Korean teams have dominated games for years but the World Championship of 2018 had other plans for them.
The League of Legends World Championship Series, presented by Riot Games, is a massive international gaming tournament featuring the multiplayer online battle arena game, League of Legends (LoL). The tournament consists of 24 teams from around the world. All of them are given a chance to win the championship title and nearly a million dollar prize.
Only the top two teams from each region are chosen to qualify for the World Championship, the exception being South Korea who’ve typically received three invitations since they have performed so well in past championships. This year, the teams that made it are Gen G, kt Rolster (KT), and Afreeca Freecs (AFS). However, despite high expectations, tournaments watchers were shocked when none of the Korean teams progressed to the semi-finals, putting an end to the Korean reign in League of Legends.
Korean teams have dominated the League of Legends World Championship for the last five years, the most popular team being SK Telecom T1 (SKT). Lee Sang-Hyeok, known as Faker from SKT may be the most famous LoL player in the world, known for his intelligence and great movement. His team was once considered the best, winning several championship titles. The Koreans rule over the World Championship events had created the popular stereotype that Koreans are the best players at LoL. That stereotype was disproven when the Korean teams got crushed in this tournament.
Afreeca Freecs lost to the North American team, Cloud 9 (C9), receiving a win-loss of 1-5. The North American teams were the underdogs, having never even made it past semifinals which lead everyone to think the Koreans would have won once more. However, C9 proved to be strong contenders and ended up tying third place. This was the first time in history that a North American group made it to semi-finals.
A similar thing happened to kt Rolster where they went against a Chinese team, Invictus Gaming. Many had been cheering the last Korean team standing, and few expected them to lose, but ultimately and unexpectedly they did lose. The fans were disappointed especially as the tournament was hosted in their home country.
There are many factors that caused the Koreans to lose. Probably the most common mistake the Koreans made was getting caught away from their team and getting eliminated, giving them a long time to respawn. This gives the enemy enough time to end the game. The North Americans took advantage of this: once they saw an enemy push too far they would get an easy pick–taking out a player that is alone without any risks. Also, Gen.G had been playing very passively during their match with Royal Never Give Up, taking hits but never fighting back, allowing them to close the game.
A key component to a successful team is their synergy, something which AFS lacked. A team that doesn’t communicate well is unable to plan their movements as efficiently or effectively. AFS will need to work on playing more as a squad and moving to help their teammates rather than pushing solo. In this tournament, they failed to group together to outnumber their opponent. Their lack of coordination was a prominent reason for their failure in this tournament.
It isn’t always the players’ fault, though. For the last few years, LoL has been in an awkward situation due to the “Most Effective Tactic Available” (META). There are over 130 playable characters in the game but only 20 are considered the META and used for competitive play. Many spectators have complained that the LCS are boring and repetitive since players use the same champions and items every year. One of Gen.G’s players, Crown, picked a non-meta champion while their opponent, C9, picked a competitively viable one. This made him an easy target and Cloud 9 exploited this to win the match.
The South Koreans’ overall performance was awful in this years’ Worlds, mostly because they were unprepared to the face the dark horse teams. The North Americans employed new strategies that the Koreans couldn’t adapt to. Hopefully, Riot Games will improve and rework characters so that they fit in with the current META. As well as balancing some of the items to make builds and team compositions more diverse. The skill gap between the Koreans and everyone else is getting closer. Maybe it is time for a new organization to take over. But for now, rest in peace to the Korean rule.