T1 and Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok, the greatest organization and greatest player in League of Legends history, added to their legacy this weekend as they won the 2023 League of Legends World Championship. T1 and Faker lifted the Summoner’s Cup for the fourth time, but the first time since 2016 and for the first time in front of their home fans in South Korea at Gocheok Sky Dome.
The final brought in a record-setting peak audience of 6.4 million, shattering the previous League of Legends esports record of 5.1 million, which was set at last year’s Worlds final. In fact, the 6.4 million peak is the record for any esports event, per Esports Charts.
Faker compiled a K/D/A of 8/3/19 across the three games of the 3-0 series win, but his teammate Choi "Zeus" Woo-je was the standout. The T1 top laner finished with a K/D/A of 16/4/17, had the biggest impact on the game and was named Worlds finals MVP. A triple kill late in Game 2 led T1 to take that game and put them on the verge of a long-sought after world championship.
Despite this being the fourth world championship for the organization formerly known as SK Telecom T1 (SKT), at times over the past seven years -- an eternity in League of Legends esports -- it felt like T1 and Faker might never lift the Summoner’s Cup again.
Faker looks over at his teammate Keria sobbing after losing Worlds 2022. Photo credit: Colin Young-Wolff
After winning Worlds in 2013, 2015 and 2016, Faker and SKT lost the 2017 Worlds final and didn’t reach another international final until last year. In the intervening years Chinese teams had grown stronger, winning Worlds in 2018, 2019 and 2021, while other Korean teams challenged T1 and won world championships.
In 2022, T1 lost both the MSI and Worlds final, the latter a heartbreaking 3-2 loss. T1 kept the same roster of Faker, Zeus, Mun "Oner" Hyeon-jun, Lee "Gumayusi" Min-hyeong and Ryu "Keria" Min-seok together, but after coming up empty both domestically and internationally earlier this year, there were rumors that Worlds 2023 would be the last dance for this roster. Since coming together in 2022, they have now played the most international games (74) together of any League of Legends roster in history, per Riot Games. It still very well might be the end of the line for this starting five, but at least now they have a world championship to go along with an LCK championship, MSI final and Worlds final in 2022.
They got that championship by going through a gauntlet of all four Chinese teams at Worlds. T1 beat Bilibili Gaming 2-0 to qualify for the playoffs. They beat LNG Esports 3-0 in the quarterfinals and JD Gaming 3-1 in the semifinals before the 3-0 over Weibo in the final. The three playoff wins over LPL teams added to one of Faker’s incredible feats. Across eight world championships, Faker has never lost a best-of-five playoff series against a Chinese team.
Faker poses with his fourth Summoner's Cup. Photo credit: Photo credit: Colin Young-Wolff
Game 1 of the final was tight in the early and mid game. It started with Weibo Gaming drawing first blood on Faker and going up 3-1 in kills. However, T1 took the first two dragons and maintained a small gold lead. Slowly, T1 built a bigger lead, got a dragon soul and took a couple of Barons to widen the gold lead gap and eventually take Game 1. It was a strong start for T1, but as they learned last year, taking the first game of the final does not guarantee victory.
In the second game, T1 got the jump on Weibo with the first two kills to take out Weibo’s top laner Kang "TheShy" Seung-lok. Again, T1 held a small gold edge early in the game, but this time Weibo took the first two dragons. T1 continued to pick off TheShy, who ended the game with a team-worst 0/6/1 K/D/A. A critical teamfight broke out around the dragon pit at just over 18 minutes, and T1 came out ahead with multiple kills, including one on -- you guessed it -- TheShy. T1 took a dragon to stop Weibo’s dragon stacking and then took Baron at around 27 minutes. A triple kill for Zeus finally ended the game at just under 30 minutes as T1 went up 2-0 in the series.
In Game 3, T1 picked up right where they left off in drawing first blood on TheShy. Weibo started to play more aggressive, going up 3-1 in kills and taking the first Rift Herald, however, T1 took the first two dragons to push back. Around 18 minutes, a key teamfight broke out around the dragon pit as Faker got a triple kill, and T1 took their third dragon to put them on soul point. From there, T1 pretty much snowballed their lead and a championship for them appeared inevitable. After capturing a fourth dragon and getting dragon soul, T1 closed out the game by taking down Weibo’s nexus at just under 26 minutes, the quickest game of the series.
Keria kisses the Summoner's Cup after winning his first world championship. Photo credit: Photo credit: Colin Young-Wolff
It remains to be seen what will happen to this championship roster as multiple players have contracts that are expiring. Gumayusi, Keria and Zeus’ contracts all expire this month now that Worlds is over.
Even if the roster looks slightly different next year, the 27-year-old Faker will be back and is still the key component for T1’s success. It doesn’t sound like the loyal T1 player is returning anytime soon.
“Since I’m still contracted with T1, I’ll still be working with the organization,” Faker told the media after the Worlds final per Inven Global. “I’ve been learning a lot and growing throughout my pro gaming career. This isn’t an experience anyone can have, so I’ll keep on working hard and think about retiring later on.”
Schedules and rosters for 2024 are still in flux, but what we do know is that the Worlds 2024 final will be at the O2 Arena in London. It wouldn’t be at all surprising if Faker and T1 are there vying for their fifth world championship.
Lead photo credit: Colin Young-Wolff