Chinese team OMG pulled off a historic victory against Korean side NaJin White Shield today in the quarterfinals of the $2.2 million tournament, sweeping the best-of-five series with three straight games to advance to the semifinals. There OMG will face fellow Chinese squad Star Horn Royal Club.
The win was the first time a Chinese team has ever beat a Korean squad in a best-of-five series, and just the second time a non-Korean team has done it at Worlds.
Heading into the match, NaJin White Shield looked like heavy favorites. Both teams entered the tournament as the third seed from their regions, but OMG barely snuck through the group stage with a 3-3 record. NaJin White Shield also struggled a bit, dropping games to Cloud9 and Alliance, but the Korean team looked more stable.
But the team OMG brought to the quarterfinals wasn’t the same as the one in the group stage. OMG added in an emergency support replacement, bringing back Hu “Cloud” Zhen-Wei to replace Fang “DaDa77” Hong-Ri after a dismal showing in groups.
Fang posted a 3/22/40 KDA line during the six group stage games, with only 58.9 percent kill participation. Hu put up more kills and assists—48 in total—in just three games. NaJin White Shield let Hu play Janna in every game, and he punished them with it.
But the real standout player in the match was team captain Gao “GoGoing” Di-Ping. The best top laner in China laid claim as the best top laner in the world by outplaying his counterpart Baek “Save” Young-jin in all three games. Baek, heralded as the last of the carry top laners, relinquished his crown to Gao as the Chinese player’s Irelia and Ryze decimated NaJin White Shield.
In game one, Gao’s Irelia decimated Baek’s Kassadin in lane, leading to Gao carrying harder late game than the scaling oriented Kassadin pick. The next two matches, with Gao on Ryze, were absolute slaughters. His Ryze controlled both games with his expert rune prisons and positioning, his knack for picking out the perfect targets at just the right moment. In game two Gao posted a 7/1/11 KDA and followed it up with an even more ridiculous 12/4/7 line in game three, after the Koreans inexplicably let Ryze through champion select a second time.
The third game really showed Gao’s genius. Ignoring even his huge kill count and insane number of picks, his play at Baron, after a rare mistake saw him get caught out, was godly. NaJin White Shield used the opening to push the major objective, also wasting the ultimate of Yu “cool” Jia-Jun to give them enough time to burn down the Baron before the newly respawned Gao returned to the fight. Gao used his teleport to a ward just outside the pit as his teammates postured around it, and NaJin White Shield responded, getting ready to burn down the player carrying the game. Gao cancelled his teleport. NaJin White Shield returned to the Baron, but it was too late. The four or so seconds lost gave OMG enough time to get in position and they collapsed on the Koreans. Hu’s Janna ultimate trapped NaJin inside the pit. Gao reached the fight. It was a slaughter. OMG jungler Yin “LoveLing” Le even took the Baron, out-smiting a hapless Choi “watch” Jae-geol.
The win was extremely impressive for OMG. They beat NaJin White Shield in every facet of the game, from the pick and ban phase to the early game and into the late game. Every one of their lanes outplayed their Korean counterparts, and the jungle battle wasn’t even close. The addition of Hu seems to have shored up many of OMG’s group stage weaknesses. Their laning looks better, and Hu seems to offer better vision control than the man he replaced—even if that’s still one area the Chinese team would do well to improve.
OMG will need to keep up their high level of performance when they face rivals Star Horn Royal Club in their next series. On paper, OMG looks like the better team save for Royal Club’s star marksman Jian “Uzi” Zihao. But Royal Club seems to step up their game against OMG when it really counts.
Whichever team wins, we’ll have a Chinese squad in the finals, a challenger to the Korean hegemony that’s dominated in League of Legends over the past few years. It’s hard to see either team beating Samsung Galaxy White or Samsung Galaxy Blue, but as OMG showed today, anything is possible.