Very few matchups are more iconic and storied to decide the first finalist for the 2021 World Championship than DWG KIA and T1. This is a lot more than a square-off between two excellent teams and so much is at stake in this semifinals series.
If T1 win, it will return the org back in the limelight after several tumultuous years. It will mean Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok’s return to the Worlds finals stage and a shot at a fourth title. And it will reestablish T1’s reputation as the greatest dynasty in League of Legends.
If DWG KIA win, Kim “Khan” Dong-ha will be one step closer to finally winning an international tournament. Kim "kkOma" Jeong-gyun will have won a World Championship without Faker. And DK will inch closer to overtaking T1’s supremacy over the game. It is a battle between an ancient-old dynasty and a rising new order.
T1 vs. DWG KIA
DWG KIA has played like the same juggernauts they were last year and the extra year of experience and addition of Khan makes them look even more consistent and polished. Though there were concerns for the team after their disappointing Mid-Season Invitational performance, as well as their slow start in LCK Summer, DWG KIA has only sped up since.
It looks increasingly unlikely that anyone can match them. Their only game loss since July has been against T1 in the 3-1 series that won them the 2021 LCK Summer Playoffs. They’ve had a flawless run through Worlds 2021 since, 6-0’ing their group and 3-0’ing MAD Lions in quarterfinals.
DWG KIA is, in the most literal sense of the word, unstoppable.
T1 have also been getting better. Though nowhere as consistent as DWG KIA, the new-look of the old Korean dynasty has shown that their past heights are reachable. Their Worlds run didn’t start off as strong but Faker and his squad of youngsters have been solving their issues to finally look like a complete team. Besides that one loss to EDG, they won every other game in the group stage. In the quarterfinals against Hanwha Life Esports — a team they had a close 3-2 affair with in the Korean Regional Finals — T1 delivered a clinical 3-0, making for an almost mundane and boring series.
The question is whether T1 have put themselves together well enough to beat DWG KIA. DWG KIA have better consistency, match up well against them historically, and are overall more experienced as well. Recently, though, T1 have come the closest to beating them. Their series against them in the Summer Playoffs was a close affair.
And as history has shown time and time again — Faker can do Faker things.
The (too) dynamic duo
The win-conditions for DWG KIA are simple — keep playing like they’ve been playing. It may be better to stay cautious in the early stages of their games because, while all their players are fantastic individually, T1 is the closest team to match them. Their mix of raw talent and experience, along with their familiarity with DWG KIA’s players, makes T1 the most potent threat to them thus far.
DWG KIA is not totally flawless either. Historically, if anyone on the team will falter, it’s Jang "Ghost" Yong-jun and Cho "BeryL" Geon-hee. The bottom lane duo was the biggest reason the team lost at MSI and has shown to go through rough patches sometimes. Even if they’re stronger now, Ghost still hasn’t demonstrated he can reliably carry.
DWG KIA matchup well against T1: their team fighting is cleaner, Canyon is better than Moon "Oner" Hyeon-joon, and the solo lanes are a wash. The bottom lane is the main area they need to be prepared for. Lee "Gumayusi" Min-hyeong and Ryu "Keria" Min-seok are a more skilled duo, and Gumayusi has some dangerous picks DWG KIA will want to ban in the draft: he almost never loses on Aphelios. Shutting down T1’s bottom lane will cut away the biggest thorn to potentially poke at DWG KIA.
Jumping over the canyon
Individually, the biggest mismatch of this series is in the jungle. Canyon might be the best player in the world right now. Even if Oner is really a wunderkind, a betting man would go for the more seasoned and historically stronger option.
The jungle matchup should be T1’s main point to focus throughout the early game. Their bottom lane should be fine, Faker has matched up well with ShowMaker in the past, and though Khan is the more experienced and slightly stronger player, his playstyle should mean Canna doesn’t have to be too worried about getting gapped.
But Oner will need to play the series of his life. The team as a whole needs to neutralize Canyon as much as they can. Making sure he isn’t equipped with one of his favored playmakers like Lee Sin will go a long way. It’s unlikely Oner can defeat Canyon, but with enough preparation and support, he can at least match him.
Besides that, T1 will probably have the best luck trying to be aggressive and getting as early as possible. DWG KIA’s teamfighting is too strong. Their decision-making in the late game is too smart. Though T1 is considered “the old kings” in this matchup, they’re comparatively inexperienced as players and as a team to DWG KIA. To win, they’ll have to draw blood early, and hope they can kill the current World Champions fast enough before they get back up.
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