Worlds 2021 Outlook Series | DetonatioN FocusMe (LJL) Preview
Worlds 2021 DetonatioN FocusMe preview as part of Upcomer's Outlook Series
Graphic by Adam Fitzsimmons

Worlds 2021 Outlook Series | DetonatioN FocusMe (LJL) Preview

LJL expert Alex “Nymaera” Hapgood gives us an in-depth look at DFM's path to Worlds, who to watch and how they can succeed
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With Worlds 2021 on the horizon, DetonatioN FocusMe from the League of Legends Japan League are one of 22 teams from across the globe that are gearing up for their biggest and most important event of the year. The 2021 League of Legends World Championship will feature each region’s best players, all fighting for the same goal: to stand atop the mountain and hoist the Season 11 Summoner’s Cup.

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Representing Japan’s LJL, DetonatioN FocusMe will come to Reykjavík, Iceland looking to outdo themselves from their many trips to past international events. They took one game off of Cloud9 at the 2021 Mid-Season Invitational, but they’ll need to prove that they can do it again and more to break through to the group stage.

DetonatioN FocusMe (LJL) Worlds 2021 starting roster breakdown:

  • Top: Shunsuke “Evi” Murase | Signed in December 2017, formerly a member of Rampage.
  • Jungler: Mun “Steal” Geon-yeong | Signed in December 2017, formerly a member of Ever8 Winners.
  • Mid: Lee “Aria” Ga-eul | Signed in January 2021, formerly a member of Crest Gaming Act.
  • Bot: Yuta “Yutapon” Sugiura | Signed in April 2013, formerly a member of LD50 Gaming.
  • Support: Yang “Gaeng” Gwang-woo | Signed in December 2018, formerly a member of PENTAGRAM.
  • Coach: Kazuta “Kazu” Suzuki | Signed in May 2018, formerly a member of V3 Esports. This is his second stint in DetonatioN FocusMe, first was 2014 – 2016.

How they got here

DetonatioN FocusMe, or DFM for short, are undisputedly the emperors of the Japanese LJL. Since their entry into the LJL in 2014, DFM have never finished below fourth. And since 2016, when Riot Games officially stepped in as the LJL’s official organizer, DFM have attended every single finals and won seven out of 12. As such, they’ve been a consistent feature on the international stage for fans worldwide. NA fans will not so soon forget Cloud9’s defeat at the hands of DFM in the recent MSI 2021.

After returning from Iceland, DFM were expected to dominate the LJL once more. However, they surprisingly stumbled in the first three games of the regular season. Unofficial LJL English caster Alex “Nymaera” Hapgood believes they were ‘hungover’ from MSI, but found their form through playing to their strengths: having exceptional solo laners in Evi and Aria.

“What they ended up doing to stabilize the three game loss streak, in my eyes, was rediscovering that giving agency to Evi and Aria was not something that any team could deal with regionally,” he said. “Not realistically.”

He also added that DFM employed a very odd strategy of jungler Steal playing Shaco with Stridebreaker alongside Aria’s LeBlanc. The unconventional game plan helped stabilize their shaky start to the LJL 2021 Summer Season.

“They played Shaco/LeBlanc four times and are currently undefeated on it,” Nymaera said. “The Shaco/LeBlanc games looked really unfair to play against. Although that hasn’t come out again since the Stridebreaker changes, so I doubt that’s going to be a thing at Worlds.”

Even after DFM’s astonishing return to form with a 12 game win-streak going into playoffs, they surprisingly fell to rival team Rascal Jester 3-2 in the Juggernaut match. DFM then proceeded to make a revenge run through the lower bracket, defeating AXIZ 3-0 and dismantling Rascal Jester 3-0 in the rematch. Nymaera believes their initial 3-2 loss to Rascal Jester was exactly what they needed to re-ignite their fighting spirits.

“Coming out of the regular season, they demolished the tiebreaker versus Rascal Jester and we thought that the playoffs were a done deal. And I think the problem was that DFM also thought that it was a bit of a done deal,” Nymaera said. “From what Evi was saying, there was just a lack of motivation and that loss ended up kicking them in the ass a bit and that is what they needed to find that form again.”

“They dropped down to the lower bracket and came back with an absolutely revamped fire in their souls. It was just an obliteration. There isn’t even that much to really talk about from those two series,” Nymaera added.

With their regional crown once again secured, DFM now look towards international horizons. They still dream of bringing glory to the Japanese faithful at Worlds 2021, to finally achieve that which has eluded them since the inception of the LJL: to qualify for the main event at a World Championship.

Players to watch

DFM possesses some of the most renowned players in LJL history, such as Evi and Yutapon, but they also boast Kyohei “Ceros” Yoshida, who led the team from the mid lane since April 2013. However, Ceros is now a substitute and has been replaced by the new star of DFM, a player whose name was consistently mentioned during MSI 2021: Aria.

