5 things We Learned from the Worlds 2021 Group Stage
After two weeks of the 2021 League of Legends World Championship, we’ve seen heartbreaking losses, glorious triumph, and everything in between. Only eight teams are left standing as the Knockout Stage approaches. But before we dip ourselves in best-of-five mayhem, let’s take a step back and assess what we’ve learned from the seven days of Group Stage mayhem.
South Korea has come to reclaim the throne
DWG KIA seems to be the strongest team at the moment in Reykjavik, being the only team emerging from the Worlds 2021 Group Stage undefeated. They’ve barely shown any flaws as a squad and should be the favorites to win the title for the second year in a row. But that’s not the only throne South Korea is hunting this year. They are looking to jump back on top as the strongest region in League esports. DWG KIA, T1, Hanwha Life Esports, and Gen.G Esports all made it to the quarter-finals—three of them as the first seed of their group. After a few years of the LPL being the undisputed strongest region in League of Legends, the South Korean teams are making a great argument to start doubting China’s strength.
Many had written the LCS off entirely
Frankly speaking, it was astonishing to see see how many LCS fans and specialists seemed blown away by their region’s performance in the Group Stage. Of course, the top LPL teams and top LCK teams should perform better than the top teams of the LCS due to many factors. The LPL has a much larger player base, they play more games per year, the practice regimens are filled to the brim… the list goes on. However, while some may have added a layer of memery for entertainment’s sake, a lot of voices were talking as if the LCS teams never had any chance whatsoever.
The Worlds format (we’ll talk about it more later) hosts best-of-ones, in which anything can happen. In this stage, with the quality of players on each roster, the odds of winning almost never drop below 25%. Just last year, Team Liquid beat G2 Esports and Suning in their group. FlyQuest took a game off TOP Esports. This year, the LCS teams put up a commendable effort collectively. Through the surprising collapse of FPX, Cloud9 even made it to the Knockout Stage again. It’s a good achievement for the LCS, but people had forgotten how close the region had come before.
Yuumi is still not a fun champion
It’s been a while since Yuumi was actively played in the competitive scene. This Worlds 2021 Group Stage has reminded us how blissful those months without the cat were. Yuumi became a high priority from the very first match between DWG KIA and FPX, immediately shifting the meta away from what we saw in the Play-In Stage. And good lord, has Yuumi been boring. With virtually no counterplay, all any half-decent support player needs to do to make Yuumi work is throw out a timely Q to disturb the enemy and spam her absurdly powerful healing when an ally is low on health. Within the blink of an eye, she nullifies the poke damage enemies deal to counter the champions she synergizes with. Yuumi may be a champion of symbiosis in League of Legends, but in its pro scene, she’s a parasite sucking away the fun.
Chovy’s strength knows no limits
The Church of Chovy had every reason to ring its bells loudly and joyfully when Group C wrapped up, as Hanwha Life Esports had secured a ticket to the Knockout Stage. Hanwha Life as a whole has improved drastically over the course of the tournament, but Chovy has been their best player by miles. In the Group Stage, Chovy continued to put up a show. He’s cocky, arrogant in his play at times, but he almost always makes it work. His laning is unrivaled, as it has always been. But what has been so impressive at Worlds is how Chovy has translated his early leads to explosive dominance in the later stages of the games—something he didn’t always consistently do beforehand. He has carried Hanwha Life far in the tournament by ascending to greater heights at every step, and we can only wonder when his ceiling will be reached.
The Group Stage format still sucks
Yes, this Worlds had one of the tensest Group Stages in the history of the tournament. The second half of the Double Round Robin resulted in a total of six tiebreaker matches, four of which were nailbiting do-or-die games. But let’s not ignore that Group B’s second half was virtually done after just two games. A total of four filler games with barely anything on the line drained the energy of the viewers as they waited for a possible seeding tiebreaker between T1 and EDG, which didn’t even end up happening.
It’s so, so easy to find a format in which you get guaranteed tension in every game and avoid games that don’t matter. For example: How about a Double Elimination bracket where teams pay best-of-threes? Pair the highest seed with the Play-In qualifier, and the middle seeds play against each other. It’s really not that hard and this discussion is brought up every single year, but Riot is too stubborn to make it happen. It’s unfortunate. Worlds has so much more to offer.
The Worlds 2021 Knockout Stage commences on Friday, October 22nd, at 2 PM CEST. You can watch it live on the official LoL Esports site.