South Korean juggernauts T1 and Chinese golden road contenders JD Gaming (JDG) are the two favourites to raise the Summoner’s Cup in this year’s League of Legends (LoL) World Championship.
And the two are set to clash in the sold-out semifinal match on Sunday (12 November).
For T1’s Ryu “Keria” Min-seok, he and his teammates have the ability to stop JD Gaming from 'completing the golden road'.
In LoL esports, completing the golden road means a team has won their region's Spring and Summer Splits, the Mid-Season Invitational, and Worlds in the same year — a feat no team has ever achieved in the game's history.
“I think that JD Gaming is doing really well at Worlds,” he said when we asked him about what he thinks of their opponents in the semifinals," Keria said in an interview with Yahoo Esports SEA after their win against LNG in the quarterfinals last Sunday (5 November).
“However, our team is also doing great, so I think we have what it takes to win against them."
T1 are not strangers to JDG’s gameplay, thanks to the experience that Choi "Zeus" Woo-je, Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok, and Keria gained by being teammates with two of JDG’s members, Seo "Kanavi" Jin-hyeok (jungler) and Park "Ruler" Jae-hyuk (bot lane) at the Hangzhou Asian Games last September.
Keria was the South Korean contingent’s Support in the bot lane, where he played with Ruler. South Korea won gold at the Asian Games, which granted military exemption to all their members.
“I learned a lot from playing with Ruler at the Asian Games,” Keria said, looking back.
“Ruler is very flexible. He’s also very quick in making decisions while in-game, so I learned a lot from how he made those decisions,” he added.
Based on their last round at the Swiss Stage and then their quarterfinal match, T1 are in top form—but it did not begin this way.
In their first match at the Swiss Stage, although they defeated Team Liquid from the LoL Championship Series (LCS), the team felt like their synergy and communication were off.
“It’s the same with any team, obviously,” Keria said in the T1’s feature video Cogwheel. “Whether you win or lose, if your performance isn’t up to par, the vibe is going to take a hit. That’s universal.”
“The fact that we won that first game didn’t mask the poor gameplay,” Faker added. “T1’s coordination left much to be desired,” he admitted.
Then in round 2 of the Swiss Stage, T1 lost to LCK Summer champions Gen.G. Keria also expressed his frustration about the match in the same T1 feature.
“We knew exactly what the opposition was going to do and what we needed to do, but it’s a bummer that we didn’t capitalise on that knowledge.”
However, the team continued to work on their communication and practised in preparation for their opponents.
This allowed them to pick up wins from then on — defeating BLG 2-0 to qualify for the Knockout stage, and then crushing LNG in a 3-0 sweep.
In their match against LNG, T1 came up with draft picks that surprised and left their opponents flabbergasted and unable to respond. This resulted in a 3-0 sweep that allowed their team to qualify for the semifinals.
Keria did not defer to one type of Support champion when he practised. In fact, when we asked about whether Engage or Enchanter champions were better in the current Support meta, he didn’t really have a preference.
“It really depends on the situation and the composition of your team and the opponents,” he said. “Since the tournament is still ongoing, I’m open to whatever picks might work for the team.”
His teammate, Gumayusi, also seemed to think so, when he was interviewed on stage after their win against BLG on Sunday (5 November).
“I don’t think we even have a set meta at the moment,” Gumayusi said. “We are going to be the trailblazer of the meta,” T1’s ADC boasted on stage.
When asked about how efficient the Nilah-Senna combination was in the first game, and the double-AD Carry combination (Varus-Ashe) in the second game, Keria laughed.
“I think that it’s a composition that only our team can pull off,” he said. “[Lee] "Gumayusi" [Min-hyeong] and I practised a lot of champions throughout the year, so it was easy for our team to come up with new combinations,” said Keria.
Keria also said that he was happy with his performance and his team’s performance at Worlds so far, especially in their matchup against LNG.
However, he’s not satisfied. And although he is confident that T1 has the capacity to stop JDG’s Golden Road, there’s still a lot to do.
“We still need to prepare a lot for the match, starting tomorrow (6 November),“ he said.
“I still made a lot of mistakes during the match [against LNG], and personally, I can still improve on this in preparation for the upcoming match.”
There's another thing that is keeping him motivated. In an interview with Naver, he said, “And I will definitely beat JDG and go to the finals to see NewJeans.”
T1 are set to face JDG on Sunday (12 November) at 4:00 P.M. Singapore Time.
Anna is a freelance writer and photographer. She is a gamer who loves RPGs and platformers, and is a League of Legends geek. She's also a food enthusiast who loves a good cup of black coffee.