Faker vs ShowMaker: How Worlds 2021 semifinal will define League of Legends history

Faker and ShowMaker at Worlds 2021Riot Games

Lee ‘Faker’ Sang-hyeok has defined professional League of Legends since his 2013 debut. Heo ‘ShowMaker’ Su has a chance at Worlds 2021 to become his equal. DWG KIA and T1’s semifinals match-up will be history-defining in many ways, but the biggest will be in whose legacy is cemented as League’s greatest of all time.

On April 6, 2013, the world watched a baby-faced Faker make his professional debut for SK Telecom T1 2 against CJ Entus Blaze.

As they say, the rest is history.

Article continues after ad

967 games, 648 wins, 3574 kills, 10 domestic titles, two MSI trophies, and three Summoner’s Cups later, Faker has clearly made a name for himself as League of Legends’ greatest player of all time.

For years, no one was remotely close to challenging the Unkillable Demon King ⁠— no matter the names thrown out there.

China’s golden boy, Jian ‘Uzi’ Zi-Hao. His former trainee, Lee ‘Scout’ Ye-chan. For the western fans huffing hopium, Luka ‘Perkz’ Perkovic. TheShy, Rookie, Knight, Nuguri; none of these players have ultimately threatened Faker’s throne.

Article continues after ad

However, one name is now a real threat to the title Faker has held indisputably since 2015: ShowMaker.

Faker with Summoner's Cup at League Worlds 2016Riot Games
Faker is aiming for a record-breaking fourth Summoner’s Cup at Worlds 2021. He last won in 2016.

The Worlds 2021 semifinal will be far from the first time the two have faced off. DWG KIA have played T1 and Faker in numerous LCK playoffs, including the recent Summer 2021 final ahead of Worlds.

This series is different though. Worlds is on another scale. It will be the highest stakes series ShowMaker and Faker have played against each other. Some have already crowned it the ‘true’ Worlds 2021 final.

Article continues after ad

League of Legends is a team game, and it’s all about lifting the Summoner’s Cup at the end of the day. That’s what the pros will tell you. There’s more than just trophies on the line though, as Faker and ShowMaker fight for an even more exclusive accolade: League’s greatest player of all time.

ShowMaker’s continuous rise in 2021

In the blue corner, we have the challenger (and defending World champion) Heo ‘ShowMaker’ Su of DWG KIA.

Article continues after ad

If we were going to continue going with the boxing theme, ShowMaker holds quite the decisive lead over Faker in the head-to-head, 28-15 in their 43 games against each other, making him no underdog in this Saturday’s game.

There’s a reason why he has the nickname ‘ShowFaker’, first coined by Bok ‘Reapered’ Han-gyu.

ShowMaker at Worlds 2021Riot Games
ShowMaker has Faker’s number on an individual level, but will his legacy ever match the Unkillable Demon King?

The 21-year-old lives up to his name ⁠— he puts on a great show. He’s an explosive player with two sides: the stoic pro player on stage, and the emotive comedian in solo queue. He has that bubbly personality, and his gameplay reflects that.

Article continues after ad

Out of all players, ShowMaker has the fourth best KDA at Worlds 2021 with 8.36. However, he’s also shown a more adaptable style at Worlds. Instead of being a focal point of DWG, like Worlds 2020, he has become a bigger utility player to enable Kim ‘Khan’ Dong-ha and Jang ‘Ghost’ Yong-jun to carry in side lanes.

It’s not the same mid-jungle dominance we saw between ShowMaker and Kim ‘Canyon’ Geon-bu in Shanghai last year that led DWG KIA to their first title, but it’s emblematic of how ShowMaker has progressed from a flashy “show making” star to a wider team player. In fact, it’s along the same trajectory Faker took.

Article continues after ad

It’s an identity DWG KIA really honed in on after their disappointing MSI finals loss, which included some Summer soul searching with Su himself role swapping to AD carry briefly.

“I believe we are not at our peak yet. I don’t think we are as strong as we were at Worlds last year,” Showmaker told Dexerto at MSI, just before they lost to RNG in a tight 3-2 series.

“We’ve got some homework to do in order to bring up our performance.”

Article continues after ad

Homework they did, and with a second Summoner’s Cup one series beyond DWG KIA’s semifinal against T1, ShowMaker could become one of around a dozen players to lift multiple World titles.

Better yet, he might do it in the most dominant fashion the game has seen since T1’s own back-to-back titles in 2015 and 2016.

Damwon lift Summoners Cup at Worlds 2020Riot Games
ShowMaker has evolved since DWG KIA’s Worlds 2020 victory to become one of League’s most well-rounded players.

Faker’s final shot at Worlds history?

Now, in the red corner, the three-time world champion looking to break records, Lee ‘Faker’ Sang-hyeok of T1.

Faker’s evolution as a player from flashy mid laner with the game’s highest mechanical ceiling (arguably), to a team player who uses macro play to perfection to enable Kim ‘Canna’ Chang-dong and Lee ‘Gumayusi’ Min-hyeong, has been used as testament by many analysts to explain why he is the GOAT.

