In 2014, the League of Legends community bore witness to the most dominant team in World Championship history.
In front of a home crowd at the South Korean World Cup Stadium, Samsung White wiped out Star Horn Royal Club in the final and lifted the summoners cup unscathed by the best the rest of the world could offer, losing just two games in the entire tournament.
As Riot Games shoutcaster and analyst Mitch “Krepo” Voorspoels remarked after the game:
“Korea manages to produce one team every year that’s just completely on another level.”
The next year was the same, as SK Telecom T1 took secured their second title with similar ease, defeating fellow Korean squad Koo Tigers in the final.
Though last season, predictably SKT won again, it wasn’t just Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok and co. who were head and shoulders above the competition.
Their Korean counterparts, Rox Tigers and Samsung Galaxy, both stretched SKT five-game en route to Korea’s fourth consecutive World Championship.
Whilst the quality of gameplay was scintillating, fans from the Western scene, began to tire of the ‘Korean Gods’ storyline.
The 2017 League of Legends World Championship has been a refreshing change from the norm.
The favourites to win and the LCK’s first seed, Longzhu Gaming, were the only team to be exit the group stage undefeated, suggesting that Korea’s rule over the competition would be soon to provide its latest instalment.
The other three groups paid no attention to the term ‘favourites on paper’, however: Fnatic completed a historic run to make it out of Group B, whilst Misfits defied all expectations to beating Team SoloMid and Flash Wolves in Group D, but perhaps the biggest shock came from Group C, in which Royal Never Give Up defeated Samsung Galaxy twice to take first place.
As the tournament shifted to a best-of-five for the knockout rounds, many suspected that South Korea would once again impose its dominance on the rest of the world.
But for the first time in five years, which team will eventually lift the summoners cup remains in doubt as the tournament enters the quarter-final stage.
Perhaps the most significant of the quarter-final ties was the clash between Misfits and SK Telecom T1, a series every analyst predicted to be a clean 3-0 sweep in favour of the reigning champions.
By contrast, the battle provided Western fans with the ultimate spectating experience. SKT was brought to their knees at the hands of the European underdogs, dispelling the assumption that Korean teams were unbeatable.
The Koreans were shown to be mortal and although Misfits couldn’t deal the killing blow, fans took solace in knowing that finally, the regional gap was closing.
The following day saw Fnatic and Royal Never Give Up square up in a clash of AD carry legacies. After finishing first with a Korean seed in their group, RNG was the clear favourite. As anticipated, RNG won the match, though it was much closer than predicted.
In what was expected to be the closest game of the quarter-finals, North America’s Cloud9 took on home-favourites, Team WE. Once again the match-up delivered a close and entertaining, five-game series.
Every quarter-final tie of the 2017 League of Legends World Championship has highlighted the pleasure in parity.
Though the fight for the title will now be fought exclusively between Korean and Chinese organisations, that Western organisations were able to hold their own during the knockout phase has resulted in a far more engaging tournament.