In the world of competitive League of Legends, a new era has been ushered in as fresh faces and fiery newcomers take center stage at the 2021 World Championship. Many kings of old have been dethroned across the globe, but in the ashes of those fallen empires lie the names of many different superstars in League esports.
Unfortunately for those same superstars, they’ll will be watching the tournament from home like the rest of us. Their stories have been put on hold and they now must watch their peers battle it out in Iceland for the greatest prize. But which of those that have been denied a chance at glory are the best?
There are plenty of surprising names that won’t be attending Worlds this year, but these pros are some of the best players that failed to qualify for the international stage this year.
Many people still remember when a 20-year-old phenom by the name of Knight stepped onto the Worlds stage last year with Top Esports as one of the most feared mid lane talents at the tournament. The teenage firecracker didn’t shy away from fights and was one of the most explosive players you could find across the globe. He and the rest of TES’ super-charged roster were also heavy favorites to win the event, especially after the way they manhandled the LPL during the 2020 summer.
At Worlds 2020, however, TES faltered under the pressure of the bright lights of the biggest League event of the year and were subsequently eliminated from the tournament by the LPL’s third seed, Suning Gaming, a team they had swept during their own LPL Summer playoffs. Knight also failed to make a similar impact as he did in the regular season, lacking the fiery spirit people knew he had hidden within.
After a disappointing end to TES’ 2021 Summer Split and a lackluster year overall, TES failed to reach the World Championship again this year. Knight had a great season individually with the most kills in the league and the third-highest KDA among LPL mid laners, according to stats-tracking site Oracle’s Elixir. As for the team, they weren’t able to come together as a true unit once again and were unceremoniously taken down by LNG Esports’ upstart roster led by former Griffin star jungler Tarzan.
On paper, Knight and the rest of TES are Worlds contenders. In reality, they’re stuck at home, pondering what they could do differently for the next year.
In a similar vein, Suning Gaming’s Huanfeng burst onto the global League scene as a budding star in the making after helping his team reach the finals of Worlds 2020. The 19-year-old earned raving praise from fans and analysts alike for his fearless style of play and ability to find unique angles in teamfights, and even had one of the most memorable moments at the tournament. He also had an inspiring story behind his road to a professional debut, after working hard to get out of poverty to eventually find a new home with League.
After 2020, however, the team unfortunately lost their main shot-caller and leader SwordArt to free agency, and with him left their sense of direction. The veteran support provided Suning with much needed leadership and shot-calling that made the team a lot more than the sum of their parts. But without him, they looked like a much-lesser team. Granted, Huanfeng still put up great numbers through this past summer—leading all LPL ADCs in KDA—but there’s only so much one player can do.
After mediocre performances across both the 2021 Spring and Summer Splits, Suning will have to make some big changes if they want to approach their peaks of the past.
Rekkles (and Jankos)
Before 2021 kicked off, G2 Esports stunned the esports world with one of the most electric free agent signings in the region’s history. The perennial LEC champions might have lost their franchise player with Perkz heading to Cloud9, but they scooped Fnatic’s own main man, Rekkles, who donned the org’s black and white jersey. The iconic European star explained this wasn’t a personal move but was simply a move to help him achieve greatness, especially at the Worlds stage.
In a cruel twist of fate, Rekkles—and the rest of G2—failed to do anything close to what he set out to accomplish this year. His stats remained impressive, of course, but his double digit KDA, his MVP award, and high kill counts didn’t matter when the team simply couldn’t keep up with the pace and aggression EU’s new age brought to the table.
The best ADC in Europe’s history set out to reach new heights in exchange for his legacy with Fnatic. Instead, he joined G2 just as their reign over the region fell. In fact, Rekkles’ departure might have been a blessing in disguise for Fnatic, since they’re the ones who have made Worlds while Rekkles is forced to watch as they move forward into the future without him.
Jankos, on the other hand, has now felt the sweetness of success and the sting of defeat as a samurai in the G2 army. After Perkz left the organization, it was clear the overall synergy of the roster shifted a significant amount, and the veteran jungler even mentioned this past April that “someone has to take the lead [on G2], and no one’s really doing it.” As a result, he seemed to take on more responsibility as the main voice for a roster with multiple stars.
This summer, Jankos remained one of the more consistent members on G2, helping out by motivating his teammates and playing at a relatively high level. But even with his efforts as a impromptu leader, G2 continuously fell until they were out of contention for both the LEC trophy and Worlds. It isn’t known if this roster will stick together by next year or if they’ll start to rebuild, like how the team’s CEO Ocelote has said. But Jankos shouldn’t find himself without a home next year either way.
Impact’s legacy as a North American player is so understated, especially since he has gone to each Worlds with an LCS team from 2016 to 2020. The 26-year-old star has been the most consistent top laner in the league and is one of the more flexible players in the region, with an ability to play weak and strong side at a high level.
With Evil Geniuses, the experienced vet helped the team finish third in the overall LCS yearly standings, and yet, it wasn’t enough to get them past 100 Thieves or Cloud9 in the playoffs. It’s a disappointing end to an impressive run of Worlds appearances for a player who has redefined himself as a true representative of the region instead of just another import.
Next year, there’s a good chance EG tries to run it back with most of the same players, since Jiizuke is the only player whose contract is expiring at the end of this year. Impact should remain a constant with the roster and a perfect veteran to anchor this team with his dependable work.
SwordArt came into 2021 as one of the hottest free agency pick-ups of the LCS offseason, joining TSM as the team’s defacto shotcaller and macro specialist. He was also one of the best supports in the world, coming off of a Worlds Finals appearance with Suning. Many people had high hopes for TSM—even though they were coming into the year with a relatively new roster and coaching staff—because the lineup was made up of many steadfast veterans, with one of the most iconic North American players leading the charge as head coach.
Like so many other star-studded rosters before them, however, TSM failed to rise to the gargantuan expectations set in front of them. Unlike many years past, TSM had built an identity for themselves with great mid to late-game macro and teamfighting. It was a welcome change from the TSM of old, where their rosters would default to passive, reactive gameplay that would be overwhelmed by aggressive opponents.
But the biggest problem for TSM this season came from their inconsistency as a unit. One day, they’d look like the best team in the LCS, and the next day, they’d look absolutely horrible on Summoner’s Rift. And during the playoffs, they failed to execute their plans with some bad losses and throws throughout their various series.
For everything that was promised, SwordArt’s debut came as a disappointment. Now, it’s up to the 24-year-old to help this organization find its way as it prepares to make changes for 2022.
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