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Chinese juggernauts Nova Esports have become the first-ever League of Legends: Wild Rift world champions after they soundly swept fellow Chinese squad J Team, 4-0, in the Wild Rift Icons Global Championship best-of-seven grand finals on Saturday (9 July).
Nova Esports came in as the third seed of China’s Wild Rift League (WRL), and faced challenges even before the tournament, having to deal with last-minute roster changes.
Mid laner Zeng "GuoGuo" Junli was unable to play due to visa issues, causing substitute Baron laner Wei “Nian” Haojin to take his place while Wu "ScarL" Weixin joined the team as a new substitute.
Nova had an impressive start to the competition despite the challenges they faced, winning all of their matches in Group A at the Play-Ins en route to securing a spot in the Group Stage.
They went on to win the top spot in Group A after a perfect performance. Nova secured their spot in the Knockout Stage with a 2-0 win over T1 in the group's opening match and a 2-0 win over Team Flash in the Winner's Match.
Nova then faced Wild Rift Champions Korea (WCK) top seed Rolster Y in the Knockout Stage quarterfinals, taking the series 3-1.
They then went on to upset WRL first seed FunPlus Phoenix (FPX) in the semis in another 3-1 series to punch their ticket to the grand finals.
J Team, on the other hand, were not originally supposed to be in Icons. The team were only brought in to replace Oh My God (OMG), who pulled out before the tournament began due to visa concerns.
Despite this, J Team showed they were deserving of their spot in Icons, as they lost just one game throughout their entire run in the Play-ins and Group Stage to qualify for the Knockout Stage.
In the knockout stage, J Team beat Wild Rift Champions Southeast Asia (WCS) second seed Flash Wolves, 3-1, to advance to the semifinals. They then eliminated WCS first seed Team Flash in a 3-0 sweep to face Nova Esports in the grand finals.
Here's how the grand finals showdown between Nova Esports and J Team went down:
In the first game of the finals, J Team started strong with control over the map, taking a gold lead after Luo "Berry" Junyao drew first blood. Nova struggled in the early game as they couldn't manage to protect most of the map objectives.
However, as the game continued, Nova’s late game Jax pick for An "Long" Xulong continued to scale. A messy teamfight for the Elder Drake then ensued, with Nova's Zhang "Y1ze" Yize returning to base and teleporting back to assist Long and Tang "Yami" Zhiqang in cleaning up and driving away J Team from the Elder Dragon.
After taking the Elder Drake, Nova dove through J Team’s turrets and run rampant across the bottom and mid lanes. And after a 21-minute encounter and a 13-8 kill lead, Nova destroyed J Team’s base to take their first win of the finals.
In game two, the action started early in the mid lane, which led to Nova taking first blood and a second kill against J Team.
Nova continued to gain a gold lead in the early game with Long’s Ekko rotating through the map effectively, executing ganks and protecting teammates in the side lanes. However, J Team found a pick on three Nova players in the bot lane to erase their gold lead.
After Nova took a Dragon, J Team found an opportunity to take control of the map after a massive Shockwave from Pan "pan" Shaohuang's Orianna pick. That allowed J Team to take the Baron and a mid turret off Nova, helping them build momentum.
However, Nova were able to take back their lead across the map as Long found crucial kills.
After taking down pan’s Orianna in the mid lane, Nova continued to burst down the rest of J team’s champions to allow them to take the Elder Dragon and the second Baron.
And after 23 minutes of action, Nova demolished J Team’s Nexus and won game two with a 7-5 kill lead.
Nova easily snowballed their lead in game three, stomping J Team at every opportunity. J Team tried to fight back by taking kills here and there, but they were unable to find anything effective to counter Nova.
And in just 18 minutes, Nova dove into J Team's fountain and won game three with a 28-13 kill lead, giving them a commanding 3-0 series lead.
— Wild Rift Esports (@WildRiftEsports) July 9, 2022
With their backs against the wall, J Team tried to gain an early game lead, with Nong “Cherry” Dingji trying to Invade Nova’s jungle.
A teamfight at the river ensued, with J Team taking the upper hand after winning two scuttle crabs. However, Nova’s Nian was able to take first blood against pan.
J Team then tried to keep control of vision on the river. In a fight for the first Dragon, Nova found the upper hand, with Long killing more J Team champions and taking his 100th kill of the tournament.
Nova Esports rode the momentum from their 21-7 kill lead and marched down J Team’s base to destroy their Nexus at the 17-minute mark to win the first-ever Wild Rift Icons Global Championship title and the US$640,000 grand prize.
Nova still looking to improve
Long was named the Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the tournament, notably securing more than 100 kills throughout Nova's run to the Icons championship.
Long said in the post-match interview that Nova's victory has proven that he is the best Wild Rift jungler in the entire world. However, the played said he still hopes to "continue to grow and improve further".
Nian, who had to get used to the mid lane after Nova's roster issues prior to Icons, said he initially thought he would have a hard time in the new role, but credited his team's support to helping him do well.
When asked about what championship skins they would choose, Long easily chose Lee Sin, while Y1ze's choice would either be Camille or Riven.
Meanwhile, Nian said that he wants to get a Yasuo championship skin, since that champion is his favourite, or Lucian. Ma “Remake” Zhengyue is hoping for Senna to get the championship skin. Finally, self-admitted "cat-lover" and the owner of many cats, Yami, said his pick would be (unsurprisingly) Yuumi.
Meanwhile, J Team bow out of Icons in second place and US$320,000 in consolation.
Being a team that wasn’t even supposed to compete in Icons, this was no easy feat and has shown how much they’ve grown throughout the tournament.
In the post-match interview, J Team's jungler Cherry mentioned that while he was happy that their team was able to compete at Icons, he was "still kind of upset [about losing the finals]", given the long journey the team needed to take to reach it.
Mid laner pan, too, admitted in the interview that despite changing up the drafts, in retrospect he realised that he couldn't find a way to defeat Nova Esports.
Nova Esports Roster
Zhang “Y1ze” Yize (Baron)
An “Long” Xulong (Jungle)
Wei “Nian” Haojin (Mid – Substitute, originally Baron)
Ma “Remake” Zhengyue (Dragon)
Tang “Yami” Zhiqang (Support)
J Team Roster
He “Dawn128” Xiaolong (Baron)
Nong “Cherry” Dingji (Jungle)
Pan “pan” Shaohuang (Mid)
Luo “Berry” Junyao (Dragon)
Jin “dy” Chaoyi (Support)
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.