The League of Legends World Championship is all wrapped up, with Worlds 2021 bringing us one of the best finals of all time as Edward Gaming and DWG KIA put on a show. EDG’s come-from-behind 3-2 victory as heavy underdogs entering the series bears mention, but so too does the legacy of China’s No. 1 seed at Worlds 2021, what’s left for DWG KIA after this loss and, of course, the action from Saturday’s series in Reykjavik, Iceland.
Upcomer’s experts took a look back at the five-game thriller, from the big picture to the smaller scenes, for a full look at the 2021 League of Legends World Championship.
How does this series impact EDG’s legacy?
Warren Younger: This series means everything for Edward Gaming. They’re the most storied and popular franchise in the League of Legends Pro League. They’ve had the domestic results, they had the Mid-Season Invitational win, but at Worlds, the tournament that means the most, they have not done well historically. The only thing holding Edward Gaming back from being up there with the best organizations in history was a Worlds win, and they got that at Worlds 2021. EDG showed remarkable resiliency, playing 15 games in the knockout stage and never giving up. Now, they cement themselves as the greatest Chinese organization in the history of the game.
E.G. Kant: Edward Gaming is generally considered one of the biggest teams in the LPL, and now they further cement it as they are the only LPL team to have a Mid-Season Invitational title and a world championship title to their name. For a team that has traditionally underachieved in international tournaments, 2021 will be the historic year where they’ve broken this long-standing curse and helped the LPL dominate international competition once more, just like 2018. I’d like to give a short shoutout to DWG KIA as well, because there can be no shame in what they’ve managed to achieve. DK won the LCK back-to-back and were finalists in both MSI and Worlds, losing only in the fifth game of both series. No shame there, and the DWG KIA Worlds 2021 squad will remain a memorable League of Legends roster.
Michael Czarnowski: After breaking their quarterfinal curse earlier this tournament, the sky was the limit for EDG, and they reached the top. For teams across any sport or esport, sometimes beating an obstacle you had troubles with previously can be the mental boost you need to win it all. For EDG, that obstacle was international success, and at Worlds 2021, they broke it in the round of eight and shattered it completely in the next series. That was why when Edward Gaming got down 2-1 to DWG KIA in this series, they kept their cool, turned it around and won back-to-back games to get this Worlds 2021 title. If anything, the Worlds 2021 title solidifies Edward Gaming’s legacy outside of the LPL, and earns them the spot of best team in the world.
Declan McLaughlin: Before this tournament, Edward Gaming was one of the odd LPL teams that could make a decent run at international events but could never seal the deal, except for their iconic win at the Mid-Season Invitational in 2015. Now, this adds more depth to their legacy and puts them in the conversation as one of the best Chinese organizations in League of Legends. They will need to do more to vault into “best organizations ever” conversations, but this win puts them on that path.
Tom Matthiesen: I can only echo the sentiments of my colleagues. Edward Gaming were the team that should have won Worlds years ago but always fell apart. Their run at Worlds 2021 cannot be disrespected. They went to five games in every best-of-five they played and showed flaws, sure, but more than that they showed an iron mindset. This is the team that will go down as “The Untiltables” for being on the ropes so many times but recovering every single time. They toppled reigning MSI champions RNG and reigning world champions DWG KIA in their run to claim the title more than deservedly.
Which league is now the best in the world: the LCK or the LPL?
Younger: It’s the League of Legends Pro League. Sure, League Champions Korea had three teams in the semifinals, but that could have easily been two or even one depending on quarterfinal matches. EDG were matched up against fellow Chinese squad Royal Never Give Up in quarters. If RNG drew a different team, then it could have very well been two LCK teams and two LPL teams in semis. None of that really matters, though, because EDG proved that the LPL’s best is better than the LCK’s best. There really is no argument. The LPL swept both international events this year.
Kant: In my humble opinion, this is a difficult question to answer, long or short. Coming into 2021 in general, the opinion that the LCK was a one-team region was not an unpopular one. It’s generally agreed that the LPL has greater depth due to the amount of teams that could make Worlds; just look at the list of Chinese teams that missed Worlds 2021 because of regional limits, including Top Esports, Suning, Invictus Gaming and so forth.
But 2021 has thoroughly disproved the LCK as a dying region, and even if one argues the meta shift aided them, it just means that LCK teams adapted better than the rest of their competitors. That’s not something weak teams or players can do easily in a short amount of time. I believe the LPL edges the LCK on depth, but both regions are still close, and that’s what makes their clashes on the international stage so exciting. And hopefully, it will continue to be as exciting as the MSI and Worlds finals in 2021.
Czarnowski: It’s hard to say that the LPL isn’t the best region in the world after Edward Gaming won Worlds 2021. Leading into the series, most analysts believed DWG KIA would easily defeat EDG and get the back-to-back Worlds championship, but EDG got over their demons and got the trophy. Now, one thing I will agree with for this tournament is that LCK was amongst the best, and that was proven in the semifinal between T1 and DWG KIA. But EDG won when it mattered most and proved their region is the premier league in the world.
McLaughlin: I think the LCK’s performance at Worlds 2021 proved that it was the top league this season and going into next year with the combined performances of all four squads. The knockout stage featured four LCK teams and only two LPL squads. The LPL teams also did not looks as dominant against other regions as most LCK teams.
Ultimately, I think both leagues have their strengths and weaknesses, but the LCK has proved to be more adaptable while also hosting some of the strongest players in the world.
