each other’s defences until EDG Scout used his Ryze ultimate to teleport four members of the team into a devastating gank on the DK bot lane, securing first blood. Damwon fought back, but ultimately couldn’t turn back EDG’s momentum. EDG Meiko had a stellar game as Zilean support, using his ult to turn several crucial teamfights in his team’s favor by negating Damwon’s massive single target burst damage with timely resurrections.
Game 2 was a complete turnaround, with DK Showmaker, Canyon, and Khan dominating. Khan went deathless in the top lane, taking Graves and securing seven kills and six assists. Despite a clutch Baron steal by Jiejie, EDG just couldn’t get their feet under them, and Damwon finished them off in 32 minutes, which was the fastest game of the match.
DK Canyon got his hands on Lee Sin for Game 3 and, as seen multiple times in the play offs, used it to secure a victory for Damwon. Looking at the final results, however, it seems that EDG just needed to let DK get to match point so they could come roaring back and clinch the win. Although there were far fewer kills in Game 4 than the first three, EDG didn’t let Damwon secure a single neutral objective. Jiejie had his smite locked in and the Chinese team made it clear that they weren’t going to let themselves go down quite so easily.
With that victory, EDG and Damwon went on to Game 5, making 2021 the first Worlds Finals since 2016 to last all five games. This game lasted 41 minutes, the longest in the match, and it ended with EDG dominating the scoreboard. EDG Meiko, playing consistently well across the tournament, continued to show his skill in the last game with crucial engages that helped his ADC end the game with a 6-1-7 score. Jiejie also did a fantastic job in the jungle, helping Flandre and Scout rack up the kills and gold in top and mid. Scout ended up winning MVP, although in the post-game interview he did say he thought it would go to Jiejie. All five players played at the top of their game though and after five grueling games they all lifted the Worlds Cup together.
Photo Credit: Riot Games