The League of Legends World Championship (Worlds) has been wonderfully entertaining this year, and the final this weekend could be an explosive ending.
It will be South Korea’s LCK versus China’s LPL as the legendary organisation T1 take on this year’s surprise package Weibo Gaming.
The matchup is strangely reminiscent of last year’s tournament, as T1 will once again face a fourth-seeded team in the League of Legends World Championship final . However, this time, T1 will want to go one step further.
Let’s see how both teams got here and take a look at how they match up.
Weibo wage war
Nobody, not even superfan Marc Robert “Caedrel” Lamont, expected Weibo to get this far. They finished fifth-sixth in both LPL playoffs this year and never looked likely to qualify for Worlds. Even after they did, Weibo had a terrible start to the tournament, somehow throwing away a 10k gold lead with Mountain Soul to lose to Europe’s G2 Esports.
The organization then faced possible elimination after losing to Korea’s fourth seeds KT Rolster, but fortunate draws against MAD Lions and NRG saw Weibo remarkably find themselves in the semifinals. However, their luck had to run out eventually, and awaiting them there were fellow LPL outfit Bilibili Gaming (BLG) - a team Weibo had failed to defeat in all three of their previous meetings this season.
It was here that finally, after a year of fumbling and mishaps, Weibo’s players showed the world their true potential. Both teams traded dominant, one-sided victories, until the series reached its conclusion with a tense fifth and final game.
Throughout the series, Top Laner Kang "TheShy" Seung-lok was clearly the MVP for Weibo. His Top Lane opponent, Chen "Bin" Ze-Bin, had played phenomenally throughout the tournament, but “TheShy” destroyed him. We finally saw glimpses of the player we saw dominate the Worlds stage in 2018 – “TheShy”’s return to form has been long awaited for many.
Meanwhile, his Bot Lane teammates were struggling immensely. A disastrous Game 4 gave BLG the momentum heading into the final game, and the focus was on Weibo’s Wang "Light" Guang-Yu and Liu "Crisp" Qing-Song. The duo had been Weibo’s weak point throughout Worlds, and BLG’s AD Carry, Zhao "Elk" Jia-Hao, was quick to capitalize on their poor form.
Then Weibo did the unthinkable - they stuck “TheShy” on Tank duty and prioritized their Bot Lane in the fifth game’s draft. “TheShy” has said that he only plays Tanks when he trusts his teammates, and it was a spectacular display of faith choosing to do so in such a vital Game 5.
The huge gamble paid off. It was a close game, but “Light” performed incredibly on Kalista to send his team through to the finals.
- Read: Worlds MVP Preview
T1 take on the Elite Four
There have been no Bot Lane struggles for T1. In fact, together they’ve redefined the tournament’s entire meta by reintroducing ranged Supports and even Marksman Supports. Consequently, Ryu "Keria" Min-seok is now an early contender for Worlds MVP.
It has been a difficult and strangely trophyless year for the storied T1 organization, yet they have returned to the Worlds stage with a vengeance. After finishing runners-up last year, they have steamrolled through their opposition - outside of a routine loss to their bogey team, the reigning LCK champions Gen.G.
The entirety of the LPL has stood in their way, and yet T1 have impressively stood up to the challenge. They were exceptional against both BLG and LNG Esports, dominating two of the best teams in the tournament 2-0 and 3-0, respectively.
This perfectly set up one of the biggest, most narrative-rich matches we have ever seen. T1, South Korea’s only remaining representative on home soil, and League of Legends’ (LoL) most successful organization ever, faced the best team in the world, JD Gaming (JDG).
JDG were en route to completing the first ever “Golden Road” in LoL history by winning every trophy available to them in a year. However, T1 were one roadblock even they couldn’t get around. T1 came out victorious, winning 3-1 in a spectacular series.
Despite his injuries earlier in the year, and 10 years after his first Worlds trophy, iconic Mid Laner Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok was able to step up once again with a breathtaking play to take down world-class Bot Laner Park "Ruler" Jae-hyuk to win the second game. And in the third game, T1’s Bot Laner, Lee "Gumayusi" Min-hyeong, also managed to best “Ruler” with a spectacular 1v2 to secure the historic victory.
That’s three out of the four LPL representatives defeated, now there’s just one more to go…
Let’s not beat around the bush here. Based on form, consistency and sheer quality of opposition faced, T1 are the heavy favorites to win this one. In fact, a 3-0 stomp is the most likely scoreline (2.850).
However, if any team has the potential to upset them, it’s Weibo. They just need their star players to be at their absolute best.
The glaring matchup here is in the Bot Lane. “Gumayusi” and “Keria” have been sensational throughout the tournament, and are obviously more comfortable in the Bot Lane meta that they themselves enforced on the tournament.
It’s absolutely critical that Weibo’s “Light” and “Crisp” are able to stabilize their lane, even if that means focusing the draft around them. It’s not exactly an unrealistic outcome - when you actually look at the stats, “Gumayusi” has the best KDA (8.8), but “Light” is right behind him, tied with “Keria” at 7.3. “Crisp” leads the tournament in average assists (10.1), which can be attributed to Weibo registering the highest average kills per game (14.8).
The other crucial battle will take place in the top lane. “TheShy” is certainly Weibo’s most potent carry, but T1’s Top Laner Choi "Zeus" Woo-je has been the most consistent in his role at Worlds this year, and will act as another huge barrier that Weibo will have to overcome. Expect there to be plenty of blood in this matchup, as they both lead Worlds Top Laners in average kills and solo kills with 3.5 and 6 for Zeus, 3.3 and 7 for TheShy.
Finally, we have to talk about the Mid Lane. Li "Xiaohu" Yuan-Hao has been Weibo’s most consistent performer at Worlds this year, but he will need to put in a monster performance to get the better of “Faker”. As we’ve all seen, even if you keep “Faker” quiet for most of the game, you know he’s still going to find those clutch moments where he can potentially turn things around.
It’s going to be extremely difficult for Weibo, but they’ve had an extra day to prepare and will be more than ready to cause an upset. After all, we saw T1 lose to a fourth-seeded team in the final last year.
But this has been T1’s tournament, and in their current peak form, they’re unstoppable.