In a thrilling final played in one of the first live League of Legends crowds in New Zealand since the pandemic began, eight of the best one-vs-one players in the country duked it out in their quest to become the best — with David “DVD123” Nguyen triumphing in a final five-match slugfest against Hansung ‘Kimchiii’ Jang.
Adding to the hype was the all-star roster behind the analyst and casting desks, with LCO talent Kitty and André “Skimmy” Allchin suiting up alongside both former pros in Ari “Shok” Greene-Young & Andy “emelg” Chen, as well as Kiwi casting veteran Matt “Smite” Ross.
The last of the eight to qualify, DVD123 scored his spot in the national final after taking down all comers at the second and final qualifier held at the Armageddon Winter Expo, utilising picks such as Pantheon, Aatrox and Warwick to quickly end games before sudden death rules kicked in.
Speaking of sudden death rules — while specifics around 1v1s have varied over the years, the core premise remains the same: kill your opponent before they can kill you.
With the event played on League’s Tournament Realm, the matches would utilise the All-Star Showdown game mode, which is unavailable on live servers. Most recently shown at All-Star 2020, the Showdown game mode twists the classic rules slightly.
Instead of a single kill sealing the deal, the game is split into two phases. Prior to seven minutes, players would require scoring two kills on their opposition, but as the ring of fire closes in once the game ticks past seven minutes, the next kill wins. Gone is the classic 100 CS win condition, but claiming first turret still results in victory.
For DVD123, his run through the tournament was a bloody one.
In his first match of the tournament, against Jahan ‘WORLD’ Panchia, Nguyen locked in his favoured Aatrox against Tahm Kench and went to work against the infuriatingly tanky catfish.
A kill was traded each way prior to sudden death, but Aatrox’s raw damage output was enough to score a second kill and take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series.
The second game of the series was just as ferocious, with a Pantheon pick for DVD123 squaring up against Panchia’s Tristana. While Tristana had proved exceptionally strong in the event so far, having both kill threat and the capability to quickly demolish a tower, Nguyen was able to catch a crucial engage to pick up a sudden death kill and advance to the semifinals.
In a barnstorming semi-final matchup, DVD123 faced off against former pro support player Isaac “Tilting” Bellamy. In an unorthodox Kled vs Cassiopeia matchup, DVD123 was able to pilot the Cantankerous Cavalier to a narrow victory, but Bellamy wasn’t about to let his international hopes die that quickly.
A strong Kalista performance from Bellamy was able to get the job done in the second match, but was unable to continue the streak in the decider as Nguyen scored a decisive victory to take the first spot in the finals.
Nguyen’s finals opponent, Hansung ‘Kimchiii’ Jang, had also had an epic run through the tournament.
A support player with stints in the semi-pro circuit on teams such as Avant Academy, UQ Union and the Dire Cubs, Jang’s first match was against fellow support main Sabrina “Silent Reverie” Li.
A cheeky Anivia pick was able to stall Li’s Tryndamere in the first match of the series, with the narrow walls of the Howling Abyss providing Jang ample opportunity to keep the raging barbarian at bay.
The sheer wave clear power of Anivia, however, was too much for the Tryndamere, and despite numerous single-digit HP escapes, it was the tower that fell to give Jang a 1-0 lead.
A heroic snowball shot from two screens away was enough to give Jang the 2-0 in the second game, with his Jayce proving too much for Li’s Quinn. Moving onto the semi-finals, Jang was able to quickly take down Will “Cave Commander Will” Brown in a 2-0 sweep to set up his match against DVD123 for the title.
With everything on the line, both players started to pull out their comfort picks. The first game of the best-of-five featured a standoff between Tryndamere and Warwick, with the Zaunite wolf’s healing able to outlast Tryndamere to give Nguyen a 1-0 lead.
An early kill for Nguyen’s Urgot in Game 2 put the pressure on Jang’s Vayne, and despite stalling until sudden death, a perfectly aimed Fear Beyond Death sent Vayne to the grinder and Jang to face down a 0-2 deficit.
While it could have been all over then and there, Jang was able to fight back in the third and fourth games with consecutive victories on Nasus and Volibear to force a one-match shootout to determine New Zealand’s 1v1 champion.
Unseen so far throughout the tournament, Nguyen locked in Mordekaiser for the decider, while Jang returned to the Nasus in the hopes of completing a thrilling reverse sweep.
Naturally with everything on the line, both players played ultra-cautious, with neither player able to gain an upper hand heading into the final sudden death showdown.
With the ring of fire closing in, it turned into a game of chicken. Mordekaiser’s ultimate steals a percentage of his target’s stats, and with Nasus’ ultimate providing a large boost to those same stats, whoever ulted second had a huge advantage in the fight.
Seconds away from being burnt to a crisp, both players launched in for the final fight. An early damage burst from Nguyen was enough to force the Nasus ultimate from Jang, and the former quickly responded with his own ultimate — trapping them both in another cage to fight it out for the title.
In the end, the true damage from Mordekaiser’s Riftmaker proved too much and Nguyen closed out the match and the tournament to be crowned New Zealand’s SoloQ champion.
When asked how he was feeling following the conclusion of the event, Nguyen had just one thing to say amidst the falling confetti and the roaring audience.
“I’m feeling like the biggest dog in OCE”.
Hopefully when the international finals roll around later this year, he can extend that title to the rest of the world.