2018 World Championship Finals: The Beginning of Chinese Dominance

Every Worlds has always been marked by the emergence of something new, and the end of the 2018 World Championship Finals is no exception.

In Season One, we saw the game at its infancy. In Season Two, we saw the first time an Asian team win the tournament with Taipei Assassins. As the next year rolled out and Season Three began, we saw the beginning of the era of South Korean dominance in professional League of Legends. The following year, Season Four, cemented the Korean’s vision-oriented style of play. Then, in Season Five, we saw the first time an organization was able to win the World Championship twice with SK Telecom T1. Season Six was saw the first time a World Championship was defended successfully. Season Seven saw that same dynasty toppled, albeit the Summoner Cup’s remained in South Korea.

For Season Eight, we are arguably on the cusp of a new era, as it brings us the first ever world champions hailing from China’s LPL in Invictus Gaming, an organization older than the LPL itself.

Below are my takeaways from Invictus Gaming’s crowning moment at the 2018 World Championship finals:

Draft Priorities and Execution

2018 World Championship Finals

Fnatic opted into setting up Caps to succeed in the drafting phase. (Image via lolesports Flickr)

We have seen that the meta in this tournament is dictated by solo lanes and snowballing from them. Because of this, Invictus Gaming have the slight edge because of the carry potential of its solo laners in Kang “TheShy” Seung-lok and Song “Rookie” Eui-jin. Some credit has to be awarded to the coaching staff of Invictus Gaming as they drafted specifically towards this. They always sought to get favorable matchups in the solo lanes, and made sure that their jungler, Gao “Ning” Zhen-ning, was also in a favorable position to be able to assist the laners. The game plan for Invictus Gaming is usually simple: win lane, win game.

Fnatic, on the other hand, appeared to have wanted to play around their middle lane. Mads “Broxah” Brock-Pedersen was put on Lee Sin for two games in a row. All eyes were on Rasmus “Caps” Winther, as the draft made it very obvious that the team wished to play around him. With Martin “Rekkles” Larsson on picks like the Jhin and Ezreal, it meant that they just wanted Zdravets “Hylissang” Galabov to eventually roam to the middle lane and secure advantages for Caps.

While the game plans and win conditions are sound, these were not able to come to fruition. Rookie was too strong an opponent in the 1v1 laning phase, and Yu “Jackeylove” Wen-bo and Wang “Baolan” Liu-yi were able to corral Rekkles and Hylissang into the lane.

The failure to adapt on Fnatic’s part after they got dismantled in the first game proved costly as they lost the second one handily as well.

Success on Foreign Soil

Rookie finally takes his first title since 2014. (Image via lolesports Flickr)

What one has to learn about Invictus Gaming is that the current roster has two other South Koreans in it in TheShy and Rookie. TheShy moved to the LPL at an early age and has only played on Invictus Gaming despite being formerly on Team World Elite. The other Korean import, Rookie, is more popular. he was part of the legendary KT Arrows team that won the OGN Summer Championship in 2014 and moved to LPL almost immediately after. Despite the lack of success over in the LPL, Rookie stayed in Invictus Gaming after players like Kim “Deft” Hyu-kyu and Cho “Mata” Se-hyeong moved back to Korea after disappointing international results.

Another Korean worth mentioning is their coach, Kim “Kim” Jeong-soo.

Coach Kim has had an active role in Invictus Gaming’s victories. His ability to read opponents, adapt and draft the right way has helped enable Invictus Gaming to achieve victory. Case in point, in Game 1 of the 2018 World Championship Finals, Ning was often found to pay attention to Rookie and get him ahead, but it was also obvious that Rookie could win the lane against Caps by himself. In Game 2, Ning paid more attention to the more volatile top lence. As a result, we saw Ning snowball in two lanes at the same time. Once Fnatic saw Caps struggling, they rotated to try and assist Caps. This then allowed Invictus Gaming to pressure the bottom side as well.

While we see that success with imports is not immediate, proper investment on foreign talent can also pay off.

For Invictus Gaming, it led to them winning the 2018 World Championship Finals and going home with the Summoner’s Cup.

