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League of Legends

Worlds 2021 Quarterfinals Preview

Tom Matthiesen

We’ve arrived at the Knockout Stage of the 2021 League of Legends World Championship. Eight teams compete in a single-elimination bracket, best-of-five format to see who will be crowned world champion on November 6th. With a hectic Group Stage behind us, the  Worlds 2021 quarterfinals promise to light up the venue in Iceland.

worlds 2020 quarterfinals Viper EDG

Will Viper and EDG prove to be the best the LPL has to offer in the quarterfinals? (Photo via Lance Skundrich)

With four South Korean teams and two Chinese teams in the top eight and only one European and North American team, the odds are high that the Summoner’s Cup will fly out to the eastern hemisphere once more. Yet, some of the teams in the quarterfinals weren’t even expected to make it this far into the tournament. So let’s take a look at the matches at hand and see how the teams stack up against one another.

T1 vs Hanwha Life Esports — October 22nd

The Knockout Stage kicks off with an LCK family brawl, as third seed T1 takes on fourth seed Hanwha Life Esports. T1 came out swinging in the Group Stage, brushing off the shaky look they had at the end of the LCK Summer Split. Impressively, the team finished first in their group, ahead of LPL’s first seed and one of the tournament favorites, Edward Gaming. Hanwha Life Esports’ journey wasn’t as clean, but the team is on a rampage. After overcoming the Play-In Stage hurdles, Hanhwa continued to improve as a team, even taking a game off MSI champions Royal Never Give Up.

In this matchup, all eyes are naturally drawn to the mid-lane. The greatest League of Legends player of all time, Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok, meets with Jeong “Chovy” Ji-hoon, one of the best mid laners in League of Legends at the moment and the main reason Hanwha got as far as it did. In the 1v1, Chovy is likely to get the upper hand of Faker. T1’s flagship player has been a utility player in the tournament, helping set up the plays for his teammates. Chovy, on the other hand, gets to play whatever he likes to play in order to drag his team forward.

However, that is about the only advantage Hanwha Life Esports is likely to find against T1. Though Kim “Deft” Hyuk-kyu has performed well, he’ll be staring into the eyes of one of the strongest bot lanes at Worlds. Furthermore, the bot lane role is arguably the least important one in League of Legends right now. Worlds 2021 has shown us how important the top/jungle duo is in the current meta, and T1 vastly outclasses Hanwha here. The young Moon “Oner” Hyeon-joon has blossomed in Iceland, while sophomore Kim “Canna” Chang-dong has dominated his lane. T1 is a well-oiled machine with rapidly spinning gears in every position, and Hanwha Life faces a steep uphill battle taking them on.

Royal Never Give Up vs Edward Gaming — October 23rd

Another regional clash follows, with Royal Never Give Up, the LPL’s third seed, locking horns with Edward Gaming, the LPL’s first seed. RNG struggled more than expected. Placed in arguably the easiest group in the tournament with a hamstrung Fnatic, an underwhelming PSG Talon, and an exploitable Hanwha Life Esports, RNG initially did well. They went up 3-0, but lost control and ended 4-2, securing first seed only by defeating Hanwha Life in a tiebreaker. EDG disappointed in a similar fashion: while a loss against T1 wasn’t terrible, the team looked lost in the rematch against a proactive 100 Thieves.

Though RNG heads into the clash as the top seed of its group and EDG comes in as the second seed, EDG is still a favorite to win the head-to-head. Purely looking at individual performances, EDG’s players have played equally as well or better than RNG’s players have. The standout gap is found in the mid lane, where Lee “Scout” Ye-chan faces Yuan “Cryin” Cheng-Wei. Scout has stood his ground on six different champions in the tournament so far across six games. Cryin is the worst mid laner left standing in the tournament. He has had to default to Twisted Fate in five out of seven games played, and while he did look decent on average, even on that champion he had rough games.

EDG plays a passive game, Letting their top side farm like their lives depend on it. When the roaming and team fighting phases arrive, however, EDG jumps online. They channel their advantages well and once ahead rarely let go of their edge. RNG does a bit of everything and leans on top laner Li “Xiaohu” Yuan-Hao to pop off with help from jungler Yan “( Link listen) Yang-Wei. RNG may very well have to throw a curveball at EDG in order to topple them, but it’s hard to see what that could be when only Xiaohu has shown flexibility. If EDG has studied RNG, they’ll be able to capitalize relatively easily.

