On the third day of the knockout stage, the defending world champions, DWG KIA will face the best team from Europe, MAD Lions. The win condition for DWG KIA is simple — show up and be themselves. It gets much more complicated for MAD Lions, as they are the underdogs in this matchup.
DWG KIA vs. MAD Lions
As one of the heaviest favorites in this tournament, DWG KIA looks just as strong as last year — maybe even stronger. Although their dominance didn’t show at the last Mid-Season Invitational and during a part of their summer season, as soon as DWG KIA retrieved their game, there weren’t any teams that could stop them.
In the group stage, DWG KIA revealed no weaknesses, as they started off decimating FunPlus Phoenix, who was another favorite at the beginning of the tournament. They never took their foot off the accelerator as they went undefeated through the group stage.
On the other hand, MAD Lions’ journey through the Group Stage was quite shaky. They started off with a 1-2 record in the first round as their performance was unstable. However, their late-game concentration allowed a miracle run through a historic four-way tie.
Remembering their battle against Rogue, MAD Lions’ late-game concentration is great. Even with a 10K gold deficit, they managed to turn the tables on Rogue. It wasn’t that different in the tiebreakers against LNG Esports. Although they fell behind in the laning phase, MAD Lions had great late-game teamfights to ultimately get through the group stage.
Top side reliant teams
DWG KIA’s strength comes from their unbelievably strong top side. Veteran Kim “Khan” Dong-ha is more determined than ever, as this World Championship will be the last tournament of his career. His wide champion pool makes opposing teams impossible to counter him through bans, and his mechanics are exactly the opposite of a player who is looking at retirement.
Worlds 2020 finals MVP Kim “Canyon” Geon-bu struggled a bit during the MSI, but that only made him stronger at this Worlds. Canyon played six different champions in the six group stage games, including Poppy jungle. He’s a well-rounded player who can do anything.
Heo “ShowMaker” Su appears anywhere, plays anything, and carries the team in any situation. He didn’t die a single time until his fifth game in the group stage against Rogue. As the owner of the Worlds 2020 Twisted Fate skin, ShowMaker’s Twisted Fate was almost invincible during this Worlds.
Compared to DWG KIA’s top side, MAD Lions clearly look weaker. They’ve shown weaknesses in the laning phase, as they often fell behind from early in the game. Although MAD Lions don’t invest their resources too much on their top side, their games depend on how their top side turns out.
In that regard, the unstable performance of İrfan Berk “Armut” Tükek is troublesome for MAD Lions. When Armut has a good game, he is capable of carrying the team, but in his bad games, Armut often becomes the culprit of MAD Lions’ losses. However, MAD Lions’ big moments mostly come from Armut’s beautiful initiations — landing spectacular ults with his Wukong and Gnar.
Javier "Elyoya" Prades Batalla is the key to MAD Lions’ macro. Despite being a rookie, Elyoya plays like a veteran and has great playmaking skills. In the first round of the group stage, it seemed that Elyoya was nervous and his performance was rather disappointing, but going into the second round, he became a completely different player and contributed much to the team’s victories.
It goes the same for Marek "Humanoid" Brázda. In the earlier games of the group stage, Humanoid was very inconsistent, but he showed improved performance on the last day, leading MAD Lions through the miracle run.
Overall, both teams rely much on their top side. DWG KIA’s win formula is to dominate the laning phase and snowball their lead from the top side by securing objectives. Compared to that, MAD Lions endure the laning phase and seek super plays from their top side.
If DWG KIA does have any weaknesses, it would be their bot lane. Although Jang “Ghost” Yong-joon is capable of surviving pinches and playing utility champions, he lacks one of the biggest virtues of being a bot laner — the ability to carry the team. Ghost did play Draven and Aphelios at this Worlds, but his Aphelios game against Rogue wasn’t very impressive as he had a 1/4/4 KDA. DWG KIA still won the game, but this game showed that Ghost might just be the weak link of the team.
MAD Lions’ biggest weakness is their laning phase. They rarely get ahead in the early game and usually play from behind — which makes the team require super plays from their carries. Another weakness is their inconsistency. Armut, Elyoya, and Humanoid are great players, no doubt, but their performance comes and goes. A team like DWG KIA would have no trouble in punishing these weaknesses.
On paper, there’s not much DWG KIA need to do — appear on time and be themselves. On the other side, MAD Lions need to meet several conditions to hope for a win. First, MAD Lions need to win the draft, hard. They’ll need to force Ghost on a carry champion, and win in lane on the top side. Even this might not be enough, so Humanoid needs to be in his best condition, paired with Armut’s super initiation, and Elyoya should steal major objectives from Canyon. Then, just maybe, MAD Lions could continue their miracle run. Miracles are called miracles for a reason.
All images by Riot Games