This article is written in partnership with DJ Esports.
The 2021 League of Legends World Championship is set to begin tomorrow, Oct. 5. The LPL and LCK’s fourth seeds, LNG Esports and Hanwha Life Esports, will kick off the play-in stage in a battle of favorites. This Group A matchup will likely determine which team automatically qualifies for the Worlds main stage at the end of the round-robin.
LNG’s journey to Worlds wasn’t an easy one, though. Their Spring Split was marred with mediocrity, ending with an 8-8 record. Worlds was the last thing on LNG’s mind going into the summer. With zero Championship Points to their name, they needed to qualify for the LPL playoffs and win two series to make the Regional Finals.
LNG succeeded, finishing with a 10-6 record before taking down Suning, Top Esports, and RNG in a row. Their warpath continued into the LPL Regional Finals, where they crushed Rare Atom and ended Team WE’s hopes to claim China’s final Worlds spot.
Hanwha had somewhat of the opposite scenario happen for their Worlds qualification. They looked strong in the 2021 Spring Split, earning a 12-6 record and third place in the LCK playoffs. But in the summer, Hanwha suffered a collapse. Their poor 7-11 record caused them to miss the postseason.
Still, Hanwha’s Championship Points from the spring were enough to qualify them for the Regional Finals. And their fortunes were reversed in the gauntlet. Hanwha beat Sandbox and Nongshim to lock in Korea’s final seed at Worlds.
A Griffin reunion
There’s one main similarity between these two squads coming into Worlds 2021. Both teams feature a single star player at the epicenter of a roster that had many struggles throughout the season. LNG are led by Tarzan, a Korean jungler in the middle of his first year in China. His accolades this past split include 10 “man of the match” awards and a first-team All-Pro spot. Additionally, Tarzan is widely recognized as one of the best junglers in the entire tournament, despite being in the play-in stage.
On the other side of the Rift, there’s Hanwha mid laner Chovy. Everything that Tarzan is for LNG, Chovy is that and more for Hanwha.
Chovy is well known for being the most mechanically talented mid laner in the world. No matter what champion or matchup he’s given, Hanwha can count on Chovy to create an advantage. Hanwha won a total of 17 games in the summer. Nine of them featured a Chovy “player of the game” performance. And many “top players at Worlds” lists feature Chovy in the top three for good reason.
Both Chovy and Tarzan were a part of the prodigal Griffin squad that swept the Korean League scene in 2019. But that team fell apart before it could achieve an LCK or international trophy. Griffin’s core split up the following year.
Chovy and Tarzan haven’t been on stage together as teammates or opponents since the 2020 Spring Split. Now, with both of their teams on their backs, these two will battle it out again.
The supporting cast
While Tarzan and Chovy are the two most prominent figures on these teams, there are a few more noteworthy veterans present as well. LNG’s mid laner, Icon, is a six-year League pro who had spent his entire career before this year with Oh My God. Icon’s career with OMG wasn’t the most glamorous, but he was a stable presence for most of his time there.
Hanwha has access to Deft, one of Korea’s most famous ADC players. Deft has no shortage of international experience. This is his sixth time attending Worlds with a fifth different team. While the veteran hasn’t quite been near his peak in terms of performance this year, he’s still shown many impressive carry games.
Standing opposite of Deft in the bottom lane is Light. The 20-year-old doesn’t have the same level of seniority as Deft, nor does he have the accomplishments. But Light did well for himself in the summer playoff run that got LNG here. His champion pool features utility picks and mages, which should be just fine for helping his team to victory.
The strong trio of carries that line LNG will be hard to overcome. Hanwha need one more key player to match their opposition—and that’s Willer. The jungler for Hanwha has the toughest task ahead of him in facing down Tarzan. Willer is one of the youngest players at Worlds at just 18 years old and this past Summer Split was his first time playing in the LCK. To be immediately thrust onto the international stage is enough to overwhelm almost anyone.
Willer earned his starting spot among a carousel of junglers due to his propensity for pathing and impressive game sense, despite being so young. If Willer can maintain that impressive rookie form that got him here, Hanwha have a strong core to rely on throughout Worlds.
The meta sets the stage
The Worlds 2021 meta is looking to be much different than the one that competitive play ended on this summer. The laundry list of buffs to AD champions has the table set for an assassin and bruiser-heavy tournament. Melee picks like Talon, Zed, Qiyana, and even Tryndamere will all likely make appearances in multiple roles.
With so many carry champs present in the mid and jungle roles, having strong players like Tarzan and Chovy present is just asking for sparks to fly. This also means that strong AP carry picks that can go bot, like Ziggs or Syndra, will have high priority. While LNG are more likely to take advantage of this than Hanwha, Deft could show a new side of himself at Worlds.
LNG vs. Hanwha kicks off on Oct. 5 at 6am CT.
Our official betting partner, DJ Esports, has Hanwha to take the win with betting odds of 2.176 to 1.693. It’s also predicting Hanwha will secure the first dragon against LNG with odds being 2.038 to 1.771.
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