Article continues after ad

Oh, and all those titles he won along the way; those help too.

It did look like, for a time in 2020, Faker would be on the way out for T1 young gun Lee ‘Clozer’ Ju-hyeon. Then coach Kim Jeong-soo said as much in an interview with InvenGlobal.

“Faker’s stressed out, and honestly, his form is not at his best. He even struggled when he had few of his champions target banned,” he admitted, just before T1 missed out on Worlds 2020.

Article continues after ad

“We talked a lot. I can tell you that I scolded him quite a bit, and through it, Faker’s found new motivations to work hard.”

The thing with Faker in 2021 is that you no longer have to expect him to land five-man shockwaves to “find them all”, or Shurima Shuffles worthy of praise from the emperor. What he does masterfully ⁠— better than any other mid laner in the world, even ShowMaker ⁠— is read the game and play for the team.

Article continues after ad

He will get CS gapped by the likes of Jeong ‘Chovy’ Ji-hoon. He might even die in lane a little bit more frequently as teams funnel resources into stopping Faker from getting ahead. But that ultimately doesn’t matter when the rest of T1 is running circles around their enemies.

Faker might not be new to this whole Worlds rodeo in Iceland, but the old dog can still learn new tricks.

“After my failure last time, I realised within myself that my level of concentration has dropped compared to the past. For Worlds 2021, I prepared myself so I can stay more focused,” Faker said in a press conference after beating Hanwha Life in quarters.

Article continues after ad
Faker crying at Worlds 2017Colin Young-Wolff for Riot Games
Faker has continued to grow since his Worlds 2017 heartbreak.

He also claimed he hadn’t faced “mid laners who were particular impressive” in an interview with Dexerto, but hyped up a rematch against ShowMaker in the semis.

“Perhaps in a future stage, I will have one who becomes my favorite [to play against],” he explained.

“[Maybe] the biggest favorites in the tournament – DWG KIA. However, I have played so many games against the LCK teams in Korea. I would like to play against mid laners from other regions.”

Article continues after ad

Faker won’t get that chance yet, but push past DWG KIA and he could face off against his former trainee Scout in the final ⁠— that’s if EDward Gaming top Gen.G in the other semifinal.

There’s also this heavy discourse around Worlds 2021 potentially being Faker’s final Worlds. The talk of retirement has been resounding since 2017’s heartbreak loss.

Faker’s adaptation as a player means he can play professional League of Legends for as long as he likes ⁠— or until military service comes knocking.

Article continues after ad

He is still, right now, at the top of his game globally in his role ⁠— even if others are sharing the title of “the best”. It’s not the same Faker that won Worlds for the first time in 2013, but it’s still Faker. Worlds win or not in 2021, he will (hopefully) be here to stay, but this might be his best — and final — chance of Worlds glory.

Faker poses at Worlds 2021 photoshootRiot Games
Worlds 2021 might be Faker’s final chance to secure that elusive fourth title.

The battle for the title of League of Legends’ GOAT

Five rounds ⁠— five games on Saturday ⁠— will dictate the discussion for years to come about League of Legends’ greatest player of all time.

Article continues after ad

If Faker wins and goes on to take home his fourth Summoner’s Cup, no matter what ShowMaker does in his career, he’ll be hard pressed to ever challenge Faker’s throne again. At his peak, he couldn’t conquer the Unkillable Demon King, critics will say.

Faker, in his mind, still has no exact equal ⁠— he’s still playing to beat himself.

“In the past, my mindset was more about enjoying the game. Right now, I consider the game as a challenge to surpass myself. It’s on improving,” Faker said.

Article continues after ad

“I believe the three other mid laners [ShowMaker, Bdd, Chovy] that have qualified to Worlds from the LCK can be my match.”

However, if ShowMaker wins against T1 and Faker again, and manages to go back-to-back with DWG KIA on November 6, we need to start having serious debate about League’s greatest of all time. This, above all else, is why Saturday’s semifinal means so much for both players’ legacies.

Only four players have ever won back-to-back Worlds titles: Faker, Bengi, Bang, and Wolf. If DWG KIA win in 2021, that’ll be upped to eight.

Article continues after ad

“Faker’s a very good player, so it’ll depend on who’s feeling better that day,” Showmaker said in a press conference after beating MAD Lions.

Showmaker DWG KIA LoLRiot Games
If ShowMaker wins at Worlds 2021, Faker’s throne as League’s GOAT will be under threat.

ShowMaker poignantly summed up the meaning of this series in closing to Korizon ahead of the game: “We may have a historic series [against T1].”

Stealing the Worlds motto, the series will “make or break” everything we know about professional League of Legends.

469 games, 326 wins, 1663 kills, three domestic titles and one Summoner’s Cup ⁠— and counting ⁠— to his name, ShowMaker has the chance to dismantle Faker’s throne and make it his own.

Article continues after ad

No matter the result, DWG KIA vs T1 will be historic. Don’t miss it.