It was a weird year for League of Legends. China's LoL Pro League was one of the first major esports (and sports as a whole) to be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. It was the first to be shut down and subsequently the first to reopen. Leagues all around the world went on a wave of hiatuses, crowdless matches and online play, depending on which region a team played in.
A full League of Legends World Championship in Shanghai, live, with even an audience at the grand finals, is an impressive achievement not just for esports but sports as a whole. Here's how the final match shaped up.
Coverage of previous matches is available on our 2020 League of Legends World Championship groups and play-ins page.
DAMWON Gaming 3, Suning 1
DAMWON were heavily favored going into this match, and unlike last year's worlds finals, which was expected to be much closer than the 3-0 FunPlus Phoenix victory, the 2020 championship series played out about as expected.
Suning snuck a game in due to a favorable draft and some creative decision-making -- go back and watch Lê "SofM" Quang Duy's tank Rengar when you have the time -- but China's third seed was ultimately outclassed by DAMWON's stronger objective setups and teamfighting. DAMWON play fairly similarly to Suning in a few ways but are just a better team.
The members of DAMWON admitted in the pre-finals news conference that they didn't have to change much between LoL Champions Korea summer finals and worlds because of how little the meta shifted, and additionally that they didn't have to change much from their group stage appearances to the worlds finals. This metagame was perfect for them, and they thrived, just as the previous two world champions before them.
Few players exemplified that great fit better than DAMWON jungler Kim "Canyon" Geon-bu, who was identified as a potential worlds MVP before the tournament even began due to his prowess in this meta on Graves and Nidalee. In his final game against Suning, he had a deathless 8/0/7 statline on Kindred, cementing the title for his team and, for the first time since 2017, the LCK.
A fond farewell to: Suning
At the end of the summer regular season, few LPL fans and analysts thought that Suning would be here. The expected teams to qualify for worlds alongside the obvious Top Esports and JD Gaming were either 2019 world champion FunPlus Phoenix or 2018 title holder Invictus Gaming. Yet it was Suning that improved enough to definitively stake their claim as LPL's third seed and further proved their prowess in this specific meta behind the way that they played around jungler SofM.
Was TES the best LPL team overall? In my opinion, yes. But worlds over the past few years hasn't necessarily been about who is the best team that year -- 2018 Royal Never Give Up and 2019 G2 Esports both say hello -- but about the best team in the moment during the worlds meta.
The worlds metagame didn't shift all that much throughout the main event stage, and given that fact it's no surprise that teams like Fnatic, DAMWON and, yes, Suning did well. The strength of SofM's power-farming, carry playstyle combined with rookie top laner Chen "Bin" Ze-Bin's aggressive laning and support Hu "SwordArt" Shuo-Chieh prowess on roaming initiators like Leona all came together at the right time in the right meta for this team.
Suning's loss in this series, and particularly their performance in their fourth game against DAMWON, will overshadow how much they improved as a team and additionally how well-suited for this worlds meta Suning were. No other team would be crazy enough to go two Omnistones in one game (and they shouldn't) or build Knight's Vow on Rengar (don't do it), so shoutout to Suning for daring to do what should be impossible.
Every game in a sentence
DAMWON Gaming 1, Suning 0: This is a fairly drawn-out game with mistakes from both sides, but early dragon stacking and a strong performance from ShowMaker end up making the difference for DAMWON (also no more Angel Azir, please).
Suning 1, DAMWON Gaming 1: SofM goes with his traditional Knight's Vow on Rengar, and Suning's teamfighting Fiora from Bin brings the series to an even 1-1.
DAMWON 2, Suning 1: Highly questionable drafting, itemization and rune choices put Suning behind early, but a midgame Baron mistake from DAMWON makes it close.
DAMWON 3, Suning 1: DAMWON's Caitlyn/Kindred combination gets off to a fantastic start and basically rolls over this game before Suning can get off the ground, reminiscent of DAMWON's Game 4 against G2 in the semifinals.
Suning 3, Top Esports 1
A LoL Pro League semifinal, as they say, hits differently.
Suning, the No. 3 seed out of China, pulled off another upset in the 2020 League of Legends World Championship knockout stage on Sunday and reached the world final with a 3-1 win over tournament favorite Top Esports.
