When DAMWON Gaming was matched up against DRX in the quarterfinals of the 2020 League of Legends World Championship, the seeding was met with disappointment due to the expected one-sidedness of the series. In the finals of the 2020 League of Legends Champions Korea Summer Playoffs, DAMWON swept DRX to win its first domestic championship, and it repeated the result at Worlds in the quarterfinals with another 3-0 sweep.
Despite the clear mismatch of the all-Korea quarterfinal, the true David and Goliath matchup of the Worlds 2020 quarterfinals is Fnatic vs. Top Esports. As the League of Legends European Championship 2nd seed, Fnatic has proven to be a strong team, but Top Esports is the reigning champion of the strongest region in the world. The battle for the European side will certainly be uphill, but like the tale of the Old Testament, a path to victory is possible.
Let's take a look at Fnatic and Top Esports' performances at Worlds 2020 thus far and break down the key factors in the upcoming quarterfinals match between the two teams.
Fnatic escaped Group C ahead of LGD Gaming and TSM, but behind Gen.G. Fnatic 2-0'd TSM but lost its first match against LGD, but recovered by defeating Gen.G. In the second round robin, Fnatic beat LGD and TSM once again, but lost to Gen.G, who claimed the 1st seed with a 5-1 record.
Amongst the best of Fnatic's performance, Oskar "Selfmade" Boderek was particularly impressive and proved himself to be the best jungler in Group C. His Graves was acceptable enough and finished with a 2-2 record, but his performances on Evelynn and Hecarim were exceptional.
Top laner Gabriël "Bwipo" Rau's Volibear against LGD was particularly dominant in trademark Bwipo style, and the rest of the FNC squad showed consistency on their respective roles' meta picks throughout Group C.
Fnatic was not without its flaws at Worlds 2020, but was the clear second-best team in Group C. Its drafts have been relatively one-dimensional: Bwipo on beefcakes, Selfmade on powerfarming carries, Tim "Nemesis" Lipovšek on self-sufficient mid laners, Martin "Rekkles" Larsson on utility marksmen and Zdravets "Hylissang" Iliev Galabov on his ever-comfortable tanky playmaking supports.
However, with those compositions, Fnatic has proved to secure a victory more often than not. The compositions being drafted are meta-friendly and the team's players boast enough individual talent to execute aggressively on a high level and keep its game plans versatile despite similar picks throughout the group stage.
Top Esports came into Worlds 2020 as a favorite to win the tournament and was positioned atop Group D above DRX, FlyQuest, and Unicorns of Love. China's reigning champion dominated the group, but after winning its first five games, dropped a single loss to an eliminated FlyQuest. 5-1 was still good enough to secure the 1st seed in Group D, and DRX qualified for the knockout stage as the 2nd seed with a 4-2 record.
Top Esports hasn't been quite as dominant as DAMWON Gaming at Worlds 2020, but a 5-1 start is far from disappointing. Yu "JackeyLove" Wen-Bo has been the best AD Carry at Worlds 2020, and rookie support Liang "yuyanjia" Jia-Yuan and after a season of mostly sacrificing all resources to his laners, Hung "Karsa" Hao-Hsuan has adapted to the farming carry jungle meta seamlessly. At his first World Championship, top laner Bai "369" Jia-Hao has played six different champions in six games.
The one player on Top Esports who has not played to expectations is Zhuo "knight" Ding. Hailed by many as the best mid laner in the world, knight has been decidedly average, not particularly making any mistakes but far from the domestic dominance associated with his handle. However, knight certainly put on a show in TES match against DRX by locking in Nocturne mid and securing a win on the pick.
It's possible that nerves are getting to knight. No Worlds 2020 debut has been as closely watched as knight's, who by the majority of the Chinese LoL Esports community has been considered the best mid laner in the world since 2018. It's also important to consider that knight's teammates are absolutely popping off so far at Worlds 2020 — 369, Karsa and JackeyLove are all playing at such a high level that knight's value was frankly superfluous for the competition in Group D.
Still, it must be acknowledged that in technical terms, knight has underperformed so far at Worlds 2020, and that Top Esports has far fewer chances of going all the way to the finals without knight performing at least to expectations.
The bottom line
There's no way this matchup can be described as favorable for Fnatic, but that doesn't mean Top Esports is invincible. If FlyQuest can best TES, Fnatic certain has the capability to as well. Nemesis has been very solid this tournament, and if knight continues to underperform, that could be a point of exploit for Selfmade. Bwipo should be able to hold his own against 369 should he play cautious, and banning utility marksmen out could level the current difference between Rekkles and JackeyLove.
Despite there being clear paths to defeating Top Esports, it's hard to imagine that Fnatic can overcome a team individually superior in nearly every role — one could argue Hylissang superior to yuyanjia — as well as a team that has shown stronger team cohesion at Worlds 2020 thus far and a higher level of play throughout the season. Expect Fnatic to come prepared, but for any and all plans to fall flat at the feet of China's reigning champion. Prediction: Top Esports 3-0 Fnatic
Disclaimer: This article previously incorrectly stated that Fnatic went undefeated in week 2 of the group stage. This has since been rectified.
*Photos: David Lee for Riot Games*
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