League of Legends Worlds 2021 group draw review: Is there hope for the West?

Michal Konkol for Riot Games

The stage has been set for the League of Legends 2021 World Championship. Groups have been seeded, and while the narrative is leaning towards one of Korean and Chinese dominance, there’s a chance for a Western resurgence in Iceland.

The Group Draw for Worlds 2021 is almost as important as the games themselves. For some teams, it could be the difference between making playoffs and missing out on the glory of the Summoner’s Cup.

In 2021, there’s an overwhelming narrative of China and Korea once again rinsing the West. However, with a fresh contingent of NA squads, and a changing of the guard in Europe, there could be potentially more upsets than ever before.

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Not only that, but one cannot discount the PCS, who have made their presence known in the last two years thanks to PSG Talon.

Dexerto has broken down the groups ahead of Worlds 2021 with current LCO caster and former LPL commentator Zack ‘Rusty’ Pye. In his words, this year’s edition is going to be “cooked ⁠— in a good way.”

Group A: The Group of Death

Teams: DWG KIA, FunPlus Phoenix, Rogue, TBD

David Lee for Riot Games
DWG KIA are defending their Summoner’s Cup in Iceland.

If you were an NA or Europe fan watching the draw after DWG KIA and FunPlus Phoenix, hearts were in your mouth. Team Liquid probably summed it up best after seeing Rogue get drawn into the group of death, laughing at the situation on Twitter.

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With Cloud9 all but certain to be drawn into Group A if they make it through Play-Ins, on paper DWG KIA and FunPlus Phoenix should roll the NA hopefuls and Europe’s Rogue. But there is a chance for upsets.

“This is more of a Cloud9 point than anything else, but Cloud9 at MSI were legitimately good against the best teams and were failing in the middle. I think they have the potential to upset the best teams,” Rusty said.

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“There’s a certain bravado and confidence to them that doesn’t falter against the best teams ⁠— it just gets better. Everybody seems to think they sucked at MSI because they didn’t qualify for playoffs, but it’s just because they weren’t against lesser teams. They still beat Korea.”

However, it’s hard to look past the potential finals preview of FPX vs Damwon that’s on the cards in Group A. We’ll get two best-of-ones between the 2019 and 2020 champions, and it’d be “shocking” if they both missed playoffs.

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“There’s only one match I constantly want to watch: FPX vs Damwon. It’ll be just so good, on repeat,” Rusty said.

“They won’t get each other in playoffs so they could be the finalists. It could be a finals preview because they have to go through the gauntlet to see each other again.”

Rusty’s playoffs prediction: DWG KIA, FunPlus Phoenix

Group B: Old powers return to Worlds

Teams: EDward Gaming, 100 Thieves, T1, TBD

Faker at Worlds 2019 semi finalsColin Young-Wolff / Riot Games
Faker is back at Worlds baby.

Group B is a showcase of some of League’s oldest names ⁠— EDward Gaming and T1. While both are domestic powerhouses, one has managed to translate that onto the international stage, while the other has faltered at almost every event they’ve attended.

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“T1 have lately been impressing me more and more. It’s hard to have expectations for that team sometimes because they’re just confusing, but EDward have been a powerhouse since Summer,” Rusty said.

“Knowing EDG at international events though, if history rings true, we’re in for a wild ride.”

However, that’s not to discount 100 Thieves, who “smashed NA towards the end of Summer”. With Closer finally securing his visa, there’s every chance the NA roster can bring chaos ⁠— especially against a T1 that has been rather volatile in 2021 with their roster swaps.

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“Closer is the heart and soul of that team.

“They have the potential to upset and make waves and make it out, but you just look at the names and you’re like ‘there’s no way’. It’s like that with Rogue too.”

One thing is for sure though, if we can get Lee ‘Faker’ Sang-hyeok vs Ming ‘Clearlove’ Kai (who is EDG’s third choice jungler) for one last time on the world stage, that’ll be a treat for all veteran League of Legends fans.

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“I would if I was EDG and we were already through to quarters, just give Faker some flashbacks,” Rusty laughed.

Rusty’s playoffs prediction: EDward Gaming, T1

Group C: The (potential) fall of RNG

Teams: PSG Talon, Fnatic, Royal Never Give Up, TBD

RNG MSI 2021Colin Young-Wolff for Riot Games
RNG are no certainty to make it out of Group C despite winning MSI 2021.

