by Brian Sui
Photos Provided by LoL eSports
FunPlus Phoenix defeated Invictus Gaming 3-1 during one of the semifinals for the 2019 League of Legends World Championships held in Madrid, Spain on Nov. 2. FunPlus Phoenix advanced to the World Finals in their first international competition.
FunPlus Phoenix, China’s No. 1 seed, defeated Europe’s Fnatic 3-1 in their quarterfinal series. Meanwhile, Invictus Gaming, China’s No. 3 seed and the 2018 World Champions, beat Korea’s Griffin 3-1 in their series.
Game 1 between the two Chinese powerhouses started off with a surprise. FunPlus Phoenix’s mid laner Kim “Doinb” Tae-sang picked Rumble in the mid lane — traditionally a top lane pick — with the predator keystone — running the predator keystone on the champion is unheard of.
Invictus Gaming controlled the pace of the early game, but that was not enough to keep FunPlus Phoenix down. Doinb proved that the unorthodox pick was viable, even securing a triple kill and carrying FunPlus Phoenix to victory. He ended the game with a 10-1-5 KDA (Kills-Deaths-Assists).
Game 2 was the highlight of the series. Doinb pulled out his signature Nautilus in the mid lane, another one of his unorthodox picks. This time, FunPlus Phoenix controlled the early game and held a kill advantage in the first 14 minutes.
FunPlus Phoenix held the kill lead for the entire game but lost the gold lead to Invictus Gaming around 24 minutes into the game. This was due to a disastrous Baron fight that turned the tide of the game. Invictus Gaming tried to end the game at around 26 minutes, but FunPlus Phoenix staved off Invictus Gaming’s push.
Suspenseful gameplay continued for nearly 20 minutes until FunPlus Phoenix bet the entire game on a 40 minute backdoor attempt by bot laner Lin “Lwx” Wei-Xiang. Invictus Gaming’s top laner Kang “TheShy” Seung-lok and support Wang “Baolan” Liu-Yi teleported and recalled back in time. This response stopped Lwx and allowed the rest of Invictus Gaming to push through and win Game 2.
With a total of 59 kills, Game 2 was recorded as the second bloodiest match played in world championship history.
Game 3 was a complete stomp for FunPlus Phoenix. They ended the game with a 20-8 kill advantage and a nearly 8,000 gold lead. FunPlus Phoenix’s jungler Gao “Tian” Tian-Liang put up a monsterous performance on Qiyana, one of the tournament’s most popular picks, with a 9-1-7 KDA.
During Game 4, FunPlus Phoenix dominated early on. Around 20 minutes into the game, FunPlus Phoenix took a fight that allowed Invictus Gaming to perform a devastating combo that killed all of FunPlus Phoenix’s players. This showed that Invictus Gaming was not going down without a fight.
At the 33 minute mark, Invictus Gaming pushed into FunPlus Phoenix’s base despite a gold and kill disadvantage. When TheShy stepped a bit too far, Lwx took advantage and landed a clutch Varus ultimate, an ability that immobilized TheShy and allowed FunPlus Phoenix to burst him. With the fight won, FunPlus Phoenix marched down the mid lane and claimed the series victory and the title of World Champions.
“I don’t have the most confidence right now, but we will try our absolute best, and we will make this final extremely exciting,” Tian said in a post-game interview when asked about what he had to say to the Chinese fans watching.
FunPlus Phoenix was consistently better than Invictus Gaming at objective control, as Invictus Gaming did not manage to get a single neutral objective in Games 1 and 3. Neutral objectives are objectives that are not team-specific but give an advantage to the team that takes it. They are positioned in the middle of the map to allow teams to contest them equally. In the series, FunPlus Phoenix grabbed 13 Dragons, all four Rift Heralds and four Barons. Invictus Gaming only managed to scrape up four Dragons and two Barons. This superior objective control is largely why the series MVP went to Tian.
“I hope we can meet G2 in the finals because this is Europe’s home court, so I wish that everyone can chant FPX at the end of it all,” Tian said about whether he wanted to face Europe’s G2 Esports or Korea’s SK Telecom T1 — the teams in the other semifinal — in the final.
G2 Esports defeated SK Telecom T1 3-1. FunPlus Phoenix will face the Mid-Season Invitational and Europe’s No. 1 seed, G2 Esports, in the League of Legends World Championship final on Nov. 10.