“It’s not like the Summoner’s Cup has my name on it” — Gen.G & Team Liquid’s Road to Worlds 2023
Each team has their own story just to qualify for the competition, their own road to Worlds. Monster Gaming had a chance to hear two versions of this story: one from Gen.G, and one from Team Liquid.
In Ancient Greek culture, competition is considered sacred. That’s because they believed it, “a way of communicating that brings a great sense of connection between people.” (In the words of Professor and Classicist Joanne Murphy.)
Like the Olympics in the Hellenic world, there’s one event that unites all LoL Esports fans, and that is the League of Legends World Championships. AKA Worlds. It’s the pinnacle of League of Legends, where the world’s best professional teams — and all their fans — gather in one spot, one competition.
Each team has their own story just to qualify for the competition, their own road to Worlds. Monster Gaming had a chance to hear two versions of this story: one from Gen.G, the Korean champion and a perennial favorite to win it all; and one from Team Liquid, the third seed from North America, with big hopes and bigger challenges. While the teams’ stories are vastly different, they carried the same spirit of the self-believing competitor, aiming to reach their highest form.
The Three-peat LCK champions - Gen.G
Gen.G has always been considered one of the, if not the best team in the world. It’s not only because of their superstar mid laner, Jung “Chovy” Ji-hun and his immense talent in the mid lane; each member were incredible talents in their own right. While they fell to T1 in the 2022 Spring split finals, they met T1 in the finals three more consecutive times since Summer 2022 and beat them each time.
With such a superstar line-up, Gen.G was considered to be the favorites to win the Worlds title last year. However, a miraculous run by LCK’s 4th seed, DRX, halted their tracks in the semifinals of Worlds.
“On a fundamental level, we lost to DRX last year because I think they were more desperate to win. However, I think our uniform that year also played a part in our loss as well [laughter] - Chovy”
Chovy’s joke comes off of some famous comments he made about his team’s jersey in 2022.
Chovy wasn’t fazed by their loss to DRX, even taking the opportunity to crack a joke or two. All jokes aside, he learned a critical thing from that Worlds run — and from 2023: how to relax.
“This year, I learned how to be more relaxed while I’m playing, and I’m aware that I’m heading into Worlds 2023 as a challenger, so I’m also bringing that same energy this year. - Chovy”
For Chovy, it would be important not to panic, because after 2022’s Worlds, Gen.G’s bot laner, Park “Ruler” Jae-hyuk, left the organization to form a super team with LPL’s JD Gaming. Since then, Ruler has found immense success both domestically and internationally. His replacement was a highly regarded ADC prospect Kim “Peyz” Su-hwan, and he had some big shoes to fill. Ruler was considered a franchise star and lynchpin for Gen.G. Despite so much pressure being on the rookie, Peyz left many in awe, ultimately becoming a ‘Royal Roader’ — an LCK rookie that wins a championship in their debut year.
“They do credit me for the team’s success, but a lot of it also had to do with the environment and luck as well… The fact that I made it to Worlds hasn’t really hit me at first, but when it did finally hit me, it felt really surreal. - Peyz”
From an eighth place finish in the LCS to qualifying for Worlds – Team Liquid.
Liquid, on the other hand, is a team that’s had a rough start in a region with rough prospects. When the roster of “Summit-Pyosik-Haeri-Yeon-CoreJJ” was announced in the Spring split of 2023, many quickly dubbed them “TLCK”. With a full Korean-speaking roster, they’ve also decided to bring on legendary player Jang “MaRin” Gyeong-hwan as head coach, to help them shape and train like LCK teams.
However, despite many predicting them to finish at least somewhere near the top of the standings, they completely fell apart in the Spring split, finishing 8th in their regular season. And their problem seemed to persist throughout the Summer split as well. So they had to make a drastic decision: Change mid laners in the middle of the split.
“Many picks that Haeri prepared during his bootcamp in Korea for the Summer split fell out of the meta. He was struggling. So it was either, ‘Okay, do we just hope that Haeri improves throughout the split? Or do we take a gamble?’ We decided on the latter and brought on APA from our academy team.” - CoreJJ
Changing mid laners meant changing the team’s style, so the team didn’t see drastic improvements at the start, but they were slowly improving. They got knocked down to the loser’s bracket early in the LCS Championships, but as they matched APA's style, they mounted an incredible loser’s bracket run that secured them a spot at Worlds 2023.
