Immediately following the conclusion of the 2022 League of Legends World Championship, many fans and analysts hailed the final match between T1 and DRX as the best concluding set the tournament has ever seen. It was one of the few times a five-game series took place, and the number of exciting storylines and gameplay made for an excellent end to one of the biggest events in esports.
But how does it stack up to other years? There's no doubt fans often fall to recency bias — is it really the best finals we've ever had? There have been more than twelve years of one of esports' most iconic tournaments — few fans have probably seen them all. Inven Global presents a ranking of every final the tournament has had and will compare the events in terms of their significance to League of Legends, as well as the quality of the set.
12. Fnatic versus against All authority (2011)
At this point, Worlds was not the iconic tournament it would become. Though this is not to take away credit from the efforts and talent of Fnatic and against All authority — every tournament must begin somewhere — the truth is that this final was weak in multiple ways. The meta was severely undeveloped, to the point that it is almost unrecognizable to modern-day fans. The competitive scene was significantly smaller, and is the only Worlds tournament to not feature two of the four major regions. Hell, this is the only time the final was a best-of-three.
Of course, this tournament and finals were very important. It was the starting point for legendary players like Enrique "xPeke" Cedeño Martínez and Paul "sOAZ" Boyer. It was the first tournament spike for a title that would become one of the most important games in esports. However, both the quality of the games and the event made for a final that's a far cry from any of the others.
11. Fnatic versus Invictus Gaming (2018)
As a tournament, Worlds 2018 was pretty awesome, and marked a major change in League competition. After years of consistent Korean dominance, the 2018 event marked the first time a South Korean team had failed to make the semifinals since being invited to the event. There was an LPL team, two LEC teams, and even the very rare LCS representative.
As a final, the event is easily one of the worst. Though Fnatic's hyper-aggressive style had proved very effective throughout most of the event, Invictus Gaming completely neutralized it. It was one of the most dominant 3-0 sweeps the finals have seen, with none of the games ever being particularly close. The event marks an interesting era — the rise of Chinese League teams and the fall of Korean ones — but the utter snooze-fest that was the finals made for a bittersweet end to one of the most significant tournaments the game has had.
10. Samsung White versus Star Horn Royal Club (2014)
One could argue that Samsung White solved League of Legends. Players like Cho "Mata" Se-hyeong, Gu "imp" Seung-bin, and Choi "DanDy" In-kyu all stand as some of the greatest players in their respective positions. While Uzi added to his legacy as a silver sovereign and one of the game's greatest, and Choi "inSec" In-seok finally gained recognition by making a Worlds final, barely anyone had faith that Star Horn Royal Club could win the match.
Although this final was a 3-1 series, it came off more as the Korean team playing with their food than the two teams being close in skill to one another. None of the games were very entertaining, as even Samsung White's loss felt like the team was just messing around to make the series more interesting.
While SHRC suffered internal problems and inconsistency, Samsung White was one of the most perfect teams ever put together — excellent both individually and in macro gameplay. The only historically significant aspects besides what was mentioned is that it was the last time fans arguably got to see Korea at its peak strength, as big contract offers from the west and China would siphon off a lot of the talent within the region. Solid, but fairly lukewarm as far as finals go.
9. SK Telecom T1 versus Royal Club (2013)
In terms of historical significance, this series is iconic in multiple regards. In a way, it represents the coronation of Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok as the greatest player in the history of League of Legends, and T1 (at the time SK Telecom T1) the game's greatest organization. On top of that, it also was the world's introduction to some other all-time greats: AD carry superstar Jian "Uzi" Zihao and championship organization Royal Club (now Royal Never Give Up). Two of the game's greatest and longest-tenured players going head-to-head — how could it be anything but awesome?
Well...the games aren't that great. Granted, they're not as bad as people remember. The second game is actually a very close affair that's one of the most underrated finals games in history. The rest, however, is carnage. Faker and co. dominated the other two games in as brutal of a fashion as possible — causing a 3-0 series no one remembers. A great moment for League esports, but not nearly enough high-quality games to surpass some of the others.
8. G2 Esports versus FunPlus Phoenix (2019)
This was G2 Esports' tournament. They had a killer roster of elite players at every position that worked well together — on track to be the first team to win two regional titles, the Mid-Season Invitational, and the Summoner's Cup. Other regions in the LCK and LPL had capable teams — but not uber-dominant lineups like in the past.
Unfortunately, Kim “Doinb” Tae-sang was hungry. Hungry enough to lead FunPlus Phoenix to a dominant 3-0 win over G2 Esports. The understanding Doinb had with his teammates was incredibly impressive to see, and was a level of cohesion rarely seen in esports. Many of the games were very exciting, but each of them ended with a loss for G2. While a fairly good series for a sweep, and one that had several great storylines going in, it was one that was bittersweet.
7. SK Telecom T1 versus Samsung Galaxy (2017)
This series is unique in that its most iconic moment is someone's misery rather than someone's triumph. Of course, it's when Faker — up until that point having never lost a World Championship after qualifying — is seen with his hands buried in his face in anguish after losing to Samsung Galaxy. After one of the most impressive carry jobs the world had ever seen, the superior macro and overall team strength of his LCK adversaries was too much to handle.
It's incredibly significant to the game's history — marking the death of the player no one could challenge, and replacing him with a far more mortal version. In addition, the story of players like Kang "Ambition" Chan-yong finally winning Worlds was so poetic — it's still one of the most iconic and feel-good stories of Worlds. While the set wasn't as good as some of the others, it was still a very memorable final for multiple reasons.
6. SK Telecom T1 versus Samsung Galaxy (2016)
While on the surface this final was good, it's overrated.
