It's China vs. Korea for the League of Legends World Championship Grand Final this weekend in Seoul.
Last week, we saw both American teams eliminated from the League of Legends World Championships in the quarterfinals, setting us up for a Korea vs. China Grand Final. Now, the four remaining Korean and Chinese teams have clashed, and decided who will be advancing for a shot at the championship cup in the final round next weekend. The two semifinal series were so completely different from each other, that I really have no idea what to expect for the Grand Final. Let's just say both teams most certainly deserve their spots.
For the first semifinal, we saw Samsung Blue take on Samsung White. This was what I predicted would be the match to watch, with both teams performing incredibly well in both the group stages and the quarterfinals. Neither team came at all close to being knocked out at at any point during the tournament. I expected we would see Korea's finest clash in an impressive, five-game series, with both teams actually being pushed to show us what they are really made of.
What actually happened was a massacre. A whitewash (no pun intended) by Samsung White. They managed to beat their sister team Samsung Blue in straight sets, 3-0. Even the American underdogs, Team Solo Mid, were able to take a game off SSW, but SSB, who are actually the number 1 ranked Korean seed, couldn't even put a dent in SSW's armor. In all three games SSW held the advantage right from the very beginning. What I think was most bizarre about the games, was not how good SSW was playing, but how badly SSB was performing. Questionable champion picks, terrible team play, and poor decision making plagued them for the entire three-game series. I don't understand how SSW could just stomp all over SSB so easily, considering how well both teams knew each other, and how impressive both of their performances had been in the tournament so far.
But, for every bit as one-sided as the Korean battle was, the Chinese battle was just as evenly matched. Going to a full five games, both OMG and Star Horn Royal Club showed that they really, really wanted to win. OMG started off strong, bursting out of the gates with an impressive victory. At this point, I was worried we would see a repeat of the OMG/Najin White Shield quarterfinal, with OMG riding the GoGoing train all the way to the station, but SHRC came back and took the next game. Game three had OMG make a few... incorrect decisions involving Fiddlesticks ultimates and base races, and led to SHRC taking a win despite a massive 9,000 gold deficit. OMG did manage to come back for its second win in game four, and then, it was all down to the final match.
Game five saw an unconventional Pantheon pick from SHRC's star jungler, InSec, which paid off big time as it threw a massive spanner in the works of OMG's split-pushing strategy. It essentially allowed SHRC to walk all over OMG for the whole game, and led to SHRC advancing to the final.
So, for next weekend's Grand Final, we will see the seemingly unstoppable Samsung White face off against the tenacious and unpredictable Star Horn Royal Club. Most fans seem to have their bets hedged firmly on the Korean SSW, but I'm not so sure. The questionable performance of SSB in the semis leads me to believe that SSW hasn't been challenged enough for us to see their true potential. I think that SHRC can finally make them rise to the occasion, especially in the early-to-mid-game. If SHRC can consistently bully SSW out of the game in this phase, it might actually just be enough to have the Chinese take home the trophy.
It's a long shot, especially considering SSW will also be on home soil, but stranger things have happened. Just FYI, the Grand Final will start this Sunday at 2:45 AM EDT.
We've also got some exciting news. If you're not able to catch the final, The Escapist will actually be covering it live from Korea, thanks to an invitation from Riot Games. If you have any questions you'd like us to ask the devs or the players while we are there, please feel free to leave them in the comments. Thanks!
As always, be sure to check out Riot Game's official League of Legends eSports page for more information on the tournament.