DWG KIA title defence & Faker’s return: LCK at Worlds 2021 preview
The LCK was once League of Legends’ most dominant region. Despite a title at Worlds 2020, the region is not as respected, or feared, as it once was. But in 2021, four strong contenders in DWG KIA, Gen.G, T1, and Hanwha Life Esports will be fighting to reclaim the throne.
DWG KIA might have redeemed Korea in 2020, but it takes more than one title to recement your place at the top of League of Legends. At Worlds 2021, Korea has four threats to upset the rest of the pack.
If you haven’t caught any of the action this year, here’s a quick debrief of the LCK squads in attendance at Worlds 2021.
Be sure to check out our Worlds 2021 hub and our post-draw preview with commentator Zack ‘Rusty’ Pye. You can find our previews of the other regions by clicking the links below:
DWG KIA (Seed #1)
Last Worlds appearance: 2020 (Champions)
Best Worlds finish: 1st (2020)
- Kim ‘Khan‘ Dong-ha (Top laner)
- Kim ‘Canyon‘ Geon-bu (Jungler)
- Heo ‘ShowMaker‘ Su (Mid laner)
- Jang ‘Ghost‘ Yong-jun (AD Carry)
- Cho ‘BeryL‘ Geon-hee (Support)
- Cho ‘Rahel‘ Min-seong (AD Carry)
The defending champions DWG KIA managed to break China’s streak in 2020 and bring the Summoner’s Cup back to its spiritual home in Korea. Whether they can become the second organization in history to win back-to-back remains to be seen, though.
DWG KIA have had an air of vulnerability around them in 2021. They were dominant in Spring, but at MSI, Showmaker and Canyon couldn’t carry the team across the line after both Ghost and BeryL struggled. They bounced back in Summer (even testing some interesting role changes with Canyon mid and ShowMaker ADC), but now there’s a big question mark above their head.
This, in some aspects, is unreasonable. DWG KIA have assembled the pieces of the puzzle following their MSI disappointment, bringing back coaches Daeny and Zefa. Since then, they’ve decimated the competition in Korea.
- Discover More: League Worlds: A decade of evolution
They come into Worlds as big favorites to win it all. We saw in 2020 the damage they can do — especially ShowMaker and Canyon. They might have lost Nuguri, but Khan is no pushover, especially as a more utility-centric top laner. In what is likely to be the veteran’s final tournament, a Summoner’s Cup would be the perfect way to cap off an amazing career.
Player to Watch: ShowMaker might be the best player in the world right now, and he was the focal character of the Worlds song for 2021. He’s managed to establish a legacy for himself in Korean League of Legends, but a second title will have his name etched in the history books, not below Faker, but on par with him. He dominated the LCK in 2021 (he topped the mid lane KDA charts and was second in GPM in Summer), and doesn’t look like stopping at Worlds.
Gen.G (Seed #2)
Last Worlds appearance: 2020 (Quarters)
Best Worlds finish: 1st (2014 as SSW, 2017 as SSG)
- Kim ‘Rascal‘ Kwang-hee (Top Laner)
- Kim ‘Clid‘ Tae-min (Jungler)
- Gwak ‘Bdd‘ Bo-seong (Mid Laner)
- Park ‘Ruler‘ Jae-hyuk (AD Carry)
- Kim ‘Life‘ Jeong-min (Support)
- Noh ‘Burdol‘ Tae-yoon (Top Laner)
Gen.G fans have experienced plenty of pain over the last three years since their major rebrand. Gone are the days of the illustrious Samsung rosters that went toe-to-toe with SKT for five years straight — Gen.G have had their fair share of demons to deal with.
At one point positioned to win LCK Summer, they stumbled in the final weeks, sliding in a way that fans have become accustomed to. It followed a second-place finish in Spring that once again showed that Gen.G are currently no match for the LCK titans of DWG KIA.
However, Gen.G have a chance to rewrite history at Worlds 2021. They have a practically unchanged roster from 2020 (we might see rookie top laner Burdol in a few games). When Clid is on fire, Gen.G look phenomenal, playing around the always reliable Bdd and Ruler. That’s a big if at times, because Clid has a tendency to falter on the big stage.
