Can a promise stand the test of time? Can it take on a form of its own and reshape itself? During the 2022 League of Legends (LoL) World Championships, these questions governed the minds of eager spectators. Two years ago, two old high school friends and teammates on DRX, a Korean League of Legends team, shared a promise. DRX Keria (Ryu Min-seok) promised his then teammate DRX Deft (Kim Hyuk-kyu): I will help you win Worlds. Keria vowed to be Deft’s sword and shield — to be the reason that DRX would reign as world champs one day, with the expectation that he and Deft would be on the same team when the day finally came.
This is the promise that followed him — that came to fruition even as Keria had transferred teams to the indomitable T1, leaving Deft still playing on DRX. The championships in a way were a reunion as well as a face-off — one which seemed to be set in stone as votes on Twitch revealed only 27% of the audience expecting DRX to win, speaking to how unyielding T1’s track record is. In a shocking turn of events, T1 lost to the underdogs — first-time winners DRX — in LoL Worlds this past weekend in one of the most exciting League championships ever played.
“League of Legends” is a 5v5 MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) game in which two teams (red versus blue) face off on a map called Summoner’s Rift.
Summoner’s Rift features three lanes and a meandering jungle separating the lanes. The jungle is clouded by the “Fog of War,” which prevents players from seeing into the jungle and the dangers within. The playable characters in the game are called “champions” that fall into five different roles — top laner, mid laner, bottom laner, support player and jungler. The support player and bottom laner share the bottom lane, and the jungler traverses the Fog of War throughout the jungle, killing jungle monsters to level up and “ganking” enemy laners — bursting out of the jungle in a surprise attack to kill the enemy. The game starts with a laning phase, in which the laners attempt to outscale each other by killing minions. Simply put, killing more minions helps you get more gold, buy more items and become more powerful than your opponent.
As the game progresses, neutral objectives become available around the map. Neutral objectives are those that either team can take in order to buff their stats and oppress the enemy team; these objectives are giant monsters that often require multiple players to kill them — the Baron Nashor and Dragons are some examples of these neutral objectives. The overall aim of the game is to press through the lanes, destroy enemy towers and finally, kill the enemy “Nexus” which ends the game.
During the finals, DRX was particularly derided due to their misplays around objectives. Time over time, objectives were stolen from them by T1 due to lapses in judgment or indecisiveness on DRX’s part. Objectives were stolen often when DRX would get the neutral objective all the way down to low health and mistimed the final kill on the objective, allowing for T1 steal the kill on it. Stealing the kill on the objective grants the thief’s team all the buffs that the original team was working so hard to get. Despite having five objectives stolen from them, DRX pushed on and waited for T1 to make a fatal error. By around midnight, the scoreline was 2-2. The last match would be the decider for world champs.
Champions for each team are selected right before the game begins in a period called “draft,” where opposing teams play mind games and try to outsmart and counter each other’s champions and team compositions. Champion bans are also allowed during this time.
“One of the reasons T1 lost was in draft pick,” said third-year BMED Ibrahim Mahmood. “They misplayed the draft by allowing DRX to pick both Caitlyn and Aatrox who were really strong picks.”
Other fans of LoL also agreed DRX’s win was impressive.
“As the fourth seed of Korea’s LCK [League of Legends Champions Korea], DRX began their gauntlet run in the Last Chance Qualifier, meaning they played the most games out of any team at Worlds,” said Evan Nutsugah, AD major at SCAD. “Following this, every team they eliminated was a former world champion, bringing them to their absolute peak condition. Once they arrived at the finals stage, solo laners Zeka and tournament MVP Kingen each made huge plays on multiple occasions that were able to turn the tables on T1, who had relied heavily on team fighting and group coordination to cinch their leads.”
Many online viewers are additionally calling DRX’s win a “Cinderella story,” insinuating a “rags to riches” archetypal victory. However, DRX did not just fortuitously stumble into Worlds. This year, DRX was indeed considered a mediocre team; they needed more than just luck to win. The teams they faced in LCK (a last chance qualifier for Worlds) held impressive reputations under their belt as DRX had to face Mid-Season Invitational title holders, European Championship summer title holders and Worlds title holders on their journey to qualify. They had to win it all and against a plethora of skilled Worlds Championships contenders. For these reasons the 2022 finals broke all viewership records, peaking at 5.15 million viewers.
In a pre-match conference, Deft ruminated on that moment that Keria promised him the World Championship. Against all presumptions, he faced the world and viewers betting on DRX’s downfall: “Keria once promised that he’ll help me win Worlds,” he said. “It’s time for him to keep that promise.”