After going all the way down the rabbit hole, Eugenia Woo is back to talk about impossible comebacks and the victors of the 2016 League of Legends World Championships.
This is it. I’ll admit, when the World Championships started about a month ago, I was contemplating giving the tournament a miss. Sure, maybe I’d keep up with the results and the banter via Reddit but I wouldn’t slavishly watch the games like I used to; SK Telecom T1 looked poised to win it all without expending much effort, and the other regions looked less than promising. I didn’t fancy my chances, but I decided to watch the first week of matches out of respect for the teams who worked so hard to get here. If it was truly a clown fiesta, then I’d stop there.
Now, before anyone says “I told you so,” I now know that I couldn’t have been more wrong about Worlds. Between my live-tweeting of every match (sometimes even surreptitiously during lunch breaks at work) and my tournament-long stream of both game and meme coverage, it’s clear to all that I fell even deeper into the rabbit hole this year. And why wouldn’t I? Popular European and North American teams crumbled into dust, and the controversy-plagued H2K Gaming (and a single Dignitas mousepad) was left as their last hope. Wildcard underdog team Albus NoX Luna pulled wins seemingly out of their ass and looked amazing delivering an inspirational speech that left not a dry eye in San Francisco. Samsung Galaxy, nowhere close to top seed in the LCK, ended up being a contender for the Summoner’s Cup. Hell, the Semifinals set between the ROX Tigers and SKT isn’t going to be forgotten anytime soon either – my favourite team taking 2 games off the reigning champions was unreal. Everything good about the game I love was encapsulated in this tournament, and the Finals were the peak of that experience.
Samsung Galaxy played their hearts out over a gruelling 6-hour set against Faker and his Merry Men at the Staples Centre in Los Angeles, the same place that saw SKT hoisting the Summoner’s Cup in 2013. The odds were admittedly stacked against Samsung. If they won with their team this year, then it’d be one for the history books – a selection of young players rising from obscurity within their own region’s competitive scene to cut their teeth on international tournaments under the tutelage of their grizzled mentor, Kang “Ambition” Chan-young. Their superstar mid laner, Lee “Crown” Min-ho, hails from the Brazilian League of Legends scene and has had what seems like an inexplicably meteoric rise to fame; he’s now recognised as one of the most mechanically gifted players in the entire game. After ROX had fought the good fight and fallen, some thought that Samsung would be too shaken to perform. Seeded lower than the Tigers, would they even have a chance?
It was looking pretty dismal for the first two games. I was getting demoralised just watching Samsung get pushed around the map. What happened to the team that was 150 CS from their opposition at 30 minutes in? What happened to Crown’s penchant for big plays and solo kills that would turn the tide of a game? Samsung looked like they’d gazed into the abyss of Faker’s eyes for too long and they were this close to their end. Last week I was certain that nothing could top ROX’s skirmish with SKT, and looking like I was about to be proved right left a bad taste in my mouth. I didn’t want Samsung to go out with a whimper. They were worth more than that, and I knew that they could do better. Just as I was about to give up on them, they made me a believer.
Game 3 was a mess. It was a beautiful, shambling, terrifying mess of a game that lasted 71 minutes, making it the longest game at Worlds. Samsung looked beat for about two-thirds of that period of time. They were behind by 10,000 gold when they turned a desperation play into a baron buff and a triple kill for ADC Park “Ruler” Jae-hyuk, suddenly closing the gap between them and SKT. The action was non-stop until the end of the game. Samsung had their base split wide open and they were bleeding kills but after a heart-stopping game of Protect the Nexus, so did SKT. I couldn’t take my eyes off the damn screen. When Samsung finally closed out the game, I was in shock, but some part of me knew that they would take the next one too, and they did. They’d just shown the world that they could come back from the brink to deliver the killing blow the reigning champions, and they had the momentum they needed.
Samsung’s impossible comeback to tie the games before ultimately losing was nothing short of a miracle. What made me eat my words about ROX’s match being the “true Finals” was the fact that while I expected my team to take at least a game off SKT, no one felt that way about Samsung. No one thought they were going to make it. The fact that they surpassed everyone’s expectations and pushed past what we’d previously thought was their absolute limit was incredible. Though SKT won after claiming the fifth game on the back of their flawlessly executed mechanical play and indomitable mental strength, it’s going to be Samsung’s heroic effort that fans will most likely remember.
Of course, SKT deserve all the praise that they’re getting and more for winning Worlds for the third time. They’ve won every international tournament that they’ve ever played in, and maybe because of that, they’re going to be expected to claim the Summoner’s Cup a fourth time. Faker said it best himself in the winner’s post-game interview: “Thanks for cheering for me, but don’t cheer too hard because I’ll be back next year.” However, with each passing year, the top teams nipping at their heels get closer and closer. Samsung have now got a taste for SKT’s flesh and if I’m gonna bet on anything it’s that if Faker makes it to the Worlds stage again, Crown isn’t going to be far behind. SKT have made history, but I think League of Legends is well overdue for new overlords. 2017 will be anyone’s game.
If you missed any of the previous LoL action you can see Eugenia’s recaps here:
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