T1 vs Weibo Gaming, Who will Win the Worlds 2023 Finals?
The Worlds 2023 Finals are fast approaching. Only two teams still stand in the race for League of Legends’ top prize. On one side is T1, the last hope of the LCK led by the best player the game has ever seen. On the other is Weibo Gaming, a sprightly underdog from the LPL who has peaked at the best possible time.
T1’s 2023 has had its highs and lows. Coming off their surprise Worlds 2022 Finals loss to DRX, T1 entered the new season with a vengeance. They went a near-perfect 17-1 in Spring before losing in the Playoff Finals to Gen.G. Despite outperforming Gen.G at MSI, T1 still only ended in third place, missing out on another chance to win an international trophy.
Still, everyone expected them to get back to dominating domestically and earn yet another shot. Instead, disaster struck. After a promising 6-2 start to the Summer Split, T1 released a statement that Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok was taking a break due to health concerns. He reported wrist pains and even not being able to lift his right arm. While Faker underwent treatment, T1 had to find a temporary replacement.
Their answer was promoting T1 Academy mid laner Yoon “Poby” Sung-won. Lacking their veteran voice and shotcaller, T1 struggled to rally under the 17-year-old stand-in. They immediately went from a top contender to one of the worst looking teams in the LCK. T1’s slide was so drastic that it put into perspective just how much of a difference Faker made, both in-game and out of it.
After falling to 7-9, Faker returned from his injury just in time to lead T1 to the playoffs with two match wins to clinch fifth seed. Following two narrow 3-2 upset wins over the Summer first seed KT Rolster, T1 solidified themselves as the second-best team in the LCK and booked a ticket to Worlds. Still, they were unable to beat Gen.G in a third consecutive LCK Finals, leaving the team trophyless since Spring 2022.
Never Underestimate T1
At Worlds 2023, the perception around T1 was hopeful yet tentative. Their regional rivals Gen.G were definitively rated higher, as was China’s JD Gaming and potentially other LPL teams. There just wasn’t enough shown by T1 over the past year that gave credit to their ability to win it all. At best they were a dark horse. But as Worlds has shown before, even teams rated below the dark horses can make spectacular runs.
T1 started off with a solid win over Team Liquid before meeting their kryptonite once again in round two. Gen.G confidently put them to bed, reaffirming the perceived hierarchy of teams. Still, T1 qualified for the playoffs without anymore hiccups with wins over Cloud9 and the LPL’s Bilibili Gaming. Their win over BLG was notable, as this matchup could have been potentially competitive if not BLG sided. Yet T1 were the ones that looked like the overwhelming favorites in-game, earning a quick 2-0 sweep.
Come knockout stage, T1 got to watch as the other two remaining LCK teams were eliminated in the quarterfinals. With KT Rolster and Gen.G out of the picture, T1 had to step up big not only for themselves, but for the entire LCK for the hottest regional rivalry in esports. Sure enough, they’ve risen to the occasion.
T1 stomped LNG Esports 3-0 in the quarterfinals with blazing speed. Their raw strength was enough to give fans hope moving into a matchup against JDG, no doubt T1’s toughest test yet. The first two games were traded back and forth, and JDG were in a winning position in game three. That’s when Faker pulled off one of the plays of the tournament, a Shurima Shuffle to catch Park “Ruler” Jae-hyuk.
After winning this game, T1 used the momentum to win game four and book a ticket to their second consecutive Worlds Finals.
On the other side of the Rift is Weibo Gaming. This team has been an anomaly for most of the year. They kicked off 2023 with a win in the Weibo Cup, a pre-season tournament that includes both LPL and LDL teams. While this tournament is less serious in nature as a result, winning over the likes of BLG and LNG was still a great early sign.
Weibo was a consistent contender in the Spring and Summer Splits, but lacked the required ceiling to slingshot them into championship caliber. Despite a great fourth-place finish in Spring Split, WBG went 0-3 in their first playoff match to fall to sixth overall. They switched their jungler for Summer, adding Wei “Weiwei” Bo-han to their ranks, but just found more of the same.
Summer Split saw Weibo finish in sixth place. Although they did win a playoff series this time, they still burned out in their next one for another sixth place overall. Luckily for Weibo, they earned enough Championship Points to qualify for the Regional Finals. After winning a grueling five-game series against Top Esports, Weibo convincingly dispatched EDward Gaming 3-1 to earn their spot at Worlds as the LPL’s fourth seed.
