Article by James Chen
League of Legends' 2014 World Championship resumes after a quarterfinals amid the sand and tides of Busan, South Korea. The pan-Asiatic journey of this year's tournament finds its final stop amid the skyscrapers of Seoul, where both the semifinals and finals will take place.
Only four teams remain—two from China and the two expected Korean representatives from Samsung. The storylines of either semifinal matches are notable—in many ways, the end results of the tournament couldn't have been better scripted, in light of the rivalries and past encounters of each pairing. The top four teams in the world head into their matches with a lot more than just prize money to fight for.
Battle of the Brothers — Samsung White vs Samsung Blue
Top Lane — Looper
Jungler — DanDy
Mid Lane — PawN
AD Carry — imp
Support — Mata
Top Lane — Acorn
Jungler — Spirit
Mid Lane — dade
AD Carry — Deft
Support — Heart
In many ways, this was to be expected. The Samsung teams were the strongest of their respective groups, considered the two strongest teams in all of South Korea, and command some of the most well-respected players of 2014. On paper, White's the stronger of the two—PawN is the only man alive to consistently take points off of legendary mid laner Faker, while jungler DanDy is by general acclaim the most respected of his role on the world stage. Their one loss to Team Solomid was characterized more by a lackadaisical approach to champion picks and bans after a decisive 2-0 start—a marring error to an otherwise dominant performance.
In contrast, even though Blue's 3-1 record over America's Cloud 9 was a victory by any definition, their quarterfinal set seemed a lot closer overall. The guerrilla warfare campaign waged by the Cloud 9, highlighted by mid laner Hai's Metal Gear Solid-esque stealth approach to the enemy base, pressured Blue a lot harder than many would have expected from the top-ranked Korean team. The ending records for White and Blue might be the same, but the way Blue got to 3-1 would be hard to describe as "dominant" in any form.
On paper this suggests a White victory in the upcoming semifinals, unless you count for historical trends. Blue might look like the weaker team, Mata might be the stronger support, DanDy might be tiers above Spirit, but White still consistently loses to Blue, regardless of all of that. White suffers habitual arrogance—TSM was not the first team to turn a sweep on them—and it's led to their downfall before. But more importantly, individually better players don't always lead to collectively better results.
"General" Dade's orders to his troops have turned a fledgling low-tier rookie team into an OnGameNet Champions powerhouse. He is extremely eager to prove that last year's humiliating defeat on the world stage, being denied playoff contention by Russia's Gambit Gaming, was nothing more than a fluke of circumstances. It might take an unkind civil war among Samsung's ranks to do it, and the sacrifice of his former teammates, but his personal mission likely trumps any lingering goodwill towards them.
The Samsung siblings' showdown will be on Saturday, October 11.
Wash, Rinse, Revenge — Star Horn Royal Club vs OMG
Star Horn Royal Club
Top Lane — Cola
Jungler — inSec
Mid Lane — corn
AD Carry — Uzi
Support — Zero
Top Lane — Gogoing
Jungler — LoveLing
Mid Lane — Cool
AD Carry — San
Support — Cloud
Last year, when Korean dominance was more assured, the Chinese teams nonetheless left a mark. Team OMG, the "gangsters" of the LPL by way of Gogoing's chiseled chin, was the only non-Korean team to take a game off of eventual world champions SKT T1 K. They were considered China's strongest overall team, overseeing a year-long reign of terror that effectively buried former superstar teams iG and WE under increasing irrelevance.
Yet, for a team so strong and dominant, they were only the second seed, forced to prove their merit through the group stages. Ultimately, they showed that dominance can be its own weakness. Though it took most of 2013 for Royal Club Huang Zu to get a fix on them, they proved to have OMG's number. Royal Club triumphed over OMG in that year's Chinese regionals and took them out in the Season 3 playoffs—only to then collapse in the face of SKT T1 K in a humiliatingly thorough 0-3 defeat.
The situation for OMG leading into the quarterfinals didn't look much better. Weak group stage games, defined mostly by pratfalls from support player Dada777, left them looking even weaker than last year—certainly not the Chinese behemoths that made even Faker bleed. The total anti-synergy between San and his support was the despair of the region's circuit—and it was to both surprise and relief when the organization made the call in the quarterfinals to rotate him out for substitute player Hu "Cloud" Zhen-Wei.
Cloud's personal impact was relatively minor, especially as other supports had already demonstrated a high level of proficiency with Janna, the single champion he played against NaJin White Shield to a 3-0 finish. Yet the effect he had on the team was profound: they no longer needed to shore up a weak bottom lane, allowing the rest of the team to flourish.
Of course, whether that is enough to take down Star Horn Royal Club's Uzi is another matter entirely. The San and Cloud lane isn't actually a strong point, just less weak than it was weeks prior. Uzi and Zero, however, have carved out a reputation for stellar plays over the course of two World Championships, and the temperamental AD carry was key to the last time OMG was pushed off the world stage. The Sinocentric showdown is quickly becoming a legendary rivalry.
The Chinese rivalry resolves on Sunday, October 12.