Only two teams remain standing in the 2023 League of Legends (LoL) Worlds Championship as the Knockout Stage's semifinals concluded on Sunday (12 November).
South Korean juggernauts T1 defeated China's JD Gaming (JDG), 3-1, to earn the right to challenge Weibo Gaming for this year's Summoner's Cup in the Grand Finals on 19 November.
While T1 has a lot of history backing them, they were considered the underdogs against a dominant JDG squad in the semis.
JDG were in position to complete 'the golden road' by clinching all four major LoL titles this year. After bagging two LPL championships and the MSI crown, only the Summoner's Cup remained.
They effortlessly sailed through the Swiss Stage at Worlds, sweeping aside opponents like BDS, BLG, and LNG Esports in rounds 1-3 to secure a swift passage to the Playoffs.
While everyone anticipated JD Gaming to have a walk in the park during the quarterfinals against KT Rolster, the South Korean team threw a curveball.
KT Rolster fought tooth and nail against the LPL powerhouses. Despite the unexpected challenge, JD Gaming ultimately came out on top, sealing the deal with a 3-1 victory.
During the LCK Summer Season, T1 faced an uphill battle when Faker suffered an arm injury, causing them to struggle. However, they made a triumphant return, securing their place at Worlds.
At Worlds, T1 navigated through the Swiss Stage resiliently, dropping only one game to Gen.G in Round 2, and triumphing over Team Liquid and Cloud9 in Rounds 1 and 3, respectively.
T1 then orchestrated a revengeful 2-0 sweep against BLG, earning them a well-deserved spot in the Playoffs.
In the quarterfinals, T1 executed a masterful strategy against the LPL's second-strongest team, catching them off guard with off-meta picks and tactics during the drafts. The result was a spectacular 3-0 sweep, leaving their opponents bewildered and propelling T1 forward in the tournament.
How T1 crushed JDG
In the first game, JDG went for comfortable meta picks, placing priority in Rumble top, and Xayah bot lane, supported by Alistor as support. They then rounded out the team composition with Akali mid and Vi Jungle.
Meanwhile, T1 picked Orianna mid for Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok, Aatrox for Choi "Zeus" Woo-je, and once again surprised everyone with a Jhin-Bard combination that Lee "Gumayusi" Min-hyeong has been wanting to play for so long.
T1 dominated the laning phase, going for early-game ganks and obliterating JDG in the fight at the Rift Herald.
T1 continued to find picks all across the game, dominating across all lanes and barely giving any room for JDG to breathe. Although JDG tried to find ways to get back to the game, T1 were always able to turn flanks and team fights around to the favour of the South Korean team.
And after a 24-minute dominant match, T1 rushed down JDG’s Nexus to win the first game with a 22-7 kill lead.
JDG took Orianna in the mid lane for themselves in the third game, and then picked K’sante and Vi for the top lane and jungle. They then rounded out their composition with Park "Ruler" Jae-hyuk's signature Kalista with Senna on support for missing.
Meanwhile, T1 blind-picked a double ADC in the bot lane in Caitlyn and Ashe and then prioritised Azir mid for Faker. They then picked Aatrox and Maokai for the top lane and jungle, respectively.
Both teams went straight to mid in an ARAM-style team fight that ended in T1’s favour. After this, JDG tried to find ways to better keep up against T1, with 369 taking a bit of a CS lead against Zeus and Seo "Kanavi" Jin-hyeok setting back Mun "Oner" Hyeon-jun in the jungle. Another team fight erupted in the bot lane, with JDG taking 2 kills to even out the gold.
Meanwhile, Kanavi rotated effectively undetected and picked up kills to snowball Vi for JDG and the rest of the team, making smart trades to prevent any gold leads for T1.
In a fight for the Infernal Dragon, T1 made a crucial mistake, allowing JDG to capitalize and delete the South Korean team’s carries to widen their gold gap against T1.
As they entered the late game, JDG became a huge threat, able to capitalize on their late-game team fight strength, shredding through T1 in team fights for the Baron. Knocking on the doors of T1’s base, JDG kept T1 trapped inside and took a third Dragon for themselves.
After a 37-minute encounter and a 20-7 kill lead, JDG destroyed T1’s Nexus to strike back and win the second game.
In the third game, T1 took Kalista away from Ruler, and went for Rell Jungle and Azir mid. They then took Aatrox top, and Renata Glasc for Support to round out their composition.
Meanwhile, JDG went for Varus-Ashe in the bot lane, and Wukong in the jungle. In an attempt to counter, the LPL team took Taliyah mid, and Renekton top to complete their roster.
Both teams were able to take kills against each other, with T1 falling back. However, in a team fight for the Dragon, Oner and T1 were able to execute a clean double-engage through Oner’s Rell and Faker’s Azir, wiping JDG in the Dragon pit.
As T1 win the Baron, JDG punched back, taking down a few members of T1’s team. JDG then stole the Baron from T1, preventing them from taking the Dragon Soul, and deleting T1’s Baron buff. However, T1’s members found missing trapped in the backline, to prevent any snowballing on JDG’s side.
JDG found another pick on Oner in the mid lane, allowing them to take the Baron. As they run down T1’s base, Faker on Azir find a clean flank that crushed Ruler and stopped JDG’s Baron siege. Like a domino, the rest of JDG’s members dropped, with T1 wiping them in the mid lane.
And after a 30-minute siege and an 18-10 kill lead, T1 turned the tables and ran down JDG’s base, to destroy the LPL team’s nexus to win the third game and take their team to match point.
In the fourth game, JDG returned to Orianna mid and then prioritised Bel’Veth for Kanavi in the jungle and taking Aatrox top. They then took Zeri in the bot lane and paired this with Lulu to complete their team composition.
Meanwhile, T1 went for JarvanIV, in the jungle, and Varus bot lane. They then prioritised Azir mid and Yone top. Keeping JDG on their toes, they last-picked Bard for Ryu "Keria" Min-seok as support.
JDG prioritised scaling Ruler’s Zeri and Kanavi’s Bel’veth in the laning phase, allowing them to take most of the gold in their pockets and control of the early game.
However, T1 were able to trade back, placing priority on their top lane for split push pressure. The South Korean juggernauts continued to find picks on JDG, pressuring Ruler’s Zeri and taking down Kanavi’s Bel’Veth again, allowing them to take the Baron and the Dragon Soul.
T1 continued to push forward, with Ruler trying to find ways to take down and get back to the game. Instead, JDG made crucial mistakes that took down their jungle, allowing the South Korean team to take down the Baron and march down JDG’s base.
Finally, T1 claim the victory after destroying JDG's Nexus after a 31-minute encounter, with a 15-6 kill lead.
With their victory, T1 will move forward to the grand finals, where they are guaranteed at least a second-place finish at Worlds.
Keria was notably named the player of the game, cruising along all games with perfect Support picks and being the team's main playmaker.
Meanwhile, JD Gaming bow out of the competition in 3rd-4th place and will be taking home US$178,000.
T1 will be facing Weibo Gaming in a final five-game series. This will be their sixth Grand Finals appearance with a chance to win their fourth Worlds title this year.
The Worlds 2023 Grand Finals will be on 19 November at the Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul at 4:00 PM Singapore Time.
Anna is a freelance writer and photographer. She is a gamer who loves RPGs and platformers, and is a League of Legends geek. She's also a food enthusiast who loves a good cup of black coffee.