THE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP RETURNS FOR ITS SIXTH YEAR.
FROM HUMBLE BEGINNINGS TO A GLOBAL TOURNAMENT,
THIS IS THE STORY OF LEGENDS.
For six years, the World Championship has shaped the story of legends. Born from simple origins—a love for the Rift—Worlds has brought to life unforgettable moments, inspirational champions, and a legacy of passion and competition. When this year's tournament begins, the world will witness League's greatest players forging their own legends in a story still being written.
Bill Graham Civic Auditorium
September 29 - October 2
October 6 - 9
The Chicago Theatre
October 13 - 16
Madison Square Garden
October 21 - 22
The 2015 season kicked off with a mass migration of talent from Korea. China was the destination for many Korean players, including most of the Samsung Blue and White teams that had dominated the previous year. With former Samsung stars Heo "PawN" Won-seok and Kim "Deft" Hyuk-kyu anchoring the mid and AD carry roles, China’s Edward Gaming secured their first international win at the 2015 Mid-Season Invitational, besting SKTelecom in a close 3-2 series. Against this backdrop, a former champion from two years past set out to reclaim his throne.
Undeniably, Faker had his lows in 2015. With playtime split in the mid lane thanks to in-match strategic substitutions with teammate Lee “Easyhoon” Ji-hoon, Faker lost the Mid-Season Invitational when SKT fell to EDG in the Final. But the former champions would not be kept down for long. The combined efforts of rising star Jang “MaRin” Geyong-Hwan and Faker’s resurgence as the best midlaner around thrust SKT into a dominant Summer Split that saw them enter Worlds in Europe as heavy favorites.
Early in the season, a colorful Korean powerhouse emerged: the KOO Tigers (now known as the ROX Tigers). Full of players cast aside by other organizations, they dominated Korea's 2015 Spring Split by performing exceptionally as a cohesive unit. After stumbling in the Summer Split, the Tigers entered the 2015 Worlds tournament as the region's second seed.
KOO Tigers top laner Song "Smeb" Kyung-ho was dubbed the worst top laner in the Korean competitive scene by many analysts when he made his debut in 2013. By 2015, he was holding his own against such heavyweights as SKT's Marin and KT Rolster's Kim "Ssumday" Chan-ho.
Europe played host to the 2015 tournament, beginning with Group Stage in Paris. Early on, North America and China posted disappointing performances as three NA LCS and two LPL teams bowed out in Group Stage. EDG was the only Chinese team to advance to Quarterfinals, where they fell to Fnatic. The LMS region started strong as both of their teams—Flash Wolves and ahq e-Sports club—prevailed in Group Stage before being eliminated in the Quarterfinals by Origen and SKTelecom.
Fans sent off TSM’s legendary top laner Marcus “Dyrus” Hill as he retired following the team's elimination.
LAST YEAR, REKKLES TOLD ME TO WIN BUT I WAS UNABLE TO. THIS YEAR, I REALLY WANT ONE OF US TO WIN.
As Worlds wound its way through Europe, Fnatic and Origen ignited the home crowds. Fnatic rode high into Worlds after a record-setting 18-0 run during the EU LCS regular season. Origen, led by 2011 World Champion xPeke, entered the tournament as Europe’s third seed, but they took the competition by surprise. Both teams finished as Semifinalists.
In the end, it was Korea versus Europe in the Semifinals, and then it was Korea versus Korea. The Tigers persevered through many challenges, from their ragtag origins to ownership changes during the year. Although they easily matched the best teams the international community could field, they managed only to take one game off the indomitable SKTelecom.
The 2015 World Championship was defined by a king reclaiming his crown. With a half-dozen domestic and international titles under his belt—including two World Championships—Faker solidified his legend. As the season that saw him struggle to be worthy of his reputation came to an end, Faker again stood at the pinnacle.
In 2014, the top League of Legends teams from around the globe set their eyes on Korea as the World Championship arrived at the epicenter of esports. While the previous year brought back an emphasis on individual outplays and mechanical skill, team-based strategies matured in 2014 and the game changed again. Korean teams led the evolving competitive scene as the rest of the world prepared to challenge them for the throne.
