The LCK region has once again regained international dominance by winning Worlds 2020 with Damwon Gaming at the helm. One split has past since their victory and they stand defeated at the Mid-Season Invitationals 2021 with rivals – the LPL – standing in their way stronger than ever. Looking at the LCK 2021 season, we’ll be looking at whether or not Korea, as a region, has become stronger or weaker since Damwon’s victory in 2020 now that they have 4 slots at Worlds.
LCK: The Most Dominant Region Historically
The League of Legends Champions Korea league is one of the most successful and dominant regions historically with 6 World Championships under their belt, having complete dominance of the Finals in 5 consecutive years with 3 of them having LCK vs LCK finals. During those times, nobody would even think that any other region was even remotely close to Korea’s superior tactics and gameplay which every other region tried to emulate just so that they could catch up.
In 2018, Korea’s dynasty was broken when both LCK representatives that made the Knockout Stage got eliminated on the 1st round. It was thought that LCK’s chokehold over League of Legends esports has finally been destroyed but 2020 proved that this region still has some fight left after reclaiming their glory. Today, the LCK 2021 and LPL 2021 continue to be the frontrunners for contention at Worlds with some of the other regions following closely behind.
LCK 2021 Update: Inconsistencies & Uncertainties
Despite winning Worlds 2020, LCK 2021 began with a very rough start with the defending World Champions losing one of their best players in the roster. Even though some fans thought that trading Nuguri for Khan wasn’t necessarily a bad trade, the team’s overall dynamic began to change. Damwon still managed to win LCK 2021 Spring Split and represent their region at MSI 2021 but the team fell just a little bit short after losing 2-3 in the Final Round against the LPL’s Royal Never Give Up.
Come LCK 2021 Summer, the region has suffered even more with their frontrunner Damwon Kia making a drastic change by roleswapping their 2 best players. A lot of critics have stated that Damwon Kia is the only real threat from the LCK even since 2020 so this move has made the world question if Damwon Kia is up to challenge the best of the best. Gen.G esports is looking as consistent as ever but there’s no real improvement to how strong they were last year compared to their form this year.
Is Gen.G Esports The LCK’s Last Hope?
Gen.G esports has always been one of the strongest teams in the LCK since 2019. They haven’t changed or updated any member of their roster in hopes of developing their team’s potential through mastery of synergy to make them much more of a threat in situations such as teamfights and organized macro plays. They have always made the Top 3 in their region and are looking to continue doing so with one of the highest chances of making Worlds in the LCK.
The players of Gen.G are all at the highest caliber with arguably the best bottom lane duo in the entire world right now (Ruler & Life). The team isn’t necessarily bad but there’s only so much that makes them outstanding compared to more aggressive teams that make risky all-out tactics look like valid strategies in professional play. However, if the meta falls out of favor for aggressive playstyles, Gen.G is definitely the first to rise at the very top of the rankings as the kings of team-based macro.
Can Damwon Kia Still Be a Threat?
A lot of critics are saying that Damwon Kia threw out all their chances of winning Worlds when they decided to roleswap their two best players. One thing that those players need to keep in mind is that nobody is really sure if Damwon Kia is planning on committing to this roleswap or is simply testing the waters. There’s still a very good chance that they’ll return to their original roles by the next half of the split and start showing their dominant selves once again.
Damwon may have lost MSI 2020 but they weren’t absolutely smashed. This team is still definitely one of the Top 10 teams in the world right now with their roster being stacked with some of The Most Talented Players of this Generation. In terms of whether or not they’ll be a threat at Worlds depends entirely on the direction of the team on the 2nd half of the split. Right now, we’re pretty sure the LPL teams are still the favorites to bring it home in the tournament.
The Top 3 Teams in LCK 2021 (Except Damwon)
The LCK is still considered a top 3 region but their placing is definitely up for debate. A lot of analysts are already saying that the LEC is better (as a whole) than the LCK due to the competition being a lot closer compared to the Korean teams that have huge gaps in-between themselves. Let’s take a look at the LCK 2021’s Top 3 teams (aside from Damwon Kia) so that you can judge whether or not this region deserves their 4th seed or if Damwon simply earned it by themselves.
1. Gen.G Esports
As mentioned before, we think that Gen.G esports will be the closest frontrunner for the LCK if Damwon Kia doesn’t manage to show up internationally. This team’s strength is their consistency and experience working together as a team for 3 years. There’s no doubt that Gen.G will make it to the World Stage but the question is whether or not they will thrive in such a competitive environment. Ruler & Life are the strongest members of the team and will need to carry the entire team on their shoulders.
In Worlds 2020, Gen.G managed to make it to the Knockout Stage but were disappointingly swept by G2 Esports in the 1st round. They showed extreme indecisiveness due to their late game scaling comps and were rattled when the enemy team would initiate early game skirmishes. Eventually, they just got run over by the fast-paced gameplay they’re not used to playing. This year, Gen.G seems to have retained the same win condition but have covered a lot of their weaknesses in the early game.
2. Afreeca Freecs
The Afreeca Freecs have undergone such a long rebuilding phase in the past few years after their success in Worlds 2018. Afreeca’s 2021 roster has only a few adjustments but has definitely gone a long way to improving their win rate in the region. This team has risen from being a middle of the pack team to one that can actually compete for the LCK 2021 championship this year. The star player in this roster continues to be Kiin, who is the heart and soul of the team.
The Afreeca Freecs have always fallen short in making Worlds for the past 3 years either by closely missing playoffs or getting eliminated in the 1st round of the playoffs. This year, they have a fully revamped bottom lane that looks to challenge the other bot laners in the region. Kiin continues to dominate his lane as a Top 3 player in his position. Afreeca Freecs may not be at the top of the standings but they shouldn’t be underestimated when the time comes.
The fallen champions are once again looking to make an appearance at Worlds. Like the other teams in the LCK, they have undergone a rigorous rebuilding and experimentation process with LCK 2021 Spring Split being the stage for their 10-man roster shuffle. A lot of fans ridiculed the organization for seemingly trolling the tournament by using it to test which 5 players worked well together through constant substitutions that led to their eventual loss at the playoffs.
Summer 2021 seems to be the true challenge for T1 since they finally decided to stick with a single roster. Even though they are no longer as good as they were in 2017 and earlier, the team is still looking to compete at the World Stage. SKT T1 has always had some sort of magical power that allowed them to perform best during the playoffs, so maybe we’ll see the team that millions of fans fell in love with all those years ago due to their dominance in the international stage.
Is the LEC stronger than the LCK?
A lot of analysts say that the LEC is currently better than the LCK, as a whole. The competition in the LCK seems pretty weak with the only standout team in the past year being Damwon Kia. The LEC has developed several competitive teams that are all equal in strength. It is safe to say that the LEC is definitely the more competitive region between the two.