After taking down the LoL Pro League's second seed, JD Gaming, in the quarterfinals, Suning upset the top seed out of their region to reach the Oct. 31 final at Pudong Stadium, where they'll face South Korean squad DAMWON Gaming for the international title.
Here's how Suning, once considered a team with an outside at the League of Legends World Championship, managed to tear up everyone's bracket.
While many will (rightfully) talk about how awful some of these drafts were, especially in the first game of this series, which set the tone for the rest, whenever two LPL teams meet each other on the international stage, a series feels different. Suddenly, the draft changes. Even if teams stick to their respective playstyles, they play faster and looser within those styles.
Suning's win over Top Esports on Sunday was this type of matchup. It was also a testament to just how much Suning have grown as a team since they were swept by TES in the LPL summer playoffs.
The worlds meta suits Suning much more than it did Top Esports, which was exemplified by both of these teams' respective quarterfinals matches. There, Suning had to go through the LPL's No. 2 seed in JD Gaming and looked much more comfortable in how they played around jungler Lê Quang Duy. Mid laner Xiang "Angel" Tao, who was mediocre throughout most of the season, leveled up to a world-class mid laner. Chen "Bin" Ze-Bin had already impressed in groups but was showcasing a larger champion pool than previously thought, and his aggressive laning style made things difficult for opponents -- even JDG's Zhang "Zoom" Xing-Ran, who is a stronger and more experienced laner. The Suning bot lane of Tang "huanfeng" Huan-Feng and Hu "SwordArt" Shuo-Chieh appeared ready to take on anyone.
Meanwhile, TES were rightfully lauded for their mental fortitude and adjustments around jungler Hung "Karsa" Hao-Hsuan to reverse-sweep Fnatic (another team that was more suited to the current meta than TES) in their quarterfinal but looked shaky.
If there's one key takeaway from any of this, it's that this Suning team is not the same Suning team that lost to TES in playoffs. They're also not even the same Suning team we saw take the first seed out of Group A. This Suning team has shown throughout their best-of-fives, knocking out both of their LPL brethren en route to the worlds final, that they are flexible within the framework of the current meta in a way that few teams are.
A lot of the LPL's recent success has come from their teams hitting a meta at the exact right time. This year, Suning is that team.
A fond farewell to: Top Esports
I fully expected Top Esports to go through. Similarly, I expected JD Gaming to face them in the semifinals. In both cases, Suning proved me wrong.
The story of this TES team is an interesting one. With the addition of Yu "JackeyLove" Wen-Bo in the bot lane late spring as the coronavirus pandemic was beginning to clear up in China, TES went on a tear. The team nearly won the spring finals, took the Mid-Season Cup and razed through summer to win their first LPL title.
This is a roster made of stars that relied on besting their opponents in lane and 5v5 teamfights. They were fun and explosive to watch all year, particularly as the team became more coordinated between spring and summer. There's a reason why they were heavily favored as a worlds finalist or winner, but the meta shift away from them made just enough of a difference for Suning to advance.
Sometimes in competition, we find that the face staring back at us from across the table, room or digitally behind a screen, is a close friend. Sunday was not only a marquee matchup between TES and Suning but a reunion of former Flash Wolves teammates and close friends SwordArt and Karsa.
Both of them toiled away on Flash Wolves in the now-defunct LoL Master Series before going to mainland China's LoL Pro League. The two talked about how emotional it was to face each other prior to the series, spammed Flash Wolves emotes at each other in game, and after it was over, Karsa nearly threw himself into SwordArt's arms for a hug in the end game receiving line. Karsa had been clear in pre-match interviews that regardless of who won, he wanted them to take the entire thing.
In the post-match press conference, he wished this for his former teammates and friend.
"I really hope that he can grab the win and also make his dreams come true."
Every game in a sentence
Suning 1, Top Esports 0: Suning turn the tables after a crucial dragon fight and overcome TOP Esports despite TES' bot lane advantages.
Top Esports 1, Suning 1: A shaky start for TES ends up turning out alright thanks to 369 PvE-ing half of the game to accrue advantages, another strong performance from Knight and some clutch Lee Sin kicks from Karsa.
