Invictus Gaming became the 2018 League of Legends World Champions in emphatic fashion on Saturday, taking a clean 3-0 sweep over Fnatic at Munhak Stadium in Incheon, South Korea
2018 has been a tumultuous year in League of Legends. Dynasties have come crumbling down in Korea, with this year’s World Championship hosts unable to cheer on a native team in the finals for the first time since Season 1. In the West, hope remains as Europe and North America combined to make up three out of the four semifinal teams. Above all else, though, 2018 will go down as the year of the League of Legends Pro League, with China winning every major LoL tournament of the year. Though China’s dominance was a major storyline coming into Worlds, few expected the team to carry the LPL banner in the finals to be Invictus Gaming, a squad that has historically failed to achieve any domestic success.
Although Invictus dropped games against Fnatic earlier in the group stage, the iG that took to Summoner’s Rift looked a far cry away from the team that began the tournament. Throughout its run through the bracket, Invictus Gaming looked nye-unstoppable, running through teams thanks to its transcendent talent in the solo lanes, and that trend continued against Fnatic. Top laner Kang “TheShy” Seung-lok continued to terrorize his opponents in lane, making an example of Fnatic’s rookie top, Gabriël “Bwipo” Rau by imposing his will on the top side of the map. Meanwhile, mid laner Song “Rookie” Eui-jin proved that he was the best player in the Finals, consistently winning his mid lane matchup and roaming around the map, getting his bottom lane involved early and often as iG dictated the pace of each game.
It wasn’t just iG’s solo lanes that performed well, though. Jungler Gao “Ning” Zhen-Ning, who was seen as a Xin Zhao and Camille two-trick earlier in the tournament, picked up a Finals MVP for his shutout performance vs Fnatic, dominating Game 2 as Gragas and consistently getting TheShy ahead very early into the game. AD carry Yu “JackeyLove” Wen-Bo went toe-to-toe with EU all-star Martin “Rekkles” Larsson and shined, carrying iG in later-game teamfights. Invictus Gaming stayed true to itself and each other in all three games, surging ahead of Fnatic through clever early ganks and raw talent. Facing doubters throughout its entire worlds run, iG proved that not only is the LPL currently the best region in the world, but that Invictus Gaming can be overlooked no longer.
Fnatic’s confidence coming into this series might seem undeserved with the benefit of hindsight, but the European League of Legends Championship Series’ number one seed had reason to believe it would become World Champions. Bwipo was playing out of his mind for a rookie, mid laner Rasmus “Caps” Winther was having the year of his career playing a plethora of champions at a very high level, and Rekkles had seemingly found a team that could take pressure off of him to hard carry and allow him to dominate late game teamfights. Fnatic’s strengths became more pronounced the longer the game went, teamfighting other teams into submission or else playing a constricting split push style that allowed Fnatic to capitalize on the slightest hesitation in its enemies.
Unfortunately for the EU side, Invictus Gaming had no such hesitation. Fnatic often found itself behind in kills and gold before the 15-minute mark, mostly due to Ning camping the top lane and feasting on Bwipo. While this was happening, FNC jungler Mads “Broxah” Brock-Pedersen couldn’t find any openings on the map, leaving him to merely guess as to where Ning was for a majority of the series. Fnatic had its moments, created sparks of hope, like when Broxah’s Jax pulled off a Baron steal in Game 3, leading to a few kills for a gold-deprived Fnatic, but Invictus Gaming was simply too strong, too hot to handle. It’s rare to see a team of mechanical all-stars gel at just the right time to create an unstoppable unit, but that’s just what happened at Munhak Stadium. Through teary eyes, Koreans like Rookie and TheShy, who made their name in China, got to live out the dream: to raise the Summoner’s Cup for the region that gave them life in front of their home regio