T1 Faker Faces Final Hurdle to Cement Legacy at LoL Worlds

Published: Nov 16, 2023

He’s the undisputed GOAT. They’re the most storied organisation. But it’s been seven years since Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok and T1 last won a League of Legends World Championship.

The game and LoL esports landscape have changed dramatically since then – Faker remains the only one out of the 2017 roster still playing competitively at a high level and he’s now spent an unprecedented 10 years with the organisation.

During those seven years T1, formerly SK Telecom, has continued collecting titles. They won MSI in 2017 and claimed a further six LCK trophies, yet failure to find further international success — as well as more recent LCK finals losses — has seen them labelled as chokers.

The team has lost World Championship finals in 2017 and 2022, the latter when they were heavy favourites against DRX. They also lost an MSI final in 2022 and the last three LCK finals – all at the hands of Gen.G.

Now they find themselves LoL Worlds favourites in a Championship final yet again against China’s Weibo Gaming.

t1 lol worlds faker
Image: T1 via X (@T1LoL)

A win will see Faker extend his legacy, returning to the top and claiming an unprecedented fourth Summoner’s Cup. A loss will intensify the questions raised about the team’s mentality on the biggest stage. It’s likely the last time this roster will be able to swing the narrative in either direction before it’s disbanded during the off-season as is expected.

They’ve done the hard part in this tournament already by beating JD Gaming in the semi-finals. The MSI holders won everything possible this year and was aiming to be the first team to complete the Golden Road – winning two domestic splits, MSI and LoL Worlds within one season. T1 stopped them in their tracks with a 3-1 semis upset.

Before that T1 dispatched LNG 3-0, who at the time was thought to be amongst the top three teams in the World. Many placed them as the second best, arguing that JDG was the only reason that LNG was unable to turn its strength into silverware. T1 played on a different level, swatting LNG aside in a series where T1 won on red side every game – becoming the first team at the tournament to prioritize red side and dismantling opponent drafting strategies in the process.

T1 also beat Team Liquid, Cloud9 and Bilibili Gaming in the Swiss stage. With Weibo on the other side of the Rift in the finals, T1 will have faced every LPL attendee in the tournament and will have beaten them all if they do win the title. This is fitting seeing as the bracket stage was dominated by the LPL teams, leaving T1 to fight as Korea’s only representative in the semi-finals with the whole country’s expectations on its back.

Fuelling these expectations further, is the tournament taking place in Korea itself. Faker and T1 have shockingly never won a World Championship in their home country and this will be their first time doing so if they are to beat Weibo on Sunday. No pressure.

These immense expectations are T1’s biggest obstacle in the final. They were clear favourites against DRX in the final last year but failed to make it count. Members of the team were visibly devastated by the defeat but T1 continued with the same roster for 2023 – will they have the mental fortitude to change their fortunes this time?

The most visibly upset at last year’s loss was support Ryu “Keria” Min-seok – Faker’s second in command. He’s a star in his own right, thought to have been amongst the best in the World at different stages in his career and led the global meta with his marksman support picks earlier in the season.

More Weibo vs T1 at LoL Worlds Finals:

Keria’s brought those picks back to the forefront at Worlds during the Worlds bracket run with victories on Senna and Ashe, signalling his will to take over the lane and dominate opposition bot duos. This is a version of Keria that will no doubt frighten Weibo.

He joins Lee “Gumayusi” Min-hyeong in the bot lane, a player seemingly born to play video games. He’s the younger brother of StarCraft pro INnoVation and rather incredibly a distant nephew of Faker himself. He looked like a bot lane prodigy when he was first promoted from T1’s academy, but now in his third full year on the main lineup, an international title is needed to cement his status among the best.

Top laner Choi “Zeus” Woo-je and jungler Mun “Oner” Hyeon-jun are in a similar boat, joining the main roster close together and both still chasing their first major title. Eyes will be on Zeus in particular during the finals against Weibo after Rumble’s emergence as a priority pick late in the tournament. Zeus is thought to be one of the best in the world on the champion and his lane opponent, infamous TheShy, isn’t too shabby either.

Lee Jones

Since: May 13, 2023

By day, Lee is a self-taught esports writer, having started in 2018, and has since gone on to appear in and host numerous talk shows/podcasts. By night, Lee is a world record holder as the fastest player ever to be fired on Football Manager – feel free to see this as an achievement or an embarrassment.

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