The 2014 World Championship Final was held in front of a 40,000-strong crowd at the Seoul World Cup Stadium in South Korea. Famed Korean hype-master Caster Jun amped up millions of fans watching in person and online.
'Warriors' was created in collaboration with Imagine Dragons to capture the spirit of the League of Legends World Championship. The band performed the song live at the Final.
In the first major surprise of the 2014 World Championship, the defending champion SKTelecom failed to qualify for the tournament. In its place rose the Samsung organization, and its two sister teams—Blue and White—who charged forward with a powerful team-centric style of play that relied on creating map pressure through a heavy emphasis on vision control. Samsung Blue and White were the top two seeds from Korea and major favorites to win the title. Blue eliminated White from the LCK Spring and LCK Summer playoffs that year, leaving them poised to do them same at Worlds.
STARTING ONLY A FEW MINUTES INTO THE GAME, WHITE’S JUNGLER AND SUPPORT WOULD ROAM TOGETHER AND CONTROL THE MAP BY PUTTING DOWN VISION AND INVADING THE ENEMY JUNGLE. IF YOU DIDN'T MIRROR OR COUNTERPLAY THIS, IT WAS VERY EASY TO INSTANTLY LOSE THE GAME.
Though few would argue that the seat of power resided anywhere other than Korea, other regions proved they shared the warrior’s spirit. North America stood out as a region growing in promise, after Cloud9 and TSM logged the region’s best performance since 2011, surviving Group Stage and advancing to the Quarterfinals (where they fell to the dual-wrecking ball that was Samsung Blue and White).
Perhaps the surest sign of international growth came with one of the greatest upsets in Worlds history. Brazilian International Wildcard qualifier KaBum! e-Sports shocked Alliance and the world watching when they took down Europe's first seed. The defeat, which came late in the Group Stage, prevented Alliance from advancing to the Knockout Stage and at the same time put the major regions on notice: The IWC was here to play.
China was viewed as a contender to disrupt Korea’s dominance. At the forefront of that conversation was Jian “Uzi” Zi-Hao. Widely regarded as the best AD carry in a region known for having the best AD carries, Uzi was the sole remaining member of the second-place Royal Club squad from 2013. On his shoulders he carried the hopes of his nation.
Ultimately, it was Samsung’s tournament to win. The Semifinals matchup between the two sister teams had the talent and atmosphere to be expected of a Final, especially in front of the Korean crowd. This time, White would not be stopped as they swept Blue in a 3-0 victory. In an emotional moment on stage, the two teams bowed to their home crowd, a move typically reserved for the winner.
In the Final, Royal Club matched up against Samsung White. For the second time, China’s dominant team proved to be outmatched, as Samsung White dispatched them 3-1. For Samsung White, it was a moment of ascendence—they’d reached the apex of League of Legends esports, and as they kissed the cup, they did so to the adulation of a massive home crowd in South Korea.
Many aspects that define League of Legends esports today began taking shape in 2013—from what a regular season and World Finals should look like to which regions dominate the upper echelon of play. Though many faces surfaced within the emerging hierarchy, the one beaming brightest belonged to a rookie.
Tournament-driven professional play waned in 2013 as regions established league structures to provide a clear pathway to Worlds. Teams within regions began to compete with each other in a more stable way, and fans gained newfound regularity for cheering on their favorite stars. The change also increased the anticipation for Worlds as each region developed its unique identity before sending its top representatives to clash for the Summoner’s Cup.
The 2013 World Championship Final was hosted at LA's iconic Staples Center and represented a significant step toward delivering a premier global event. The opening ceremony featured a live performance from The Crystal Method, supported by a full orchestra.
FAKER CAME INTO THE SCENE AS A REALLY HYPED SOLO QUEUE STAR, BUT THERE HAVE BEEN PLENTY OF PLAYERS THAT LOOKED GOOD ON THE LADDER THAT EITHER COULDN’T HANDLE THE PRESSURE OF A PRO MATCH OR COULDN’T WORK WELL IN A TEAM ENVIRONMENT. FAKER WAS MORE OR LESS IMMEDIATELY PERFECT AT EVERYTHING… THE TYPE OF PLAYER THAT ONLY EMERGES ONCE EVERY 5 TO 10 YEARS.