Gen.G are far from frontrunners for the Summoner’s Cup, and some would argue they are Korea’s worst team heading into Worlds. However, that underdog spirit has been in this organization’s blood since day one, and with an eye-popping list of veterans, they will strike when you least expect.
Player to Watch: Ruler would love to add a second Summoner’s Cup to his cabinet in what might be his final chance at glory. He is the lifeblood of this team, having been on that 2017 championship roster. This might not be his preferred meta, but he’s one of the most dynamic AD Carries in Korea and can adapt on the fly at these big events.
T1 (Seed #3)
Last Worlds appearance: 2019 (Semis)
Best Worlds finish: 1st (2013, 2015, 2016 — all as SKT)
- Kim ‘Canna‘ Chang-dong (Top Laner)
- Moon ‘Oner‘ Hyeon-joon (Jungler)
- Lee ‘Faker‘ Sang-hyeok (Mid Laner)
- Park ‘Teddy‘ Jin-seong (AD Carry)
- Ryu ‘Keria‘ Min-seok (Support)
- Moon ‘Cuzz‘ Woo-chan (Jungler)
- Lee ‘Gumayusi‘ Min-hyeong (AD Carry)
The Unkillable Demon King is back to reclaim his throne. After a year’s absence, Faker has returned to the greatest stage in League of Legends. However, the three-time champion must lead a new squad to glory if he wants to go for a record-breaking fourth title.
The path to Worlds for T1 wasn’t easy. They picked up DWG KIA coaches Daeny and Zefa in the offseason, but things were not clicking. Weekly roster shifts and endless disappointment were T1’s motto throughout Spring and most of Summer.
However, locking down an ironed down starting five (well, six, since the AD carry role remains contested) and trading Daeny back to DWG KIA gave T1 the power to storm through the LCK Summer Playoffs. While they lost to DWG KIA in their first chance for qualification, they edged past Hanwha Life in a close best-of-five to secure direct entry into the group stage.
No longer is this team all about Faker — in fact, the Unkillable Demon King often takes a step back to let top laner Canna shine with jungler Oner. However, it’s the bot lane of T1 that teams will need to keep eyes on. Keria is the best support in the world right now, and with Teddy and Gumayusi giving T1 different ways to play the game, they are a dynamic threat to all.
Player to Watch: Keria will have a lot to fight for at Worlds 2020 after bowing out early on DRX last year. While T1 was shifting around in 2021, Keria was the solid rock this team could fall behind as he landed critical engages. If T1 want a fourth title, he’ll need to step up yet again.
Hanwha Life Esports (Seed #4)
Last Worlds appearance: —
- Park ‘Morgan‘ Gi-Tae (Top Laner)
- Kim ‘Willer‘ Jeong-hyeon (Jungler)
- Jeong ‘Chovy‘ Ji-hoon (Mid Laner)
- Kim ‘Deft‘ Hyuk-kyu (AD Carry)
- Yoo ‘Vsta‘ Hwan-joong (Support)
- Lee ‘DuDu‘ Dong-ju (Top Laner)
- Kim ‘yoHan‘ Yo-han (Jungler)
If you haven’t been following Korean League of Legends, Hanwha Life might not necessarily ring a bell. But the name ROX Tigers should. This squad was born out of the near-2016 World Champions (albeit with a totally new roster), but have struggled to find a place in the LCK.
Before 2021, their best finish in the LCK was sixth. They hadn’t made playoffs, and they were even in contention for Relegation. However, by taking DRX stars Chovy and Deft, they had a solid platform on which to stand for 2021. Survival was no longer the goal — Worlds was.
A strong showing in Spring gave fans hope, but they capitulated in Summer by finishing eighth. There was little hope for Chovy to carry his men across the line, especially against a fast-finishing Nongshim RedForce and Liiv SANDBOX, but they rallied together to do just that.
Expectations for Hanwha Life Esports at Worlds are low — especially if Summer is anything to go by. However, you can never write off a squad that has both Chovy and Deft in it.
Player to Watch: Chovy is fighting with ShowMaker for that coveted mid lane king spot in Korea. His individual play is flashy, but he is also very selfless and willing to play off-meta and weak side picks — even if it’s sometimes to Hanwha Life’s detriment. Don’t be freaked out if you see a few pocket picks from Chovy at Worlds, especially in Play-Ins.