It’s been a month since the latest World Championship Finals concluded and we saw what could possibly be the start of a new era with the LPL’s Invictus Gaming taking home the summoner’s cup. Now, all eyes are on the state of the rosters as we head into Season 9 of professional League of Legends. However, before we do that, let’s take a step back to reflect upon the World Championship Finals we’ve seen to date.
Below, we have decided to rank all eight of the World Championship Finals we’ve seen, based on the production quality, the stakes at hand, and how exciting the entire matchup, in general, was.
To be honest, the 2011 Final should not even be here. First, it was not technically a “Worlds” Grand Final. The tournament is more similar, in terms of participating teams, to what we now know as a Rift Rivals between North America and Europe, with two teams from Asia. In addition, the Finals was a best of three rather than our usual best of five.
The 2011 final featured European organizations Fnatic and Against All Authority. The tournament was a double elimination, and the final was a rematch between the two teams— Fnatic had won the first time they met.
The result was not any different. This tournament was the basis of Europe’s bragging rights as to how they were better than North America, as ever since, no North American organization has yet to come close to winning a World Championship ever again.
2014 was the year South Korean dominance was cemented into professional League of Legends as South Korea’s Samsung White going against China’s Star Horn Royal Club in the World Championship Finals.
Samsung White dominated the entire tournament, experiencing very little resistance from whoever they met on the rift. Choi “DanDy” In-kyu and Cho “Mata” Se-hyeong pioneered the Korean style of vision control, and even through picking low-engage compositions, they were able to slowly suffocate the opponent out of resources.
Star Horn Royal Club, however, was simply an aggressive team that had Jian “Uzi” Zi-Hao in its core, relying on his potential to carry as a bottom laner, with more serviceable solo laners in Lei “Corn” Wen and Jiang “Cola” Nan. Star Horn Royal Club was not without its problems, as it was needlessly aggressive, and proved to be easily punishable by the Samsung White squad.
Although Samsung White dropped a single game against Star Horn Royal Club, there was never any doubt that they would emerge victorious.
Surprise, surprise. The 2018 World Championship Finals is not that high in our list, and for good reason — it was an extremely one-sided series.
In a solo lane carry oriented meta, Invictus Gaming were the kings simply because they had the best performing solo laners of the tournament. The drafts and side selections looked uncharacteristically poor from Fnatic as well. To further the explanation about this final, most players from Fnatic did not seem to be on their element during that day. Mistakes that they would not have done any other day surfaced, and it costed them key opportunities and eventually the series. Individual plays from Fnatic such as Mads “Broxah” Brock-Pedersen attempted to keep them in the series with some smart plays, but all of those were to no avail.
All in all, this series had the dubious distinction of being the fastest to end in Worlds history, clocking in at just 85 minutes. It’s a shame that the best team the West in Fnatic has ever produced so far would fall way short against the Chinese dark horse, Invictus Gaming, getting swept 3-0 in a series that was never really even remotely close to tilting towards Fnatic’s favour.
2013 was the beginning of South Korean dominance in professional League of Legends, and this was where Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok’s legend was etched into everybody’s minds.
But, as monumental as the start of Faker’s legend was, 2013’s World Championship Finals was hardly a competitive one. SK Telecom T1 K then was against Star Horn Royal Club, where a 17 year old Faker faced off against a 16 year old Uzi. The aggression of Chinese teams then seemed to be missing from Star Horn Royal Club.
The Chinese team did not seem to have an answer to the top lane Jax from SK Telecom T1, and were completely outplayed in the majority of the series. With no adaptations in the middle of the series, SK Telecom continued to crush their opposition. Every player in every role on the side of SKT outclassed their counterparts. The way SKT asserted their dominance was a thing of beauty in this stage of the League of Legends esports scene, and this became the standard of a world champion.
Outclassed and outplayed, Star Horn Royal Club would bow down to SK Telecom T1 with a score of 3-0.
The 2017 World Championship Finals is familiar to many as the series where SK Telecom T1 fell. Despite the scoreline being 3-0, it was a highly competitive series. What made the difference was that Samsung Galaxy eventually closed out all three games.
In this year, SK Telecom T1 was already slumping despite its all-star roster. Their entire bracket stage going into the finals had five-game series played out to the maximum, with SKT barely scraping by in Game Fives. Even then, everyone believed that somehow SKT would surely find their grove; that they would flip the switch and be their old dominant selves.
Samsung Galaxy, on the other hand, had a rather normal run in the tournament for a Korean team. They were second in their group to Royal Never Give Up, swept LCK first seed Longzhu Gaming 3-0 in the Quarterfinals, and beat Team WE 3-1. Their stellar preparation and above-par team cohesion made the relatively less impactful roster make a second run into the World Finals.
In the end, Samsung Galaxy got its revenge, and we all witnessed the first time that SKT had lost at Worlds.
The first all-Korean World Final, the 2015 World Championship Finals in Europe was truly electric. It featured an SK Telecom T1 that was undefeated going into the final, and a KOO Tigers that beat all the odds.
SK Telecom T1 was expected to do quick work of the KOO Tigers given the form that they were in, but the Tigers put up a fight. Lee “Hojin” Ho-jin had a phenomenal performance on the Lee Sin in Game Three, and broke SKT’s undefeated record in the tournament. Doing so seemed to have angered the sleeping titans in SKT, and they swiftly ended the series 3-1 after that.
The 2015 World Final was the first time any organization has won the World Championship twice, and affirmed Faker’s status as the best player to have ever played League of Legends.
This was the first World Championship Finals that was a best-of-five, featuring Azubu Frost and the Taipei Assassins. En route, the Taipei Assassins weathered the storm that was Moscow Five, while Azubu Frost braved through Counter Logic Gaming EU. Both teams were relative unknowns as they were both Asian teams, but the favorites coming into the match, as the Taipei Assassins upset the tournament favorites Moscov Five. Nobody expected them to deliver once again.
We all know lightning struck the same spot twice, and the Taipei Assassins were the reason we now have an extremely adorable Nunu skin, among others.
This was the only World Championship Finals to ever go to all five games, as well as the first final between Samsung Galaxy and SK Telecom T1.
Both teams went through different paths going into the match. SKT went through Royal Never Give Up and LCK first seed ROX Tigers, which was perhaps the greatest best of five in all of League of Legends history. Samsung Galaxy, on the other hand, went through an all-Western bracket with Cloud9 and H2K Gaming.
On paper, the matchup looked one-sided. But, how wrong most people’s predictions was. At first, SK Telecom T1 looked like they would close out the series after cruising through a 2-0 lead. However, Samsung would adjust and fight back. They would take Game 3 before tying the series 2-2 after a harrowing Game 4.
Heading into the final game, Samsung were on the verge of reverse sweeping SK Telecom T1. However, a costly mistake by Park “Ruler” Jae-hyuk would end up costing them the championship.
2016 marked the first time the champions successfully defended their title. For that, and the fact that it was a nerve-wracking five game series, it takes the top spot in our World Championship Finals rankings.
We are now close to the start of Season Nine of League of Legends esports, and we are left to ask the questions whose legend will continue? Whose will be forgotten?
We never truly know until we see some real games from our pros, and until then, we will be keeping a close eye on everybody.
Do you agree with our World Championship Finals rankings? Which one was your favorite? Do you think we will be having more epic finals in the future? Let us know in the comments below!