Group A of the 2021 League of Legends World Championships ended in wild fashion on Friday with DWG KIA, the expected favorite, and Cloud9, the improbable underdog, advancing to the Knockout Round.
All day long, Korea's DWG KIA (6-0) proved why they came into the tournament as favorites to win the entire thing. To start the day, top laner Kim "Khan" Dong-ha dominated FunPlus Phoenix (2-4, 4th place) as Jayce in what Khan has announced will be his last ever Group Stage before retirement. DWG KIA went on to dominate FPX, punishing FPX's top half of the map en route to a decisive 29-minute win.
DWG KIA would go on to take down Cloud9 (2-4, 2nd place) in 38 minutes in a match that was close until a fateful mid-late game teamfight gave DK total control of the map. DK also took down Europe's Rogue (2-4, 3rd place) in 37 minutes in a match that saw Khan's Lucian pick up the first pentakill of Worlds. DK emerged from a tough group on paper with barely a scratch on them and in top form heading into the Knockout stage.
The rest of Group A struggled against each other in an attempt to get out of the group. The biggest disappointment of the tournament so far was FunPlus Phoenix, who started the day at 2-1 and was universally predicted to get out of the group, and ended up at the bottom of the table. In FPX's losses to Rogue and Cloud9, they looked shaky and indecisive, a far cry away from their strong Summer form in the LPL.
Meanwhile, Cloud9, who came into Friday at 0-3, made the impossible happen by qualifying for the Worlds Knockout Stage while becoming the first team from North America to take down a European team in the tiebreaker match in Rogue. Cloud9 took down Rogue in regular round-robin play after Rogue made a costly misstep before minions spawned. Then, Cloud9 dominated FPX behind a stellar performance from jungler Robert "Blaber" Huang, who played lights-out all day long. Cloud9 took what they wanted across the map early on, taking aggressive skirmishes and winning them en route to a 28-minute win.
In the first tiebreaker round, Rogue took down FPX in a match that felt closer than the stats would indicate in 33 minutes. FPX looked shaky despite drafting comfort champions for their players, unable to get on the same page while Rogue fought well around bot lane carry Steven "Hans sama" Liv, who played phenomenally all tournament long.
Then, in the main event, Cloud9 outlasted Rogue in a marathon 53-minute match, the longest of this World Championship so far. Both teams made early miscues and looked scared to make mistakes, which only grew as the game went on. The later the game went, though, the better Cloud9's chances looked. Mid laner Luka "Perkz" Perkovic made some mistakes as LeBlanc, but his fearlessness and one-shot potential held Rogue in check until Cloud9 had secured Infernal Soul and several inhibitors, leading to C9 finally taking down the Nexus in 53 minutes and completing the most unlikely tournament comeback in recent history.
In the 2021 Worlds Main Event, 16 teams are competing in four groups based on seeding, contesting a double round-robin of best-of-one matches in the Group Stage. The top two teams from each group advance to the Knockout Stage, which consists of a single-elimination bracket.
Teams will be randomly drawn for the Knockout Stage so that first-place teams will oppose second-place teams, and no two teams from the same group will be placed in the same half of the bracket.
Matches in the Knockout Stage will be best-of-five all the way through the Nov. 6 grand final. The championship team will receive 22 percent of the total prize pool, which would equate to $489,500 based on the minimum guaranteed payout of $2,225,000.
Group play continues Saturday with six matches from Group B:
DetonatioN FocusMe vs EDward Gaming
T1 vs 100 Thieves
EDward Gaming vs T1
100 Thieves vs DetonatioN FocusMe
DetonatioN FocusMe vs T1
100 Thieves vs EDward Gaming
League of Legends World Championship Group Stage standings
DWG KIA (6-0)
FunPlus Phoenix (2-4)
EDward Gaming (3-0)
100 Thieves (1-2)
DetonatioN FocusMe (0-3)
Royal Never Give Up (3-0)
PSG Talon (2-1)
Hanwha Life Esports (1-2)
Gen.G Esports (2-1)
LNG Esports (2-1)
MAD Lions (1-2)
Team Liquid (1-2)
--Noah Waltzer, Field Level Media