The 2021 League of Legends The World Championship (aka Worlds) kicks off tomorrow, October 5, marking the start of a month-long tournament where 22 of the best League of Legends teams compete to win the Summoner’s Cup.
While Worlds is one of the biggest esports competitions on the planet, League of Legends isn’t exactly the easiest game to watch. This time of year is one of the best times to get started, as you can see the best teams in their prime.
If you’re interested in learning more about the game – or if you’re a longtime fan who just wants to learn more about Worlds before it starts – we’ve put together this guide for you.
What are the worlds?
Worlds is the closing tournament in the League of Legends year of esport. Teams around the world have qualified for the event after enjoying successful seasons in their local leagues. Think of it a bit like the Champions League in football; throughout the year, teams compete locally for the chance to face the best from other regions.
This year, the Worlds are taking place in Reykjavík, Iceland, in the indoor sports hall at Laugardalshöll. The location means that if you’re in the United States, the games can be in the morning or early afternoon.
No fans will be attending the matches themselves due to COVID-19 restrictions. The event was originally scheduled to take place in China, but League of Legends Developer Riot Games had to move the location at the 11th hour due to travel restrictions and COVID protocols.
What are the rules?
Here is a very basic explanation of League of Legends. It is a strategy game between two teams of five “champions”. Each champion is controlled by a player and each has different abilities. The object of a game is for one team to enter the other team’s base and destroy a giant crystal, called the Nexus.
However, players cannot simply walk in and strike their opponent’s Nexus from the start of the game. The bases are guarded by turrets that fire powerful magical energy, self-generating soldier units that march towards the base of the game. ‘other team and, of course, the enemy team. During a game, which typically lasts around 30-45 minutes, players will level up, earn in-game cash to purchase items, battle against the enemy team, and ultimately attack the Nexus.
I gloss over a lot of what happens in a League of Legends match, but that’s the point. For a short explainer video with more details, check out Riot’s intro video made for last year’s tournament. For a little deeper dive I recommend the written article and video from ESPN.
Who do I root for?
Like any sport, this is not an easy question to answer. There are big dogs and underdogs, and you can decide whether to support a team based on their name, logo, or because you think a player is exciting to watch.
If you want to support an American team, there are three at the world championships this year, representing the League Championship Series (LCS): 100 Thieves, who just won the 2021 LCS Championship, Team Liquid, a constant power in the LCS , and Cloud9, one of the league’s most legendary teams. (Cloud9 landed his ticket to the Worlds by beating longtime rival TSM.) Europe is represented by League of Legends The MAD Lions, Rogue and Fnatic European Championship (LEC) teams. (Fnatic also won their trip to the Worlds in spectacular fashion, beating one of their rivals, G2 Esports.)
However, they will face stiff competition. Last year’s champions Damwon Gaming of Korea have qualified again, as has T1 Korean, the home of perhaps the most famous League of Legends player of all time, Faker. China’s four teams League of Legends The Pro League (LPL), including 2019 world champions FunPlus Phoenix and 2021 LPL champions Edward Gaming, could also prove to be formidable opponents.
Sport point has a good overview of the 22 teams that qualified for the Worlds.
The competition begins with the Play-Ins, where 10 teams will compete for four places in the group stage. The 10 teams will be divided into two groups of five. Each team will play a match against the other teams in its group.
The team with the best record in each group automatically advances to the group stage. To determine who gets the last two places in the group stage, the third and fourth placed teams from each group will compete against each other, then the winners of those matches will face off against the second ranked teams from each play-in group. The winner advances to the group stage.
The Play-Ins will start at 7 a.m. ET on October 5 and run through October 9.
The group stage pits the best teams in the world against each other in four groups of four. Three teams in each group have already been blocked and one from each of the Play-In winners will be added to the groups.
Each team will play the other team in its group twice. The two teams with the best record in each group will advance to the knockout stage, which is the final stage of the tournament leading to the championship match.
Groups last a bit longer than Play-Ins. The first round of matches takes place from October 11 to 13, while the second takes place from October 15 to 18.
Finally, there is the Knockout Stage, where the eight best teams from the Groups compete for the championship. At this point, the teams will face off in a single elimination bracket, competing in best-of-five matches.
The matches take place over three weekends: a quarter-final round scheduled for October 22-25, a semi-final round scheduled for October 30 and 31, and the final match on November 6 to determine the world champion.
If you don’t grant anything else, consider checking out the Knockout Stage. The high caliber of the teams that have progressed so far are almost always worth watching. That’s not to say there aren’t breakouts and lags – the 2018 and 2019 champions won 3-0 – but you can expect to see some very exciting clashes over these three weeks. -end of the tournament.
How to watch and program
You can watch matches live on Riot Games’ Twitch channel, the League of Legends esports YouTube channel and at https://lolesports.com/. And if you want to see the full schedule, it’s right here.
And don’t miss the cool graphics
Riot typically uses the Worlds to put on a spectacular show that can be as interesting as the competition itself. The 2017 World Cup final ceremony featured a giant virtual dragon. The 2019 opening ceremony featured holograms. And last year, Riot did an amazing mixed reality scene. Every year Riot seems to go out of his way to outdo the latter, so he surely has some awesome tech magic up his sleeve for the 2021 event.
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