The League of Legends (LoL) World Championship 2023 Knockout stage begun on Thursday (2 November) with a clash between NRG, the last hope of the West, and the underdogs of the LoL Pro League (LPL), Weibo Gaming.
Despite the odds stacked against them, Weibo Gaming have shone bright in a dominant 3-0 sweep against NRG to qualify for the semifinals.
NRG qualified for the Worlds 2023 Knockout Stage against considerable doubt after a strong performance in the Swiss stage that ended with a 2-0 upset sweep that settled this year’s rivalry between the LoL European Championship (LEC) and the LoL Championship Series (LCS).
Meanwhile, Weibo Gaming came into the series being doubted throughout the tournament for being one of the most inconsistent LoL Pro League (LPL) teams and their region’s fourth seed.
Yet Weibo Gaming continued to prove their doubters wrong, as they finished the Swiss Stage with a 3-2 win-loss record, ending with a 2-1 against LEC’s Fnatic, to qualify for the Playoffs.
How Weibo took down NRG
In the game opener, NRG prioritised Orianna in the mid lane and Senna and Tahm Kench in the bot lane. They then rounded out their team composition with Renekton in the top lane and Viego in the jungle. Meanwhile, Weibo Gaming went for a lot of dive and Aphelios and Milio in the bot lane, and combined this with Neeko mid, Rell jungle, and K’sante top.
NRG were successful in finding picks and contesting map objectives from Weibo Gaming in the laning phase.
However, Weibo were equally successful in fending off NRG’s advances, by tracking down NRG’s Juan Arturo "Contractz" Garcia with deep wards in the jungle and getting their own AD Carry, Wang "Light" Guang-Yu, ahead with CS.
Although both teams were neck and neck until the late game, Weibo had more advantage with their team’s engage from Rell and Neeko and the firepower. This way, they were able to overpower NRG in team fights in the late game and take a Baron that allowed them to open up NRG’s base.
Despite NRG’s valiant efforts to fight back, Weibo chipped at their Nexus until it fell after a 31-minute intense encounter, giving the first game to Weibo with a 9-6 kill lead.
In the second game, Weibo took comfort in their first draft, only swapping K’sante for Aatrox. Meanwhile, NRG went for dive champions like Vi in the jungle, K’sante top, Kai’sa and Alistor in the bot lane, and keeping Orianna mid.
Weibo picked up the game’s pace, giving priority to their bot lane, with Wei "Weiwei" Bo-Han harassing Contractz in the jungle.
The LPL fourth seed took control of the game’s map and objectives throughout, making it difficult for NRG to find a counterplay. What sealed the deal, though, was the team fight that erupted in the Baron pit.
Although the North Americans were able to push away the Chinese team and take the Baron for themselves, Weibo found a way to counterattack and clean up most of NRG’’s members in the process.
And after a 33-minute encounter and a 29-8 kill lead, Weibo destroyed NRG’s base to take the second game and bring their team to match point.
It felt like a battle for which draft is better in the third game, with NRG finally banning Light’s formidable Aphelios and Weibo banning Orianna and Neeko in the mid lane. In the end, Weibo went for Gnar top, Maokai in the Jungle, Jayce mid, and Caitlyn and Heimerdinger in the bot lane. On the other hand, NRG went for Rumble top, Sejuani jungle, and Ezreal and Karma, as a response Weibo’s bot lane pick.
However, Weibo all but dominated the entire third game from the laning phase until the mid-game, blocking all of NRG’s attempts to find any wins across the map. And after a swift 26-minute battle, Weibo closed out the game and destroyed NRG’s Nexus, to win the third game and the series, to qualify for the semifinals.
Light notably took the Player of the Game honours, after his impressive run on Aphelios and Caitlyn throughout the entire series, which carried Weibo through victory.
Meanwhile, NRG bow out of the competition in 5th to 8th place, and US $100,125 in consolation, and earned the respect of the North American League community, and the rest of the World for their remarkable Worlds run.
In the post-match interview, Weibo Gaming Support player Liu "Crisp" Qing-Song admitted that while they won this match, they still need "to work on a lot of things, and avoid the mistakes they made in the Quarterfinals match that almost cost them the game."
He said that they needed to broaden their champion pool and study harder in their upcoming semifinals match.
When asked which team he was more afraid of facing between Bilibili Gaming and Gen.G, Crisp admitted that he was more afraid to face Gen.G.
"When I watched their games, they barely make mistakes. So I'm more afraid to face Gen.G," he said.
Weibo will continue to battle for the Summoner’s Cup in the semifinals, which will take place once again in Seoul, where they will face the winner of the quarterfinal match between Gen.G and Bilibili Gaming on 11 November.
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.