Suning 2, Top Esports 1: The top lane matchup swings heavily in Bin's favor after multiple mistakes from 369 and TES, and while TES do make things interesting behind Karsa's Lee Sin, this game is Suning's.
Suning 3, Top Esports 1: TES look better in this game, but Suning still overtake them with Angel's impressive Akali performance.
DAMWON Gaming 3, G2 Esports 1
DAMWON Gaming became the first South Korean team to make the League of Legends World Championship final since 2017 and took down the G2 Esports team that eliminated DAMWON last year with a 3-1 win on Saturday in Shanghai.
The win came with the fastest game in League of Legends World Championship history, with DAMWON shutting the door on G2 around the 19-minute mark in a decisive Game 4.
When G2 Esports met DAMWON Gaming in 2019, G2 were a few series away from completing the Royal Road: winning every major event that they participated in domestically and internationally. DAMWON were an upstart LoL Champions Korea team that provided a beacon of hope for the LCK after South Korean teams had struggled internationally following their 2018 worlds collapse. Like Griffin before them, DAMWON came to 2019 worlds with the hope that a younger, aggressive team was more suitable to the current meta.
Although G2 did not complete their Royal Road, they did overwhelm DAMWON in the quarterfinals with a similar 3-1 scoreline to what we saw Friday. DAMWON didn't have answers for Luka "Perkz" Perković and Rasmus "Caps" Winther's champion flexibility. In particular, then-starting bot laner Sin "Nuclear" Jeong-hyeon was completely outclassed by Perkz.
Fast-forward to this year, where DAMWON players like mid laner Heo "ShowMaker" Su have talked about how much they want this rematch with G2 Esports to prove how much they've grown in a year. Bot laner Jang "Ghost" Yong-jun was a much more stable fit for the team in 2020 and took on a shot-calling role, while support Cho "BeryL" Geon-hee evolved into an aggressive innovator. ShowMaker himself improved significantly and, most importantly, DAMWON's jungle-focused playstyle around Kim "Canyon" Geon-bu suited DAMWON much better than the efforts G2 made to play around Marcin "Jankos" Jankowski.
DAMWON put together a highlight reel during this series, but the best one is definitely the fervor with which they attack G2's Nexus with the Rift Herald in Game 4 to firmly shut the door on G2 in under 19 minutes. This was a team that desperately wanted to prove that they were now better than G2, that they had shed their mental hangups of 2019, and they proved themselves convincingly.
A fond farewell to: G2 Esports
Despite winning both LEC splits again this year, it's not been the best season for G2 Esports.
Europe's No. 1 seed looked remarkably shaky in both of their regular seasons, with the initial swap of Caps to the bot lane and Perkz back to the mid lane not working nearly as well as Perkz in the AD carry role. The LEC was also full of rising teams like MAD Lions and Rogue who were starting to look like threats to LEC stalwarts G2 and Fnatic. All of this was forgotten and erased with G2's LEC summer final performance and arrival at worlds. This was G2. Of course they would be a title contender.
In groups, G2 were one tiebreaker away from coming out as the top seed. Yet their matchup against Suning pointed out the different trajectories that both teams were taking at this worlds. G2 looked less comfortable with how to play around their jungler than Suning, who have the perfect unit of five to excel in this meta, especially jungler Lê "SofM" Quang Duy. Jankos and G2 seemed to have solved this to some extent in their 3-0 quarterfinal drubbing of Gen.G Esports, but looking back on that series now, it's difficult to consider Gen.G as a particularly formidable opponent.
G2 are still one of the strongest teams in the world. Their mid-game cross-map play continues to be the best of any team in the world. Yet on Saturday, they were outclassed by a DAMWON Gaming team that, again, suits the current meta a lot more with the way that they play around Canyon.
With a finals appearance in 2018 and three consecutive semifinal appearances, this five-man unit of G2 is something very special, and I hope this isn't the last time we see them together on an international stage.
After the series ended, G2 weighed in on what happened against DAMWON and how DAMWON had improved from the previous year. Here's what Perkz had to say.
