Historically, Korea has been host to the best League of Legends teams. However, at recent international events, the region has faltered. Now, Worlds 2020 will be the deciding factor to prove if they will continue their legacy in the present, or be remembered only in history.
As each Korean team qualified for Worlds 2020, there was a distinct theme around their goals. While they were individually striving for greatness, they were also united as one. They wanted to bring the Summoner’s Cup back to Korea.
“In recent years, the LCK teams did not do well in international competitions. We’ll perform on a level that makes us proud representatives of LCK’s 1st seed at Worlds,” Damwon’s star mid-laner Heo “ShowMaker” Su said after winning LCK Summer 2020.
“I’ve become confident that we’ll get good results at Worlds. I’ll do my best to bring the throne back to the LCK. Our goal is to win the World Championship,” his coach, Zefa, added.
We don’t have to go back too far in history to remember when Korea would enter a few teams into the World Championship, and eventually one of them would be crowned champions. It was just a case of which one it was that year.
It was more often a surprise to not see two Koreans duking it out for the title. Often, the joke was that the final was often played in the semi’s when two Korean teams did face off for one spot, with China filling the 2nd slot. Or it was MSI, where only one Korean team could go.
However, the tides have shifted.
China and Europe have challenged Korea at the top of international League of Legends. In fact, the only trophy Korea took home for themselves at an international event in the last two years was at 2019 Rift Rivals. They lost the Asian Games to China, and only once did they make the finals at Worlds or MSI (Kingzone at MSI 2018).
This is despite numerous world champions still beating around Korea to this day. Many players from the Samsung Galaxy roster that won in 2017 still play. Only two of them will be going to Worlds though, and only one for a Korean outfit: Gen.G’s Park “Ruler” Jae-hyuk.
The veterans of the space outside of those names have seemingly faded into the history books. One can put this down to the style of League of Legends that is played today. No longer is it the hour-long tests of endurance, with emphasis on good macro play and warding. The game is a lot more fast-paced nowadays.
The last two years have been particularly bitter ones for Korean fans.
The greedy playstyles of the young have overthrown the tempered, measured play of the old names. Their hands couldn’t keep up with the solo queue stars being raised in the KeSPA Cup and the trainee system.
Sure, if you’re going for national pride, you can remain proud of the fact the most internationally-winning teams — aside from G2 — have had Koreans on their roster. However, it’s been a long time between drinks, at least in comparative terms, since a Korean roster lifted the Summoner’s Cup.
Unfortunately, the problem has seemingly stemmed deeper than that. It only takes one particularly painful look back to 2019 to be reminded of the capitulation of Griffin at Worlds 2020 after looking like the new face of Korean League of Legends.
Damwon Gaming, their rookie compatriots, didn’t fare any better either.
While there’s few names remaining to carry the flag of the Korean old guard at Worlds, that doesn’t mean the legacy is dead, however. We might have flicked more than a few chapters in the history books since Korea last reigned supreme, but there’s still hope yet for them to continue their dynasty and potentially mark the last two years off as a black spot.
If you are a Korean League of Legends fan, there’s a distinct feeling of hope compared to the last couple of years heading into Worlds 2020. Damwon Gaming feels like Korea’s best chance to not only bring the Summoner’s Cup home, but also protect their legacy as the best League of Legends nation in the world.
DragonX, when on fire, looks like world beaters. It’s hard to remember that it’s a team primarily stacked with rookies outside of Chovy and Deft. And we shouldn’t forget the eternal class of Gen.G, who carry all the prestige of their former Samsung selves.
Worlds 2020 is truly the turning point of League of Legends history. If Korea fails to make their impact yet again, their chapter in the history books will be firmly shut under the weight of the pages written by China and Europe.
However, if Korea can bring out their final ounce of fight within them, they still have a chance to defend their legacy and dynasty, and stand up to the critics who have doubted them since 2018.