DWG KIA vs MAD Lions — October 24th

A rematch of the MSI semi-finals of this year, reigning world champion DWG KIA welcomes MAD Lions back to the arena. The South Korean powerhouse had an easy time making it to the Worlds 2021 quarterfinals. It was the only team to go 6-0 in the Group Stage and even when they had their minor slip-ups, a recovery plan brought them back in no time. MAD Lions, on the other hand, struggled heavily. In the first half of the Double Round Robin, the LEC champions barely got a victory over Gen.G. Though they improved drastically in a few days and showed incredible mental fortitude in the second half of the Group Stage, the team only made it to the quarterfinals by a hair.

Back in May, DWG KIA and MAD Lions went toe-to-toe and played a full five-game series, with DWG KIA coming out on top in the end. As MAD Lions have shown before, they do thrive in a best-of-five scenario. It allows them to adapt to their opponent better, and they can experiment with their drafts. It is important to keep in mind, though, that DWG KIA was not in shape during MSI. They very much are now. For this series, it is looking extremely grim for the MAD Lions.

As laid out before, the top side of the map is key to victory in the current meta. MAD Lions’ top laner İrfan “Armut” Tükek has not had a great showing so far, struggling to carry with champions that aren’t part of his usual wheelhouse. And though the current state of the game puts the onus on the top lane, MAD Lions as a whole has not looked great on champions that are outside of their comfort zone. Javier “Elyoya” Prades’ Qiyana and Marek “Humanoid” Brázda’s Orianna were also great, but they are niche picks at the moment. MAD Lions has not found their spot in the meta yet and it’s only through their renowned team fighting that they’ve managed to hold on. But against the titans of DWG KIA, that simply isn’t enough. Only if MAD Lions improves massively in virtually all other areas do they stand a realistic chance.

worlds 2021 quarterfinals

Can MAD Lions shock the world can knockout DWG Kia? (Photo via MAD Lions)

Gen.G Esports vs Cloud9 — October 25th

Funnily enough, both Gen.G and Cloud9 responded with cheers when they were drawn to face each other. In both teams’ opinions, this is the best possible opponent they could have hoped for. And it’s not hard to see why. Cloud9 made a miraculous escape from Group A, besting Rogue and FPX to grab the second seed. It was ugly at first and messy towards the end, but Cloud9’s Group Stage run showed incredible perseverance. Gen.G had the opposite experience, looking solid in the first half of the Group Stage and falling off in the second half. By the skin of their teeth did they recover and they emerged as the first seed from a four-way tiebreaker scenario in Group D.

This quarterfinal should, in theory, be the closest of them all, as both teams have shown clear weaknesses. Interestingly enough, both teams lean on their mid laner and bot laner. Cloud9 has needed Luka “Perkz” Perković and Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen to step up for the team, and Gen.G’s strongest performers are Gwak “Bdd” Bo-seong and Park “Ruler” Jae-hyuk. How these four players show up on the day will matter a lot for their respective teams’ performances. In terms of champions, keep an eye out for Miss Fortune: Zven has played her four times in seven games, and Ruler piloted the markmen in five out of eight games played thus far. Both teams will contest for this champion.

Stylistically, Gen.G plays more towards the top side than Cloud9 does. Whereas jungler Robert “Blaber” Huang scouts all across the map to look for early picks, Kim “Clid” Tae-min holds hands with his mid laner and top laner more often. There aren’t any iconic stylistic differences between these two teams that are going to make the difference. Gen.G is extremely proactive in acquiring information, especially around neutral objectives, and Cloud9 loves to slot more gold into their players’ pockets by letting them farm. This series is likely going to be a chaotic fistfight with both teams’ stars trying to steal the show. Though Gen.G might have an edge in terms of raw player power, Cloud9’s perseverance has dwarfed larger names.

The Worlds 2021 quarterfinals start on Thursday, October 22nd, at 2 PM CEST. You can watch the games live on the official LoL Esports site.