"I think this year the meta favors them much more than it did last year. I think that this year they, and the Asian teams in general, they've been playing ever since summer split started these farm junglers and junglers that power-farm, and teams play around them and around objectives more than other teams. They were just very, very good at what they were doing for a few months already, whereas we did not start playing it until worlds bootcamp. We were a few months behind other teams."
Every game in a sentence
DAMWON Gaming 1, G2 Esports 0: A few early mistakes put G2's more early-game-focused composition behind, and DAMWON takes over in the mid game.
G2 Esports 1, DAMWON Gaming 1: DAMWON pick Fiora for a split-push composition but enter disadvantageous fights and skirmishes mid-game without optimizing their split-push pressure.
DAMWON Gaming 2, G2 Esports 1: Ghost's Ashe gets two kills early after a G2 dive, and DAMWON snowball the game from there with Lulu shields and a Mountain soul.
DAMWON Gaming 3, G2 Esports 1: This game is all DAMWON from the get-go with Showmaker's 1v1 kill onto Caps and a 19-minute victory that nearly ends with a Rift Herald on G2's Nexus.
G2 Esports 3, Gen.G 0
After two exciting quarterfinal matchups in JD Gaming vs. Suning and Top Esports vs. Fnatic, the League of Legends World Championship returned to a quick 3-0 stomp, with G2 Esports defeating Gen.G in a match reminiscent of DAMWON Gaming's utter destruction of DRX in the first quarterfinals series.
G2 advanced to face South Korean squad DAMWON Gaming at 6 a.m. ET on Oct. 24 in a rematch of the 2019 worlds quarterfinal, while China's LoL Pro League contenders, Top Esports and Suning, will square off at 6 a.m. ET on Oct. 25 in the second semifinal.
The end result of this series was always going to be an interesting semifinals narrative. Either we would receive the LoL Champions Korea summer finals we thought we would have between DAMWON Gaming and Gen.G, or there would be a rematch of last year's quarterfinals between G2 Esports and DAMWON. Since DAMWON players have been pretty vocal about G2 living somewhat rent-free in their heads despite their domestic success, it's great to see that we will end up getting this semifinals match in a week.
As for the games themselves, G2 looked much more prepared for the current metagame and brought their superior understanding of cross-map trading and mid-game wave management, skirmishing and lane assignments. Interestingly enough, G2 tend to make more mistakes early but overcome them almost immediately with a remarkably strong and intelligent mid game.
In this series, G2 were off to an excellent start from the first match where their pick composition was designed around Twisted Fate, Pantheon and Jhin. Gen.G were relegated to having to throw Taric in with their Kalista ultimate just to try to get a good 5v5 engage that their composition desperately needed. The series didn't improve for Gen.G after that, although they did show a few signs of life in Game 3, where bot laner Park "Ruler" Jae-hyuk was visibly trying as hard as he could on Ezreal to at least drag his team to a fourth game.
The obvious player of the game was Rasmus "Caps" Winther, who amassed a 56 Kills + Assists in the series, the most of any player at worlds since 2015 KOO Tigers mid laner Lee "Kuro" Seo-haeng. His overall KDA for all three games was 14.
A fond farewell to: Gen.G
It's sad to see Gen.G go out like this, especially with South Korea's third seed in DRX leaving in a similar 3-0 fashion. One of the questions surrounding the three LCK teams at this year's world championship was whether the LCK had improved as a whole, or whether it was just DWG rising to become one of the world's best teams.
We now have that answer -- although it's somewhat skewed by the fact that DWG knocked out their LCK brethren in DRX -- and it's DWG who appear significantly ahead of the rest of their region.
Neither Gen.G nor G2 seemed particularly well-suited to the current meta going into this series -- certainly not as much as other teams like DWG, Fnatic and Suning. However, Gen.G didn't really seem to adjust their more standard, bot-lane-focused approach and play around jungler Kim "Clid" Tae-min in a similar way that Suning or Fnatic have played around Lê "SofM" Quang Duy and Oskar "Selfmade" Boderek respectively. They were also unable to pivot to the facilitator role that Top Esports' Hung "Karsa" Hao-Hsuan took on in TES' reverse sweep of Fnatic on Saturday.
