The defending champions DWG KIA are doing amazing. Kim “Canyon” Geon-bu, who proved he’s the best jungler in the world by securing the MVP of the Worlds 2020 finals, only has two matches left to return to his place. He’s put all the meta struggles of Summer behind him and confidently marches towards a second world title — and perhaps a second MVP award to boot, given how he’s played so far.
From strong laning to trenchant, pitch-perfect teamfights, DK excel in every aspect of the game. They bundle up every little advantage they take to make a snowball to victory and in the middle of that snowball is Canyon. He is DK’s playmaker but also the one who gets them out of the (rare) situations when the team is behind.
Top or bot? Where Canyon is headed is key
Each team interprets the current meta differently. Most say that it’s a top meta but teams like T1 are doing extremely well through a bot-centric playstyle. DK themselves have also changed throughout the season. In Summer, they snowballed through bot lane dives, but then played through top to win the LCK Summer Finals. No one can really tell what DK will prioritize but one thing’s clear — wherever Canyon is headed, that’s where the avalanche will start.
At Worlds 2021, DK have mostly played a top-centric game. Kim “Khan” Dong-ha has mostly been on carry champions and has had a lot of influence on the late games. But even when DK’s opponents knew what was counted and played to counter that through the draft, Canyon has been a few steps ahead of them, always.
There was a moment in the second game against FunPlus Phoenix that perfectly encapsulated Canyon’s mastery. FPX attempted a dive by sending Kim “Doinb” Tae-sang and Gao “Tian” Tian-Liang to top lane, while Jang “Nuguri” Ha-gwon pushed in the lane, pressuring Khan, all while Heo “ShowMaker” Su was trying to time his first recall.
In this situation, Canyon placed himself around the brush between top and mid and helped out both Khan and ShowMaker. Because of that play, FPX’s dive was stalled and ShowMaker was able to return to his lane after recalling. One jungler saved two lanes at once. Canyon was the center of the game from that point on and drew the outlines of the game just as he wanted.
A real monk
Canyon also seizes the key moments in teamfights and never misses the small details. Last year’s Canyon was a jungler who sprinted ahead of his counterpart. This year, as his role changed alongside the meta, Canyon’s job became to cut off the opponent’s main carry in teamfights.
Teamfights around objectives are especially complicated for junglers. They have to think not only about doing their job in the 5v5 but also about the Smite fight and objective control. Canyon does all this hard work seamlessly, without a word, like a monk.
In games 2 and 3 against MAD Lions, there were situations where DK fell behind but won in the end. While the whole team did well, Canyon was once again the center point. The scaling carries of MAD Lions were cut off by Lee Sin kicks and erased in the blink of an eye. MAD Lions would have no other choice but to either retreat, or lose on the spot.
What was even scarier is that Canyon even survived after those kills — after killing Orianna, Canyon’s Guardian Angel and Stopwatch helped him live and not a split second was wasted after the assassination. This earned enough time for Khan to Teleport and tilt the game completely in DK’s favor.
In the last game against MAD Lions, kills and deaths went around the Rift the whole game. DK struggled a bit but Canyon was still excellent as the only player with just one death. When fights lead to objectives, it’s really important that the jungler survives. In that regard, Canyon is one of the most difficult junglers to face.
Unique skill build?
The pros that reach the highest peaks of the LoL scene are those who stand out among an already stacked, highly-competitive field. Distinguishing the best laners is easier due to the dueling and CS’ing mechanics of their lane, but who’s the best among junglers isn’t that clear.
Canyon would always do things a little bit different. He’d send his laners to their lanes without leashing and would level up quickly to then gank. In the first game against MAD Lions, his Lee Sin learned Tempest/Cripple first — instead of the orthodox Safeguard/Iron Will after leashing — to speed up his jungling time as much as possible.
Canyon inserts little details in his ganking and skirmishes as well, and one particular area he excels at is vision — Canyon mostly moves around the fog of war, where it’s impossible to spot him. This makes his counter jungling very effective and sets up a lot of ambushes, which make all the difference in a game.
In the high-speed, high-pressure environment of competitive LoL, seeing the exact range of the opponents’ vision can be difficult, but there’s never any hesitation in Canyon’s movements. His edge-of-the-pixel position is another way he snowballs games and turns small advantages into game-winning leads.
Canyon is only two wins away from a repeat title and once again, he is the best jungler in the world.
All images by Riot Games