In unorthodox fashion, T1’s Kim “Canna” Chang-dong secured the No. 1 seed in Group B at the League of Legends World Championship group stage. Instead of winning a tiebreaker against China’s Edward Gaming, who split a pair of games within their group, they grabbed the top seed while watching from a backroom.
North America’s 100 Thieves toppled EDG in a one-sided upset, and just like that, T1 were on their way to the knockout rounds in a favorable position.
“To the players and head coach of 100T, I want to thank you so much for allowing us to secure the first seed,” Canna said in an interview with Upcomer after the 100 vs. EDG match to close out the group. “Also, thank you for making us smile and have fun at the end of the day.”
While Canna believes that every team to get this far at the world championship is worthy of being considered a legitimate threat, the main reason for the celebration of grabbing the No. 1 seed was apparent — DWG KIA. The reigning world champions and three-peating domestic titleholders, DWG KIA, finished off their opening group with a 6-0 record and are the prohibitive favorites going into the playoffs.
DWG KIA and T1 played in the most recent South Korean final, where it ended in favor of the world champions, defeating Canna and his team by a 3-1 scoreline.
“[DWG KIA] are performing awesome, so I always thought they were the strongest team,” he said. “[The first seed] does add more stability to us by the fact that we are avoiding them until the further rounds.”
Instead of being afraid of DWG KIA, though, he said he wants to face his greatest rival on the biggest stage possible. After losing to them in the domestic finals, the only setting that feels right for their rematch would be for the Summoner’s Cup.
It would be a meeting between the first-ever (and only) dynasty in League of Legends with three world titles to their name in a best of five against the reigning champions, the crown jewel of South Korea’s next generation, on the verge of their own international dynasty.
“If we play well and make it to the finals, I think it’s going to be DWG KIA,” he said. “The reason I want to face them is that we fell to them [in the domestic final]. It was a very close match, but it was a bummer that we lost to them.”
For T1 to get to that destined matchup with DWG KIA in the semifinal or possible finale of Worlds 2021, Canna will need to be an integral part of it. He finished the first round of the main event in the top 10 of players in terms of damage per minute, and in a meta where carry top laners have become the norm, he’ll need to continue his strong trajectory in the playoffs.
“Not going to lie, I did feel the pressure [with it being a top lane-centric meta] and pressured about it,” he said. “But throughout the practice and matches on stage, I still have the responsibility in my mind, but I’m feeling way less pressured.”
On what non-DWG KIA players have impressed him or who he’d like to see in the later rounds of the tournament, there were two he named: LNG’s Hu “Ale” Jia-Le and Team Liquid’s Barney “Alphari” Morris.
In the case of Ale, who has been one of the leading characters of Worlds 2021 since the opening festivities began with the play-in stage, Canna’s interest dates back to when he first met him as a stranger on the Korean ladder.
“There was one specific player who was doing fantastic in the Korean solo queue,” he said. “I remembered his ID. He was really good at Camille and playing the top lane so well. And then I realized it was Ale, so I really wanted to face him. I also saw in an interview that he wants to have a matchup against me, so I’m excited about that matchup. Also, I think his Fiora is really great.”
When asked if any Western players had caught his eye on-stage, in practice or the European solo queue Canna pointed towards the Team Liquid top laner.
“We didn’t get to scrim against many different teams,” he said. “But I remember Alphari from Team Liquid. He had an impressive performance.”
Canna and T1 will now await the drawing of their quarterfinal opponent on Monday, with the conclusion of Group D. The group includes both Ale and Alphari, both of whom are still fighting for one of the final tickets to the knockout phase to meet Canna.
Tyler Erzberger is entering a decade of covering esports. When not traveling around the world telling stories about people shouting over video games, he’s probably arguing with an anime avatar on Twitter about North American esports.