Weibo Ramp Up at Worlds
Unlike the other three Chinese representatives at Worlds 2023, Weibo was seen as a long shot. They were outclassed by their peers on paper and had no recent results to instill confidence in them. Yet, they did still have their own dedicated fan base that would cheer for every win they got. Those wins were hard earned early. After beating NRG in round one, Weibo fell to both G2 Esports and KT Rolster, putting them on the threshold of elimination.
Weibo could not lose a single series from here on out. A match against MAD Lions came and went with WBG advancing to the final round of Swiss. In the high-pressure match against Fnatic, Weibo lost game one. Backs against the wall, WBG outscaled Fnatic in game two before dominating them in the tiebreaker. A 23-minute win solidified all four Chinese teams making it to the Worlds 2023 Knockout Stage.
This was a great achievement for the region as a whole, and many considered Weibo’s job done after this. Instead, they were just getting started. A charitable round one matchup against NRG was not even close. Weibo crushed the North Americans and moved on to the top four. They had gotten to this point without beating a single Chinese or Korean team, so they continued to be underrated.
Up against Bilibili Gaming, the LPL’s second seed, many expected Weibo’s run to come to an end. It was a bizarre series. Each of the first four games looked lopsided with three of them ending in sub-30 minutes. Game five rolled around and the stakes were higher than ever. It was here where Weibo’s star ADC Wang “Light” Guang-Yu had his best performance of the night. His 12-2-5 KDA on Kalista helped propel WBG to the Worlds 2023 Finals.
The Key Pieces to Watch
Going into the Worlds 2023 Finals, T1 appears to be the favorites. Their convincing win over JDG, coupled with their upwards trajectory and pioneering of the meta makes them hard to ignore. On the other hand, Weibo Gaming has shown the potential to beat one of the best teams in their region in a best-of-five. They also have strong pieces across the board and the meta suits them to a T.
In a meta where mid laners are scaling with picks like Orianna and Azir, top lane has become the arbiter of early game dominance. T1 and Weibo are two of the top six teams at Worlds in Rift Heralds killed per game, and that all starts with control of the top side river.
Weibo’s Kang “TheShy” Seung-lok is having his best tournament in years. He’s number one in both gold difference at 15 minutes and damage per minute for top laners. On the other side, Choi “Zeus” Woo-je is right behind him. Zeus also has the best KDA among top laners by a large margin. Both players’ most played champion is Aatrox, making him a key pick in the series. Whoever can more consistently create advantages in top lane will be a huge boon to their team.
Down in the bot lane, Light and Lee “Gumayusi” Min-hyeong have been easily the two best ADCs at the tournament. Despite neither of them being farming monsters, they have the best KDA’s while consistently outputting tons of lane pressure. Part of this is due to their supports who have been defining the Worlds meta.
Strong Supporting Casts
Ryu “Keria” Min-seok and Liu “Crisp” Qing-Song have worked together to establish a range-heavy bot lane meta. From Mages to double Marksmen, both T1 and WBG ensure that their bottom lane can push hard and control early objectives. T1 is first overall in Dragon Control while Weibo sit in fourth. Keria especially is instrumental in his team’s engages and macro play.
Perhaps the most interesting matchup in this Worlds Finals is Faker versus Li “Xiaohu” Yuan-Hao. Historically, Faker has dominated this matchup at Worlds. He is 4-0 in series’ against Xiaohu. While Xiaohu did finally beat Faker at MSI 2022, doing so at Worlds in the most important series of his career would be an achievement on another level.
In terms of recent form, Faker has been playing his best League of Legends in years. Ever since T1 rebuilt around this group of rookies and young players, Faker has taken on more of a leadership and shotcalling role. His raw mechanical outplays and hard carries became rarer. However, Worlds 2023 has seen Faker return to his playmaking ways. Not only can he seemingly turn a game with the snap of his fingers, he does so while maintaining his selfless playstyle.
Xiaohu hasn’t been weak by any regard. He’s number one in gold per minute and second in damage per minute. Few mid laners provide as much guaranteed late game presence as Xiaohu, a trait that is very desirable in the established meta. While he may not be as much of a playmaker, Xiaohu’s ability to hang in and carry a game later will be indispensable to Weibo.
Despite T1 being the favorites, counting Weibo out before they hit the stage is uncalled for. Especially if we remember what the LCK’s fourth seed DRX did to T1 in last years Worlds Finals. On the other hand, that loss is likely fueling T1 every step of the way here. This Worlds trophy means everything to the players and the coaching staff supporting them. Each team will no doubt be giving everything they have come Sunday.
The Worlds 2023 Finals between T1 and Weibo Gaming begins on November 19 at 3:00 AM ET / 12:00 AM PT.