Major regions dominate in an evolving meta on first day of Worlds 2021 play-in stage

International League of Legends is back and we couldn't be more excited.

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Worlds is back and the League of Legends professional scene is quickly reaching its apex. The play-in stage of the 2021 League World Championship kicked off a month-long schedule of matches featuring 22 of the most talented teams in the world earlier today. 

With an immensely diverse meta and some genuinely close games to boot, the first day of the Worlds play-in stage kicked off League’s most prestigious professional tournament in high-octane fashion. If one day’s worth of games has proved anything, it’s that this year’s edition of Worlds could be one of the most intriguing tournaments yet. 

Beyond the hype, anticipation, and endless theorizing, Worlds is finally back. To see international competition in real-time again—even just for a few games—was a breath of fresh air after a full season of domestic matches across the world. Here are some of the biggest takeaways from the first day of the Worlds 2021 play-in stage. 

So we’re just picking anything, huh?

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We’re only one day into the tournament, but it’s already fair to say that the Worlds 2021 meta is unlike anything the professional League scene has ever produced. Just eight games into the tournament, 44 unique champions were picked, with 19 of the first 20 champions selected across the first two games being individually unique as well. For reference, 78 total unique champions were selected throughout the entire play-in stage last year, according to League stats site Games of Legends. This season’s event could eclipse that mark as early as tomorrow if the individual picks continue to roll in at this pace. 

With previously off-center picks like Amumu, Qiyana, Talon, Miss Fortune, and others controlling the Worlds meta after just one day, this year’s tournament is already shaping up to be one for the ages in terms of champion diversity. 

Related: PEACE debut Amumu, Zed picks at Worlds 2021 but fall to LNG Esports on day one of play-in stage

And while it’s utterly impossible to get a perfect read on the meta after just one day, it’s fair to assume that with so many options at every position, we might be living through the infancy of the most diverse World Championship in the history of League

The LPL and LCK opened things up (and they might close things out, too)

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The World Championship opened up with another edition of the LCK vs. LPL rivalry when Hanwha Life and LNG Esports hit the Rift for the most intriguing game of the play-ins. The match, which LNG eventually ran away with, will serve as the only occasion on which two major region squads will face off during the play-ins (barring any potential matches in the qualification round). There isn’t another scheduled match at Worlds featuring two major region teams until Oct. 11 when DWG KIA and FunPlus Phoenix will kick off the group stage of the main event.  

Today’s game between Hanwha and LNG marked the first time since 2014 that a team from the LCK and LPL squared off to open the League World Championship. That year, an LPL team met one from the LCK in the grand finals of Worlds—something that’s happened three times overall. And with this year’s group stage predicted to feature eight teams from China and Korea, the odds favor yet another finale face-off between League’s two most historically dominant regions

The major region gap is still noticeable

While no minor region team secured a victory over a major region team on day one of Worlds 2021, the caliber of play from minor region teams is still respectable. Of course, that’s not to necessarily say that major regions weren’t heavily favored on day one of play-ins. Across the three games in which they played against minor region teams, squads from the major regions won by an average of 11,700 gold, while leading the early game by an average of 4,200 gold at the 15-minute mark. 

Earlier this year at MSI, teams like Detonation FocusMe, Unicorns of Love, and others came within inches of advancing past the play-in stage and have a reasonable chance of finishing the job at the World Championship. Of course, if any of the minor region representatives want to get past relative titans like LNG, Hanwha, and Cloud9, they’ll have to keep the games closer than they did today. 

Vizicsacsi returns to pro play

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Lost in the shuffle of the loaded eight-game schedule on day one of Worlds was former European mainstay Vizicsacsi’s return to the professional stage. The 2017 EU LCS Spring Split MVP is set to sub in as a temporary top laner for the Oceanic champions, PEACE, throughout Worlds after their original top laner Apii was restricted from traveling due to COVID-related reasons. Vizicsacsi hadn’t appeared in a pro game since the 2019 edition of Worlds prior to today, where he and Splyce were bounced from that year’s tournament by SK Telecom T1. 

Today, the 28-year-old posted a relatively average 2/3/1 scoreline in a loss to LNG Esports out of China, mostly thanks to an early-game rout that Vizicsacsi was on the receiving end of. Vizicsacsi will play at least three more games with his newly-minted teammates of 12 days, but the effort required to reach the same heights he did two years ago with Splyce will surely be immense—especially considering PEACE is already behind the eight ball with a record of 0-1. 

Worlds 2021 will resume tomorrow, Oct. 6, at 6am CT.

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