The Korean mid lane prodigy made his debut in the LJL in 2019 on Crest Gaming Act before he joined DFM in 2021. Nymaera believes that Aria was so mechanically dominant that Crest Gaming Act won many of their games “just through Aria brute forcing victories.” His LeBlanc and Irelia have been consistently banned in the LJL this summer, and even then, his champion pool still boasts Akali, Twisted Fate, Sylas and Ryze, among others. He picked Ryze in all three games in the summer finals and had zero deaths in all three games.

Aria’s all-time stats on LeBlanc are terrifying as well. He has only lost once with the champion so far and that was back in 2019 versus Unsold Stuff Gaming. Since the LJL 2020 summer, Aria has picked LeBlanc seven times and has recorded zero deaths on the slippery mage. This includes his game against Infinity Esports at MSI 2021, where he went 2/0/4.

With Aria unsurprisingly holding the highest KDA from the LJL 2021 summer playoffs at 11.73, Nymaera believes fans should not be concerned about the player’s champion pool or ability to adapt to the incoming slew of changes on patch 11.19 at Worlds.

“I think that he has such a wide variety of picks, which you can go back to regardless of meta. Aria’s always going to be a threat,” Nymaera said. “He’s been picking Akali when it’s been nerfed and still making it look good, or he’s going to have the Sylas or LeBlanc. I think that it doesn’t matter what happens in the meta because it’s very hard to make this player uncomfortable with his champion pool.”

For all the praise and hype Aria carries with him back to Iceland, he will be flanked by two other players at Worlds 2021 that DetonatioN FocusMe consistently rely on as well: long-time DFM stalwarts, Evi and Yutapon.

Evi is DFM’s rock which breaks the opponent’s tides. He is a reliable veteran in and out of the game for DFM and has traditionally favored bruisers in the top lane. According to Nymaera, Evi will “blind-pick Gnar into anything” and happily soak up the pressure for his team in-game and in draft.

Even with DFM’s tendency to prioritize their powerful solo laners, bot laner Yutapon continues to prove he is one of the most consistent and reliable players in his position within the LJL. Like Aria in the 2021 summer finals, Yutapon too went deathless. In terms of pure stats, he ranks second in the league for KDA at 9.31, behind only his teammate, Aria. Nymaera says that even though the LJL has played through hyper-carries a lot in summer, Yutapon has not fallen behind them and will always find a way to remain relevant.

“What you can say about Yutapon is he will always be relevant. He will always have another pick to allow him into the game,” he said, naming a whole host of champions he’s utilized this year. “The question is whether DFM will play towards him because they haven’t always done that season.”

How DFM can succeed at Worlds 2021

Generally speaking, the LJL has never made much of a splash at international meets. Barring DFM’s Worlds run in 2018, when they historically made it out of the play-ins stage before being defeated 3-0 by LPL giants Edward Gaming, LJL teams including DFM have traditionally done very little to inspire confidence over other wildcard regions. However, DFM’s win over Cloud9 in MSI 2021, even if they failed to make the Rumble stage, represented a precious flicker of light for LJL fans at the end of a long tunnel.

For Worlds 2021, DFM can finally field their ‘Exodia’ lineup with support Gaeng, which gives this iteration of DFM a different dimension of play, something the old lineup did not possess.

“They had their coach Kazu step into support while they were waiting for Steal to gain Japanese residency in the LJL,” Nymaera said, referencing the DetonatioN FocusMe roster at MSI. Gaeng’s immense champ pool “gave DFM another string to their bow which makes it hard to define their playstyle because they could play through everywhere.”

While recalling DFM’s original roster that featured Ceros, Nymaera called out their strength in coordinated map and objective play. “What DFM have done since the previous legacy iteration, when they had Ceros in the mid lane, was they had themselves a play style where they’re very good around playing objectives and being very coordinated around the map.” However, they tended to be predictable in the draft phase. “That (play style) was good enough to succeed regionally,” Nymaera said. “But internationally, they didn’t have the flexibility to win at that level of play.”

The big question then is, can DFM finally take that next step in the play-in qualifiers and getting into the main group stage? Can the versatility of Gaeng and the sheer brilliance of Aria bring this roster where no LJL team has ever gone? Nymaera remains cautiously optimistic.

“I think the one storyline which is going to be the most important is, this is very much the best team I could possibly think that the LJL could send to an international event. These are the greatest players of all time for the Japanese region in each role,” Nymaera said. “What needs to happen is that Aria needs to prove that if you don’t ban him out at this level, he can carry. Because I think there are big problems if those bans go towards Evi’s blind picks to destabilize the top side of the map — we saw that to a certain extent at MSI.”

“I think that if things go well for DFM, we could be seeing the LJL getting its first group stage appearance ever,” he said, hopefully. But, again, with that optimism comes caution. “There’s so much burden on them because if they don’t do it, I don’t know if the LJL ever will.”

This article is part of an ongoing preview of all 22 teams competing at Worlds 2021. For our complete release schedule and more information on the other 21 teams attending Worlds, check out Upcomer’s Worlds 2021 Outlook Series hub.