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T1’s redemption story complete

By Maggie Hsu, December 19 2023—

The grind has come to an end as the 2023 League of Legends (LoL) World Championship (more commonly known as Worlds) has concluded and the glory has been awarded.

The finale of the crowning event for League of Legends eSports was held in Seoul and Busan, South Korea this year. The five-week tournament was themed around the phrase “The Grind. The Glory”, which paid homage to the idea that “when the confetti falls and the trophy rises, we’re only witnessing the glory. But in reality: There’s no glory without the grind.” Behind any sport, every trophy, medal, ribbon or title in sports, is a lifetime’s worth of hard work and dedication to the craft and the glory is only evidence of this grind. This theme not only represents the journey of every team that participated in this tournament, it represents all those teams on the outside looking in. At the end of it all when the lights go down and the celebrations are over, the grind starts again.

In addition to the honour of raising the Summoner’s Cup, the trophy awarded to the World Champions, first place in the tournament gets the largest cut of a prize pot of two million dollars. For many in the up-and-coming world of electronic sports (Esports), this is the signifier that LoL and other Esports, is a legitimate sport that deserves respect and admiration. After defeating perennial favourites, T1, at Worlds 2022, DRX Gaming failed to qualify for this year’s edition of the tournament and will not get the opportunity to defend their title as members of the 2022 winning team went on to sign with other teams after raising the Summoner’s Cup.

The 2023 tournament to determine who is the best team of the season started with the Play-In Stage which featured the first and second seeds from the Vietnam Championship Series  (VCS) and Pacific Championship Series (PCS), the first seed from Liga Latinoamérica (LLA), Brazilian Championship of League of Legends (CBLOL), and League of Legends Japan League (LJL), and the winner of the Worlds Qualifying Series between the League Championship Series (LCS) and League of Legends European Championship (LEC) fourth seeds. This mini-tournament resulted in GAM Esports, representing the VCS, and Team BDS, LEC’s 4th seed, qualifying for the Swiss Stage or the main tournament.

Worlds 2023 was the first year a Swiss-style format was used. In this format, teams were paired with the same record as them with each matchup drawn at the end of each round. Rounds one and two were a best-of-one, giving teams a greater opportunity to move on compared to the prior seed format. Teams that achieved three wins qualified for the knockout stage while teams that lost three at any point were eliminated. Teams facing elimination or qualification played a best-of-three series.

After a thrilling Swiss Stage that resulted in a number of exciting games, all four teams from the LPL, three of four LCK teams, and one sole representative for North America, NRG Esports, qualified for the knockout stage. As the two strongest pools of talent in the world of LoL eSports, it was no surprise that there was such strong representation from China and Korea. NRG would aim to survive the challenging bracket to bring North America their first Championship but would ultimately be swept out of the tournament by the LPL’s fourth seed, Weibo Gaming, and eventually one of the finalists for the final series.

Weibo Gaming came into the tournament as a relatively new organization and was not expected to qualify for Worlds, let alone make it to finals. As the sixth-ranked team in the 2023 LPL season going into the LPL regional finals, they only managed to qualify for the Swiss Stage after defeating the fourth and fifth seeds, EDward Gaming and Top Esports. Going into the Semifinals of the Knockout stage, they were matched against Bilibili Gaming, the winner of the LPL in Championship Points – the odds were against them. They managed to push Bilibili to a game five in a best-of-five, which they would win and book their ticket to the Worlds finals, continuing their golden road.

On the other side of the bracket, perennial favourites and one of the most successful franchises in professional eSports, T1 were facing an uphill battle as they were coming off of a less-than-optimal spring and summer seasons that saw shuffles in their lineup with an injury to their mid laner and who is considered to be the greatest of all time in professional League of Legends, Lee “Faker” Sanghyeok. After the losses of fellow Korean teams, Gen.G and KT Rolster, T1 had the added pressure of representing Korea against China, two nations that have become giants in LoL.

T1 entered the finals with an impressive record to uphold: they had never lost a best-of-five Worlds series to an LPL team. On top of that, they were one of the only teams to remain intact after the 2022 season despite a few lineup changes throughout the season to accommodate Faker’s injury. This was the team that lost in a heartbreaking game against DRX and was looking for redemption as they showed they had learned from their past and were worthy of the World Champion title. After sweeping Weibo Gaming in the series in front of a home crowd in Seoul, checked all the items off their list: maintained their undefeated record against LPL teams, redemption, and the Summoners’ Cup.

This final push for The Glory started before the series began with the coin toss to determine who would get the advantage of side selection for the final series. We witnessed Weibo Gaming win the coin toss and choose the Blue Side. For those new to League of Legends, the Blue Side is considered an advantage for a variety of tactical reasons that can give those teams that are fighting for the Blue Side the upper hand during a game. 

Despite this advantage, T1 managed to dominate Weibo Gaming, sweeping the series with outstanding series totals of 47 to 11 kills over WBG, 26 to WBG’s 4 tower takedowns, ten dragons over to three and took every Baron power play while WBG was not able to secure a single one. Again, for those new to League, these objectives reward players that take them with powerups and gold. Gold from towers and objectives helps players build items that also give power-ups to players. Lastly, towers are what protect a base. Teams need to take down towers and infiltrate the enemy base and destroy their nexus to win the game. With all of these numbers stacked against Weibo, they were not able to muster a win over T1’s dominating play.

With that, T1 earned the right to lift the Summoner’s Cup after starting back at square one last year after their heartbreaking loss to DRX. In addition to winning the Summoner’s Cup, Choi “Zeus” Wooje was awarded the finals’ MVP title for his strong play in the top lane and Faker has made history as the player with the most titles and it is unlikely for anyone to take this record from him in the near future. And with this Worlds 2023 Championship win, they have redeemed themselves for last year’s loss and have further cemented T1’s already illustrious dynasty in League of Legends eSports history.

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