Despite G2's struggles this year, bot laner Luka "Perkz" Perković asserted that this G2 team is even stronger than last year's and 2018. He, like DAMWON, has been waiting for their rematch. Here's what he had to say in the post-game press conference.
"I'm not entirely sure how to tell them but I saw some interview with ShowMaker where he was talking a bit about how much he wants to beat G2 and how he wishes that we won against Gen.G so he doesn't care if there is one LCK team in the finals for sure he wants to beat us really badly. But I feel sorry for LCK that they will not have one LCK team in the finals."
Every game in a sentence
G2 Esports 1, Gen.G 0: Gen.G lock in a 5v5 composition but lack engage while G2 are able to play around that easily with globals to avoid fights.
G2 Esports 2, Gen.G 0: Gen.G try to pick a composition more like G2's, but G2 have a significantly stronger mid game and better skirmishing.
G2 Esports 3, Gen.G 0: Ruler tries his hardest to drag Gen.G to a fourth game, but this game is also almost entirely G2.
Top Esports 3, Fnatic 2
Top Esports' nail-biting 3-2 victory over Fnatic on Saturday in Shanghai became the first-ever reverse sweep in League of Legends World Championship history.
Here's how it happened, a look back at Fnatic's performance throughout worlds and a quick breakdown of each match of the historic series.
Although Top Esports were, and still are, a favorite to win the world championship as China's No. 1 seed, there should be a small shadow of doubt after this series as TES looked more disorganized than in the single-game group stage. Fnatic, meanwhile were visibly ramping up after a rocky start and slight meta misread. Once they became comfortable in the current meta, they looked unstoppable with strong Level 1's and focused drafts around jungler Oskar "Selfmade" Boderek as one of the team's primary carries.
In their first two games against TES, Fnatic had full control of the bot side of the map, continuously making plays after their first reset and ensuring that Martin "Rekkles" Larsson and Zdravets "Hylissang" Iliev Galabov were ahead of Yu "JackeyLove" Wen-Bo and Liang "Yuyanjia" Jia-Yuan. Once TES' bot lane collapsed, even with any advantages they may have been able to get in mid or top, TES struggled in teamfights and frequently took them without thought to setup.
TES started turning the series around when they put jungler Hung "Karsa" Hao-Hsuan on Lee Sin and Nidalee to make more plays in the early game. Even when their bot lane fell behind early, Karsa was able to make an impact elsewhere on the map to get other lanes, particularly Zhuo "Knight" Ding's mid lane, ahead. Once TES were making more proactive plays early, even with a scaling draft like they had in Game 5, they were able to take teamfights much better and adjust to how Fnatic wanted to play around Rekkles and Selfmade.
Perhaps the most impressive part of TES' victory is how they kept their cool, even after two disappointing losses to start the series.
A fond farewell to: Fnatic
Prior to this series, I had said that Fnatic was more well-suited to this meta because of the way they play around jungle and that they matched up well with TES because of how strong Hylissang is, while rookie Yuyanjia is in still developing as a support.
In their first two games Saturday, the Fnatic bot lane proved the latter point and showcased just how strong they were. Fnatic also had a strong understanding of when to make plays after resetting early to get themselves ahead, earning nearly all of the First Bloods in every single one of their matches. This Fnatic team grew significantly stronger as they learned how to better play around Selfmade this summer, and they should hold their heads high even in the face of this loss.
After some tremendous bot lane performances with Hylissang, Rekkles was asked to reflect on his performances against TES and at this world championship. Here's what he had to say.
"I'm really happy how we were able to show, yet again, our strength as a duo on the international stage and I think it's something we've managed previous years too, but it's nice to see that we've still got it year after year so that part I'm happy about. But I think still, no one will really remember how we played today. I don't think it will be OK, in a way, to lose because of this. A loss is a loss, and a win is a win, so in a week from now or a month from now, I don't know when I'll be looking back at this, but I still think I'll feel very disappointed with what I managed to do today."
Every map in a sentence
Fnatic 1, Top Esports 0: Everyone will be talk about Bwipo's Singed, but it's Hylissang that makes the massive difference for Fnatic, both in the 2v2 and outside of lane.
Fnatic 2, Top Esports 0: Another game where Fnatic play significantly better around their bottom lane and Hylissang is stronger than Yuyanjia.
