The LCK is one of the premier regions in competitive League of Legends— this region has the most appearances in the World Championship finals, but that seems to have been changing in recent history. Since 2018, an LCK team has made it to the finals of Worlds only once, and that was in 2020, when Damwon Gaming was the clear frontrunner, and they lifted the Summoner’s Cup, a first for the region since 2017.
The defending world champions return to the World Championship after a rather up-and-down year both domestically and internationally. They dominated the spring split in the LCK, went into the Mid-Season Invitational as the favorites, and yet fell short against Royal Never Give Up in the five-game final of that tournament. They are looking to successfully defend their title and do what no other team aside from SK Telecom T1 has done, which is to win two consecutive titles in a row.
The main question for this team is whether or not they are actually in form to accomplish this feat. At MSI and in the summer split, much criticism has been thrown especially towards their bottom lane of Jang “Ghost” Yon-jun and Cho “BeryL” Geon-hee. Even at MSI they were losing in the 2v2 lane, and upon their return to South Korea in the summer, they received a lot of punishment as well. Ghost has been receiving criticism for being unable to play some of the bottom laners in the meta, and BeryL’s over-aggression from time to time has been a problem area for the team.
Things took a rather unexpected turn when Ghost was benched and it was announced that both Kim “Malrang” Geun-seong and Kim “Canyon” Geon-bu would be starting. BeryL and Kim “Khan” Dong-ha retained their positions, while Heo “ShowMaker” Su would be playing in the bottom lane with BeryL, Canyon would be playing in the middle lane, and Malrang would be playing in the jungle. This setup, while it raised a lot of questions about the current state of the team, was met with mixed success, and soon enough the team reverted back to their old roster and roles.
With Ghost back in the roster, the team still did not look like they were at their 2020 form, but they at least returned to their winning ways in the LCK, securing first place in the regular season. In the playoffs, most of their games were dominant– even with a rather shaky mid game against Nongshim RedForce in game 3, they were still able to cleanly sweep them in the semifinals. In the LCK finals against T1, they secured their place as South Korea’s first seed after taking the series 3-1. Overall they dropped only 1 game across two series in the LCK Summer Playoffs.
Damwon Kia is usually more of a mid-game focused team, relying on their superior team fighting around objectives to turn games into their favor.This does not mean, however, that this team cannot play well in the early game– the team’s solo laners, Khan and ShowMaker, are still some of the best in the world, and Canyon is still one of the best junglers in the world, which means that they are also capable of getting huge leads in the earlier stages of a game. Damwon should still be thought of as one of the favorites, especially considering how much they’ve improved the later the summer split went on.
(Header via INVEN Esports)