RNG might have won MSI, but their performances in Summer left much to be desired. After a slow start in Summer, they managed to make it to Worlds through the Regional Finals. They’ve won in Iceland before, and the talent on their roster will have high expectations.

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“They’re big game players. It would be disingenuous to Xiaohu to say they won’t perform when it matters — he’s done it for years. I would expect him to turn up,” Rusty said.

However, the challenge RNG faces in this group is much bigger than UOL and Pentanet from MSI. PSG Talon and Fnatic are both explosive squads, and they’ll bring the heat to the Chinese fan-favorite.

“The challenge is how good is PSG, and the answer seems very good. Fnatic is one of the teams I watched in Europe and they’re very solid.

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“I’m more interested in how bloodthirsty this group is. This is going to be the group of brawls and 15-minute snowballs. That’s absolutely what Fnatic wants, RNG will not back down, and PSG will be able to fit that playstyle. This is just the group of violence.”

With the PCS squad finally having AD carry Wong ‘Unified’ Chun Kit from day one, and Fnatic’s new top side in Adam ‘Adam’ Maanane and Gabriel ‘Bwipo’ Rau clicking tremendously, it’s very much looking like RNG might be the first major scalp of Worlds ⁠— even if the former LPL caster is “reluctant” to say so.

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Rusty’s playoffs prediction: PSG Talon, Fnatic

Group D: MAD Lions’ time to shine

Teams: MAD Lions, Gen.G, Team Liquid, TBD

MAD Lions reverse sweep Rogue to win maiden LEC Spring 2021 title.Michal Konkol for Riot Games
MAD Lions are Europe’s back-to-back champions, and could bring the Summoner’s Cup back to the region for the first time since 2011.

Europe’s best hope at Worlds 2021 is undeniably MAD Lions. There’s this expectation on Europe’s first seed making a deep run in playoffs.

“They just seem so solid. They’re freaks ⁠— deficits or leads they just find angles, and their ability to generate plays is going to be huge. Alphari is the heart and soul of Liquid, but MAD should very easily be able to play around him. They’re so good at making space,” Rusty said.

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Without getting too ahead of ourselves though, MAD Lions isn’t just a title contender though, they’re a fully-fledged threat.

“MAD should just finish first, they’re a semi-finals team at least.

“There’s going to be so much reliance on the rest of the groups, you want DWG KIA to finish first so you avoid them until later on, but there’s so many factors. It would almost feel bad to say MAD are a finalist team and then they go up against beasts [like FPX] in quarters.”

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There’s some question marks surrounding both Gen.G and Liquid, and that brings Play-Ins into the discussion. If China’s LNG Esports makes it out, they’ll be automatically seeded into Group D.

Featuring familiar face Tarzan, who last played internationally with Griffin at Worlds 2018, this should be their group to runaway with ⁠— especially if Gen.G can’t replicate their early Summer form.

“If LNG is there, they get out, but Gen.G are the wildcard in this group.”

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Rusty’s playoffs prediction: MAD Lions, LNG Esports (if they make it out of Play-Ins)

Play-ins: Major regions should dominate

  • Group A: Beyond Gaming, Cloud9, Unicorns of Love, Detonation FocusMe, Galatasaray Esports
  • Group B: Hanwha Life Esports, LNG Esports, Infinity Esports, PEACE, RED Canids
Perkz with C9Riot Games
Cloud9 might have faltered in Summer, but they could be a dark horse for a deep run from Play-Ins.

It would be remiss to ignore the Play-In Stage, as this is where some big scalps can truly happen. Everyone will remember the Albus Nox miracle run of 2016, or LGD Gaming’s near-loss to Japan’s V3 Esports in 2020, really proving what damage minor regions can do.

However, such stories will likely not be repeated at Worlds 2021.

Between Hanwha Life and superstar mid laner Jeong ‘Chovy’ Ji-hoon, all the way to Beyond Gaming’s Chiu ‘Doggo’ Tzu-Chuan in the PCS, the four major regions should decimate the minor ones ⁠— if not in the best-of-ones, then definitely in the Group Stage qualifying best-of-fives.

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“I don’t see a world where any of the six teams below the major regions can beat any of the top ones in a best-of-five,” Rusty admitted.

“The best chance in Group A where Group B’s third-seed plays one of Cloud9 or Beyond. That’s the best odds to take a game, but the chance of winning a best-of-five is so slim.”

Rusty’s Play-Ins prediction: Hanwha Life Esports, LNG Esports, Beyond Gaming, Cloud9

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