8ljaywalking Wins Set 4 TFT Fates World Championship
After three days and 15 matches, the champion of Set 4 TFT Fates World Championship has been decided. Korea’s 8ljaywalking beat a field of 24 players from all over the world to become the Champion.
8ljaywalking showed up to the tournament ready to play. He finished day one in third place with 29 points, easily qualifying in the top 16 to reach day two. 8ljaywalking followed that up with a second consecutive 29 point performance, this time earning him second on day two. With that, 8ljaywalking qualified for the final day of competition.
8ljaywalking was the king of finishing second in lobbies on the first two days. That consistency was exactly what he needed to advance, but the championship format called for a different playstyle. Instead of using a point system over five games, the champion needed to reach 18 points before winning a game. The first player to do so would win the title.
With that in mind, we saw players adapt immediately. Greeding for items and perfect Chosen units became far more of a priority than preserving health. Considering the Korean meta is known for its aggressive rolling and leveling, the format didn’t seem to favor 8ljaywalking.
That fear played out almost immediately in game one. 8ljaywalking made it into the top two, but his Cultist composition fell to sCsC’s Duelist composition in the final fight. 8ljaywalking then took fifth and eighth in games two and three, squandering his early momentum. With only 13 points after three games, 8ljaywalking needed to finish fourth or better in game four to have a chance to win the tournament in game five.
8ljaywalking did just that. After riding an early win streak, 8ljaywalking found fully itemized Swain, Samira, and Olaf to finally close out a first. Now, he and five other finalists had qualified to win the tournament with a first in game five.
With the tournament on the line, 8ljaywalking turned to Kayle. The once premier carry had been underwhelming so far in the competition, but early Chalice of Power and Rapidfire Cannon slams locked him into the composition. 8ljaywalking got as low four health, but he barely held on to beat ZyK0o’s Slayer composition in the final fight to win the tournament.
A GAME OF INCHES
8ljaywalking won the tournament, but it didn’t look like he would for most of the day. Instead, ZyK0o looked destined to become the second straight French player to win Worlds.
ZyK0o finished third, first, and first in his opening three games to become the only player able to win the tournament in game four. His Akali Ninja composition never fully came online in game four, but the pieces were all there for the win in game five. After securing two early Neeko’s Helps, ZyK0o hit a perfect item Samira 2* for his Slayer composition. He was even able to add in four Adepts with a Chosen Shen.
Unfortunately, a few late decisions possibly swung the title away from ZyK0o. On the stage 6-4 carousel, ZyK0o passed up what would have been a Yone 2* completion for a Thief’s Gloves on Braum. ZyK0o then placed the item on his Irelia 2* and got Statikk Shyv and Deathcap—two worthless items. ZyK0o could have sold the Irelia 2* for an Irelia in his shop and re-rolled the Thief’s Gloves for better items (like a Zephyr or Shroud of Stillness). He could have done this twice more with copies of Zilean and Yone he had on his bench.
8ljaywalking’s positioning also appeared to juke ZyK0o in the final fight. We see ZyK0o watch 8ljaywalking move Kayle left late in the countdown, with ZyK0o responding by moving his Irelia and Yone to match. However, 8ljaywalking moved his Kayle back at the last second. ZyK0o lost the fight to two units with a fraction of their health bar remaining.
HAPPY TO BE THERE
Realistically, though, ZyK0o was incredibly fortunate to have even been in that position. He was the last player to qualify through to both days two and three, winning tiebreakers each time. That includes fortunate lobby seeding on day two (more on that later).
ZyK0o also benefited from some luck in his gameplay. He made several notable mistakes on his big transition turns in game two—missing Shyvana in his shop, leaving items on his bench, and playing a 7 Dragonsoul board with a non-sharpshooter Tristana 1*—but he was not punished. ZyK0o fought the right players at the right time to survive, stabilize, and turn an eighth into a first.
ZyK0o then followed it up with a game three that showed him to have an Aatrox 2*, Xayah 2*, and Kennen Chosen for six Keepers on 4-3 with 40 gold left. That’s an insane high roll. Add that in with the double Neeko’s Help into Samira 2* in game five and ZyK0o could not have asked for a better setup to win.
None of this is to say that ZyK0o is a bad player. The small mistakes he made came in the heat of the moment, while the high rolls are nothing to apologize over. He took the luck he received and used it to the best of his abilities.
Still, it’s crazy to think that 8ljaywalking—a player who consistently demonstrated better gameplay across the three days, including the finals—almost lost to ZyK0o. It just goes to show how fickle a game like Teamfight Tactics can be in such a small sample of games.
FUTURE FORMAT CHANGES?
There is always going to be a compromise between entertainment and competitive integrity in TFT tournaments. The more games played, the more confident we can be in a deserved winner. But how many is too many for a spectator esport? What if the tournament was scheduled for 100 games, but the winner was already determined by game 89?
The “Checkmate” Finals ensures the entertainment value is through the roof, as the tournament will always end on a first place finish. It worked out incredibly well in this case, as 8ljaywalking was a deserved winner. But what if it had been someone else? Half of the lobby could have won game five and the championship while still finishing below 8ljaywalking and ZyK0o in the point standings.
While you can argue that playing for first is a skill (and it is), you still have to acknowledge that you aren’t always presented with the opportunity to get first, especially in a lobby full of strong players. There are plenty of fourth place finishes that are much more skillful than firsts.
When you set the point total so low that six of eight players reach it after four games, you’re essentially making the tournament a contest between the high rollers of the final game lobby. If Riot wants to keep the Checkmate format for the Finals, they need to consider upping the points requirement to win. It would obviously lead to more games and a longer broadcast, but it would still ensure the hype moments still happen to end it.
A less noticeable but even bigger problem came in the form of the day two lobbies. For some reason, the top eight performers in day one were all put together in Lobby 1 for game one. In a Swiss format with only five games, that means the best players from day one were punished by having to play in a stronger lobby in the opener. Riot awarded no bonus for playing in Lobby 1.
This would come back to hurt DQA in particular. The North American player finished fourth on day one, easily qualifying for day two. Unfortunately, his 24 points on day two tied him for eighth with ZyK0o. Though DQA opened in Lobby 1 while ZyK0o opened in Lobby 2, ZyK0o advanced to the Finals because he had one more top-four finish than DQA on day two.
It seems like a no-brainer to have set the four best finishers from day one against the four worst finishers. The middle eight players would have then comprised the second lobby. It was disappointing to see TFT’s ultimate tournament once again hampered by poor tournament organization.
With the Set 4 World Championship in the books, we turn our attention to Set 5. The new set will be up on the PBE on Wednesday, April 14. Barring any unforeseen delays, we can expect Set 5 to go live on Wednesday, April 28.