Same Yet Different End to Worlds

It was a precarious ending to Worlds. (Courtesy of Wikimedia)

It was a precarious ending to Worlds. (Courtesy of Wikimedia)

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By Griffin LaMarche

In a tournament that began with three-time champion SK Telecom T1 not qualifying for Worlds, North American team TSM failing to qualify for the first time since the organization’s debut and Spring Split favorites Kingzone Dragon-X missing the tournament, it was sure to be an event of record-breaking, history-making moments. From Team Vitality and Cloud9 upsetting defending World Champions Gen.G, to G2 Esports beating out Flash Wolves to the knockout stage, the Group Stage provided a good number of upsets.

But nothing could have prepared the scene for the quarterfinals of the Knockout Stage. First, Korean top seed Afreeca Freecs took on North American team Cloud9. It was widely predicted that Afreeca Freecs would win the series, as North America has had a history of not making it to the semifinals, while the Korean macro play was considered widely dominant over the other regions. It wasn’t until Cloud9 stomped the Korean favorites and swept the series 3-0 that the Western teams became a legitimate threat in the tournament, making it the first North American team to reach the semis. The next game, Europe’s Fnatic vs. China’s EDward Gaming, was a little less shocking, with Fnatic prevailing, leading to the first Western vs. Western semi-final since Season One.

On day two, no one expected the two favorites of the tournament, China’s Royal Never Give Up and Korea’s KT Rolster, to be eliminated in the Round of 8. RNG had won every single tournament in 2018 leading up to Worlds, and it was widely pronounced that it was Jian “Uzi” Zi-Hao’s time to finally take a World championship after finishing second for three years. However, the aggression of Luka “Perkz” Perkovitz and Martin “Wunder” Hansen of Europe’s G2 Esports shut down Jian over and over again. Meanwhile, Chinese team Invictus Gaming rode 17-year-old Yu “Jackeylove” Wen-Bo to nearly dominating Korean favorites KT Rolster. Invictus Gaming decidedly took the first two games in the series, and while KT Rolster fought back in Games Three and Four in the closest base race in the history of competitive League, Invictus Gaming took Game Five.

The semi-finals were much less interesting, with Fnatic and Invictus Gaming both sweeping their respective matchups ahead of a Grand Finals showdown in Incheon. The opening ceremony of K-Pop-styled band K/DA featuring Madison Beer, (G)I-DLE and Jaira Burns was accompanied by RISE, performed by The Glitch Mob and IKON BOBBY in an epic ceremony preparing for the most anticlimactic, shortest Grand Finals in League of Legends history. Invictus Gaming easily swept the series 3-0 on the back of Song “Rookie” Eui-Jin, while poor performances by Gabriel “Bwipo” Rau and Rasmus “Caps” Winther doomed Fnatic.

Although the first three weeks of Worlds 2018 were much more intense than the last two, it is the first time since 2012 that a non-Korean team took home the World Championship. It is the first time a North American team made the semi-finals. It is the first time a Western team made the Grand Finals since the first season. Worlds 2018, no matter what the result was, will always go down as one of the best Worlds ever.