Following the successes of JD Gaming, T1, and Gen.G over their respective opponents, DRX and EDward Gaming (EDG) were the only two teams left to compete for a spot in the semifinals of the 2022 League of Legends World Championship.
The World Champions and the Underdogs
While both teams have had to fight tooth and nail to secure their place at worlds, the narratives surrounding these teams could not have been more different.
EDG, the defending world champions, were seeking to accomplish a feat only one other team has: secure back-to-back world championships. Although teams like DWG KIA and Invictus Gaming (IG) have come close to a repeat, only T1 (formerly SKT T1) has ever managed to go back-to-back when they won both Worlds 2015 and Worlds 2016. Although EDG have looked underwhelming in their return LPL since their title run, they leveled up significantly in the LPL Playoffs, where they jumped from a 5th place LPL team in the Summer Split to a 3rd seed LPL team at the World Championship. With an opportunity to make history, EDG took an astounding 74% of viewer predictions to win their matchup against DRX.
DRX, on the other hand, has had one of the most exciting, but unprecedented underdog runs in Worlds history. While they had obviously qualified for the event, their underdog story began domestically, in the LCK Playoffs. After finishing 6th in LCK Summer with a 9-9 record, DRX was not expected to go much further than their Regional Finals matchup against KT Rolster: the 10-8 5th place team in the LCK.
Shockingly, DRX pulled off an incredible 3-2 upset over KT, which earned them the chance to face off against Liiv Sandbox (LSB): the (13-5) 3rd place LCK team who was expected to make their first-ever Worlds appearance with a win over DRX. However, DRX was not out of miracles yet. Pulling off yet another 3-2 upset, DRX knocked LSB out of Worlds contention, and secured themselves the LCK’s 4th and final Worlds seed. While they had qualified for the tournament, their status as a 4th seed team meant that they had to play through the Play-In Stage of the tournament first, before making it to the Main Event.
As a representative of a major region, DRX was expected to make it out of the Play-In Stage; however, they were not expected to do so as the leader of their group. Drawn into Group B with the likes of the LPL’s RNG, DRX were expected, once again, to lose and have to play a best of five to make it out of Play-Ins. Surprising the world once more, DRX defeated RNG in the Group B round robin, and secured themselves a spot in Group C of the Main Event alongside Rogue and Top Esports.
Once again, defying expectations, DRX topped the group over the LPL’s 2nd seed (Top Esports) and the LEC’s 1st seed (Rogue) and secured themselves their second-ever quarterfinals appearance at the World Championship. With a spot in the quarterfinals against EDG, DRX stared down yet another seemingly impossible task.
With an overwhelming majority of the viewer predictions going to EDG, DRX reprised their role as the perennial underdog once again in one of the most electric series of all time. Although EDG built an 0-2 lead against the underdogs, DRX managed to rally and pull off the second-ever reverse sweep in Worlds history.
Deft’s Legacy Continues
While Zeka played a major role in the final game between DRX and EDG, Deft was far and away the standout player for the series. With a nearly decade-long career in the scene, Deft had been seeking a semifinals berth at the World Championship since 2013. As one of the longest-tenured players in the scene, Deft had amassed one of the most decorated resumes of all League of Legends professional players; yet, he had never managed to make it past the quarterfinals of the World Championship.
He has been to the World Championship seven times total with five different teams in two different regions. Despite being the only player in the world with these accomplishments, the closest he ever came to a world title was in 2020, where he lost to T1 3-0 in the quarterfinals.
With a win over EDG, Deft made history both individually and as a DRX player; his victory has brought DRX their first-ever semifinal appearance in franchise history.
Although they have more than earned their placement so far, DRX is once again expected to be the underdog in their upcoming match against Gen.G. With a mere 15.9% of the viewers supporting them, DRX faces yet another seemingly insurmountable task. To see the underdogs in action once again, tune into the World Championship when it returns this Sunday, October 30th.
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