T1’s victory over JD Gaming in the semifinals of the 2022 League of Legends World Championship was momentous for a multitude of reasons. First, T1’s 3-1 win eliminated JD Gaming, who were deemed a tournament favorite after winning the 2022 League of Legends Pro League (LPL) summer playoffs. It also marked the end of China’s run at Worlds 2022 and guaranteed a final featuring teams entirely from League of Legends Champions Korea (LCK). Perhaps most importantly, it marked T1’s first time back in the final of the world championship since 2017, where they were unable to win their fourth Worlds title against a surging Samsung Galaxy.
History and interweaving narratives aside, however, the nature of T1’s win over JD Gaming was particularly interesting from a gameplay perspective. Although both teams had moments of brilliance over the other, T1 were able to eclipse the LPL side, consistently executing around the map at a superior frequency. The matchup didn’t come down to just one lane, but instead, it hinged on T1’s ability to capitalize on pressure from any point on Summoner’s Rift.
Bot lane steals the show
Before the semifinals, the top lane matchup was looked at as the marquee face off between T1 and JDG, and for good reason. Choi "Zeus" Woo-je and Bai "369" Jia-Hao had come into Worlds 2022 heralded as the two best top laners on the planet, and throughout the respective runs of T1 and JDG to the semifinals, both had lived up to that reputation.
Instead, like many other matchups at Worlds 2022, the bot lane 2v2 took center stage in the T1-JDG matchup, with both teams favoring very different approaches to the laning dynamic. For the first three games of the four-game series, JD Gaming drafted Aphelios and Lulu while T1 opted for the far more lane-focused Lucian and Nami pairing. With the help of T1 jungler Mun "Oner" Hyeon-jun on Vi and Ryu "Keria" Min-seok’s Name, T1 AD carry Lee "Gumayusi" Min-hyeong was able to secure first blood in Game 1 on his Lucian by killing Wang "Hope" Jie’s Aphelios.
The bot lane matchup between Gumayusi, left, and Hope, right, was key in the series. Photo credit: Colin Young-Wolff / Riot Games
However, Hope did not wait to scale for Aphelios to retain relevance, and instead fired back with the help of his own jungler. There were four deaths in the bot lane in the first 10 minutes of Game 1 alone, while the top lane, contrary to expectations, remained relatively quiet. Both bot laners battled back and forth and remained relevant throughout the match as points of pressure for their respective teams, but JDG were able to take Game 1 in nearly 40 minutes due to Aphelios’ superior scaling and a complete monopoly on dragons of every variety.
Not phased by the loss in Game 1, T1 ran back the exact same bot lane in Game 2, and JD Gaming were happy to do the same. This time, it was Hope and JDG support Lou "Missing" Yun-Feng who got the first blood on Gumayusi, but the T1 bot lane quickly equalized, and eventually T1’s pressure on the rest of the map was too much for Hope to overcome despite a strong individual performance in Game 2.
Both bot lanes ran back the exact same 2v2 matchup for Game 3, but this time, the wheels fell off for JDG early as T1 quickly gained an advantage on the top side of the map. Although the bot lane stayed competitive in isolation, the eventual piling of T1 members toward the bot lane of JDG, plus Gumayusi and Keria’s leveraging of their advantages to consistently set up their teammates for dives on their opponent led to the most convincing game of the series as T1 pushed the series to match point.
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T1 pushed the series to match point after Game 3. Photo credit: Colin Young-Wolff / Riot Games
In hindsight, JD Gaming head coach Yoon "Homme" Sung-young blamed himself for his team’s loss, specifically referencing his read on the bot lane dynamic as one of his mistakes.
“We had a lot of Aphelios/Lucian matchups, but we lost, which means that T1’s analysis of that matchup was correct. I wish I was able to do better, but at the same time, T1 was in a really great form with their Ryze/Lucian/Nami and they executed well around those picks,” Homme explained in JDG’s postmatch press conference. “Looking back, I wish my drafts could have been better.”
JDG finally mixed it up in the Game 4 draft, locking in Jhin for Hope and Karma for Missing, but the final game of the series would be the most one-sided yet. On Varus and Renata Glasc, respectively, Gumayusi and Keria took JD Gaming’s bot lane to the cleaners in what felt like a victory lap for all five members of T1.
The bot lane was the clear point of focus in the series between JD Gaming and T1, but it rarely was the deciding factor in how the individual games in the series played out. The bot lane matchup mattered in nearly every part of the laning phases of the match, but the difference-maker ended up being how each team chose to leverage their bot lane and how successfully they were able to do so on a consistent basis. For JD Gaming, as exemplified in their sole win of the series, keeping Hope alive and well on the late game hyper-carry Aphelios was the way to play. T1, however, with their lane-focused duo, often opted for compositions with agency on the top side of the map to boast multiple threats.
T1’s compositions included late-game insurance on at least one other champion in the event the games got to a point that Lucian would fall off heavily in terms of scaling against Aphelios. It exemplified their ability to play off all three of their lanes in unparalleled fashion. JD Gaming’s teamfighting was phenomenal, as was their mid-game decision-making, but T1 were able to boast at least one extra point of pressure to gain control of the map. The one game they were unable to carry two threats into the late game was the game that JD Gaming won.
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Faker made his presence known in Game 3. Photo credit: Colin Young-Wolff / Riot Games
In Game 2, it was Zeus’ Yone who was the primary difference-maker for T1. Zeus impressed in both side lane skirmishes and full-on teamfights even after 369 had answered the blind Yone pick with Malphite, a tank known for stonewalling champions focused on physical damage and attack speed. In Game 3, Faker’s Ryze showed its true form after a quiet performance in T1’s Game 2 win. It was Faker who tipped the bot lane in T1’s favor in Game 3 enough for T1 to win before the Aphelios scaling factor could become relevant for JDG. Following a complete takeover of the bottom side of the map, the Unkillable Demon King made his presence known in the top lane, too.
T1’s bot laners very well might have rolled over JDG in Game 4 all by themselves, but the rest of the South Korean squad was eager to get a piece of the LPL champion pie. Faker impressed on Azir, another signature pick throughout his career, as Oner and Gumayusi provided the majority of the firepower to gun down JD Gaming in less than 25 minutes to take the series.
DRX’s run to the Worlds 2022 finals as the unlikely LCK fourth seed has been the best fairytale ever witnessed by LoL esports fans, but there’s a reason T1 are the heavy favorites. T1’s ability to play through any and all of their lanes given the competition and game state is a trait that has yet to be matched by another team at Worlds, and, crucially, it’s the trait that was the X factor in their semifinals win over JD Gaming.
Lead photo credit: Colin Young-Wolff / Riot Games