Like many other World Championships through League of Legends’ long history, Korea has been dominant this year. The only Korean team that’s fallen so far was Hanwha Life Esports, and they were the 8th place team in the 2021 LCK Summer Split. It’s a strong region, and Korean teams have rarely been topped on the World Stage.
Now, EDward Gaming is the last team standing from a region outside of South Korea, and they’re hungry to continue their record of unprecedented international success for the organization. With Gen.G hitting peak form this tournament, what are EDG’s chances of making it to the Finals?
Duel of carries
These two teams have one big thing in common: Their ADCs are a crucial part of the way they play, and the bot lane matchup will be one to watch. They both carry games, but their methodology when it comes to doing so couldn’t be more different.
Being a former world champ, Ruler’s tenure and history of strong performances make him a man to be feared on the rift. He tends to play late-game scaling carry champions like Aphelios, Jhin, and Jinx. He’s been the crux of Gen.G’s damage in most of their big wins, and he always has a target on his head as a result. However, Ruler is no stranger to dealing with dives.
Ruler’s had some pop off moments, but his biggest strength this tournament is his ability to output a ton of damage in situations where most other ADC players would have died. Ruler isn’t worried about winning lane as much as he wants to hit the late game with as much farm as he can. Ruler’s focused solely on himself because he knows he can carry games.
Even from a deficit, Ruler has a reputation for turning teamfights on their head and showing up when it matters most. Ruler doesn’t have to be up in the enemies’ faces to make an impact, and his ability to play fights from long range gives him an edge over most ADCs.
This playstyle is further supported by Kim “Life” Jeong-min, seeing as he tends to be more focused on keeping his ADC alive and stable through the lane phase than the other remaining support players at Worlds. Life then swaps over to wreaking havoc in teamfights while Ruler takes down the entire team from a distance. He’s taken a liking to champions like Rakan, Lulu, and Yuumi that excel at keeping Ruler alive.
Viper’s a carry that lives on the edge. He’s a player that knows his limits well and plays around them. But, he also isn’t afraid to push himself to the max and play teamfights unlike any other ADC would.
The sort of stuff Viper pulls off is wonderful to watch, and he isn’t afraid to make plays. It’s common for Viper to rotate early, which is very in-line with EDG’s general playstyle. They want map control whenever they can get it, and, in instances where someone like Ruler would be occupied safely farming, Viper’s with his team and trying to find advantages.
It’s worth noting that, due to EDG top laner Li "Flandre" Xuan-Jun's recent affinity for squishy champions, it seems difficult for EDG to keep Viper alive if he’s not playing an ADC with some mobility in their kit. But when Viper gets to live in fights, he thrives.
Viper had the freedom to put as much DPS into RNG as he wanted, and the amount of poke he was able to land in this fight sealed RNG’s fate in the last game of their BO5 set. Something that’s important to note is what the gold graphs looked like after this fight.
Despite having so much kill participation, Viper was still behind GALA in the aftermath of this fight. His rotations and pressure on the map cost him farm, but Viper’s presence put the rest of his team ahead. EDG prioritize control and objectives, and Viper isn’t afraid to take a hit to his income if he can put his entire team ahead. EDG support Tian “Meiko” Ye has a similar mentality, and he tends to rotate out of the lane as early as level 3.
Ultimately, this is a battle between two different playstyles. Ruler is selfish and focused on bringing in wins in the late game, while Viper hits the Rift hard and has a focus on finding advantages outside of lane. That said, being selfish isn’t a bad strategy for Ruler, albeit a predictable one. This set will largely depend on whether or not EDG can play a confident enough early game to lock Gen.G out of contention. If not, Ruler will get his opportunity to carry.
There’s a player on Gen.G who has time and time again risen to the occasion. At least, at Worlds 2021.
The rise of BDD
Gen.G mid laner Gwak "BDD" Bo-seong's breakout international performance at Worlds had its roots laid in Summer. BDD started 2021 with playing a small pool of champions very well. He’d play Azir, Syndra, Zoe, and Orianna well. In Summer, BDD injected some flavor picks into his pool. He had a good record on Akali (71% WR) and Sett (66% WR), and he had mixed success with a few other picks. While BDD was consistent in most games, he never stood out. He always did well, but never great.
Worlds 2021 has been a different story.
BDD has taken his limited champion pool and turned it into a strength. Where champions like Ryze and Twisted Fate are a very important part of the mid champ pool for most top teams, BDD plays the game his way and picks what he wants to. In other words, Gen.G can target the enemy mid laner’s picks without stepping on their own toes. On top of that, BDD has shown that he’s got some pocket picks up his sleeve.
Even when Cloud9 opted to ban BDD’s mid laners out, he chose to pick Aatrox instead. Gen.G top laner Kim "Rascal" Kwang-hee had enough damage to carry on Kennen, and Ruler… is Ruler.
The important thing to notice in this clip is how well BDD created space for his team to secure the objective. C9 had no shot of getting in, and BDD proved that he knows how to position like a bruiser by being such a menacing presence on early objectives. He may not have had a pop off performance this game, but BDD conceded his place as a carry so that he could fill the role his team needed.
The dominance of Scout
EDward Gaming mid laner Lee "Scout" Ye-chan is a bit more meta inclined than BDD. He likes global ults and utility, as well as champions that get into the fight and make a splash when it comes to teamfights. He’s a very resourceful mid laner and somehow manages to use every part of his kit well. If he’s playing Ryze, Realm Warp will be a critical part of EDG’s strategy. If he picks Sylas, he’ll have an ultimate in mind for every situation.
Plays like this show how in-tune Scout is with his team, and his long tenure on EDG is made clear by how in-sync this team is. Scout’s shotcalling and rotations are a key part of EDG’s skirmishing, and he tends to outpace his competition. When EDG do take 5v5s, Scout knows exactly where he should be.
Even in one of EDG’s losses, Scout managed to keep himself relevant and had a high impact in teamfights. He patiently put damage on important targets and systematically dismantled RNG in this fight. If BDD wants to prove his dominance and bring Gen.G to Finals, he’ll have to find a way to shut Scout out of the game. Scout has shown his ability to carry games for EDG, and it’s up to BDD to prove that his improved performance is a permanent change rather than a flash in the pan.
Channeling their LPL roots
EDG’s playstyle feels like it was created to counter the aggressive playstyle China is known for. EDG plays almost solely around objectives, and they rarely take a fight unless there’s a big advantage to be gained. While their strategy may have worked in China, it’s possible that Korean teams will be able to out-macro EDG and play around a much stronger late game strategy. And, if EDG can’t take down Gen.G, they don’t stand a chance against DWG KIA or T1.
Gen.G’s front-to-back playstyle may be predictable, but they’re really good at taking teamfights no matter how far behind they are. Meanwhile, EDG have to find a way to put themselves so far ahead that Gen.G can never come back. Flandre usually just stalls top lane with safe picks (although it’d be a surprise if his Graves isn’t target banned), and Jiejie tends to work around his team rather than going for his own plays. While there’s potential for Rascal to stomp top lane and for Clid to make a game-winning setup play, topside isn’t the main focus in this matchup.
It’ll be up to EDG’s mid and bot lanes to win the series for them. We need to see the aggression other Chinese teams are known for coming out of EDG in order for them to get an edge in this series. It’s up to EDG to prove that China still has a place in the conversation for LoL’s strongest region.
Carver is an esports journalist and analyst who specializes in Eastern League of Legends.