What is League of Legends Worlds tournament?
The League of Legends Worlds is an eSports tournament held annually in Autumn. The 2018 Worlds was the 8th edition of a competition which has risen to be one of the most followed eSports event in the world, gathering millions of viewers every year. 2018 Worlds were watched by over 200 million concurrent viewers: that is double the amount that Super Bowl gets. The setting of the tournament is like any other major sports event and this year the final was held in Munhak Stadium in South Korea. Although it has capacity for over 50.000 people, tickets to the Finals were sold out in seconds.
If you are unfamiliar with the game I recommend watching this introductory video. There are 5 major regional leagues around the world: Europe, North America, Taiwan, China and Korea. Unlike many other sports, LoL regional leagues are held two times a year, called the Spring split and the Summer split. The best performing teams in their regional leagues then enter the Worlds tournament. A total of 24 teams participated this year.
The unpredicted story of Invictus Gaming
“The flying V of death”, as one of the League of Legends casters (or, using a more traditional word, commentators) called Invictus Gaming because of their ability to react unbelievable quickly as a team, won the 2018 Worlds tournament in spectacular way and very few people expected it. In recent years, Korean teams have been dominating the Worlds stage winning the title 5 times in a row, but this year was a different story. IG was supposed to be a team that relied heavily on their Korean star mid-laner “Rookie” (the only non-Chinese on the team) to carry them forward, and not much hype or talk was around their other 4 starting members. IG did not win their regional league: despite scoring 18-1 (wins/losses) in both regular seasons, their playoff performance in both Spring and Summer splits was subpar compared to their regular season success and they ended up 4th and 2nd respectively. However, that secured them their spot in 2018 Worlds.
As expected, the strategy of IG in the group stage of the Worlds was built heavily around Rookie, but as the tournament went on, the team and their methods seemed to evolve into a more balanced approach where every team member was suddenly able to carry the games. This changed IG into an unstoppable steamrolling machine that finished the games with a decisiveness rarely witnessed at this stage. For the viewer, their map control and ability to react instantly to surprising situations was a sight to behold, as every time you thought to yourself “Now they made a costly mistake,” IG managed to turn it around to their advantage. The once “one-man team” was no more. There was only a team.
The true test of skill came right after the group stage as they had to face the Korean champion KT Rolster, a team that was predicted by many analysts to win the tournament. IG managed to win the first two games of the best of five series, but KT was not done yet and managed to fight back and even the series. The final game was hard fought until JackeyLove (the 17-year old Invictus Gaming bottom-lane player) did something extremely daring and flashed forward into the enemy team. That single play might be the most daring and mad witnessed in professional play and it is what ultimately cemented their road to win the whole tournament.
The Finals opening ceremony was once again a high-quality production and featured many well-known artists. Riot (the developer of League of Legends) has a habit of including augmented reality content in the opening ceremony and this time was no exception. After the effect-filled opening ceremony, the final series started. Many expected hard fought games between IG and the European champion Fnatic as they had faced each other in groups two times each winning one game. IG however was already on the roll and every tactic Fnatic tried to pull on them backfired. Fnatic tried to win the games focusing on the top-lane matchup but ended up losing it to IG toplaner TheShy repeatedly. JackeyLove and Rookie played better than great denying Fnatic to gather any momentum, but most importantly IG jungler Ning played the series of his life and claimed the MVP award of the finals. IG’s victory was a show of teamplay and individual skill, daring high-tempo tactics and exceptional mechanical outplays. The 3-0 win was well deserved and certainly entertaining. The only question now is, can they repeat? Can they become the new powerhouse of LoL eSports or was this a one-year wonder? Next year the Worlds will be held in Europe and Fnatic has a chance to redeem themselves while IG need to step up to defend their title.
Image credit: Screen captured from the official League of Legends YouTube channel:
Opening Ceremony Presented by Mastercard | Finals | 2018 World Championship