Korea had once been the mecca of esports. The LCK brought forth some of the greatest esports dynasties with teams like SKT T1 as well as Samsung, but over the last few years, the slow and steady playstyle had been replaced by the dominant teamfights of the Chinese.
Damwon Gaming have come to bring Korea back into their rightful spot, to make the once strongest region the top of League of Legends esports once more. They’ve breezed through the group stage, obliterated DRX, and come to take their revenge on G2 esports.
But up until this point, they’ve never been able to show a good result on stage. Will Damwon finally lose the slogan of being ‘just a scrim team’ when they face off against Suning at Pudong Football Stadium in front of 6,000 Chinese fans.
Damwon Gaming: Will They Bring the Summoner's Cup Back to Korea?
Damwon entered the scene in 2019 when they qualified for the LCK by winning Korea Challengers. Before that, the team had dominated the Challengers scene and even impressed before they had a chance to play a single game in the LCK.
In an interview at the 2018 World Championship, which was held in South Korea, Fnatic’s ADC Martin “Rekkles” Larsson praised the team as one of the strongest scrim opponents.
“Damwon Gaming, [...] they are pretty damn good. I would say that’s the kind of team you want at worlds, but maybe next year.”
And next year this came to fruition. Damwon Gaming took 2019 by storm. This was a team that finished fifth, middle-of-the-pack in the Spring Split of 2019, making it into the playoffs, only to end in fourth place overall.
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Who was this team though? Who were these players that had impressed veterans to even be mentioned before their time in the LCK? One of the most known faces of Damwon Gaming is their top laner Jang "Nuguri" Hagwon who is known for his flashy and aggressive playstyle, which was criticized by Invictus Gaming top laner Kang “TheShy” Seunglok.
"I'm gonna be honest. Nuguri has a style that I really dislike. He gets ganked too often, and he doesn't seem to think about the risks around being ganked [...] I actually think that Nuguri is a completely opposite player to me."
After their fourth-place finish, Damwon retained the same roster as Spring Split and took charge of the LCK, placing second in the regular season and third in play-offs after losing to SKT T1. The team would go on to take the third qualifying spot for the 2019 World Championship in Europe.
The team fell short in the quarterfinals, falling to G2 who would go on to be the runners-up of the tournament.
Damwon didn’t sit idle though. The team had some issues, especially with communication, as well as team play which they’d managed to overlook during their first year in the LCK. By bringing in a new head coach, Lee “Zefa” Jaemin, as well as a new young ADC in Jang "Ghost" Yongjun the team was able to create their own style of League of Legends.
Spring was once again a fourth-place finish, but the 2020 Summer Split is what truly cemented Damwon as one of the scariest teams to compete at the 2020 World Championship.
- READ MORE: The story of T1 – Part 1
Damwon created a playstyle that looked aggressive, much like that of an LPL team, completely different from what most think the LCK to be. The LCK is the slow, methodological League of Legends. Games can take up to 50 minutes with only a few kills. Damwon played differently though.
Since joining the LCK, they seemed to be one of the more aggressive teams, going in for fights, pushing forward, but by summer 2020 it seemed they’d perfected the art of playing to their draft. So, while it might look completely and utterly aggressive, Damwon became the type of team that knew just how to play out their draft.
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The team has looked strong throughout the 2020 World Championship and has played through all lanes. Sure, they’ve had hiccups in their play, especially when they tried out the carry Fiora in the second game of the semi-finals, but the team managed to bounce back and finish G2 off quickly.
Damwon is truly looking like a contender, ever since the beginning of the summer split, when they just overran the LCK. Will Damwon be able to continue to perfectly execute on their drafted comps and bring the Summoner’s Cup back to Korea? Only Saturday will tell.