League of Legends Championship Series Underdogs: Who We Have Enjoyed Watching
Team SoloMid. Gravity. SK Telecom t1. Edward Gaming. These teams – and more – are listed when anyone asks a League Championship fan “What's your favorite team? Who do you root for?”
It's easy to root for ones who win because there's a smaller chance one will be disappointed. Then these fans root for their teams year after year, even if the team has a bad season, because that's what loyal fans do. There's a sense of community in the championship, something the game is well known for.
Several new teams formed, mobilized, and made it past the Challenger Series this year, coming into tournaments with some tried and true veterans. Some are exceptionally good. Some are bad. A couple have been the underdogs, the teams that audiences don't expect much or anything of, but they have been unexpectedly fun to watch and carried that spirit to the summer playoffs and later, possibly, Worlds.
A few of these teams haven't made it that far, but that doesn't mean they haven't achieved some astonishing stops.
There are two teams in particular that have pulled off some astonishing plays. One of these teams have made it to the summer playoffs, and the other will have to go back to relegation. Regardless, these are both teams that aren't going to be discussed because of how good they are, but rather how high their teamwork is, how much fun they are capable of with the game, and just pure shock value they have instilled in audience.
Team Dragon Knights
Well, someone has to say it.
From the moment this team came in 2nd in the challenger series playoffs and qualified in the summer promotion, Team Dragon Knights was struck by disaster. Jin Hyun “Emperor” Kim and Geon-woo “Ninja” Noh had issues with their work visas that allowed them to play in North America.
Team Dragon Knights had to resort to subs for them to actually play, and they traded out their original support for one that would play better on the team with the new subs for the first three games. With over half their team as substitutes, to say the first half of the summer split went badly for them is an understatement.
For the first week, they lost all their bans, and it didn't stop there. They lost every game up until day 2 of the 5th week, when Emperor and Ninja could finally join back in the split. Even with their return, they still finished last place with a score of three wins to fifteen losses.
So, why is Team Dragon Knights mentioned here at all? Because the wins they do have were against two first place teams, and one veteran team who knows their way around League of Legends.
The three wins they managed to secure were against teams who weren't pushovers. Cloud 9 was falling apart badly in the summer split, and they barely survived being relegated, but they had defeated Team Dragon Knights before in the same split, although it was before Ninja and Emperor's return.
Team Dignitas was the first place team at the time when TDK defeated them in their first game with Emperor and Ninja back on the roster. When TDK beat Gravity in the 9th week, the fan base stopped to wonder for a moment what could have been if the visa fiasco didn't happen.
They still have a lot of work to do. They will be sent to relegations, because last place is last place. The team will have to earn their way back, and there's no way to tell what can happen next year. However, there have been some unforgettable plays and games.
Before Ninja's return, the mid player Aaron “Bischu” Kim outplayed Team Liquid's Kim “Fenix” Jae-hoon by tossing him in the tower's range. When their team's roster was worked out, beating Team Dignitas was first on the agenda. However, they did not win again until the 9th week.
Everyone was scratching their heads over Team Dragon Knights' strange team compositions, but no one can deny how well it works for them. Against Gravity, Team Dragon Knights took Irelia mid and Kassadin top, both highly unusual choices that should have been reversed, but Ninja and Woo-Yeong “Seraph” Shin had the most kills of the team and lowest number of deaths, winning the game.
Almost as odd was the split team comp they chose against Cloud9, when Seraph took Kha'Zix in the top lane. Again, it worked for them, and it's disappointing they couldn't show more.
Who saw this coming? No one.
Unicorns of Love
Pretty much the only reason anyone would ever need.
The inverse of Team Dragon Knights would be Unicorns of Love. With their sillier name than other fellow teams as well as this being their rookie year, not many took this team seriously, even though they performed well in their challenger games and cups. Only scoring below 2nd a handful of times, they still had a shaky start upon entering their Challenger series.
When they reached playoffs, the Unicorns hit their stride and finished third, allowing for a qualifier match into the spring split. They won the spring promotion and made it to the split, where they would have to confront the huge threat Fnatic eventually. It was a lot of pressure, but it was pressure that the Unicorns of Love handled quite well.
The biggest reason Unicorns of Love is so fun to watch is how happy they are, constantly, even when losing, and this sort of playfulness is visible in their games. Every time they win, they act like they have won Worlds or something similar, which is understandable. This is their rookie year; they are new to the League Championship Series. But it's refreshing to see; it's easy to smile along with them.
This positive attitude obviously helps them in their games as well. Unlike Team Dragon Knights, they have done well since their promotion series. They finished second in the spring playoffs after being 5th in the spring split, only losing against the famed Fnatic, who many think is going to win or finish strong in Worlds this year.
They finished fourth in the summer split. As for the summer playoffs, they're already off to a great start. They won against Roccats in the quarter finals on August 8th, meaning they will face Fnatic next week for the semi-finals.
However, Unicorns of Love have plenty of shock value of their own. What they are remembered for the most are their ridiculous plays, ones that often come out of nowhere and keep them from losing the game.
In fact, perhaps part of the reason they are so happy is how close their games come, and how stressful they are. The biggest example of this, obviously, is one of their performances against Fnatic in the spring split.
Argued to be the best game across the North American and European Spring Splits, Unicorns of Love had their base infiltrated in a seemingly endgame wave. Fnatic took both of the Nexus turrets down, and began to chip away at the Nexus. The game should have been over, but the Unicorns of Love pulled off an ace that saved their Nexus with just a sliver of health left.
This should have been enough to be seen as an amazing play. Fnatic had an 11 kill lead as well as a little less than 15k gold lead. But what really cinched the game was that Unicorns of Love did it again when Fnatic invaded their base.
Fnatic whittled the Nexus again to almost gone, until Unicorns of Love pushed them back and scored another ace. This was enough for Unicorns of Love to ride the momentum and close the game, against all odds and against the tide of the game. Quite a few fans think that Fnatic should have won, but regardless, no one is forgetting that particular game anytime soon.
Also unforgettable was the game that followed, in the playoffs: they upset SK Gaming in a very narrow best of 5, taking the third game to one of the longest in the championship altogether. Also memorable in the game was the pick of Shaco for the jungler, the first time the European LCS had seen that champion all year. This win allowed them to secure 2nd place in the Spring playoffs, and now, we will undoubtedly see them at Worlds.
Gods among men... or just a REALLY good game.
These are just two of the rookie, underdog teams that have shown some pretty fascinating colors. Who would you include in this discussion?