Top Esports 1, Fnatic 2: With Karsa taking over with Lee Sin and TES' bot lane doing better, TES are able to snowball their early lead despite greedy mid-game mistakes.
Top Esports 2, Fnatic 2: Although Fnatic continue their bot lane dominance, Karsa's Nidalee takes over the game, Knight accrues a significant advantage on Jayce, and 369 soaks up all of Fnatic's damage in teamfights.
Top Esports 3, Fnatic 2: Once again, Karsa's Lee Sin makes moves early, and Yuyanjia redeems himself for his earlier performances as TES' composition snowballs to a reverse-sweep victory.
Suning 3, JD Gaming 1
Another regional rivalry took center stage in the 2020 League of Legends World Championship quarterfinals on Friday. Following the repeat of the 2020 LoL Champions Korea summer finals on Thursday, Chinese squads JD Gaming and Suning faced off in an all-LoL Pro League showdown.
The results did not necessarily go as expected, with Suning not only besting JD Gaming 3-1 but doing so convincingly through strong teamfighting and skirmishes.
Unlike DAMWON Gaming's series against DRX, where the two teams had played each other recently and DAMWON quickly stomped their opponent 3-0, Suning had not met JD Gaming since the second week of the LPL summer split.
Back then, it was a JDG 2-0 that Suning arguably should have won, but Suning were still in the beginning stages of building the team that is currently on the worlds stage; JDG also had a good understanding of how to stop Suning with vision control and flanks from top laner Zhang "Zoom" Xing-Ran or mid laner Zeng "Yagao" Qi.
That approach was what was expected from this series as well. Despite the fact that Suning had arguably looked better in groups -- something that could also be attributed to not having DAMWON in their group -- and were well-suited to the current metagame, JDG presumably had the upper hand in this series.
Instead, we had the rare, shining moment where a much-lauded rookie player steps into the international spotlight and exceeds expectations in the best way. Most fans already knew of Suning bot laner Tang "huanfeng" Huan-Feng's incredible journey to get to worlds thanks to an interview by the LPL broadcast team, but on Friday, he fully embraced his role as the LPL's best up-and-coming bot laner.
Huanfeng's Jhin in particular was remarkable, and he cemented his place as a king among Jhin enthusiasts with an ultimate from inside JDG's base during Game 2 that went viral on multiple social media platforms.
*Jhin ults behind you*— LoL Esports (@lolesports) October 16, 2020
"nothing personnel, kid" pic.twitter.com/LclfymKw21
Suning's win was also a testament to jungler Lê "SofM" Quang Duy and support Hu "SwordArt" Shuo-Chieh's veteran leadership on the team, something that rookie top laner Chen "Bin" Ze-Bin has cited as the reason why Suning are such a strong squad right now.
A fond farewell to: JD Gaming
For the majority of the year, JDG were one of, if not the LPL's best teams. They were smart, well-coordinated, drafted around their players' obvious strengths and weaknesses, and supplemented this with remarkable 5v5 teamfighting.
Even in their quarterfinals loss to Suning, there were several times where JDG's group engages were clearly better, and if they had a lead (especially in Game 3, which was pretty much over for JDG once Bin's Gangplank got a Level 1 double-kill and took a Sheen to the top lane) at those times, they would have won those fights.
Although they won't be moving on at worlds this year, 2020 JDG were a special team to watch and should still be remembered as one of the LPL's best.
Although huanfeng was the star of Suning on Friday, SwordArt's efforts in helping lead this team and his direct involvement in huanfeng's improvement should never be overlooked, especially since this is the furthest he has gone at worlds in his own career. The support had this to say about huanfeng's growth.
"Huanfeng is a very hard-working player, and I think he made a lot of improvements in communications and also in terms of our synergy. Now he really immerses himself in the whole team. I don't think we are able to provide that much help, but he can always carry the game. I think maybe not now, but later in some moment, I believe that huanfeng will become a really good player that will be memorable for all."
Every game in a sentence
JD Gaming 1, Suning 0: Although Suning have a scaling advantage, Yagao's Zoe and Zoom's Renekton take over the mid-game.
