A legendary career: Faker's results at Worlds and MSI

by Brian Bencomo

Updated Nov. 7

The success of mid laner Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok and T1 (formerly SK Telecom T1) is inextricably tied to the first decade of League of Legends esports. Since Faker debuted in 2013, the third season of competitive League of Legends, he has been at 12 of the 17 premier international tournaments that Riot Games has held. Faker & Co. have won five of them: three League of Legends World Championships and two Mid-Season Invitationals.

It’s hard to believe that Faker’s appearance at the 2022 League of Legends Worlds final is his and his organization’s first in five years. After so much success in Faker’s first five years as a pro, the last five have been marked by a more competitive international landscape. In fact, no team has won back-to-back or even multiple world championships since Faker and SKT did so in 2016.

Fittingly, with Worlds back in North America for the first time since 2016, Faker was back in the final for the fifth time. Here’s a look back on the results of Faker’s international appearances.

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2013 Worlds -- SKT win final

Photo credit: Riot Games

This is when it all began. As a 17-year-old rookie, Faker won the 2013 world championship alongside Jeong "Impact" Eon-young, Bae "Bengi" Seong-woong, Chae "Piglet" Gwang-jin and Lee "PoohManDu" Jeong-hyeon. SKT’s 3-0 final win over China’s Royal Club at Staples Center in Los Angeles ushered in an era of Korean dominance at Worlds. Faker was the best player in the world when individual play mattered most in League of Legends and he immediately became the Michael Jordan of the game.

2015 MSI -- SKT lose final

Faker was on the losing side of the first-ever Mid-Season Invitational. After going a perfect 5-0 in the round robin group stage, SKT beat Fnatic 3-2 in the semifinals and then lost the final 3-2 to EDward Gaming with Faker also losing his previously perfect 12-0 record on his ace pick, LeBlanc. Faker shared time in the mid lane throughout the season with Lee "Easyhoon" Ji-hoon after the merger of SKT’s sister teams, with Easyhoon playing the first three games of the final and Faker playing the last two games, marking a fierce debate in the international community over SKT’s decision to platoon the greatest mid laner of all time.

2015 Worlds -- SKT win final

Photo credit: Riot Games

Faker and SKT had a perfect run en route to the 2015 Worlds final. They went 6-0 in the group stage and had 3-0 victories over ahq eSports Club and Origen in the playoffs. They only dropped one game in the final to the KOO Tigers (later known as ROX Tigers) to claim their second world championship. This was the first of four consecutive international tournament victories for SKT and the trio of Faker, Bae "Bang" Jun-sik and Lee "Wolf" Jae-wan. South Korean talent may have started moving overseas en masse, but Faker & Co. remained strong as they built upon not only their own legacy but the legacy of Korean League of Legends.

2016 MSI -- SKT win final

SKT had an uncharacteristically mediocre group stage at MSI 2016 in which they went 6-4 before turning it on in the playoffs with a 3-1 victory over Royal Never Give Up and a 3-0 final win over Counter Logic Gaming. SKT faltered in single games, but continued their absolute dominance in five game sets. Faker was named the MVP, earning his first MVP at either MSI or Worlds.

Read more: Faker hopes to find glory once again on North American soil

2016 Worlds -- SKT win final

Photo credit: Riot Games

This was peak Faker. Back at Staples Center in Los Angeles, the site of his first world championship, Faker led SKT to their second consecutive Worlds title and third overall. Faker was named MVP and was on top of the world. It was a classic final, too with a 3-2 victory by SKT over Samsung Galaxy which featured the second-longest Worlds game of all time. Game 3 of the series lasted a whopping 71 minutes, 20 seconds.

2017 MSI -- SKT win final

Taking place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, MSI 2017 was the first and thus far only MSI or Worlds held in the Southern Hemisphere. Faker and SKT won their fourth consecutive international event. After an 8-2 group stage, SKT beat Flash Wolves 3-0 in the semifinals and G2 Esports 3-1 in the final.

2017 Worlds -- SKT lose final

Photo credit: Riot Games

In a rematch of the 2016 Worlds final, Samsung Galaxy beat SKT 3-0 to win their first world championship since 2014. Held in Beijing’s famous Bird’s Nest Stadium, this final was the site of the now iconic photo of Faker hunched over in his seat following the loss and holding his face in his hands in despair. Faker and T1 wouldn’t reach another MSI or Worlds final for five years.

2019 MSI -- SKT lose semifinal

After missing out on both MSI and Worlds in 2018, SKT rebuilt around Faker and made it back to the international stage. However, for the first time ever at MSI or Worlds, Faker and SKT failed to reach the final. SKT lost in the semifinals 3-2 to Europe’s G2 Esports, who ultimately defeated Team Liquid in the final. Notably, the person playing mid lane on the opposite side of the rift was Rasmus "caPs" Borregaard Winther, the 19-year-old with the nickname “Baby Faker.”

2019 Worlds -- SKT lose semifinal

Photo credit: Riot Games

Faker & Co. were once again stymied by G2 at an international tournament. SKT lost in the semis 3-1 to G2. At the time, another loss to G2 in the semis appeared like the metaphorical passing of the torch. Of course, that turned out not to be the case, as G2 went on to lose the final and not sustain their level of play in subsequent years, while T1 rebuilt around Faker and resurfaced as one of the best teams in the world a couple years later.

2021 Worlds -- T1 lose semifinal

After missing out on Worlds 2020 and MSI 2021, Faker and the rebranded and rebuilt T1 qualified for Worlds 2021. This time it wasn’t G2 who ended T1’s run in the semis, but fellow Korean team and defending 2020 world champions DWG KIA. Five years after a prime Faker won his third Worlds title and cemented SKT’s dynasty, this tournament featured a veteran Faker leading a team of young players against a team looking to create their own dynasty.

2022 MSI -- T1 lose final

Photo credit: Riot Games

For the first time ever, Faker played a major international tournament on home soil. T1 qualified for MSI after the first-ever undefeated split in League of Legends Champions Korea (LCK). With a team of youngsters led by the veteran Faker, T1 finally made it back to another final for the first time since 2017. Although it appeared destined that T1 would once again be international champions, Faker & Co. finished second to China’s Royal Never Give Up.

Read more: T1 support Keria admits feeling more pressure at Worlds 2022

2022 Worlds -- T1 lose final

T1 lost a bit of steam following MSI 2022, finishing second in the LCK summer playoffs and entering Worlds as Korea’s second seed. Yet they made it all the way to the Worlds 2022 final where they encountered another bittersweet end as they lost their second international final of the year, this time to DRX and their incredible Cinderella story. After a taste of Worlds in 2021 and an international final earlier in the year, T1’s young players, especially the bot lane duo of Lee "Gumayusi" Min-hyeong and Ryu "Keria" Min-seok really rose to the occasion to help Faker reach his first Worlds final since 2017. Despite the loss, T1's performance in the final will be remembered for the team executing multiple baron and dragon steals that helped make this arguably the greatest League of Legends Worlds final ever played.

Lead photo credit: Riot Games

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