Cloud9 and Detonation Focus Me League of Legends teams on stage at their PCs at Worlds 2021
Cloud9 and Detonation Focus Me League of Legends teams on stage at their PCs at Worlds 2021

DetonatioN Focus Me make history, Cloud9 survive and more takeaways from Worlds play-ins

by Xander Torres

The League of Legends world championship play-in stage is over and the main event group stage is set to begin on Oct. 11. Before that, though, there are a few key takeaways to look back on from the play-in stage, whether it’s looking at specific teams or just highlighting an individual performance. The play-in stage may not be part of the main event, but it was an entertaining precursor as 10 teams fought to determine the four teams that advanced to the group stage: LNG Esports, Hanwha Life Esports, Cloud9 and DetonatioN FocusMe.

Read more: League of Legends Worlds 2021 Power Rankings

LNG Esports set to run amok in the group stage

Photo credit: Riot Games

LNG Esports are the fourth LPL seed but took their first step to proving that they are among the best teams at the tournament. Xie “icon” Tian-Yu & Co. dominated the opposition and nailed a convincing win against South Korea’s fourth seed, Hanwha Life Esports, who were easily the second strongest team in the play-in stage. While the play-in stage largely features lower ranked teams, it’s not uncommon for major region seeds to occasionally struggle en route to qualification -- just look at North America’s third seed, Cloud9.

Icon is arguably the face of LNG Esports with his proactive play in game and suave demeanor off the rift -- when asked to describe himself in one word during a press scrum, he chose “lovely” -- but top laner Hu “Ale” Jia-Le stole the show as the team’s main carry. Ale played four champions in four games, dominating his opponents on Jayce, Fiora, Jax and Wukong, amassing an overall K/D/A of 13. Ale’s competition in Group D is certainly more robust with MAD Lions’ İrfan “Armut” Berk Tükek and Team Liquid’s Barney “Alphari” Morris, but expect more of the same electric performances going forward.

DetonatioN FocusMe make history

Photo credit: Riot Games

DetonatioN FocusMe first debuted at the world championship in 2018, featuring three players from this year’s roster: Shunsuke “Evi” Murase, Mun “Steal” Geon-yeong and Yuta “Yutapon'' Sugiura. It was amazing enough when the trio managed to defeat Brazil’s KaBuM! e-Sports in 2018, but this time around, DetonatioN FocusMe defeated Galatasaray, Unicorns of Love, Beyond Gaming and eventually Cloud9 to qualify for the team’s first ever group stage appearance. The qualification is not only monumental due to Japan’s poor history in League of Legends, but also because DetonatioN FocusMe overcame the Turkish Champion League, League Continental League and Pacific Championship Series -- the strongest minor regions that League of Legends has to offer. Following that up with a victory against Cloud9 just ensures that DetonatioN FocusMe are legit and here to play.

The longtime trio of Evi, Steal, and Yutapon form the backbone of the team, but the unit’s newest additions, Lee “Aria” Ga-eul and Yang “Gaeng” Gwang-woo, really bring the unit together. Aria already made his presence known as a steady mid lane threat at the Mid-Season Invitational, but Gaeng rejoined the lineup this summer as a dynamic roaming support. More than anything, Aria and Gaeng are the mechanical muscle that the team needed to finally get over the line. Now, the players will have to dig even deeper to continue their journey against the likes of EDward Gaming and T1 in Group B.

Cloud9 stumble, but look to continue trend of Worlds success

Photo credit: Riot Games

After falling out of the group stage at the Mid-Season Invitational earlier this year, Cloud9 have been subject to a fair amount of skepticism at this year’s world championship. Cloud9 initially dominated the play-in stage with a 3-0 record to ward off that same criticism, but dropping a game to the winless Unicorns of Love set the team up for a tiebreaker match with DetonatioN FocusMe. They lost. DetonatioN FocusMe rolled straight into the group stage and North American faithfuls were once again burned by Cloud9.

Despite that, Cloud9 still had a qualification match with PEACE, and they did not mess around. PEACE matched Cloud9 well in the early game and often had significant leads in the bot lane, but Robert “Blaber” Huang dominated the series in the jungle, even scoring 11 kills on Olaf in Game 2 against the Oceanic side. As soon as Cloud9 got settled in, it was clear that the series was going to be an easy 3-0. Group A features tournament favorites DWG KIA and FunPlus Phoenix, but Cloud9 are always scaling and will certainly make the group interesting as they continue to refine their play.

PEACE prove that Oceania is here to stay

Photo credit: Riot Games

PEACE were unable to overcome Cloud9 to qualify for the group stage, but still showed a lot of fight throughout play-ins. Despite playing with a substitute in top laner Kiss “Vizicasci” Tamás, PEACE showcased great coordination throughout the event and managed to stave off a hungry RED Canids team. PEACE jungler, Leo “Babip” Roamer, in particular, was a driving force for PEACE’s success during the event and remained competitive with some of the best junglers in the play-in stage.

Riot Games pulled the plug on the Oceanic Premier League late last year, simultaneously making Oceanic players North American residents and splitting an already limited talent pool. Even so, managed to make it to the group stage at the Mid-Season Invitational, while PEACE solidified the region’s place as a top-tier minor region by defeating both Infinity Esports and RED Canids. The future of Oceanic League of Legends remains uncertain, but the region is certain to never give up.

Beyond Gaming disappoint, but Doggo solidifies stardom

Photo credit: Riot Games

Beyond Gaming were profiled as one of the strongest teams in the play-in stage, only being dwarfed by Hanwha Life Esports, LNG Esports and Cloud9, but they lost to both Galatasaray and DetonatioN FocusMe. Although the two teams were among some of the best that minor regions had to offer, Beyond Gaming’s late-season wins against PSG Talon elicited more hope in the team’s potential on the international stage. Even through all that, AD carry Chiu “Doggo” Tzu-Chuan solidified his status as an up-and-coming star.

Doggo was unable to make enough of a difference for Beyond Gaming to reach the group stage, but almost every victory was completely centered around his performance. When Beyond Gaming reverse swept Galatasaray 3-2 to earn a qualification match against Hanwha Life Esports, Doggo accounted for nearly 40 percent of the team’s damage. That type of damage share shines a light on Beyond Gaming’s poor flexibility, but the number was only made possible by Doggo’s immaculate mechanical ability, as he single-handedly turned skirmishes and teamfights in his team’s favor.

Lead photo credit: Riot Games

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