Faker’s magnificence on display in Korea as SKT clinched an invitation to Worlds.
With Faker holding court in mid lane, newcomer SKTelecom T1 was a favorite going into Worlds, but TPA proved just one year prior that powerhouses and expectations could be toppled. Many teams enjoyed dominant domestic runs and were eager to extend their results to international play.
Outside of SKT, four contenders rose to the top of their regions: Cloud9, Fnatic, Gamania Bears, and Royal Club. C9 and FNC in particular rode high into Worlds. C9 climbed to the top of the North American region in just one split—to the tune of a 30-3 record. FNC captured both Spring and Summer Split of the European LCS. Gamania Bears qualified as the top representative for the LMS region.
Despite the competition, Faker and SKT dominated their challengers at the World Championship, ending with a 3-0 sweep of China’s Royal Club in the Final. Their powerful performance concluded a tournament that yielded other priceless memories along the way—from Uzi's fancy footwork on Vayne to Gambit's heroic stand against Samsung Ozone.
The 2013 World Championship established a hierarchy that largely continues to this day, with Korea reigning and China second. The tournament spotlighted the massive skill discrepancy between Korea, where esports was a national pastime, and everyone else. Consequently, the world looked to Korea for clues on how to adopt coaches, analysts, infrastructure, and other elements of traditional sports in order to close the gap. Even within Korea, changes to the concept of team and teamwork began brewing—changes that would ultimately (albeit temporarily) sideline Faker and usher in the arrival of what many still believe to be the greatest team ever to take the Rift.
Where the dreams of a passionate few defined the 2011 season, the 2012 season went all-in on laying the foundation for a global esports scene. The audience grew exponentially from the previous year's event in Sweden, with nearly seven thousand more fans joining the live audience and six million more viewers watching at home. The dedication of fans and pros alike fueled massive growth, ushering in a brave new world for League of Legends esports.
The 2012 tournament introduced the Summoner's Cup, which symbolized a new level of significance for the World Championship. Weighing in at around 70 pounds (32 kg), the behemoth trophy came to life in the hands of Thomas Lyte Silver. A British company known for creating notable awards such as the Ryder Cup and the FA Cup, a team of eight took over 300 hours to finish their work. Iconic League of Legends imagery worked in gold, silver, and brass combined with dramatic lines to become a trophy worthy of League's World Champion.
The 2012 World Championship Final was held at USC’s Galen Center, marking its first time as a stand-alone event.
Teams entered into the year with a newfound level of commitment. The 2012 World Championship welcomed new competitors from Korea, China, and the LMS region, and their arrival elevated the expectations of what it meant to be a professional player. They introduced a team-first approach prioritizing objectives over kills, opening up the map and unlocking a new level of strategy.
Korean teams, led by Azubu Frost, entered Worlds in 2012. Born from an entrenched esports scene, they were expected to dominate.
Strong contenders also rose from Europe. Russian squad Moscow 5 exploded onto the scene in 2012 and were among the first to demonstrate the power of teamwork as they racked up achievement after achievement, including championship-winning performances at IEM Kiev and IEM Hanover. Wildly aggressive and innovative, they quickly captured both respect and adoration. They were pegged by many to be the favorite to capture the second World Championship. By contrast, defensive and meticulous play allowed Counter Logic Gaming Europe to play the perfect spoiler to M5.
WE WERE PLAYING OUR OWN PLAYSTYLE THAT MADE LEAGUE LESS BORING. OUR GAMES WERE ALWAYS INTERESTING.
Despite numerous clashes throughout the year, the rivalry between M5 and CLG.EU was left smoldering and unresolved, as both teams went down in the Semifinals. North America’s and China’s teams fizzled out even earlier as they were knocked out in the Quarterfinals. Even Korea’s pre-tournament Goliaths would find their David.