Suning 1, JD Gaming 1: Suning's scaling works out well here while Yagao is unable to have an impact on Galio, and huanfeng's Jhin steps into the spotlight.
Suning 2, JD Gaming 1: This game is over from Level 1, when Bin's Gangplank gets a double kill and Sheen to start the laning phase.
Suning 3, JD Gaming 1: JDG take an early lead, but stronger dragon setups and huanfeng's Jhin once again lead Suning to victory.
DAMWON Gaming 3, DRX 0
Quarterfinals got underway at the 2020 League of Legends World Championship on Thursday. The first series was a rematch of the 2020 LoL Champions Korea final between DAMWON Gaming and DRX that went in the exact same way that first matchup did: a 3-0 sweep for DAMWON.
The moment DRX were drawn against DAMWON Gaming, they were already considered out of the tournament.
We had already seen what DRX could do against DAMWON in their summer finals best-of-five ,and it wasn't much. DAMWON were not only able to best DRX individually, but more importantly had much stronger objective setups and trading across the map. DRX had, however, looked a bit more cohesive in the group stage, particularly in their games against LoL Pro League No. 1 seed Top Esports.
Although Top Esports won both of those games due to stronger teamfighting, there was hope for DRX. Despite the team's reliance on mid laner Jeong "Chovy" Ji-hoon and a back injury hindering bot laner Kim "Deft" Hyuk-kyu, the team seemed like it might have improved enough to give DAMWON more trouble than they were able to in that quick summer final sweep.
I had hoped to say that this series wouldn't play out as expected -- that DRX would be able to take at least a game off of DAMWON. They could not. The series ended in similar 100-minute fashion, with DAMWON too strong to allow DRX even one game. DRX came closest in Game 2, but a clutch engage from DWG top laner Jang "Nuguri" Ha-gwon on Ornn flipped the game back into DAMWON's favor, and they didn't give DRX any advantages afterwards.
DAMWON will now go on to the semifinals to face either the team that knocked them out of worlds in 2019, G2 Esports, or another fellow South Korean squad in Gen.G. DAMWON should be favored in both matchups with how strong they've looked at this tournament.
A fond farewell to: DRX
For most of the 2020 LCK season, DRX were a fun team to watch and always near the top of the standings. They had interesting drafts (which sometimes hurt them more than they helped), and the continued evolution of Chovy was one of the highlights of the season. In 2020, the mid laner grew from a 1v1 outplay king who somewhat relied on favorable matchups from his team to a legitimate team player with much stronger teamfighting skill and engage sense, making DRX a legitimate threat against any team not named DAMWON.
DRX have two standout young players that people watch going into 2021, too, despite some rough performances Thursday. Jungler Hong "Pyosik" Chang-hyeon and, in particular, rookie support Ryu "Keria" Min-seok have a lot of potential going forward in future LCK seasons.
The saddest part of DRX's exit: The revelation about Deft's back injury. The bot laner's been one of the best in the world and competed professionally since 2013. He hasn't mentioned retiring, but given the physical setback and length of his pro career, we'll hope that this isn't the last time we see Deft in an international showdown.
DRX coach Kim "cvMax" Dae-ho reflected on the season after Thursday's sweep, giving credit to both Chovy and Deft for helping coach the team.
"Thanks to Chovy and Deft, the core players, Keria, Pyosik, and Doran were able to soak in all of the game knowledge and experience," cvMax said via a translator. "Also, Chovy and Deft were even coaching better than the real coaches. Maybe they were the realistic coaches of our team leading the team so well. I also learned so much by watching them doing feedback for the players. Compared to myself in Griffin and this year, I think I've become better at coaching, and it's all from Deft."
Every game in a sentence
DAMWON Gaming 1, DRX 0: DRX are unable to get their Caitlyn ahead early and DWG have stronger objective setups overall, even when it looked for a short moment like DRX would be able to poke them down in the mid game.
DAMWON Gaming 2, DRX 0: A big teamfight in mid where Nuguri controls the entire fight with Ornn makes the difference for DWG.
DAMWON Gaming 3, DRX 0: Another limited-to-no-engage composition harms DRX as DAMWON are easily able to jump on them and, despite Doran's Vladimir doing relatively well early in top lane, beat DRX in the mid game.