“I’ve kept an eye on APA ever since his amateur days, so I know what his playstyle is like. It’s very distinct. That’s why I felt that the team needed to adjust to APA’s playstyle, and while we started off a bit rocky due to communication issues, it just got easier from there. - CoreJJ
East vs West
Generally, teams from the West [LCS/LEC] are considered to be much weaker teams than their Eastern counterparts [LCK/LPL]. The tournament results prove the perception matches reality. Gen.G didn’t count out the West just yet, but they see more possibility in EU than NA.
“I was caught off guard when I witnessed NRG win the finals this year, and it also made me happy to watch veteran players win it. However, the widely accepted truth is that LEC>LCS, and I think G2 Esports has always done well in both the LEC and at international events, so I think G2 will do the best out of the Western teams. - Peanut”
Team Liquid knows they enter as a dark horse, needing to catch up to the pack. So they emphasized how important it is to have firm faith in their training process and preparation. If they do things right, they can use their underdog status to their advantage.
“We might have an underdog mindset because we’re from NA, but in reality, [the gap] isn’t that bad. As long as we show what we’ve prepared, our opponents will play worse, and things will work out for the better… We won’t be left with regrets. - CoreJJ & Reignover”
This year, the Swiss Stage format replaced the traditional Group stage format. While everyone’s on equal footing at the start, It meant that there was now less room for errors. Both Gen.G and TL showed confidence, but TL’s head coach Reignover recalled what their bootcamp was like in the beginning.
“It was honestly…Quite abysmal in the first week of our bootcamp [here in Korea], because we weren’t playing to our usual standards. They were veterans on the team, but it felt like they really came into this bootcamp unprepared. They REALLY enjoyed their vacation. So I was ready to really push my players on week 2 of the bootcamp. [...]
Factoring in adjusting to the Worlds patch, as well as the players getting back into their groove of really learning how to make use of their strengths as players, we learned a lot in week 2. Fast forward to present day, I feel very confident in our team right now” - Reignover
Gen.G’s coaching staff also emphasized how critical a quick start would be, within this new Swiss format.
“There’s a possibility that we can meet any team in the Swiss stages except for the first match, so we’ll need to power up on a fundamental level… There’s a lot less luck involved in the Swiss Stage format, and since it’s the first time for all of us, we’ll need to be more on our guard to prepare for any anomalies and upsets.” - Gen.G coaching staff]
“In the beginning of my career, my goals were more about making it to Worlds. However, after coming to the LCS, Worlds became my starting line. That’s why I’m thrilled to play this year, especially because I never made it to the starting line last year. There’s a lot more determination behind this year’s run. - CoreJJ”
Despite such different stories, both Gen.G and Team Liquid have made it to their starting line. Likewise, they both saw JDG as the biggest obstacle on their road. However, both teams had unwavering confidence that they would beat whoever stood in their way.
“I think JDG has a lot of momentum behind them. They’ve won a lot this year. LPL teams were very competitive by nature this year, so the important thing is to study them and the meta one step at a time. - Peanut”
For both teams, that JDG matchup is a little personal. Ruler had left Gen.G to forge this stacked LPL super team, but it was CoreJJ that helped forge Ruler into a superstar carry. The two won Worlds together when Gen.G was SSG, but now Core sees even more promise in a new protege.
“LCK/LPL teams have a very solid structure when it comes to their gameplay. Practicing with them a lot has taught us a lot about that structure, and it feels like we’ve been catching up to them, to the point where facing them doesn’t feel that hard anymore. Who knows what will happen when we play them.
While I’m happy for Ruler’s success, I don’t think he’s that good compared to Yeon.” - CoreJJ”
It’s not like the Summoner’s Cup has my name on it, right?”
The biggest competition of the year is fully in motion and while Gen.G and TL are a world apart in trajectory and expectations, they both see themselves as challengers. Nothing is given, no name or result is yet written.
“NA teams haven’t turned up internationally in many years. Our roster is a promising roster, so the goal is to perform to a level to give the NA fans hope. Our immediate goal is to make it out of Swiss stage, then it’ll be all about overcoming one hurdle at a time. I have faith in our practice regimen.” - Reignover
Worlds is under way already and while Team Liquid fell to T1, another Korean favorite, they put up an impressive fight.
For Chovy, he emphasized the importance of producing results at Worlds this year. At this point, an LCK championship is old hat. The season’;s true measure only comes at the end: the year will be a good one if he wins it all at Worlds.
“This season will have a meaning when we achieve results in the end… It’s not like the Summoner’s Cup has my name on it, right?” - Chovy