Worlds 2020 is looking a lot different without these teams there.
With the end of the League of Legends Summer Split internationally, we turn our page to the final chapter of the year. The premier esports event in the World is right around the corner and has filled itself with elite teams from all around the globe. However, some fan favorites and consistent Worlds contenders didn’t make the cut and we’d like to reflect on the tragedy of those teams that just fell short.
Few teams have ever achieved the level of success that 2020’s Cloud9 roster were able to attain. The star-studded lineup featuring Licorice, Blaber, Nisqy, Zven and Vulcan was able to dominate the North American scene with a fresh roster early in the year. Cloud9 finished the regular season of the Spring Split with a record of 17-1, losing only to Team SoloMid. Continuing their success, they breezed through playoffs before obliterating FlyQuest in the finals with a quick 3-0 series win.
Celebrating their victory while in quarantine, many North American fans deemed the team “the hope of NA”, being head and shoulders above domestic competition. It certainly helped to have both Spring Split’s Coach of the Split in Reapered and the MVP Blaber to hit those marks. They were heavy favorites throughout the split, even having the entire roster voted as the first all-pro team for the season.
Sadly, due to the coronavirus epidemic, the Mid Season Invitational would have to be scrapped and Cloud9 wouldn’t be able to compete on an international stage. It was a truly unfortunate circumstance as many people wondered what it could have been and what NA would be able to prove/achieve on a larger scale.
A disastrous summer
Fast-forwarding to the Summer Split, Cloud9 echoed their past season by dumpstering teams with seemingly little effort, winning many well before the 30-minute mark. It looked like another blowout season for the “hope of NA” until something changed. The cracks in their strategies became more visible and teams found ways to exploit Cloud9. Suddenly, this wasn’t the team that was dispatching everyone with ease, C9 had to struggle through each game to find a victory. They began to drop games to bottom teams such as 100 Thieves and Golden Guardians.
It looked like C9 had lost their touch with their preferred strategies and the changing meta slipped by them. Their downfall continued into the playoffs, dropping their first set 3-1 to runner up FlyQuest before being eliminated by eventual champions TSM also in a 3-1 fashion. No team has seen a catastrophic decline the way in which this roster did. Figureheads and analysts alike voiced their opinions and tried to break down why they failed. It was a tragedy the likes which no NA or C9 fan will forget, their hope being crushed as the region’s “top team” didn’t even make it to Worlds.
FunPlus Phoenix (LPL)
For many people, FunPlus Phoenix came out of nowhere hitting the Worlds scene after winning the LPL Summer Split. Helmed by quirky mid laner Doinb, the team consisted of GimGoon, Tian, LWX and Crisp. They turned so many heads with a guerilla-style of play, constantly suffocating their opponents with unconventional, unselfish macro. They passed the group stage before going on a warpath, crushing out the dreams of Fnatic and Invictus Gaming (the defending world champions) in 3-1 series.
The only thing standing between FPX and a World's title was Europe’s G2. In a classic tale of East vs West, the results didn’t favor the hosting region as FPX dominated G2 with a 3-0 victory to raise the Summoner’s Cup. It was an underdog story of the ages, having been constantly torn down by analysts for having a “one-dimensional” playstyle. FunPlus Phoenix proved that you didn’t have to be the best at everything, you just had to be the best at something and be confident.
Throughout 2020, FPX couldn’t repeat their past victories, falling short every step of the way. They placed third in the LPL Spring season, second in the Mid-Season Cup, seventh/eighth in the Summer Split and lastly, fourth in the LPL Regional Qualifier. Another team struck by the champions’ curse, the reigning champs FPX wouldn’t be able to defend their title at Worlds.
T1 (formerly SKT T1 of LCK)
Among the most heartbreaking of shortcomings comes in the way of T1 (formerly SKT T1). No matter where you come from in the League community, all know the name “Faker”. Despite a disappointing 2019, a reinvigorated T1 kicked 2020 with a Spring Split championship with a dominating 3-0 finale over Gen.G.
Things took a turn for the worst soon after with T1 placing seventh/eighth in the Mid-Season Cup. Signing new talent and tinkering with their roster over summer didn’t pay off either, ending a sad Summer Split with a fifth-place finish. Lacking the championship points to qualify to Worlds directly, T1 was forced into the gauntlet against other notable teams in KT Rolster, Afreeca Freecs and Gen.G Esports.
Hoping to join DAMWON Gaming and DRX at Worlds, T1 went on a desperate run through the regional qualifier. They found themselves in the finals after a 3-1 victory over Afreeca before losing to Gen.G in a shaky 3-0 series. T1 just simply didn’t seem like a top team in a region so full of talent despite many roster shake-ups and substitutions over the year.
All in all, these three teams suffered through disappointing themselves and their respective fans and regions. It's truly a sad thing to say that the 2020 League of Legends World Championships will not feature North America’s “hope” in Cloud9, China’s reigning world champions in FunPlus Phoenix or South Korea’s most decorated roster in T1.