With Worlds 2021 on the horizon, the third seed from the League of Legends Korean Championship, T1, are one of 22 teams from across the globe that are gearing up for their biggest and most important event of the year. The 2021 League of Legends World Championship will feature each region’s best players, all fighting for the same goal: to stand atop the mountain and hoist the Season 11 Summoner’s Cup.
T1 come into this year’s Worlds, their first since rebranding, with a slight chip on their shoulder. They missed Worlds in 2020 and lost to G2 Esports in their last two international appearances (and G2 didn’t even make it to Worlds this year). However, T1 have revamped their lineup and look reenergized from their middling 2020 performance. The team heads to Reykjavík, Iceland bound for the Group Stage in hopes of making it out and securing Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok his fourth Worlds trophy.
T1 (LCK) Worlds 2021 starting roster breakdown
Top: Kim “Canna” Chang-dong | Signed to SKT in May 2019 as a trainee.
Jungle: Moon “Oner” Hyeon-joon | Promoted from T1 Academy in December 2020.
Mid: Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok | Signed to SKT in February 2013.
Bot: Lee “Gumayusi” Min-hyeong | Signed to SKT in December 2018 as a trainee.
Support: Ryu “Keria” Min-seok | Signed November 2020. Formerly a member of DRX.
Coach: Son “Stardust” Seok-hee | Signed December 2020. Promoted to Interim Head Coach in July.
Sub Jungle: Moon “Cuzz” Woo-chan | Signed November 2019. Formerly a member of DragonX.
Sub Bot: Park “Teddy” Jin-seong | Signed to SKT in November 2018. Formerly a member of Jin Air Green Wings.
How they got here
T1 started the 2021 season without much clarity in their starting roster. Even Faker wasn’t a sure starter given the fact that new coaches Yang “Daeny” Dae-in and Lee “Zefa” Jae-min wanted to experiment with the T1’s younger players. This created some instability in the team’s play. At times, they looked lost in their win conditions and could only close out games when ahead, despite any veteran presence alongside them, from Faker, Cuzz or Teddy.
But that instability was not enough to knock them from the top of the LCK table. T1 finished fourth in the spring split with an 11-7 record.
Once into the spring playoffs, the team seemed to decide on a roster filled with veterans. Faker returned to the mid lane full time as Cuzz and Teddy remained the starters. The team won their first playoff matchup but was swept by Gen.G in the semifinals.
Going into the summer split, T1 said they planned to field a more stable roster. But, roster changes continued in the jungle and bot lane. Cuzz and Teddy were both subbed in and out of the lineup during the summer split. T1 tried current T1 Challengers player Choi “Ellim” El-lim in the jungle before handing the position over to Oner.
While starting for T1, Oner seemed to give the team new life, as they finished the second half of the split with a 6-2 record.
T1 finished fourth again, with the same record of 11-7, and swept their first playoff opponents. In the second round they faced off against Gen.G once again, this time T1 defeated them 3-1. T1 made the finals of the LCK summer split and managed to take one game off of DWG KIA before falling 3-1.
Their placement earned them enough championship points to take the top seed in the LCK Regional Gauntlet, which gave them an automatic berth to Worlds. The only thing that needed to be decided was their seed, they could either land as the fourth seed and go to play-ins or the third and go directly into the main event. They managed to take their lone series in the gauntlet over HLE 3-2, fighting off an in-form Jeong “Chovy” Ji-hoon and Kim “Deft” Hyuk-kyu.
Players to watch
While T1 are coming in with many new faces and inexperienced players, the most obvious person to watch at this tournament remains Faker. The spectacled League of Legends champion is always a person of interest to watch any time he steps onto the international stage.
While arguably past peak, Faker still brings a level of veteranship to a team that is undeniable, according to LCK caster Max “Atlus” Anderson.
“That wealth of experience [and] his ability to play so incredibly well under pressure is still completely invaluable when it comes to a tournament like the World Championship,” Atlus said.
Outside the obvious, T1’s ever changing bot lane has three standouts that also cannot be ignored going into the tournament. Gumayusi is a rising talent that has shown flashes of brilliance and Teddy, while maybe experiencing a slight dip in form in the spring, is still one of the top players in the position from South Korea.
“They have Teddy and Gumayusi on the same freaking team, which makes absolutely no sense,” Atlus said. “That is just too much talent in one role on one team.”
But those two may not even be the best players in that lane, as Keria has been called one of the best supports in the world. Atlus said he mostly agrees, calling the 18 year old “incredible.”
How T1 can succeed at Worlds 2021
Much like their fellow LCK representatives HLE, T1’s jungle and top lane players are untested outside of the LCK and could be exploited by the top side talent of the other teams in their group.
“I think that they have less of a problem than Hanwha Life, but still, possibly the same style of weakness,” Atlus said. “Which is the top jungle not necessarily having the experience or the capability as a lot of the other teams, especially from the LPL.”
But the caster did say T1 should be considered the LCK’s X-factor team, meaning they can popoff in unusual circumstances and may be able to upset many of the teams people think should outmatch them on paper.
“I think this team definitely has the potential to go far,” Atlus said.
If Faker can hold the ship steady, and the peripheral sides of the map can go even on their own or win their matchups, T1 should have a shot at the Knockout Stage. In Group B, the two rookies will have to face off against the veteran duos of Edward Gaming and 100 Thieves. While not the not as scary as FunPlus Phoenix and their World Championship pedigree, both teams have solid top laners and junglers that know how to exploit weakness on that side of the map.
Still, teams with an X-factor have a way of surpassing all expectations.
This article is part of an ongoing preview series of all 22 teams competing at Worlds 2021. For our complete release schedule and more information on the other 21 teams attending Worlds, check out Upcomer’s Worlds 2021 Outlook Series hub.