Matthiesen: Despite the LCK having three of its four representatives in the semifinals, I still think the LPL is the strongest region. And that isn’t just because Edward Gaming happened to lift the Worlds 2021 trophy in the end. The Worlds 2021 meta was wildly different from anything that had been played in the domestic summer splits. These changes affected the teams differently and also played a big part in how strong their opposition in the group stage was.
Of course, the LPL still greatly underperformed overall, especially FunPlus Phoenix. The LCK stepped up massively this Worlds. But I still would confidently say that the LPL plays League of Legends at the highest level, consistently.
Do you agree that Scout was the Worlds 2021 finals MVP?
Younger: Although Li “Flandre” Xuan-Jun had himself a career defining game in Game 5 of the finals, it has to be EDG’s jungler, Zhao “Jiejie” Li-Jie. Jiejie came into worlds as the weakest link of this EDG team and was clutch in every single series. In the finals, he was tasked with going up against the arguably greatest jungler of all time, Kim “Canyon” Geon-bu. Not only did Jiejie step up, he stepped over Canyon and was the best performer throughout the finals. Just amazing stuff from the 20-year-old.
Kant: This is a hard one. Jiejie, Lee “Scout” Ye-chan and Flandre were my candidates when I first saw this question, and every one of them have compelling arguments. Scout was officially voted the finals MVP, and why not? I think LPL viewers knew they would be in for an amazing time when he pulled out his Zoe, and he definitely was the crux for their victories in those games. Then there’s Jiejie with his amazing nerves of steel to steal a Baron and a dragon, and the many other times he kept EDG in the series as well. I’d like to give both of them MVPs, but I guess Upcomer will fire me for my continued indecision. I’ll go for Scout this time, but I’d sneak a second MVP trophy to Jiejie if I was the commissioner.
Czarnowski: I agree with Warren: I think Jiejie was snubbed for MVP. I discussed this a lot with my fellow Upcomer writers: What would you value more within the series? Scout played great in the final two games, helping lead EDG to their series win and first championship, and was my second vote for MVP. But in the first three, Jiejie was the reason EDG were competing so closely with DK. From the Baron steals to some great teamfight performances in the final two games, he played better throughout the entire series and kept EDG in the fight. Scout helped finish the series out, but wouldn’t have had that opportunity if it wasn’t for Jiejie.
McLaughlin: I think the broadcast got it right this time around. Scout was the MVP of the series. He carried the team in that last game, and while he didn’t have a marquee Baron steal moment, he was never a liability for his team. No players on either side had a consistent series, but Scout went toe-to-toe with DWG KIA mid laner Heo “ShowMaker” Su consistently and played teamfights incredibly well even in EDG’s losses.
Matthiesen: No spicy takes here: Jiejie was the true MVP of the series for Edward Gaming. I’m afraid that the MVP panel was influenced by recency bias when voting for Scout, who had a great fifth game. But EDG only managed to reach a fifth map because Jiejie was on a mission in the games prior. His Baron and dragon clutches stand out in the clips, but this young man literally gapped Canyon in the fourth game. After an early invade, stealing the Blue Buff right from under Canyon’s nose, Jiejie transitioned his advantage flawlessly to the top lane. He was miles ahead of his opposition and put Flandre in a position to carry the game. It was a jungling seminar.
What’s your pick for the best moment or play of the series?
Younger: I still don’t think it’s real but the nexus exploding in Game 5 was cool to see.
One last fight, one last game, EDG take down DK to take down the World Championship!! pic.twitter.com/MJVKm3eD9W
— LPL (@lplenglish) November 6, 2021
Kant: Just the Baron moments, honestly. Every Baron by either team always felt tense as heck and always left me on the edge of my seat, especially Jiejie’s Baron steal. Even though they lost that game, the nerve of this rookie in Worlds to steal it from Canyon of all players was absolutely amazing. Then there was the two-man Baron by DK in Game 5, too. Incredible play and call to go for it. The Elder Dragon fight in Game 5 where Scout threaded the needle as well to pick off Canyon is my honorable mention since it was, in my opinion, a game-winning moment.
There are 3 inevitable things in life; death, taxes and VIPER POPPING OFF!!! pic.twitter.com/skYJfCZiXV
— LPL (@lplenglish) November 6, 2021
Czarnowski: Jiejie stealing both Baron and Dragon in two clutch moments. Watching EDG drag themselves back into the series with a Baron steal is primetime entertainment. Then, while on that road, also stealing a big dragon? Not much else to say other than wow.
— LoL Esports (@lolesports) November 6, 2021
I mean, seriously. Wow.
Jiejie steals AGAIN. What is that, third smite steal today?
— EDG fan account (@redbullgaming) November 6, 2021
But also, honorable mention to DWG’s coordinated sip.
The jungle-mid synergy 👀🥤 pic.twitter.com/aRNplwYU2r
— Upcomer (@Upcomer) November 6, 2021
McLaughlin: DWG KIA’s Baron sneak in Game 5 is my play of the series just for pure boldness needed to attempt such a play in such a high-pressure situation. They didn’t do much with the buff, but it shows just how much DWG KIA were willing to risk to bring themselves back into the game.
Matthiesen: Jiejie’s Baron steal. It is just one of the many great moments of the young jungler in this series, but Baron steals are always something special. Jiejie displayed nerves of steel in this moment. He didn’t flinch when going head-to-head with Canyon, who many believe to be the best jungler in the world. Such a defining moment deserves a special mention.