As the regional leagues prepare to start the 2022 League of Legends esports year, it is time to look ahead. What major team-based storylines will fill this year of the world’s biggest esports. What players have stories that need to be told and what they are chasing will be examined. Across all the regions, a few teams will be brought up to examine how their potential stories will impact the 2022 League of Legends season. It will be a flash forward into the future of esports. Storylines drive narratives and how we examine results in a given year, so why not set the table for the discussion. Now, it is time to flash forward. What better place to examine the storylines than the greatest region in LoL history, the LCK.
A New Generation Looking To Create A New Legacy (T1)
Among the towering skyscrapers in the Gangnam district of Seoul, South Korea a new generation of players are looking to make their own legacy in a storied organization. The next generation of up and coming stars looking to cement their place in LoL esports History. That team would of course be T1. The three-time world champions, the team that has never finished below fourth place when attending Worlds, are firmly in a new era.
Sure Faker may still be around, but he is still Faker. While he may not have the level of mechanical dominance he once possessed, his vast intelligence and mechanical skill are more than enough to explain his presence. T1 is Faker and Faker is T1. He never should play for another team and will never have to unless he decides to leave on his own. For as long as he wants to play, T1 will willingly pay him as such because of everything he provides in and out of the server. That last part proves why he is the perfect person to have around in this transition.
Outside of Faker, the young talent on this team is World Championship caliber. Anyone who questions that statement merely needs to look at their bottom lane. There may be not bot lane of the face of planet Earth better than Keria and Gumayusi. Keria is unquestionably the best support in the world and Gumayusi is a top four ADC at worst. When their talents are combined they create an extremely lethal bot lane duo.
During T1’s semifinal run at 2021 Worlds, they were a major cog in that wheel. While on the topic of that wheel, there may be no more crucial spoke than Oner. While Faker provided stability and the bot lane provided damage, Oner provided flexibility. The rookie jungler played six different jungle champions of different play styles throughout their Worlds run. He showed no fear and had a stellar run for a rookie. With another year under his belt at his young age, the potential is massive. There is one elephant in the room though.
Thanks to a messy scenario that was not his nor T1’s fault, Canna will not be on T1 next year. While some fans may cheer, some fans may need perspective. Despite his inconsistent split and awareness issues, Canna was a top-tier LCK top laner and a mechanically skilled player. His future with the organization seemed bright after a very good worlds run, but his time is now over.
In his stead, the 17-year-old phenom Zeus will be the new starter. This will be a massive step up for a player who lacks major stage time. He played nineteen games during the LCK Spring Split, though the results were quite mixed. During the summer split though he did not sniff the stage. Now with a chance to prove why he was so hyped heading into last year, Zeus will look to fill big shoes. Despite his imperfections, Canna was still a very solid top laner on the global stage. He wasn’t perfect but he could carry on the right champions. Zeus not only has the chance to do that, but he could be even better. He could even be baby Nuguri. In the end, his play will make or break T1’s season. Now that Faker is a year older and he is still chasing another title, all the pressure is on T1 to deliver another title. Is there any better place to do it than North America?
After all, T1 is a partnership between SK Telecom and Comcast, a South Korean company and an American company respectively. In their mission statement, they speak of global expansion and new opportunities. Is there any better way to consummate this business deal than to win Worlds in the country of the non-domestic partner? T1 winning on North American soil would prove to SK Telecom that the partnership with Comcast was worth it. They took the full “east meets west” concept and produced a massively successful esports venture. If anything, this is one of the least talked about storylines heading into 2022.
The Black And Gold Join The Holy War (Gen.G)
Not too far away from T1 Headquarters, their sworn rivals made changes to their team in search of finally claiming a crown in the black and gold. The last time anyone associated with the organization won a split was 2017 Summer Split as Samsung Galaxy. That was soon followed by their 2017 World Championship win over SKT in 3-0 fashion. Those days are long gone though. Since the transition to Gen.G branding, the team gained notoriety for their bland playstyle and tendency to choke on the big stage. They became a shell of their championship self. In that time Griffin and DRX rose and fell, SKT was reborn as T1 and Damwon rose to prominence behind the great young talent. When this offseason arrived, it was time for big changes.
