After DWG’s World Championship victory, many were now once again looking to Korea’s newly franchised LCK to see which teams are among the best on the planet
With the Spring split champion set to head to Iceland for the Mid-Season Invitational, many sides were looking to make their mark in the region that has historically produced the most internationally successful organisations.
Although they were the tournament favourites before the play had even begun, the sheer dominance that DWG KIA showed in their second successive LCK winning split was still not quite expected. Losing top laner Nuguri to China’s FunPlus Phoenix looked like it could hinder the side, however veteran Khan has stepped up in his place with an added leadership dynamic that Nuguri may have lacked.
The regular season was a breeze for DWG, beating every other team at least once and only dropping series to Fredit BRION and Gen.G. Locking in first place in the table booked their place in the upper bracket semi-final for playoffs, meaning that only 2 series were needed to crown them as champions once again.
First up was Hanwha Life Esports, sporting superstar mid laner Chovy and experienced ADC Deft, who proved no match for DWG who convincingly took them down 3-0.
That placed the holders into a grand final matchup against Gen.G, one of the sides who caused them trouble in the regular season, in order to crown a champion. DWG looked to even take a step up in their usual form for their final series, dominating Gen.G 3-0 while playing multiple compositions to win their 4th straight tournament and book their place at this year’s MSI.
Despite the matchup looking fairly one-sided in DWG’s favour on paper, game 1 started the series in a reasonably cagey fashion. The World champions were able to accrue a small gold lead within the first ten minutes, however they failed to exceed a 2k difference by the time that late-game was rolling around.
It wasn’t until later-game skirmishes where the side finally took control, with Ghost’s fasting Senna coming online and Khan’s Sion simply too tanky for Gen.G to burn through. Add to that a mountain dragon soul and DWG were all but unkillable, only offering up two deaths throughout the game, and finished with a final siege of Gen.G’s base to end out the match in 35 minutes.
Heading into game 2, Gen.G needed to try something different. Their game 1 comp, designed to catch and burst targets, had not worked and so they instead opted for a front-to-back teamfight comp with the aim of Rascal and Clid’s Volibear and Hecarim locking down targets for Ruler’s Tristana to kill.
This idea looked to be working, with early kills going Gen.G’s way before amassing a 4k lead at 27 minutes. ADC Ruler had previously been touted as the greatest Korean player to have never earned an LCK title, however his game 2 performance looked to be single-handedly trying to change this as he picked up kill-after-kill with Tristana and consistently managed to stay alive in key teamfights.
Despite the late-game comps not working in DWG’s favour, they somehow managed to stay in the game (thanks in particular to clutch Nidalee spears zoning Ruler out of some portions of fights). By 41 minutes DWG KIA had even taken a 4k gold lead of their own, all while neither side was able to close out a decisive teamfight as the game dragged on into boots-selling territory.
Finally, a 48-minute baron fight saw a Canyon spear play a huge part in triggering Ruler’s Guardian Angel, meaning his DPS was reduced enough for DWG to clear up the fight before eventually charging down the mid lane and taking down Gen.G’s nexus.
Gen.G’s mental strength looked to be all but drained heading into game 3 where Damwon managed to secure an early lead, something that has almost always meant a victory for the side throughout the split. Early kill involvements for jungler Canyon allowed him to gain an advantage over Clid, on an in-meta Udyr pick that can fiercely run down opponents when strong.
While the match somewhat stalled heading into the mid-game, a 17-minute dragon teamfight saw DWG go firmly into the driver’s seat and lengthen their early lead to almost 5k gold.
Ultimately a 24-minute mountain dragon soul for DWG sealed Gen.G’s fate, and it took only a further four minutes before DWG KIA were crowned LCK champions for the second split running.
Understandably crowned split MVP, DWG KIA jungler Kim “Canyon” Geon-bu carved a name for himself as one of the all-time great Korean junglers with his side’s World Championship win last season, and his form so far in 2021 has shown that he has no signs of slowing down.
Playing for a side capable of winning through any of their talented laners may sound like a blessing, but a jungler in such a team must make decisive choices in which lanes to focus in any given scenario and be able to thrive within different compositions and styles as a result.
Canyon demonstrated his ability to do this tremendously, playing with one of the largest jungler champion pools (9 champions) while also boasting the third-highest KDA in his role (4.56).
DWG to win the LCK
While betting for the favourites may have seemed fairly obvious before the split began, the change from Nuguri to Khan in the top lane during the off season could have potentially thrown the sides balance completely and led to an entirely different DWG KIA.
Despite Khan sharing Nuguri’s carry tendencies, the former has historically been known for his inconsistency and subsequent habit of throwing games. However, perhaps due to his veteran status and years playing at such a high level, Khan has seemingly eradicated that part of his game and slotted into Nuguri’s position seamlessly.
With Khan stepping up while the remaining members continued to flourish, DWG ultimately made it look easy to pick up their back-to-back LCK title having also now won their last four tournaments (LCK Summer 2020, Worlds, KeSPA Cup, LCK Spring 2021).