The Taipei Assassins were a little-known team from a new region, somehow claiming upset after upset. Korea’s NaJin Sword dominated Group Stage only to be overwhelmed by TPA in the Quarterfinals. Then, TPA outmuscled the Moscow 5 squad, often considered one of the best teams in League's history. And in the Final, Azubu Frost entered with the overwhelming confidence and swagger that comes from running roughshod over the tournament, having dropped only a single game to CLG.EU. Despite the absolutely stacked Frost team—including in-their-primes Hong 'MadLife' Min-gi, Park 'Shy' Sang-myeon, and Lee 'CloudTemplar' Hyun-woo, TPA struck them down.
DUE TO POOR RESULTS BY OTHER TEAMS FROM TAIPEI PRIOR TO WORLDS, TPA WERE NOT CONSIDERED A THREAT. AND, AS TPA WERE SEEDED DIRECTLY TO THE QUARTERFINALS, NOBODY HAD SEEN THEM PERFORM OUTSIDE OF SCRIMS. IT WASN'T UNTIL MAKNOON'S NAJIN SWORD FELL 2-0 THAT PEOPLE SUDDENLY BEGAN TO TAKE NOTE. AFTER BEATING M5 IN THE SEMIFINALS, TPA REACHED THE FINAL AS FAN FAVORITES AND WON IN DOMINANT STYLE.
When Taipei Assassins hoisted the Summoner's Cup in front of a live audience of thousands, they had upset heavily favored challengers, announced the arrival of a top-tier competitive region, and established League of Legends as a truly global sport. But their victory heralded the end of one era as surely as it hinted at the dawn of a new one. The relative simplicity of 2011 was gone, replaced by objective-based strategizing, coordination across teams, and a new level of professionalism that would continue to drive League of Legends esports forward.
TPA fans greeted the World Champions upon their return to Taiwan.
This fall, millions will witness 16 of the top teams from across the globe compete for the Summoner’s Cup and the right to be named champions.
The inaugural World Championship took place in Jönköping, Sweden, during DreamHack—an event that, to this day, still features multiple games and draws thousands of hardcore gamers every year. Back in 2011, eight teams competed in the tournament, and the pros were largely indistinguishable from those who were there to simply enjoy the festivities.
IT WAS THE MOST INTIMATE FAN INTERACTION WE HAD BECAUSE FANS WOULD LITERALLY BE BEHIND US. PEOPLE COULD MESS WITH OUR CHAIRS WHILE WE PLAY, TOUCH OUR HAIR.
The first World Championship was more of a NA versus EU showcase than a truly global event, and teams had vastly different ideas on how to play League. The refined strategies and practice regimens of today had yet to be implemented. Instead, tactics were largely developed in isolation on the game's two primary servers, which were located in North America and Europe. One of the key differences in meta was the Americans’ reliance on a double utility bottom lane, whereas Europe ran the modern marksman and support combination. The World Championship served as a grand reckoning for these strategies, and as it would turn out, the Europeans had it right. The first Final featured EU-based squads against All authority and Fnatic. In a Best of 3 series, Fnatic secured victory, claiming the inaugural title and taking home $50,000.
Only a few hundred fans watched live as Fnatic defeated aAa in the first World Championship Final.
League of Legends had a champion, but its esports ecosystem was just emerging. Back then, the concept of gaming houses or leagues still sounded more like a reality television show than reality. Esports had been around in one form or another for the better part of a decade, but any sort of prestige was largely focused among Korea’s Starcraft scene. Rivalries and stardom hadn’t taken root in League esports. But for those first few Worlds contenders, none of that was the point—it was about the pursuit of passion.
IT DIDN’T MATTER HOW BIG THE TOURNAMENT WAS, HOW BIG THE PRIZE WAS. WE JUST WERE PLAYING BECAUSE WE LOVED IT IN THE END. THAT’S KIND OF WHAT I FIND REALLY COOL ABOUT SEASON 1 MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE—THAT IT WAS THE BEGINNING OF EVERYTHING.