Here's the good: it was a historical firecracker. The story of Faker continued to soar with this match, as he secured his third championship. However, it didn't feel as satisfying or surprising as in 2015 — more like a victory lap than a return to the throne. It was also very iconic when the team brought out Bae "Bengi" Seong-woong to finally win the event.
However, this match feels more similar to 2014's Samsung White than it does the more recent exciting five-game sets we've had. No one expected Samsung Galaxy to win — SK Telecom T1 was just so dominant at the time. Every win T1 had was very one-sided, and their losses had the same careless nature to them that Samsung White showed in earlier years. A boring five-game series, but one with solid importance to the scene.
5. Suning versus DAMWON Gaming (2020)
DAMWON Gaming versus Suning at Worlds 2020 was not a matchup most expected for the finals. There were several LPL teams that were expected to make the final that were unable to overcome the Korean prodigies and Chinese underdogs. It was a very fun matchup that also led to some great games. Though a 3-1 result was not surprising, Suning put up a very good fight, and helped make for a very entertaining four-game series. There were several iconic plays — including the first pentakill in a finals game. Definitely a very solid iteration in the tournament's history.
4. SK Telecom T1 versus KOO Tigers (2015)
In this writer's humble opinion, what makes this final so great is that it is easily the best final of Faker's career — both in the quality of games and the meaning to his career. 2013 was his introduction to the world — a wunderkind that shocked the world with a level of play no one had seen up to that point. 2016 was almost gravy for Faker's career — another jewel slotted in the best player of all time's crown.
However, 2015 was the year Faker definitively established himself as the greatest player of all time. Believe it or not, leading up to the tournament, Faker didn't have the title of the game's best player completely locked down. After a disappointing 2014 season that saw him not even qualify for Worlds, 2015 was about reinventing himself with an almost completely new roster. He learned new champions, adjusted to new teammates, and maintained all the wonderful attributes that make Faker such an incredible star. However, once again, his team lost at MSI in 2015 to EDward Gaming. Other players were catching up — he needed a win.
Well, he got one, and on a team some consider to be the best team to have ever competed at Worlds. The lineup was fantastic, and managed to qualify fairly easily for the finals. It was very fitting that the KOO Tigers — easily their greatest domestic rival at the time, and one that possessed some of the game's greatest players like Kim "PraY" Jong-in and Kang "GorillA" Beom-hyeon — were their final opponent.
As expected, SK Telecom T1 was victorious, but not before KOO Tigers showed off some great games and even had a strong win of their own. All the games had incredibly high-quality gameplay — featuring a win by perhaps the greatest team play in the event.
3. Taipei Assassins versus Azubu Frost (2012)
It's funny — there was a very popular thread on the recently League subreddit asking how the Taiwanese team Taipei Assassins managed to win Worlds. Even going back a decade, people were asking the same question.
The Season 2 World Championship was one of the most exciting tournaments the scene has had. It was the first modern competition — introducing the Summoner's Cup and making the event a truly international competition. There wasn't really an established "best region" either. China's Team WE had an unreal understanding of teamfights, while Counter Logic Gaming Europe and Azubu Frost both had incredible late-game decision-making. NaJin Sword had one of the most fun and aggressive styles of any top team, and Moscow Five had unorthodox genius at every position. Team SoloMid should also not be forgotten.
And then there was TPA — a relatively unknown group of players hailing from the Southeast Asian region. Few casual fans had seen them play — let alone expected them to win. Even most players and casters were unfamiliar with them. However, that didn't stop them from having one of the most impressive and iconic upsets the game has seen — defeating Azubu Frost 3-1. Though the series wasn't as great as some of the others, it was still a solid and entertaining final — perfectly fit for a world championship.
What's most significant about the series wasn't just how big of a perceived upset it was, or the legacy it established for certain players (most of them have unfortunately been forgotten by modern fans). What makes TPA's win special is the blueprint — both in-game and out — it provided future champions. The team was miles ahead in infrastructure: a dedicated gaming space in Taipei 101, team chefs, and analysts all at a time when these ideas were unheard of in League esports. Also, the innovations the team brought to macro play and ward control last to this day.
2. EDward Gaming versus DWG KIA (2021)
Last year, Inven Global had the Worlds 2021 finals between EDward Gaming and DWG KIA as the greatest in the history of the tournament — for good reason. There were several good storylines for both teams. Could Kim "Khan" Dong-ha finally win a championship? Could DWG KIA win Worlds twice in a row, and could players like Kim "Canyon" Geon-bu and Heo "ShowMaker" Su be the best in their positions? Would EDward Gaming earn their first Summoner's Cup and return the trophy back to China?
The only one that ended up happening was the latter — an upset win that not many predicted happening. However, while it's to be seen how historically significant this final will become, what is already clear is that it was an awesome set. Up until a few days ago, it was easily the most exciting final the game has ever seen — a five-game brawl that had numerous close games and iconic plays. A ridiculous Baron Nashor sneak is only the tip of the iceberg.
1. T1 versus DRX (2022)
Yes, there's definitely some recency bias in having this as the best final ever. However, even looking back at all the different years, I don't think anyone has been this excited after a final ever in the game's history. It had arguably the best storylines the game could have asked for: a juggernaut versus some ragtag underdogs, a return to LCK domination, and the best player ever in Faker facing off against a legendary but less accomplished Kim "Deft" Hyuk-kyu — both of which started competing around the same time, and attended the same high school.
No matter what the outcome of the series was, it was slated to be legendary. Either Faker would return to being a champion and win his fourth Summoner's Cup, or Deft would finally win it himself after almost a decade of heartbreak in perhaps the biggest upset the game has seen. However, the series itself is what puts this final above the rest. Other finals have gone to a fifth game, but none have had as many exciting games and plays throughout it. Paired with the touching emotional reactions from players of both teams: I hope you enjoyed this series. There most likely won't be one like it for a long time.