The best team in the world: Invictus Gaming rises to the top
After over a month of games in the League of Legends World Championship, one team remained at the top. Invictus Gaming had gone through a group that included both finalists, defeated the LCK champion who many expected to take the whole tournament, brought low the G2 team that had humbled LPL champion Royal Never Give Up and finally faced group D rival Fnatic in the finals.
In the groups, the European team had managed to win two games of three. In the finals, there were also three games, but it was all IG as they showed everyone in the Incheon Stadium why they deserve to lift the Summoner’s Cup.
After several struggling years, Invictus Gaming had been dominant domestically throughout the season, ending the spring season with an impressive 18-1 record before losing to future champion Royal Never Give Up in a 3-2 series at the semifinal. Their first international outing at Rift Rivals saw them defeat LMS’ Machi Esports and LCK’s fourth seed SK Telecom T1, before losing a game to KT Rolster in the finals. They came back to once again rule to roost in the Eastern region, once again losing 18 out of 19 matches in the regular season. Yet, the playoff ended in much the same manner, with Invictus losing a 3-2 series to RNG, this time in the grand finale, a disappointing end to a nearly perfect season. Still, it was enough to give IG the second seed to Worlds.
There, Invictus would be drawn in group D, joining EU LCS champion Fnatic, North American second seed 100 Thieves and eventually – LMS third seed G-Rex that had gone through the play-ins. Many expected them to leave the group either first or second, and in their first five games, Invictus looked great, with Song “Rookie” Eui-jin dominating the mid-lane, Lee “Duke” Ho-seong or Kang “TheShy” Seung-lok being the top-lane powerhouses we expected and Yu “JackeyLove” Wen-Bo and Wang “Baolan” Liu-Yi eventually becoming the monsters fans expected to see. Even when they did not find the best start, they would bounce back and dominate the mid-game with aggressive moves and impressive execution, ruthlessly exploiting any opening they were given. However, Fnatic were finally able to make them bleed in the sixth game, and then took the tiebreaker to wrest the first place in the group.
These games made a big difference, as Fnatic would be drawn in what many saw as the weaker side of the bracket, while IG would have to face one of the tournament favorites, KT Rolster, in the quarterfinal and then likely have one more series against RNG in the semifinal. As the games started, however, KT were simply manhandled by IG’s aggressive style and great teamfight execution, quickly losing the first two games before an incredible base race helped them snatch the third game. It eventually went to game number five. In it, after a contested start IG started gaining a lead, slowly securing objective after objective until JackeyLove saw an opening and flashed forward, turning the fight in his team’s favor and getting a Quadra kill in an ace for Invictus. It took some 15 more minutes, but in the end, KT fell and Invictus made it to the semifinals.
There, they faced a G2 that had miraculously defeated Royal Never Give Up. This time, IG were the favorites, seen as having a similar playstyle but better players, and they proved these expectations right. In the first game, they completely shut G2 away from the map, despite not having many kills early on, and ended the game in under 30 minutes after acing their opponents in their base. Game 2 had a lot more early game action, but ultimately IG came off with an advantage, camping G2 top laner Martin “Wunder” Hansen’s Aatrox to unlock TheShy’s Jayce. Eventually, TheShy took over the game, making the difference in fight after fight as G2 had no answer to him. The European team finally looked to be on the right path in Game 3 as they found an early game lead, but several key misplays allowed Invictus to get back in the action, and once they found the lead, the LPL team played near perfectly, with TheShy once more coming up huge, this time on Aatrox.
The scene was set for another epic showdown between IG and Fnatic, but on the day, it was all IG, all the time as they demolished their opponents. Ironically, it was much in the style that Fnatic themselves had excelled at, using bold jungle moves to snowball their incredible solo laners. In Game 1, they had Rasmus “Caps” Winther number in the early game, setting the Irelia back before taking over the game with great vision control and using deathball tactics to demolish Fnatic. In the second game, TheShy was placed on a carry, and carry he eventually did – but it was Gao “Ning” Zhen-Ning who did most of the heavy lifting, stomping the top lane before using his fed AP Gragas to get all lanes ahead, leading to another decisive win. It took Game 3 for Fnatic to find anything like a good start, but their lead was short-lived as IG focused on the bottom lane, and eventually Fnatic found they had no way to handle JackeyLove’s Kai’Sa.
As IG aced Fnatic in their base and ended the game, their staff surged in the booth and both staff and players hugged, having a hard time believing they had done it – that they had won the biggest prize in League of Legends. Rookie teared up as he gave the first interview, but these are the tears every LoL player dreams to have shed. IG never won the LPL title, but they lifted the Summoner’s Cup, vindicating all their efforts. After one month, IG were on top of the world – and they showed everyone, without a shadow of a doubt, that they were the strongest team at the World Championship.
Congratulations, IG. You are the World Champions, and no one can dispute that you earned it.