The Summoner’s Cup Has a New Home!
The atmosphere of a community-driven event like the League of Legends World Championship is nothing short of breathtaking. With such a wide variety of events occurring at the tournament, it was very easy for many to take their eyes off of a certain underdog team. With the full force of China backing them up, Invictus Gaming had their sights set on the Summoner’s Cup and the near one million USD prize pool. The odds may have been stacked against them, yet, Invictus did the unthinkable. No words can describe how they dominated their way to victory in such an impressive fashion against the world’s most elite League of Legends teams.
Invictus Gaming (IG), China’s second seed for this year’s “Worlds” tournament hosted by Riot Games in South Korea, had somewhat of a fairytale run over the course of the year. Just a few weeks prior to the Worlds event (in the Chinese Legends Pro League also known as the LPL), IG had delivered a message to the world. That message being that they were a force to be reckoned with. The team secured two back to back 18-1 seasons over the Spring and Summer Splits, having their only losses brought upon them (both seasons) by their rivals Royal Never Give Up (RNG). During the Chinese Summer finals, things looked bleak for Invictus as they gradually found themselves sinking, losing two of their games in the best of five series. A comeback was on the horizon as IG focused and never let up, countering RNG and equalizing the matches leaving the series tied at 2-2. Unfortunately for Invictus, their reverse sweep endeavour was cut short and they were defeated, placing second in the league behind the Royals. It was one of the most competitive series ever held in the LPL, taking both RNG and the Chinese audience by surprise. The team showed a lot of heart and even more promise of what they had to offer in the future at this year’s World tournament.
As the drawing of teams for the group stages of the tournament arrived, IG found themselves placed into Group D alongside Fnatic (Europe’s number 1 seed), 100 Thieves (North America’s number 3 seed) and G-Rex (Taiwan’s only team to qualify). A handful of the world’s elite League of Legends teams stood between them and their dream. During the play-in phase of the group stages, games are competed in a best of one series where each team would confront each other twice, attempting to score the most points by securing as many wins as possible wherein only the top two teams of each group would advance to the playoffs. IG effortlessly dispatched NA’s 100 Thieves and Taiwan’s G-Rex, only tasting defeat once from the European champions, Fnatic (FNC). Concluding the group stage with a 5-1 record alongside FNC, the two skirmished one last time for a tie-breaker game, where Invictus once again was overcome by Fnatic. Coincidentally enough, these two teams would later meet once again at the grand finale of the tournament.
Emerging from their group once more a runner-up must have left a bitter taste in the mouths of IG as they became doubted by fans as the playoffs approached, becoming the underdog team by a landslide. Now challenged with a best of five series, Invictus stood against KT Rolster in the quarterfinals, a Korean powerhouse being the victor of their group with a first-place record of 5-1. Having to face their toughest adversary yet against the projected winner of the competition, IG had to muster all the strength that they could. The Korean team was best known for drafting compositions centered around creating a powerful team fighting dynamic, relishing in safe lane picks. Invictus countered their strategy with brute force, selecting champions that were powerful in lane, able to overcome their opponent and snowball the game to victory. Invictus had begun the series strong, exacting that brawler strategy with great success and adding a Xayah-Rakan combo to spearhead their fights during game one. Yu “JackeyLove” Wen-Bo and Wang “Baolan” Liu-Yi decimated KT whenever a battle broke out, allowing IG to secure objectives and the match. Game two featured similar drafts and strategies coming out of both sides despite this game being slightly more competitive. Now up two games to none, Invictus Gaming were feeling confident and became careless, causing them to slip up. Poor communication and lackluster play had left the series tied at 2-2. With a reverse sweep in the works off the back of an extremely close base-race, KT looked to end the series in a similar fashion, proving to the world that they were worthy of being projected as the tournament winners. In full desperation mode, Invictus went back to their roots after unsuccessfully drafting split-pushing bruisers. Instead, they opted for a similar strategy as KT Rolster in the final game, opting for a tankier composition to focus around a stronger team fight. Invictus refused to allow the Koreans to get comfortable, pressuring the map to their full extent. Safe play came out from both sides during the final game, leaving no room for mistakes to be made. Following a dominating performance around the objective game and securing every dragon, a skirmish broke out in the middle lane against Invictus. A false initiation from IG allowed them to capitalize on the staggered counter-attack coming from KT, enabling Invictus’ attack-damage carry “JackeyLove” to clean up the fight and leave a blood bath in his wake, further tipping the balance of the game in their favor. Victory was achieved for Invictus Gaming after their jungler Gao “Ning” Zhen-Ning caught out the opposing jungler Go “Score” Dong-Bin, creating a numbers advantage for the final fight of the match. In one of the most hyper-competitive series ever in Worlds history, IG had done the unthinkable. The Chinese team had conquered the quarter finals over the arguably, the strongest team in attendance at the tournament.
