On Sunday, Suning Gaming will face off against DAMWON Gaming in what might be one of the more interesting Worlds finals in history. It will be the first finals that does not include a European team in three years, and it’s Korea’s chance to take back the crown that China has been stubbornly holding onto for two years.
But then there’s Suning, trying to be the third Chinese team in a row to take on every single opponent at Worlds and beat them all to claim the Summoner’s Cup. But Suning isn’t just playing for China; it has three regions on its shoulders hungering for a win that is a long time coming, and perhaps no one understands that more than SofM.
The jungler for Suning Gaming, SofM is the only Vietnamese representative at the World Championship. There should’ve been two Vietnamese teams but COVID-19 restrictions in Vietnam made that impossible, according to Riot Games last month. Instead of having two full teams, fans from Vietnam had just one player to support this Worlds: SofM.
To be fair, supporting him has probably been a relatively positive experience, given in four days he and his teammates will be playing in the Worlds finals following not one but two improbable upsets in the Quarterfinals and Semifinals. He and his team carry three regions—China, Vietnam and Taiwan into the Grand Finals.
There was one story dominating people’s thoughts coming into the Suning vs TOP Esports game, and it was Karsa vs SwordArt. They played together for three years on Flash Wolves, the best team in the LMS, before splitting off into major regions. Karsa and SwordArt both found new homes in the LPL, on TOP Esports and Suning Gaming, and fans were eager to see these two players face off on the Worlds stage.
When they did, SwordArt was definitely the better player. Karsa wasn’t too bad on Sunday, but SwordArt looked very good as Karsa’s team seemed to lack the magic that had led them to the semifinals. It was disappointing to see because TOP could have been the better team, made the finals and had a chance. TOP is a very solid team but on Sunday, they did not look good enough to touch Suning.
Now, with his past behind him, SwordArt is going to step into his first Finals stage as the underdog once again. That won’t be new; when you come from a minor region it’s hard not to be the underdog. As much as Suning was the underdog to TOP, it was still a TOP Esports who had almost lost to Fnatic, almost not even made the semifinals and almost been the biggest embarrassment in recent Worlds history.
Damwon is going to be a much larger challenge. They’ve always been one of the favorites, probably the favorite for most fans, and they absolutely made G2, who is a very competent team, look like an iron v challengers game. Suning needs to play to the level of their opponent one more time; but more than that, they have to play their game.
Suning played Jax and Jarvan and jungle Shen en route to their wins. They played Leona and Ezreal and Jhin and while they haven’t really played anything super out of the box—though Jarvan was a surprise—they’ve been willing to push the meta and pick things they are confident on, especially for top laner Bin who got two games on Jax in the semifinals. Pulling a trick out of the bag might be their best bet to beat DAMWON gaming, but at the same time playing what they know as well as they can is safer.
DAMWON doesn’t have to play their best game to win. That is perhaps the most terrifying part of the series; DAMWON are probably good enough to play a good game and win. Suning needs to be better than good; they have to be exceptional to beat the powerhouse that is DAMWON. That’s the task they’ll have on Saturday, with three regions on their shoulders, with the shadows of the teams they’ve beaten on their backs. The worst they can do is second, so they might as well try and be first.