Similar to Faker, Ruler returns to Gen.G as the lone member of an organization’s title-winning roster. He proved during their 2021 Worlds run that, entering year seven, he still has plenty to give. He is no longer paired with his long-time support Life though. In his stead, former Afreeca Freecs and Griffin support Lehends joined the team. In the stead of Rascal and Clid, they replaced their topside of the map with former DRX and KT top laner Doran and, a familiar face in the jungle from the 2019 roster, Peanut. All of these moves pale in comparison to the mid lane.
For two years, Bdd was the steadying force in the middle of the map for Gen.G. For as good as he was, that steady factor did not reach championship level peaks. In his stead, they signed the man who has a whole biblical following behind him, Chovy. The “Lord of The Midlane” has been one of the premier young talents in Korean LoL since his Griffin days. Everywhere he has gone through has led to a quarterfinals exit. Three years, three different teams and three quarterfinals finishes at Worlds. Now on his most talented team since his DRX days, Gen.G are hoping he fulfills the prophecy his followers preach and brings the team their first title as Gen.G.
That title would not only mean so much to the players but there is an organizational factor here. Similar to T1, Gen.G is an east meets west gaming organization. While it is not a partnership between two distinct organizations, its roots are in Korea. Over recent years that following expanded into North America across its multiple esports. Securing their first League of Legends win as Gen.G in North America would be proof that organizations can be successful spreading their teams across multiple continents. Esports is global and there would be no better proof than an event like this.
Chasing Legends To No End (Damwon Gaming)
As their 2021 jungler, Canyon is still chasing the likes of Score and DanDy. The core of Damwon’s roster has a chance to be great but their base crumbles around them, the legends they chase only continued to evade them. These young kings of Korea cemented themselves as the ruling class of League’s new generation. After their 2020 Worlds victory and 2021 domestic run, many of the players were pushed into the GOAT conversations for their roles. That narrative came crashing down as Damwon Kia lost the World Final despite being the favored team. After this past Worlds, Showmaker still lurks firmly in Faker’s shadow. They are considered some of this game’s GOATs, but that will only end when they stop chasing legends. With the 2021 season on the horizon, that chase is about to only get harder.
The obvious core of this team remains in place and will for the foreseeable future. Showmaker and Canyon signed new contracts with the organization and will try to stay together for as long as possible. Together, they are arguably the best mid-jungle duo in the entire world. There are very few combos that can even come close to their level. As long as they are together, this team should make worlds. While they remain, everything around them has changed.
The most obvious talking point in relation to 2022 Damwon Kia is their new bottom lane. Showmaker and Canyon no longer have to swim up river to recover from Ghost and Beryl solo-losing games. Instead, Damwon imported a whole new bot lane. Kellin and Deokdam outperformed all expectations last year. That Nongshim roster was not supposed to be as good as it was. Yet, as part of that team, they played a major part in leading that team to a second-place finish in the LCK Summer Split. While they may have collapsed at the end of the year, that was a team issue and did not solely fall on them. Overall, this serves as a potential upgrade over the prior bot lane’s this organization rostered.
Despite their improvements, there is one issue that may cause Damwon to take a massive step back. Damwon is a roster that has featured two all-time top lane talents the past few seasons in Nuguri and Khan. With Khan going into the military and Nuguri taking a sabbatical for mental health reasons, Damwon is left without a top laner at the moment. The lane in which they once ruled the LCK in may now become their defining weakness. There is no solution in sight too. At the moment, there have been no reports linking them to any specific top laner. With the offseason as far along as it is, the choices are only getting slimmer and slimmer. While having a great top laner isn’t everything in the LCK, it is on the global stage. If Damwon does not find a solution to this potential issue, the gap will only grow between them and the legacies they are chasing, This is their make-or-break year and it could go either way, who knows which way it goes.
What do you think? Tell Christian about other major team storylines on Twitter at @TheWiz_SPM.
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