South Korea’s League of Legends season is officially over with DWG KIA and DRX taking the last two Worlds 2022 tickets. While DWG KIA will start directly from the main event, DRX will have to go through a play-in stage where they will face major region participants like themselves and the champions of minor regions.
While DWG KIA taking one of the tickets was what we all expected, DRX’s improvement and eventually surpassing Liiv SANDBOX was not what we had in mind. With their performance throughout the summer season, LSB looked deserving of the Worlds slot. However, Deft was online: he wanted to take his team to an international competition before he joins the army next year.
The matches are over
After their elimination in the semi-finals, Liiv SANDBOX and DWG KIA started the first match of the LCK Regional Qualifiers. DWG KIA already looked like they learned their lesson after the regular season with their performance in the playoffs, but Liiv SANDBOX fans had their trust in their team and especially Prince.
However, DK started with Nuguri and started with a strong win over LSB. Burdol was subbed in for the next game, where Liiv SANDBOX won with a heavy advantage. Nuguri was back for the rest of the matches, and DWG KIA secured the 3-1 victory with him, making it to the Worlds 2022 main event.
While DK’s decision to play Burdol instead of Nuguri looked like a good decision in the LCK playoffs, against Liiv SANDBOX, DWG KIA with Nuguri was definitely stronger. The coaching staff and the team will need to work on that: when do we use Nuguri, and when do we use Burdol?
Against LSB, securing advantages with the mid-jungle duo instead of Burdol making aggressive plays in the top lane was more important, and Nuguri’s newly-evolved slow style was the key to success. DK might surprise their opponents with different top laners at Worlds.
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In the lower bracket of Regional Qualifier, kt Rolster faced DRX. While KT was having one of its best seasons in years and giving something to its fans to cheer for, this summer season was a disaster for DRX. We saw both teams give whatever they had on their hands and DRX came on top.
The first thing to notice in DRX was Zeka’s performance. When kt Rolster took it to the match point with 2-1, all three matches were clearly one-sided. However, DRX fought hard in the fourth game to offer great competition and Zeka’s Azir was the difference between a loss and a win. Plus, we saw Juhan subbed in place of Pyosik in the fourth game, and his synergy with Zeka secured the victory for DRX in the fifth game.
The next game was the final game of the Regional Finals. Although LSB lost their first game 3-1, they were still the favourites against DRX. On the other hand, DRX found a new way to force a game, subbing in Juhan and surprising their enemies. While it is hard to give a definitive answer to the question of what Juhan brings that Pyosik can’t gameplay-wise, it is clear that he brings something fresh to the team and he definitely increases Zeka’s confidence.
DRX started with Juhan, won the first game and lost the second one. Pyosik was in for the third game and they lost so Juhan was subbed in again. In my opinion, changes like this hurt League of Legends professionals mentally. So I am against changing players on every single loss. But DRX needed results and they needed them fast. With Deft solving the Prince problem by playing his hardest, the only thing left was Pyosik’s low performance.
Although it will hurt Pyosik a lot, DRX really did find a solution to that problem and they were able to defeat one of the best teams this season. The coaching staff definitely deserves recognition. However, before Worlds 2022, the next step to be taken must be taking care of both Pyosik and Juhan. Knowing that you might be subbed out if you make a mistake doesn’t create a good work environment for the players.
Worlds 2022 is coming
With the group draw on September 11, right after the LCS finals, Worlds 2022 is on the horizon now. The play-in stage will start on September 29, where DRX will compete first and try to make it to the main event. It will be held in Mexico, and only four teams will be able to qualify for the main event.
It will be one of the most intense play-in competitions in history, there will be fewer minor league teams and more major league #3 and #4. For example, finishing the LEC #4 place, MAD Lions might be one of the opponents of DRX. China's RNG will also attend the play-in, but the format won’t probably allow these teams to face each other unless an upset happens.
While it would have been good to see Liiv SANDBOX at Worlds 2022, it might even be argued that DRX attending the tournament is a better ending for the LCK. They are a team that’s been around longer, they should be able to get used to the international tournament settings faster. We will be looking at them closely to see if they can manage to improve in their spare time.