“League of Legends” is one of the most popular e-sports games in the world right now, boasting a staggering 67 million active monthly players, according to a recent article in The New York Times.
The most important moment of the year for “LoL” fans is happening on Saturday: the finals of the “League of Legends” World Championships. It will be held in a stadium in Seoul that was built for the 2002 soccer World Cup.
The top prize is $US1 million, a roughly 70-pound trophy called the Summoner’s Cup, and, of course, bragging rights.
Gameplay is intense. You can think of it as a very complicated video game version of capture the flag: two teams of five players battle to capture each other’s “Nexus.” But that’s just the beginning. Players from each team choose a Champion, each of which has different strengths, powers, and a backstory to go with it. There are 120 Champions to choose from as of this writing.
Champions are followed into battle by Minions, which are generated automatically and help the Champions fight.
The New York Times posted a cool-looking video of 100,000 players in 10,000 games at the same time. You can see all the players descending on the paths of varying difficulty and requirements — Top Lane, Mid Lane, and Bottom Lane — with most of the battles happening in the middle:
Riot Games says it’s easy to learn but impossible to master — but there are a couple teams at the top of the pack right now who have mastered the game enough to make it to the finals.
Meet Team Samsung White
Professional “LoL” teams have managers, salaried players, and even sponsors. Such is the case with Korean team Samsung White, which used to be known as MVP White until Samsung took over sponsorship in 2013.
There’s Hyeong-seok “Looper” Jang, whose the team’s Top Laner. He subbed for another player during the 2013 Championships and soon proved his worth as a very skilled member of the team.
In-kyu “DanDy” Choi is the team’s Jungler. The Jungle is any part of the game that’s not part of the main Lanes, and a good Jungler helps the team gain experience points and gold. DanDy is considered one of the top Junglers in the world.
Won-seok “PawN” Heo is the team’s Middle Laner. He’s known for his great solo kill skills and is only 17 years old.
Seung-bin “imp” Gu is the team’s AD (Attack Damage) Carry, which means he’s in charge of helping the team win in late stages of the game. As far as AD Carrys go, he’s one of the best in the business.
And finally Se-hyoung “Mata” Cho is the Support and leader of the team and has been compared to another top player, named Hong “MadLife” Min-gi. In fact he’s so good, that people says, “If MadLife is God then Mata is Buddha.” The Support player is in charge of healing his teammates and creates opportunities for his teammates to snag the win.
Meet Team Star Horn Royal Club
Going up against Samsung White is Star Horn Royal Club, a Chinese team that was founded in 2012. And Royal Club has something to prove: It came in second in last year’s World Championship, taking home a $US250,000 prize.
The team was rebranded in May and this year became the first pro team ever to make it to the finals two years in a row.
Jian “Uzi” Zihao is the team’s AD Carry and the only member who was on last year’s team. He’s an aggressive player and is notorious for having a fiery temper.
Yun “Zero” Kyung-sub, who hails from Korea, used to play mid lane, but has since moved to his current spot as the team’s Support.
The team’s Jungler is Choi “InSec” In-seok and is known for being an aggressive and exciting player to watch. He’s also from Korea.
Playing as a Mid Laner is Lei “corn” Wen, a talented player with top skills.
And the Top Laner is Jiang “Cola” Nan, who has done a decent job so far and probably still has a few moves hidden away to whip out at an opportunistic time.
The Road To The Finals
The path to Saturday’s main event is not for the faint-hearted. There are three phases: Regionals, Groups, and Knockout Stage.
There are six regional tournaments, plus a wild card round. Each of the regions — North America, Europe, Korea, China, and Southeast Asia and Taiwan — has its own way of advancing.
The next phase is called Groups. Here, top teams compete in a “Round Robin” style tournament, with four groups composed of four teams each. Eight teams advance after the Group phase, which is played like in a typical bracket.
After that comes the Knockout Stage, which itself is divided into three parts: Quarterfinals, Semifinals, and the Finals. Teams play the best of five games, not unlike the World Series or any other sports championships.
And now here we are at the Finals, with team Samsung White and Star Horn Royal Club each hoping to take home the prize this weekend.
Based on its stats, Samsung White seems to be the favourite to win. It cleared its whole Group without losing a single match and has a 12-1 record.
But, even with its 11-5 record, Star Horn Royal Club won’t go down easy.