In just a few short hours, the 2019 League of Legends World Championship will return to Palacio Vistalegre in Madrid, Spain for the Semifinals. The very first matchup of the Worlds 2019 Knockout Stage will feature an all-LPL matchup between #1 seed FunPlus Phoenix and #3 seed Invictus Gaming, which guarantees a Chinese team in the Grand Finals regardless of result.
Top Lane — Kang "TheShy" Seung-lok
Jungle — Gao "Ning" Zhen-Ning
Mid Lane — Song "Rookie" Eui-jin
Bot Lane — Yu "Jackeylove" Wen-Bo
Support — Wang "Baolan" Liu-Yi
Substitute [Top Lane] — Lee "Duke" Ho-seong
Substitute [Jungle] — Lu "Leyan" Jue
Coach — Won "Mafa" Sang-yeon
Top Lane — Kim "GimGoon" Han-saem
Jungle — Gao "Tian" Tian-Liang
Mid Lane — Kim "Doinb" Tae-sang
Bot Lane — Lin "Lwx" Wei-Xiang
Support — Liu "Crisp" Qing-Song
Substitute [Jungle] — Chang "Xinyi" Ping
Coach — Chen "WarHorse" Ju-Chih
How We Got Here
Invictus Gaming was almost universally considered to have its bid at defending its World Championship throne from Griffin. The LCK #2 seed had one of the single greatest days of play in Worlds history on its second round robin through Group A by sweeping Cloud9, Hong Kong Attitude, and G2 Esports 3-0 before defeating the latter once again in a tie-breaker to secure a 1st seed heading into the Worlds 2019 Knockout Stage.
Experience ended up making the difference in the Quarterfinals, as Griffin quickly found themselves in too deep against the experienced core of Invictus Gaming.
Griffin managed to take a game after being down against 2-0, but IG would shut the door without further hassle in game 4 with a convincing 3-1 victory to move onto the Semifinals.
FunPlus Phoenix's stock at Worlds 2019 could not have been lower after its performance in Group B. Despite securing the 1st seed with a record of 5-2, FPX came into Worlds expected to completely dominate the group, not to play a do-or-die match to force a tie-breaker against #3 LEC seed Splyce to secure 1st place in Group B.
FPX wasted no time assuring people that the it was in fact the Worlds 2019 Group Stage was the outlier, and not its incredibly dominant form in the LPL throughout the season. Fnatic was surging in Week 2, even managing to make SK Telecom T1 look mortal in Group C, but FPX extinguished any flames Fnatic intended on bringing into the Quarterfinals. FPX won the series 3-1, and the score of the series did not indicate the dominant fashion in which the LPL Summer champion seized victory.
In defeating Fnatic, FPX ensured a second consecutive appearance in the Worlds Grand Final by the LPL. Regardless of who wins the all-LPL semifinals, either FPX or Invictus Gaming will look to uphold the standard set by the latter with its 2018 World Championship victory.
Matchup to Watch: Mid Lane
While the FPX | IG Worlds Semifinal possesses plenty of interesting matchups, no face-off is as important as the one in the Mid Lane between Doinb and Rookie. The two Korean Mid Laners have made the majority of their career's legacy in China, and the clash between the two will be the deciding factor in the all-China Semifinal at Worlds 2019.
Rookie possesses an enormous champion pool and several legacy peaks, arguably the second best Mid Laner of all-time only behind the likes of Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok. Time and time again, Rookie has continued to perform regardless of the rest of his team's form, and with IG Top Laner TheShy performing at the level he currently is, Rookie's potentially successful neutralization of Doinb would render FPX ineffective at best.
On the other hand, Doinb won't be looking to defeat Rookie in the 1v1, because Doinb's greatest strength is what he provides to FunPlus Phoenix. Indiana "Froskurinn" Black said that if Faker is the best Mid Laner in the world, then Doinb is the most valuable Mid Laner to his team simply because he is the sole conduit of FPX's success.
Whether he is on his trademark Ryze, a 'SuperCarryDoinb' champion, or a utility or team-based pick like full-tank Malphite Mid, Doinb converts his individual advantages for his team on a more consistent basis than any other player in the world.
If Doinb can avoid being contained by Rookie, he can undoubtedly provide more value to his team than Faker Jr. can to IG simply because of his playstyle and how the team operates around his strengths.
Watch the Throne
One could argue that if both Invictus Gaming and FunPlus Phoenix were to replicate their respective performances from the Worlds 2019 Quarterfinals, FPX would rule truimphant in the all-LPL Worlds Semifinals match.
However, one could argue Invictus Gaming already overcame greater odds and a far larger shadow of a doubt against Griffin in the Quarterfinals. FPX sent Fnatic packing in convincing fashion and deserves acclaim for its performance, but the team's level of experience in international tournaments is only slightly more than that of Griffin.
IG is surging. The 2018 World Champion has won 6 of its last 7 games, sweeping its second round robin of Group D and only losing one game to Griffin in the Quarterfinals. The team's international experience will once again come into play as it did last weekend, and while FPX's best-of-five form is better than Griffin's historically, when the blood and dust settles, Invictus Gaming will be left standing and move onto the Worlds 2019 Finals in a 3-2 victory.
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