Old Meets New

2018 World Championship Finals

Jackeylove proved to be the missing piece for Invictus Gaming’s success. (Image via lolesports Flickr)

Since we have already talked about the older Korean talent, we also have native talent in the roster. Ning used to be an AD Carry, duoing with Shi “Ming” Sen-ming in the LSPL, China’s secondary league. He then transitioned into a jungler, being a promising talent in the role. Despite his promise, in 2018 Ning seemed to be a liability for his team: with sub-par decision making and problems with his champion pool, Ning just seemed to be an exploitable part of Invictus Gaming. In the finals, however, he was given his Camille, on which he showed his proficiency, he also redeemed himself on the Gragas, a champion where he has had questionable performances this season so far.

Baolan has also been a questionable player on the squad as well, delivering mixed performances all season long.

In the 2018 World Championship finals, he was able to play his part perfectly as an initiator on the team, finding priority targets and zoning away threats to the backline. Jackeylove, on the other hand, has been able to take matchups into his hands as a laning AD Carry. Being on maximum comfort as a Kai’sa shows how capable he is in lane, and his Lucian shows how to completely take over a lane.

These young Chinese talents, as raw and unpolished they are, have been performing well domestically and internationally.

We are slowly ushering in a new generation of professional players with immense mechanical capability, and watching the interactions of these different generations of professionals that will revolutionize the way the game is played, as the game itself evolves.

Stepping Up When it Matters the Most

2018 World Championship Finals

Despite the loss, the West has performed beyond expectations in the tournament. (Image via lolesports Flickr)

Before history happens all of it is just a massive web of possibilities. And then the matches get played out, which render all our what ifs useless, as the only possibility that actualized itself was the one we had all witnessed.

We’ll always remember TheShy’s four man Aatrox Q onto G2 Esports. We will also remember Rookie dispatching opponents on his own. We definitely won’t forget Jackeylove’s Flash forward against KT Rolster. Baolan’s Rakan also ranks up there. So too does =Ning’s Gragas in Game 2 against Fnatic. This squad of rookies and veterans alike have shown that in the game-defining moments, they did not crack under the pressure.

But, this isn’t to say that Fnatic did not take control of their destiny. Although they fell short, Rekkles words still ring true. When Caps underperformed in the 2018 World Championship finals, Rekkles was the one who helped keep the team afloat. He attempted to put the team into a position wherein Caps could finally carry. Gabriel “Bwipo” Rau maximized his contribution to the team despite the lack of jungle attention for most of the series. Paul “sOAZ” Boyer came in in Fnatic’s time of need, and was able to match TheShy in lane. Hylissang’s well-known aggression was present. Caps, even with hiccups in the early game, was able to claw his way back into the games.

Of course, at the end of the day, Invictus Gaming was simply the better team. Nevertheless, Fnatic should remain proud of their achievements.

The Start of Chinese Dominance

2018 World Championship Finals

The LPL reigns supreme in 2018. (Image via lolesports Flickr)

Invictus Gaming’s victory at the 2018 World Championship Finals begs the question: is this the beginning of Chinese dominance in professional League of Legends?

Maybe. Maybe not. We’ll never know for sure just yet. For Invictus Gaming, doubts remain if they can follow this up with domestic success. Then there’s the uncertainty that a new season always bring. Remember, heading into the tournament, Royal Never Give Up was a shoo-in for the 2018 World Championship Finals, if not the Summoner’s Cup itself, and look what happened.

At the end of it all, however, one thing remains true, it’s that the LPL has won everything this season.

This year has opened the path for everybody, and not just Invictus Gaming. For starters, the Western teams have finally overcome Korean and Chinese teams.

“Play your own style,” Jakob “YamatoCannon” Mebdi has said. “It is no longer about chasing Korean or Chinese teams.” We might be witnessing the dawn of an era where dominance of any team or of any region is not present.

Final Thoughts

With the end of Worlds comes the end of the season. The 2018 All-Star Event is there, of course, but it is a far cry from the organized competition that we have had over the course of the year. It is more of a service to the fans. We are now only left to wonder what teams will do in the offseason to challenge Invictus Gaming and the rest of the LPL. All roads have led here, and our journey has ended. For now.

Hail to the new kings, Invictus Gaming. 

What do you think of Invictus Gaming taking the win over Fnatic at the 2018 World Championship Finals? Were you convinced of this victory? Do you think that this is the beginning of Chinese dominance in professional League of Legends? Be sure to let us know your thoughts in the comments down below.

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