Worlds 2021 Narratives to Follow & the Biggest Question Marks Coming Into Groups
Worlds 2021 has just begun, which means this is the perfect moment for us to go over its most alluring narratives — of which there are many! With 22 exceptional teams colliding in Reykjavik, Iceland, exciting storylines are all but guaranteed, along with an equal number of burning questions lingering in the air.
Most folks think that an LPL/LCK team will go the “whole nine yards,” and, well, there’s a good reason why. Still, the path towards that point — which seems inevitable depending on whom you ask — is anything but obvious and predictable. We always have our ideas on how things will pan out, yet unexpected twists and turns always tend to happen no matter how reserved or cautious we might be in our predictions. That’s why the LoL World Championship has a special place in everyone’s heart: it is a fertile ground for the most unexpected of developments and upsets. And, well, this year’s Worlds should be no different in that regard.
There’s quite a lot of ground to cover, so let’s dive straight into the Worlds 2021 narratives!
Will DWG KIA Survive the LPL Onslaught?
It’s no secret that the defending world champions haven’t looked quite as unassailable as was the case back in 2020. They still won both LCK splits, but that was to be expected. However, their showing at this year’s Mid-Season Invitational wasn’t as spotless or dominant as most of us thought it’d be. Instead of steamrolling through their opposition, DWG KIA struggled and had been pushed to the brink of defeat on multiple occasions.
However, over in the LPL, we have a slew of hungry challengers, most of whom are astoundingly capable at the game and have taken no prisoners. Their peers only match their aggression and willingness to skirmish over in China. When an LPL team starts rolling, all one has to do is relax, lay back, and observe the spectacle.
So, one has to wonder whether DWG KIA — who were already bested by Royal Never Give Up at MSI — have what it takes to go all the way truly. Now, make no mistake: this is still one of the best teams in the world we’re talking about, but it just feels that the LPL dynasty is once again going to be established in just a few weeks. DWG will undoubtedly leave a mark, but with the current meta being as flexible as it is, one has to give the edge to the four LPL giants who’ve punched their tickets to Worlds 2021.
In a chaotic setting, one in which seemingly anything goes, the LPL reigns supreme.
Four LPL Giants, Separated by the Slimmest of Margins
It’s no secret that EDward Gaming, FunPlus Phoenix, Royal Never Give Up, and LNG Esports all have what it takes to take games off of each other. We’ve seen it happen multiple times throughout the year, so it’s fair to say that they’re all separated by incredibly slim margins.
EDG and FPX are probably a cut above RNG and LNG (at this point, at least), but even that assumption has to be questioned and analyzed from a million different angles. One can never be too certain about the LPL and its most prominent representatives. One thing’s for certain: they’re all astoundingly talented and will no doubt wreck house over the next few weeks. Whether anyone will be capable (and brave) enough to challenge them remains to be seen, but the question of “who’s going to win Worlds” (or which region, rather) seems like an open-and-shut kind of case.
PSG Talon — Lighting in a Bottle or a Real Threat?
No one thought that PSG Talon would generate as much buzz and excitement as they did back at this year’s Mid-Season Invitational. The level of play which they had brought to the table caught us by surprise and, frankly, we’re dying to see whether they’ll once again be able to challenge the status quo, or if that was nothing but a flash of brilliance — one that isn’t going to be repeated any time soon.
The fact that they had outclassed Cloud9 and went even with MAD Lions and Royal Never Give Up bodes extremely well for the PCS champions, and if they come out the gates swinging, there’s no telling how high they’ll be able to soar once all is said and done.
Will the MAD Lions Leave a Mark?
MAD Lions’ immense success cannot be overstated. The things they’ve accomplished — despite being fairly young and (relatively) inexperienced — are worthy of the highest praise and commendation, and, well, it’s fair to say that their best days are yet to come. A Top 4 finish at this year’s MSI was indicative of their overall talent and long-term potential. If they play as well as they can in the Group Stage as well, they’ll no doubt stand a chance of not only making it out but perhaps even doing some serious damage to the presumed status quo.
They’re both crazy and talented, which is undoubtedly the right kind of mix for taking on the many LPL and LCK giants that’ll compete at this year’s Worlds — MAD Lions play their brand of League, which is fairly reminiscent of 2019’s G2 Esports. And, well, they’ve already become household names, both for their bravado-fuelled style of play and camera-friendly personalities.
Still, the fact that they did so well at MSI doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll accomplish wonders at Worlds. We’re talking about two vastly different tournaments with differing metas and levels of opposition. Plus, MAD’s highly idiosyncratic playstyle is no longer as novel and refreshing as was the case a few months ago. Their opponents have had more footage to go over and, by proxy, more time to develop a viable counter-strategy. And, well, it’s not like they don’t have a few obvious weaknesses of their own, all of which could easily be exploited by the competitive LoL crème de la crème.
In other words: their Worlds run could go either way. They’re favored to get out and make waves, but sometimes things aren’t that simple.
Will North American Teams Finally Step Up?
The one region that can fully attest that you can never fully predict what’ll happen on the Worlds stage is North America. Its teams often had the right tools for the job and more than enough mechanical talent and financial backing, yet it simply didn’t matter. North American teams (with Cloud9 being the sole exception) always failed for the intangibles.
Will 2021 be any different? It very well could, but we’re all so weary of being even remotely optimistic that no one’s willing to say it out loud for fear of being ridiculed. Team Liquid, 100 Thieves, and Cloud9 (assuming they “survive” the Play-Ins) are all truly capable teams with distinct strengths and virtues. They might not be capable enough to tango with the likes of EDward Gaming, FunPlus Phoenix, and DWG KIA, but they deserve everyone’s respect and could, by all means, put on a show.
Whether or not one should ever be disappointed with North American teams hinges around one’s expectations. If you deem North America a major region, then it stands to reason to expect that its teams would compete on even footing with the LCK, LPL, and LEC. If, however, you realize that the North American LCS was, is, and always will be entertainment-driven, then things start to make a lot more sense.
Don’t expect too much from the three LCS representatives this year, as you’re probably going to be disappointed. There’s too much empirical evidence for us to think otherwise. Be that as it may, there’s always this faint glimmer of optimism lingering in the air. It is only a matter of time before it comes to the forefront.
Will Team Liquid Deliver?
One could argue that the only North American team that has to deliver is Team Liquid. This iteration of 100 Thieves has yet to compete on the international stage, Cloud9 have their flaws and weaknesses (most of which tend to be exploited with ease by the best teams in the world), which leaves us with the former four-time LCS champions. On paper, this age-old NA org has one of the most stacked line-ups in Western history.
Barney “Alphari” Morris, Lucas “Santorin” Tao Kilmer Larsen, Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen, Edward “Tactical” Ra, and Jo “CoreJJ” Yong-in — we’re talking about a team with all the right tools and players necessary to leave a mark at any tournament, be it international or local.
The potential is there. Now we’re just waiting for TL to find a way to harness it fully.
And, frankly, that’s been the leitmotif with North American teams in general. They’re always so close and yet so far away. Sometimes it’s the nerves, the pressure that comes with playing on the biggest stages, and the burden of past failures. Other times it’s just a case of bad luck.
But for a line-up this stacked and experienced (without any obvious weak link), failure is no longer an option that can be justified and excused. The same can be said for Cloud9, but it seems that their problems go as deep as the marrow of the bone and probably cannot be solved and ameliorated in time for them to stand a chance at moving the needle.
The Group Stage is slated to begin on October 11, so make sure to clear out your schedule and tune in with open eyes as you do not want to miss any action!