It’s rare that the League of Legends World Championship has two teams that both represent the year in its entirety.
League is a game fraught with meta shifts — the most infamous ones historically released immediately before the world championship itself — and concentrated metas develop in miniature on the worlds stage. For a recent example: Royal Never Give Up exemplified what League of Legends was last year, yet failed to adapt to the shifting worlds meta and were eliminated in the quarterfinals in 2018 by G2 Esports.
This year is different. No two teams sum up what League of Legends has been in 2019 more than FunPlus Phoenix and G2 Esports.
G2 are on the cusp of claiming an elusive sweep of every major League title in a single year, something that has yet to be achieved by any team in the game’s history. They’ve made it to this point, with a Mid-Season Invitational title and two domestic championships to their name, thanks to their remarkable flexibility.
As the year’s default No. 1 team, G2 have set a standard for teams all over the world to follow.
Although FunPlus haven’t had that same impact, they’ve stubbornly stuck to their specific style of play through two successful regular-season splits. FunPlus dropped only one series during the summer series, and won China’s hotly contested League of Legends Pro League title.
Both of these teams know how to make the most of the talent available on their respective rosters, and this knowledge has brought them to the game’s most prestigious match, which takes place at 7 a.m. ET on Sunday at AccorHotels Arena in Paris.
Here are a few factors to keep in mind while watching the series.
G2 must shut down Crisp and Tian
You may have thought that was going to say “shut down Doinb.”
But similar to how FunPlus mid laner Kim “Doinb” Tae-sang’s teammates credit him with enabling them on the map, Doinb is aided by the impressive jungle-support duo of Gao “Tian” Tian-Liang and Liu “Crisp” Qing-Song. Together, the three can form a roaming squad that wreaks havoc in early laning matchups, leading FunPlus to an early-game victory that they are more than capable of snowballing into a game win.
Crisp will roam whenever bot laner Lin “Lwx” Wei-Xiang is in a comfortable position, helping to free up Doinb if the FunPlus mid laner hasn’t already pushed his wave to the opposing turret to go back for items or roam.
G2 will need to make sure Crisp is locked in the bottom lane 2-on-2 and that Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski has a favorable early jungle matchup against Tian if they want to win this series.
Melee matchups in mid benefit the Europeans
Doinb’s success on Nautilus might make G2 and others see the champion as a beneficial ban or takeaway, especially since Crisp is excellent on that champion as well. But Invictus Gaming’s decision to keep Doinb off of champions such as Rumble, LeBlanc and, of course, his signature Ryze worked out well in the world championship semifinal.
With better execution and team cohesion, iG could have taken advantage of the fact that these melee matchups mean that Doinb cannot push his wave as quickly. The tankier, up-close-and-personal champions limit Doinb’s ability to roam and help out FunPlus’ side lanes.
Based on past matchups, FunPlus themselves likely will aid G2 in this win condition by picking champions like the Nautilus for Doinb purposefully, even if other — objectively stronger — champions are open.
FunPlus should stick to the triple-Teleport trend
G2 have historically struggled against teams that make the most out of global ultimates, with the most recent example coming from Griffin’s combination of a support Shen with two Teleports during Group A of worlds.
FunPlus ran triple-Teleport in all of their games against iG and nearly all of their games against Fnatic. Additionally, FunPlus love to play champions with global or semi-global ultimates like Tahm Kench, Ryze and Gangplank. Globals don’t guarantee victory against G2, but they already work well with exactly how FunPlus wants to play and help spread G2 on the map before they can set up split-pushes with their preferred stronger laning matchups.
FunPlus should lean on their support and jungle advantages
Jankos and G2 esports support Mihael “Mikyx” Mehle are two formidable players, but neither of them has had a particularly strong tournament thus far.
This may be because of the lofty expectations placed on them; they are both considered at or near the top of the world at their positions. But that assessment, and the nod to FunPlus having an advantage at both spots, is also because Tian and Crisp really are just that good.
Doinb is the heart of FunPlus, but Tian and Crisp form the backbone of the team. They are difficult to shut down if they manage to garner early advantages, especially because they know how to transfer these to their teammates. FunPlus must ensure that Tian is on strong early-game junglers so he can quickly be in FunPlus’ lanes or counter-jungling and counter-ganking. They also will want to keep Crisp on strong initiators and playmakers such as the aforementioned Nautilus, or Tahm Kench, which will not only allow him to roam mid but also better contest bot side river vision.
Prediction: G2 Esports 3, FunPlus Phoenix 1
This has been repeated ad nauseam throughout the year but will be reiterated here for good measure:
The members of FunPlus Phoenix are peerless at playing their style but their style only.
No team can (or should) play like FunPlus, but they manage to pull it off and do so with genuine finesse. Their drafts may be poor in an objective vacuum, but FunPlus know how to play to their players’ strengths and draft accordingly. Sometimes that means Qiyana jungle with Rumble mid. But that also means that FunPlus are less flexible than a team like G2, which should be able to take advantage of the three-man roaming squad of Tian-Doinb-Crisp by keeping players locked in lane with stronger one-on-one matchups and an understanding of the flow of minion waves.
Simply put, G2 have more options due to their players’ flexibility in draft and playstyle, which means that they should ultimately win this series.