Hello, I’m Tyler “Fionn” Erzberger, and I’ve watched and rated every match so far at the 2021 League of Legends World Championship.
The Worlds 2021 group stage is being regarded by both fans and analysts as maybe the best in the tournament’s 11-year history. While not everyone could watch the 50-plus games that took place during this year’s chaotic group stage, don’t worry — I’ve got you covered with my top 10 games of the main event thus far.
My rating scale goes from 1 (lowest) to 5 (highest) stars. Here’s what each star rating means in layman’s terms:
* = Boring. Utterly skippable and something no one will remember by tomorrow.
** = Watchable. Possibly recommended based on your rooting interests.
*** = Good. Something I’d recommend checking out, even if you’re not a fan of either team.
**** = Must-watch. A game or series that you need to watch if you have any interest in League of Legends.
***** = An all-time classic. This perfect rating is only achievable if a game or match is at the highest level of entertainment, gameplay and will go down in the lexicon as a moment no League of Legends fan will ever forget.
1. Day 7, Tiebreaker 2: MAD Lions vs. LNG Esports
I rated two games a perfect five stars in the group stage, and it was a difficult decision choosing between the two. It was like picking your favorite child, an almost impossible task that took me hours before finally deciding on the Lions devouring LNG Esports to clinch a spot in the knockout stage.
Whereas in the game I’ll talk about next, it felt like one team was in control and kept slipping up to make it closer than it should have been, MAD vs. LNG was an all-out war with both sides throwing haymakers until one team ultimately couldn’t stand up anymore. LNG had the Europeans on the ropes and seemed primed to knock them out, yet, as they’ve done all year long, MAD persevered with clutch teamfighting and an unbreakable confidence in the face of immense pressure.
2. Day 4, Tiebreaker 2: Cloud9 vs. Rogue
Perkz had a bit of fun in the tiebreaker against old European rivals Rogue, throwing himself into their waiting arms a few times on LeBlanc — but he turned it on in the late-game to steer his new team to a win.
Cloud9 did well to control the map and neutralize Rogue’s strong points for most of the match, but slip-ups like with Perkz, mentioned above, and his martyr sacrifices for a five-star game made it closer than it probably should have been otherwise. Still, both sides played well, and Rogue were inches away from having their own Cinderella run into the knockout stage.
3. Day 4, Cloud9 vs. DWG KIA
**** ¾ stars
Our second C9 match in the ranking, this game might be the best they’ve played the entire tournament and it came in a loss to the reigning world champions. In a match that would have seen C9 win three straight and avoid what would become a five-star instant classic against Rogue, it was the classic David vs. Goliath showdown between the crafty underdog throwing out everything in their arsenal to take down the best team in the tournament.
And though C9’s bag of tricks and unrelenting pressure gave them a lead and made it seem as if the reigning champs would fall for the first time at Worlds 2021, DWG KIA proved why they’re so dangerous and turned a small stumble by the North Americans into a game-winning reversal. Unlike the Rogue game where they could make up for their errors, C9 gained a bit of respect from the No. 1 team in the world but couldn’t secure the win in a game both teams could leave holding their heads high.
4. Day 7, Team Liquid vs. Gen.G Esports
**** ¾ stars
A common theme throughout the group stage was how good the Western vs. Eastern matches were. We move from DWG KIA vs. Cloud9 to one where the Western team couldn’t afford another loss. Team Liquid needed to win or they would have been eliminated from the tournament. For large stretches of the game, that was the outcome, as TL stacked a Cloud Drake soul in hopes of negating Gen.G’s sizable gold advantage.
Then, when the game hit a standstill with a soul-secured TL dancing around a gold-advantaged Gen.G in the mid lane while Baron and Elder Drake both spawned, it came down to which team blinked first. The LCS team took the initiative, ending the stalemate and catching Park “Ruler” Jae-hyuk near his base to propel them to a win that kept them alive for a tiebreaker.
While Gen.G would get the last laugh in this makeshift best-of-three by eliminating Liquid in the do-or-die tiebreaker, the match preceding it was a must-watch.
5. Day 6, Fnatic vs. Royal Never Give Up
**** ¾ stars
It will be a tournament to forget for most of Fnatic and their fans, as the storied European franchise dealt with a last-minute substitution and their worst record ever at a world championship.
Alas, the one win that gave them a bit of hope for advancement at the beginning of day six was one of the more exciting games of Worlds 2021. In a classic Fnatic affair, where there were kills aplenty and fights almost every second of the game, they showed resilience to pull out the win and be the first team to make RNG bleed at the event.
The previous games I mentioned were a lot more cagey, with periods of both teams standing on a knife’s edge, trying to look for a pick. In contrast, this game was candy and popcorn throughout, as explosives went off constantly across Summoner’s Rift. If you want pure entertainment from your League of Legends, then this game might be your No. 1 of the group stage.
6. Day 7, Tiebreaker 3: MAD Lions vs. Gen.G Esports
**** ¾ stars
Gen.G Esports seem incapable of having games where they don’t go to Elder Drake and near 40 minutes, and MAD Lions seem incapable of having games where their fans don’t have near heart attacks. The two together cooked up the perfect ending of a day that saw the first-ever four-way tie take place at Worlds.
On a day filled with sensational games, this 48-minute war of attrition was the cherry on top.
7. Day 2, FunPlus Phoenix vs. Cloud9
**** ½ stars
If it weren’t for the fact that C9 came alive in the second half of the group stage and pulled off one of the most incredible Houdini escapes of the 21st century, this game would be haunting the organization and its fans for years to come. A perfect early-game for C9 snowballed into a hefty lead until several mistakes in the side lanes and head-scratching decision-making threw the game to the Chinese squad.
8. Day 6, Fnatic vs. Hanwha Life Esports
**** ½ stars
This game could also be referred to as the Chovy-is-better-than-everyone-else-in-this-server performance.
Fnatic played well, and if the other side had even an above average mid laner, the Europeans more than likely take the win and keep their chances of playoffs alive. Chovy isn’t merely an above-average mid laner, though, and he took over the game like he was the main character of Worlds 2021 while the other nine players in the game were side characters.
9. Day 6, Tiebreaker: Hanwha Life Esports vs. Royal Never Give Up
**** ½ stars
After carrying the entire day, Chovy finally had a below-incredible game, and RNG made a comeback to snatch away the No. 1 seed from the South Koreans. If it wasn’t for RNG’s heroics to slay the monster that is Chovy (at least for now), South Korea would have ended the group stage with all four of its representatives winning their group.
10. Day 3, Fnatic vs. PSG Talon
**** ½ stars
As it was with a lot of Fnatic’s games at Worlds 2021, they turned things into a barroom brawl and tried to put their enemy to sleep before they did. Their first meeting with PSG was a back-and-forth roller coaster ride of a game, which came to a close once Su “Hanabi” Chia-Hsiang’s full-critical build Gangplank became too large to fail.
About the Author
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.