League of Legends Season 7 has finally come to a close; SKT-T1 have been dethroned by Samsung Galaxy, Faker cried, and the gap between the Koreans and the rest of the world doesn’t look quite as cavernous as it once did.
Season 7 was probably the most entertaining and closely fought Worlds series so far. With upsets abound and a meta that at first appeared to be set in stone evolving mid series, the best players in world took each other down in spectacular style.
As in almost all e-sports, Korean and Chinese teams have dominated the League of Legends pro scene since their arrival in Season 2. Chinese or Korean teams have won the World Championship every year since. The Korean powerhouse SKT-T1 have made it to the finals every time they have attended, winning Seasons 3, 5 and 6. It had almost become expected that if SKT qualified for worlds that they would win. Nothing seemed to be able to stop them and people even joked the gap between SKT and the rest of Korea was the same size as the gap between Korea and the rest of the world. I’d laugh except it was basically true.
The West was once again promising during the Spring and Summer splits for Europe and North America. G2 Esports picked up their 3rd and 4th consecutive EU LCS Championships and TSM won their 5th and 6th NA LCS championships. At MSI, G2 Esports made it to the finals and even managed to take a game off SKT. Over in Korea’s LCK, Longzhu Gaming absolutely dominated, crushing SKT in the finals to take 1st place in the summer split.
Come Worlds though, things started looking all too familiar for NA fans. TSM once again under-performed and failed to make it out of the group stages, with Cloud 9 once again being the only American team to make it out. Longzhu Gaming dominated their group coming out 6-0, with SKT finishing their group in first place at 5-1 .The final Korean team, Samsung Galaxy, finished second in their group at 4-2. Everyone jumped on the Longzhu hype train. They looked unstoppable, like a team that could finally take down SKT. Could they do it? Would we get those sweet blue dragon Championship skins reddit was drooling over? It was starting to look like more than just a possibility.
However, the Quarter Finals turned everything on its head. Longzhu lost in spectacular style in a 3-0 sweep against Samsung Galaxy. Samsung’s superior macro play, combined with a pick/ban phase that denied Longzhu’s star player his best champions, exposed their weakness. By forcing Longzhu to put Khan on tank champions it showed that he was unable to adapt from his usual play style. With Khan unable to carry, Samsung took them down with embarrassing ease. RIP blue dragon skins.
The next big upset was when SKT went up against Misfits. Misfits finished 3rd in the EU LCS, and with EU being traditionally a 4th tier region it was expected the reigning champions would crush them. Instead Misfits took them to 5 games in what was one of the most exciting best of 5 series ever (seriously, if you are new to the League professional scene, or just haven’t seen this Bo5 I HIGHLY recommend you watch it here). Instead of trying to emulate the meta established by the Koreans as most teams do, Misfits brought their own style. Rather than try to outplay SKT in the Ardent Censer/Healing/Shielding meta, Misfits pulled out something entirely different. Putting their support Ignar on play-making champions including Leona and Blitzcrank, they forced SKT to adapt to them. Ignar absolutely dominated the series with some amazing plays, a level 1 double kill in bot lane, and Blitzcrank hooks that will give Faker nightmares for the rest of his life. Close doesn’t even do this series justice, with it finally being decided by a fight at Elder Dragon with SKT’s Blank managing to out-smite Maxlore, allowing SKT to win the fight and close out the series.
Semi Finals ended up as expected with Samsung Galaxy taking down Team WE 3-1 whilst SKT took down Royal Never Give Up 3-2, leading us to a rematch of the Season 6 finals.
The Season 6 final was an amazing spectacle which started with Samsung losing games 1 and 2 looking like they were going to be defeated in a clean sweep. Unbelievably they turned game 3 into an epic 70-minute comeback, taking the series to 5 games before SKT took home the title. This year we expected a titanic rematch, especially with both teams rosters being the exact same as last year. What wasn’t expected was Samsung defeating SKT in a 3-0 clean sweep, but that’s exactly what happened. Samsung played so consistently and at such a high level that even when SKT took early leads they were unable to convert them into any late game advantage. Samsung’s superior decision making and macro play, combined with SKT making crucial errors meant that even Faker, the undisputed best player in League of Legends history, couldn’t carry his team to a 4th title. As heartbreaking as it was to see Faker collapse into tears at the end of it, this is what League of Legends as an e-sport needed; close games, upsets, unexpected plays and results, and real competition.
That, and I don’t think we could take yet another year of SKT Championship Skins…