T1’s 2021 season officially ended on Oct 31. As the team with the biggest fanbase in esports, all eyes were on their every move throughout the season.
In the middle of having new teammates join the legendary mid laner for T1, Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok every year, 2021 was a year that T1 sharpened their knives. Although they have an incredible legacy of being 3-time world champions, their last Worlds victory was already five years ago.
As T1 even failed to make it to Worlds in 2020, this year was the year that they had to step up and prove themselves. By esports standards, Faker’s not exactly considered young; all his notable competitors of the past have either moved on to casting, or have served their compulsory military service to find new type of work.
In 2021, T1 spent a lot of money on securing not just world-class players, but also on the coaching staff as well. Rumors about their coaching staff stirred up a lot of noise in the community; when Daeny-Zefa was first announced as the team’s new coaching staff, people were immediately intrigued by how they’ll perform this year.
Truth be told, if you recall T1’s journey, there aren’t that many times where they’ve been at the top from the beginning. Especially in recent years, they’ve always faced some sort of problems, but they’ve proven that they can overcome their obstacles with finesse. This aspect of the team is what perhaps fascinated the fans all around the world.
This year was not easy for the team as well. Under Daeny’s guidance, T1 was the only team to field different variations of their 10-man roster in the Spring split; it felt as if they were endlessly experimenting to find what works and what doesn’t. There were many hitches in that process as well. As Faker was also part of T1’s ‘roulette’, fans’ concerns grew as Faker’s time on the bench continued, and were curious to find out what Daeny’s definition of LoL was.
T1 finished 4th in the Spring split, but the Summer split for them wasn’t easy for them as well. Until the middle of the split, the only staple starting player from the team was their support player, Ryu “Keria” Min-seok. On top of that, they were not performing well nor were they producing results. You can imagine how the fans’ concerns continued to grow.
July 15 was the halfway point of the 2021 LCK Summer regular split; T1 announced that they’ve parted ways with Daeny and Zefa. It was the first time that any LCK team decided to make such a drastic move in the middle of a split; in the press conference that T1 held the next day, the General Manager for T1, Choi “Polt” Seong-hun’s answers to the media’s questions were mostly dodgy; basically, he kept repeating the same answer of “Parting with them was the best course of action for both parties.” While it’s impossible for fans to know what was happening with the team internally, Polt’s answers were disappointing, as they didn’t really clear up anything.
The aftermath of it left T1 to ignore all the bullshit and focus nothing on producing results. Thankfully for T1, they started to show signs of improvement. ‘Canna-Oner-Faker-Gumayusi-Keria’ became the staple starting roster over time, and by the end of the regular split in the Summer, their level of performance continued to improve over time.
Although they lost to DWG KIA in the Summer finals, their journey was one that deserved much applause. Despite the loss, T1 was able to beat Hanwha Life Esports 3-2 in the regional finals to secure a direct seeding into the group stages at Worlds. And their performance in the group stages reflected just how much work and effort they’ve put into preparing for the tournament.
T1’s series against HLE in the quarterfinals of Worlds 2021 showed T1 performing at their peak. It was a performance that reassured anyone that still doubted T1’s ability to perform. However, DWG KIA was also improving throughout the tournament at a scary rate; thus, the series that will go down in LoL Esports history was set in the semifinals; DWG KIA vs T1.
T1 definitely played very well, but DWG KIA was just that much better. If T1’s like a human who worked and trained extremely hard to become as good as they are, DWG KIA looked as if they are the perfect AI. Up to this point, I’m guessing that there were a lot of people predicting a 3-0 victory for DWG KIA.
However, all of T1’s hard work and effort seemed to bloom in game 2. Despite the possibility of being mentally shaken after game 1, the players were smiling. From niche picks like Yasuo to brand new picks like support Zilean, they managed to end DWG KIA’s undefeated run in the tournament to bring the series to a 2-1 lead.
However, DWG KIA knew ways that they can win, and knew what they needed to take the series. Had T1 won the semis against DWG KIA, T1 and Faker would’ve been one step closer to getting their 4th Summoner’s Cup. While every player and team probably have their own stories, the emotionless expression that Faker had at the end of the series probably had a lot of wondering what was on his mind at that moment.
As time passes, semifinal matches tend to naturally be forgotten a lot faster than the finals match. It was incredibly unfortunate that they had to meet in the semifinals, but even so, the semifinal match of Worlds 2021 between DWG KIA and T1 will be etched into the fans all around the world for a very long time.
T1’s 2021 season is officially over, but their journey itself, as well as what they’ve accomplished in 2021 continues to resonate within the community. While T1 will have to wait until next year to strive for their fourth Worlds title, their 2021 season was, daresay, a great success.
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