Now armed with a more refined outlook on the game and a stronger grasp at the shifting meta of the competition, Invictus was prepared for everything that came their way. On the other side of the bracket, their rivals Royal Never Give Up had fallen to G2 Esports (G2) from Europe. Invictus became the last remaining Chinese team in the tournament and had the full support of the LPL behind them as the semifinals came around. The performance out of Invictus Gaming was swift yet graceful one as they exacted revenge for their region against the western G2. Continuing their solo lane pressure strategy, IG looked to run over G2, and they did. With complete class, Invictus blew out their competition, not dropping a single game against the Europeans all while doing it with ease. All three games boasted complete domination as every member of the Invictus team defeated their counterparts, grabbing hold of victory and not letting go for a second.
The end was nigh for the tourney and above all other teams stood two adversaries from the very beginning of the tournament. Group D’s number one and number two teams poised to clash once again, this time with everything on the line. Winning the Summoner’s Cup is every professional League of Legends player’s dream and with nearly a million USD on the line, both Invictus and Fnatic were prepared to leave everything on the Rift. Having combated each other so frequently in the group stage, each team knew each other’s style of play. Each team had studied their opponents in-depth over the tournament. Each team was hungry for a world championship victory. In the climactic battle, the east took it straight to the west.
In the first game of the best of five series, IG quickly took over the map with stellar playmaking coming from jungler “Ning” and mid laner Song “Rookie” Eui-Jin. The match was completed with a quadra-kill for “JackeyLove” only missing out on the FNC top laner “Bwipo” who found himself out of position earlier, costing his team the fight and subsequently, the game. Game two left something to be desired from Fnatic fans as once again, they were surgically disassembled by the likes of “Ning” and his pressure around the map. Phenomenal early gameplay found “Ning” far stronger than the opposition, allowing corral FNC and keep them at bay. He single-handedly carried his team to victory, paving an easy path for his team to follow him behind to take the second victory of the series. In the third and final game, Fnatic was in full desperation mode substituting their rookie top laner Gabriël “Bwipo” Rau for the veteran Paul “sOAZ” Boyer. This change had no effect for Invictus as “Ning” was able to continue his fantastic play on Camille for the third straight game. For the third straight match, “Ning” continued to provide the same pressure he did before, creating space for his teammates to flourish and secure objectives. With a relatively frontline-heavy draft, all the pressure was on “JackeyLove” to carry IG to immortal glory and to carve a new tale in Worlds history. The final match was a scrap from start to finish, averaging 1.5 kills per minute. Invictus found their opening and with a flawless performance from “Rookie” and “JackeyLove”, the Summoner’s Cup was staying in the east, but instead going to China.
Invictus knew their opponents inside and out, disassembled their drafts and strategies and gifted them the same result that their European allies in G2 had received in the semifinal match. With yet another complete blowout victory for IG, it was apparent that the young stars committed everything they had to securing their victory and it absolutely showed on the world stage. They had achieved their ultimate dream in admirable fashion, taking out the only team to defeat them in the entirety of the tournament to claim the Summoner’s Cup and the first-place prize against FNC. Top laner Lee “Duke” Hoseong was the first to make history along with his team, as the only player currently in League of Legends history with two world title wins on different teams (the last time being on the fan favorite Korean team – SK Telecom T1 – in 2016). Invictus Gaming gave China its first taste at the Summoner’s Cup victory and have immortalized themselves as the first team since 2014 to relinquish the title from a Korean finish. Congratulations to all the teams and especially to Invictus Gaming, going from league runner-up to World Champions.