Last weekend, the biggest League of Legends matchup of the season took place in South Korea. In the LoL World Championships, Invictus Gaming from China’s LPL and European side Fnatic clashed with the world title on the line.
In the end, it proved to be a one-sided affair. Invictus Gaming avenged their sole defeat of the tournament (to Fnatic in the Group Stage) by emerging with a thorough and utterly dominant 3-0 victory in the best-of-five final.
What are the big takeaways?
Fnatic found, as we suspected when we previewed the final last week, that the longer series format proved problematic against the more consistent Chinese team.
Even so, Fnatic can console themselves with the knowledge that they put the much-maligned EU LCS qualifying section very much back on the map. After a couple of World Championship events where the European teams didn’t cover themselves in any glory, Fnatic’s journey to the final certainly raised the profile of the EU LCS.
The same can be said for the NA LCS after Cloud9 came through the Play In stage to finish a hugely creditable third in the tournament.
A Chinese Victory, with a Korean Twist
After pocketing a top prize of $843,750 for their victory in the final, Invictus can reflect on becoming the very first Chinese team to claim the LoL World Title. Surprisingly, they qualified as the second-best Chinese team behind Royal Never Give Up.
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Overall, while this is a win for the Chinese LPL, there is also a Korean influence on the team. The active roster for Invictus Gaming comprises four Chinese players and three from Korea. Furthermore, key coaches Kim and Mafa are also from South Korea.
However, the MVP of the tournament was voted as Invictus’ Gao “Ning” Zhen-Ning, the 20-year old Jungler who has been a key man for the team since signing for them from Young Miracles in May 2017.
What now for Korea?
This year’s World Championships were little short of a disaster for the LCK teams. Gen.G failed to make it out of the group stage, which is akin to Brazil not making it through the opening phase of a World Cup soccer tournament.
Furthermore, Korea’s remaining two representatives, KT Rolster and Afreeca Freecs fared little better. Both bowed out at the quarterfinal stage: KT Rolster perhaps unluckily so against the eventual champions; Afreeca Freecs followed their inconsistent Group Stage campaign with a humbling 3-0 defeat at the hands of Cloud9.
With Gen.G in turmoil and SK Telecom T1 also seemingly on the slide, the two teams that have been responsible for the LCK’s five World Championships in recent years are seemingly on the wane. While Faker of SK Telecom T1 is still regarded by many as the finest individual LoL player on the planet, it seems his squad’s roster changes have backfired spectacularly.
All this said, there is still a very rich talent pool in South Korea. I have no doubt that over the next 12 months, new individual players will emerge and fill critical vacancies. And as such, my money is on there being a revival of Korean teams at next year’s tournament.
What about China, North America, and Europe?
These three qualifying sections enjoyed their best League of Legends World Championships for many years.
For Chinese teams, the onus will be on for them to follow in the footsteps of Invictus Gaming. The main challenge for Chinese teams may well be a lack of deep talent compared to Korean teams. This means it may be harder for more teams to find the quality players needed to match the very best in the world.
For the NA LCS and EU LCS teams, the challenge will now be on for them to build teams ready for the next World Championships in 2019, that will be able to continue the improvements made this year and go one stage further to lay claim to a World title. No European team has won since Fnatic in 2011. A North American squad has never won.
Now, Cloud9’s performances through the Play-In and Group Stages were eye-catching and bode well for the NA LCS. They can use this performance as a benchmark for sustained improvements moving forward.
In Europe, Fnatic and G2 Esports reaching the Final and Semifinals, respectively, will be viewed as a big success.
What is certain is that as exciting and definitive as the 2018 League of Legends World Championships were, they’ve provoked greater possibilities moving forward.
Editorial credit: Invictus Gaming Facebook