A year’s worth of hard work was not enough for some as two of the strongest teams in the tournament were sent home following the League of Legends World Championship 2019 semifinals.
Worlds returned to Spain with the four of the best teams in the world – and perhaps the most stacked semifinal line-up in the history of the esport. The domestic champions from the three strongest regions – Europe, Korea and China – and the reigning World Champions all met on stage for two mind-blowing series, all in the name of the Summoner’s Cup.
Would Korea return to global domination once more? Would the LPL continue where they left off last year to usher in a new era? Would Europe stand up under the weight of a home crowd with higher expectations than ever before? All of these questions were answered over the thrilling weekend of action.
FunPlus Phoenix vs Invictus Gaming
Madrid were treated to an extremely entertaining series between two of the strongest teams the LPL has to offer. In typical fashion for both teams, it was a bloodfest.
All but one of the games had more kills than minutes played with FunPlus Phoenix getting 34 kills in 34 minutes in the final match. The LPL champions came out on top and eliminated reigning World Champions Invictus Gaming with yet another 3-1 finish in Spain.
FPX stepped up a level this season following the signings of jungler Gao "Tian" Tian-Liang and midlaner Kim "Doinb" Tae-sang this season and the potent duo were extremely effective once again. The latter turned the series on its head by flexing Nautilus into the mid lane and repeatedly found the right targets with layers of crowd control. For Doinb, it isn’t about making flashy plays, but rather stopping his opponents from having an impact – the sheer oppression he offered on Nautilus was something even IG couldn’t find an answer to.
It had to make for a frustrating series from Song "Rookie" Eui-jin’s perspective as the Korean midlaner did everything in his power to pull his team back. In game two, things were looking much better for IG, and they were seemingly about to win the game with all five members pushing into FPX’s base with Baron buff and a few picks, but Doinb respawned just in time to find some picks of his own and force his opponents back.
From there, FPX fought back and were seemingly on the verge of taking a two-game lead – but Rookie, as IG’s only player left alive, walked into the base on his own and miraculously cleared the Baron minions while simultaneously winning a 2v1 against Doinb and Liu "Crisp" Qing-Song. That play alone meant the rest of FPX had to recall, keeping IG in the game and eventually leading to them taking a game back.
However, it was all for nothing in the end as FPX simply played much better as a team. IG were seemingly battling against themselves, especially in game four. The World Champions had all the team fight tools they could ask for with Kayle, Galio and Rakan, yet the players’ continuous mistakes were costly.
While FPX’s jungle-mid duo has received a lot of plaudits, toplaner Kim "GimGoon" Han-saem deserves a lot of credit for his performance against Kang "TheShy" Seung-lok as he helped stop one of IG’s main win conditions. It has to be said IG’s World Class toplaner was seemingly nowhere near his best, but a lot of that was due to GimGoon and FPX’s sensational performance.
It’s a victory that has announced FPX to the world. If you aren’t a regular LPL viewer, chances are you didn’t know much about the team before this tournament. Now, fans around the world will know of Doinb’s unconventional playstyle, of Tian’s unfiltered aggression and Crisp’s clean engages. This is a squad that everyone should fear: FPX is now a name that most won’t forget, as they advance to the Worlds grand final.
G2 Esports vs SK Telecom T1
Then, it was time for a series of epic proportions, as perhaps the greatest team Europe has ever produced faced off against the most decorated team of all time. On top of that, it was a rematch of the incredible five-game series between the two teams earlier this year at the Mid-Season Invitational. To say there was lots on the line was an understatement.
G2 had the weight of the world on their shoulders, single-handedly carrying Europe’s hopes while walking into possibly the biggest match of all five players’ careers so far. SK Telecom T1 had never attended a World Championship and failed to make the final. Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok hadn’t lost a Ryze game on stage in 729 days. G2 had never attended a Worlds final. Yet, all of those records changed following a 3-1 win for the LEC team.
For the majority of the series, G2 found themselves at a deficit and were forced to play from behind as SKT suffocated the map. However, the LEC champions were always able to find room to breathe and miraculously managed to turn the momentum of the games in the blink of an eye.
In the very first game, G2 proved that there is method behind their madness. SKT were seemingly in full control with total dominance around major objectives, yet Martin “Wunder“ Hansen and Rasmus “Caps” Winther continued split-pushing side-lanes. Thanks to that, G2 won one team fight and were able to finish the game while leaving Baron up – in fact the Europeans only picked up the buff once in the entire series. That was how effective G2 were playing; they had exact knowledge of how far they could push their limits. Even when faced against SKT with Baron buffs, their teamfighting and drive helped G2 stay in the game – and allowed them to capitalise when the moment struck.
Win or lose, SKT have mentioned mistakes in a lot of their post-match conferences. The Korean team is defined by their drive to achieve perfect play which is why Faker has managed to stay on top for so long. They played the series by the book and completely controlled the map, but what makes FPX and G2 so formidable is their ability to bend the rules.
The Worlds final is going to be a spectacle between two of the perhaps most unique teams to ever step foot on Summoner’s Rift. Doinb says he has 100 more champions he can still play, while Wunder claims the match against SKT was the true final. The earth-shattering final in Paris is going to change the face of League of Legends’ esports scene forever, but only one team will be immortalised as the 2019 World Champions. Stay tuned.