From barely qualifying for play-ins to winning Worlds, DRX have become the champions.
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Nearly a decade ago, Kim Deft Hyuk-kyu and Lee Faker Sang-hyeok debuted simultaneously in the LCK, even having graduated from the same high school. In the time since, both players have paved their own paths to become pillars of professional League of Legends, though the international success between the two has varied immensely.
Yet today, the pair finally met on opposite sides of the World Championship finals, bringing together two teams representing the LCK in the last stage of the tournament for the first time since 2017. What resulted was yet another intense five-game series to close out the 2022 seasonadding another accomplishment to a team that had already become favorites at this years Worlds.
DRX completed the miracle run tonight by taking down T1 3-2 in a series where, at multiple points, it appeared that T1 would win easily. But as was the scene for the entirety of their run, DRX thrived off of the doubts of fans and players alike, fueling them to exceed every expectation that came their way and, ultimately, lift the Summoners Cup.
Throughout the entirety of Worlds thus far, focus on the bot lane has fluctuated in and out of priority for a multitude of teams. While some have placed great focus on the likes of Sivir, Caitlyn, and Yuumi, others have shifted their attention to the top side of the map for champions with more frontline potential.
But for both T1 and DRX, using their bot lanes to their fullest potential was part of the strategies that had earned them a spot in this finals matchup. The teams spent each draft phase of the series targeting the arsenals of their bot lanes, attempting to limit what one another had access to. Yet one pick stood out as a major issue, regardless of what team it appeared on: Varus.
Gumayusi was given control of the Arrow of Retribution in game one, and within the first 10 minutes, he set the tone of what would become the most contested pick in the series. Though T1 had struggled early to deal with the roaming of Pyosik, nearly handing DRX the first drake for free, Gumayusi stepped up with his own Smitean empowered Qthat stole the objective and completely derailed the momentum of their opponents.
For game two, both teams opted to spice up their bot lanes, bringing out the strange combinations of Varus/Heimerdinger and Ashe/Lux in what had the potential to bring the series to match point for T1. Thanks to this cross-map assistance from BeryLs Heimerdinger, DRX had successfully tied what, only a few minutes prior, was a major gold deficit. Much of this lead jumped straight into the hands of Defts Varus who, mimicking the importance of Gumayusi in game one, locked down the entire enemy team in the Baron pit to bring his team their first win of the series.
Though the champ wasn’t the biggest factor in games three and four, Varus remained on the winning sides of the traded victories between the teamshighlighted by yet another Gumayusi snipe, this time on a game-winning Baron. In Varus stead, a fellow DarkinAatroxgained increased priority for DRX as T1 loomed at match point. Kingen piloted this pick to great success, becoming a raid boss that refused to see DRXs run end at four games by simply refusing to die.
Caitlyn finally stepped onto the Rift at match point for both teams in the hands of Deft while Gumayusi responded once more with Varus. But with Lux banned, DRX had to find another support option to combo with one of the most-banned champions at Worlds thus far. Their answer was BeryLs Bard, a champion with which he has a 75-percent win rate across 12 games in his career.
When all hope appeared lost for T1, Gumayusi once again stole the Baronthe third time hed stolen an objective with an empowered Q in this seriesthat earned T1 the buff they needed to reinstate their lead. Though DRX fought back by securing the Mountain Soul and Elder Drake, recognizing that victory was in their grasp and jumping at it headfirst, rewarding the team for an extraordinary Worlds run.
Deft had not made it past a Worlds semifinals since 2014. Every year since, hed been stopped at the quarterfinals, looking up at what could be but wasnt. But this year, not only did the veteran make it to the semifinals once more, then to the finals, but he finally was able to lift the Summoners Cup for the first time in his nearly decade-long career.
Beside him were four players who each had their opportunities to shine in this series, each of them having fought through adversity thrown at them throughout the 2022 LCK season and the doubts shrouding them as they began their Worlds run. They all now walk out of San Francisco having completed their fairytale run and cementing themselves as the reigning League of Legends world champions.
Though T1 may have been bested in the process, they end this year having reestablished themselves as a powerhouse in professional League, complete with an undefeated Spring Split run and a runner-up finish in the Worlds finals.