The most anticipated grand finals matchup in League of Legends (LoL) World Championship history is happening at Worlds 2022, where T1 will be facing off against DRX.
With the two teams having very different journeys to reach this stage, many are saying that this entire tournament is becoming much like an epic arc in an anime series or a Korean drama.
Both DRX and T1 carved their own paths throughout Season 2022 and Worlds, and will be going head-to-head to raise the Summoner's Cup and become this year's LoL World Champions.
Can the giants of T1 claim another Summoner's Cup?
T1, the most decorated team in LoL esports and led by LoL G.O.A.T. Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok, began the season with roaring success, completing the LoL Korea Championship Spring season undefeated.
It seemed like they were an unstoppable force, and all of South Korea were looking to their local heroes as they represented the region for the Mid-Season Invitational.
T1 would reach the finals of that tournament but ultimately met with heartbreak, falling to international rivals Royal Never Give Up in front of their home audience, shattering the team’s confidence and resolve.
It didn’t help that they faced harsh criticism from fans and haters, to the point where T1 and Faker had to file a lawsuit against repeat offenders.
The team faced burnout and low self-esteem, which started to show in the LCK Summer Split.
In an LCK interview, Lee “Gumayusi" Min-hyeong admitted that he lost confidence after losing the MSI Grand Finals and that it affected his performance.
With only Choi “Zeus” Woo-je consistently performing in the top lane, T1 failed to take the LCK Summer title, losing to Gen.G in the finals. The team became LCK’s second seed at Worlds 2022.
The organisation made several internal changes, replacing the head coach with former pro player Bae "Bengi" Seong-woong, also Faker’s former teammate in 2016 when they then claimed T1’s second consecutive Worlds title. In preparation for Worlds, Bengi focused on the team's mental fortitude and the drafting phase.
T1 came into Worlds with renewed confidence with stellar performances from Gumayusi, who was deathless in his winning games at the Group Stage, consistency from Zeus, and the leadership of Faker.
They finished first in Group A, dubbed the Group of Death, with a 5-1 scoreline.
In the Knockout Stage, the LCK second seed were then able to exact revenge against reigning MSI Champions Royal Never Give Up, sweeping their rivals 3-0 in the quarterfinals.
T1 then dominated the LoL Pro League Champions (LPL) JD Gaming 3-1 on their way to the finals.
Now, T1 are just one series away from potentially lifting the Summoner’s Cup after seven years of trying. They just need to defeat DRX, the dark horse of the competition.
Can DRX complete their Cinderella run at Worlds 2022?
DRX, on the other hand, were the team "that were not supposed to be at Worlds".
Consisting of primarily lesser-known players, with the exception of Kim "Deft" Hyuk-kyu and Cho "BeryL" Geon-hee, this team were not anyone’s top-of-mind pick to ever make it to the finals, let alone even into the Play-ins of Worlds.
In Spring, they finished the Playoffs in 5th place. Summer was even rougher for DRX, having finished 10th in the regular season and ending in 6thplace at the Playoffs.
Other teams, like KT Rolster and LIIV Sandbox, were the fan favourites to make it to Worlds at the LCK regional qualifiers, even outside of the usual suspects.
But DRX proved everyone wrong after taking the final spot into Worlds and flying to Mexico City for the Play-ins.
DRX dominated Group B at the Play-ins with a 5-0 standing, securing them first seed into the Group Stage.
They again took first seed in the Group Stage, toppling LPL second seed Top Esports and GAM Esports and winning against LEC champions Rogue in a tiebreaker.
DRX kept exceeding expectations well into the Knockout Stage, where they upset 2021 World champions EDward Gaming 3-2.
Despite repeatedly defeating giants in the competition, fans and analysts (us included) still believed that LCK Summer Champions Gen.G were a shoe-in for the finals.
However, DRX once again surprised everyone with an outstanding performance by members of the team, especially Deft and Kim “Zeka” Geon-woo, leading to a 3-1 upset in the semifinals.
At this point, DRX has already made LoL esports history, becoming the first Play-ins team to reach the finals.
Deft and the rest of DRX now face one last giant in T1, where he will go head-to-head with his schoolmate and LoL pro batchmate, Faker, in the finals.
Clash of the Legends: Faker vs Deft
Faker and Deft are two of the most loved LoL Esports players for different reasons.
Coming from the same high school (despite not knowing each other back then), both players debuted in the same year.
And much like T1 and DRX, players took different journeys to get where they are today. With retirement looming for both players, they both have the same goal: to lift this year’s Summoner’s Cup.
Faker is one of the most successful LoL pro players, having won three World championships and two MSIs under T1.
He’s been called the “Unkillable Demon King” for his crazy playmaking and escapes. Faker’s career soared, receiving multiple offers from teams in the LCK and the LPL.
Yet, the legend chose to stay with T1.
But T1’s dynasty fell in 2017 after Faker and his team were defeated by fellow South Korean team Samsung Galaxy in the final. In the following years, Faker would keep trying, but ultimately failing, with different rosters.
In 2021, he found a unit that seemed to work well, despite losing to DAMWON KIA in the semifinals at Worlds.
The LoL GOAT’s role transformed from being the one in the spotlight to becoming a mentor, enabling his team’s success.
He was so close to winning another international title at the 2022 MSI, and the Summoner’s Cup is just one best-of-five away from him.
Will he make history again, or will he and his team choke against the most threatening underdogs in LoL history?
On the other hand, Deft did not have the same success as his batchmate, but still made a mark as one of the best AD Carries in LoL Esports.
After his first appearance, Deft was heralded as a promising LoL ADC, but his journey to success seemed longer and much harder.
Deft began in MVP Blue and transitioned to Samsung Blue in 2013, where they would reach the semifinals before being defeated by Samsung White.
He then got an offer from the LPL and joined EDG, where he and his team would win consecutive championships in the region and an MSI championship in 2015.
However, they would face heartbreak in the quarterfinals at Worlds 2015 and 2016, where they lost to Fnatic and ROX.
Deft returned to Korea to rejoin the LCK through KT Rolster.
While he won an LCK championship title here and there with KT Rolster and Kingzone DragonX, and made it to the quarterfinals with these teams before transferring to Hanwa Life Esports, the Summoner’s Cup seems to be the achievement that eluded him.
Yet despite missing that achievement, many fans and LoL pros still love him for his playmaking and his loyalty to his friends.
Before Worlds, Deft said in an interview that he’s likely to retire from professional LoL, depending on this year’s tournament results.
Eight long years later, he will step onto the grandest international LoL stage for his first-ever finals at Worlds.
The only team in his way are T1. Will Deft finally reach his dream, or will he once again be faced with heartbreak?
DRX will be facing one last giant in T1 at the Grand Finals, which will be held in San Francisco, California, on Sunday morning (6 November) at 8:00 A.M. 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.