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North America’s Run at League of Legends Worlds and What to Expect for Semifinals

Sean Park

North America’s League of Legends Championship Series (LCS) is no stranger to NA’s underwhelming performance on the world stage. The region’s highest finish in the League of Legends World Championship (Worlds) was back in 2018, when Cloud 9 finished as semi-finalists. However, this year’s 3-15 record, holding back all three teams at the group stage, is by far the worst finish the region has ever experienced in its history, leading to many doubting the LCS’s future.

However, Cloud 9, the LCS’s first seed, grabbed a win against Europe’s Fnatic. Despite having to use substitute bot laner Muhammed "Kaori" Hasan due to their starter’s absence, Evil Geniuses (EG) beat G2 Esports, Europe’s greatest organization, finally obtaining revenge for their 0-2 shutdown against them at the MSI tournament 4 months ago. EG also broke NA’s 8-year record of losing to Europe in a best-of series in their previous 3-1 against MAD Lions in the play-in stage.

Meanwhile, the conclusion of the Worlds’ quarterfinals on October 23rd, left NA with four semi-finalists: T1, JD Gaming (JDG), DRX, and Gen G. It was surprising that there were three teams from Korea’s LCK, and only one team from China’s LPL, as many thought of the latter to be the better league in the past.

On October 20th, JDG beat Rogue, Europe’s last hope in Worlds, for a clean 3-0 shutdown. This ends the Worlds journey for the West, although not many were surprised with this result. Rogue was considered to be the weakest team in the quarterfinals, while JDG were seen as the tournament's prospective winners. Although Rogue tried to find chances to get back into the game, the gap in the overall strength and macro of the teams became evident, leading to JDG winning all the crucial teamfights.

The following day hosted a rematch from MSI between T1 and Royal Never Give Up (RNG), the greatest organizations from their respective regions. Four months ago it was RNG who claimed the victory in a full set 3-2 win, setting a record for back-to-back MSI wins. Both teams, however, were seen as being far weaker compared to their performance in the spring season. T1 started out the series by taking the first set effortlessly, despite some early kills from RNG. However, the next game, clever ganks from RNG’s jungler Yan "Wei" Yang-Wei set T1’s star top laner Choi "Zeus" Woo-je behind, making him start the game with 0 kills and 6 deaths despite being on his signature champion Jayce. While a couple cleverly dodged ganks from mid laner Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok bought T1 some time, things were starting to look dire. They were 6 kills, 7,000 gold, and 3 dragons behind, while RNG had already claimed the dragon soul. However, a miracle teamfight led by bot laner Lee "Gumayusi" Min-hyeong wiped out RNG in front of the elder dragon, leading T1 to claim both the objective and the top spot of Game 3 at the 26-minute mark.

Saturday hosted a domestic derby, with two Korean teams Gen G, favorites for the tournament, and DWG Gaming (DK), the 2020 world champions as well as last year’s runners-up, facing off. In the first two games, DK decided to leave Yuumi, the most OP champion in the meta, open, allowing Gen G’s support Son "Lehends" Si-woo, one of the world’s best Yuumi players, to easily claim the win in both sets. However, what looked like another 3-0 sweep quickly progressed into a full set when DK striked back on games 3 and 4, with bot laner Seo "deokdam" Dae-gil on his signature champion Aphelios. In the crucial game five, DK drafted a very unorthodox mid-jungle duo of Syndra and Kayn, while Gen G sought to draft for a more balanced late-game teamfighting composition with Gnar and Viktor. This draft paid off, as in the last teamfight Gen G defeated DK, advancing into the semifinals.

The following day brought the only upset of this stage. Edward Gaming (EDG) claimed a narrow victory during the first game against Kim “Deft” Hyuk-kyu’s DRX, but DRX retaliated in the subsequent game when Deft teleported into EDG’s base and took down their towers. However, just as Deft was about to fire the last auto attack that would take town EDG’s nexus and finish the game, the inhibitor magically respawned, fortifying the nexus. EDG quickly took down the isolated Deft and ended the game, overcoming a gold difference of 10,000. Victory slipped out of DRX’s hands, and they were suddenly at matchpoint. However, similarly to DK, DRX managed to win games 3 and 4. The final game to decide the winner of the series was surprisingly the most one-sided, with mid laner Kim "Zeka" Geon-woo stepping up on his signature pick Sylas and grabbing four solo kills in a row against EDG mid laner Lee "Scout" Ye-chan, last year’s Worlds MVP, and finishing the last team fight with a quadra kill. It was a stunning loss for the defending world champions, as well as Deft’s first semi finals since 2014, and his last before his retirement in 2023.

The semi-finals starting October 29 features T1 against JDG. The match is predicted to be quite even, with all eyes on T1’s rookie star Zeus and JDG’s Bai "369" Jia-Hao, the best top laner in the world. While JDG’s carry jungler Seo "Kanavi" Jin-hyeok is in very good form, T1’s bot lane consisting of bot laner Gumayusi and support Ryu "Keria" Min-seok have bounced back from their slump in the summer season, being the only two players to maintain a double-digit KDA in the tournament. On the other hand, LCK’s first seed Gen G are projected to be clear favorites against fourth seed DRX, having defeated the third seed DK. For DRX, it is up to how many leads Zeka can gain against Gen G’s midlaner Jeong "Chovy" Ji-hoon, the best mechanical player in the world. Regardless of predictions, both are expected to be very high quality games starring the best teams in the world, so tune in. You won’t regret it.


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