On November 3 from the Incheon Munhak Stadium in South Korea, viewership records are expected to be broken when Europe's Fnatic takes on China's Invictus Gaming in the 2018 League of Legends World Championship final. It will be the first time since the inaugural championship where a western team will be involved in the final, and it'll also be first year since 2012 where a South Korean team isn't present at the climax of the world championship.
What on paper resembles the closest finals match up maybe ever for the world championship, also has the added excitement of pitting the two most offensive teams against each other in the final. Both Fnatic and Invictus Gaming love to fight, coming in as No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, for kills per 10 minutes in the tournament. After already playing each other in the group stage with Fnatic heading into the final with a 2-1 advantage following a tie breaker to exit the group as the No.1 seed, we don't have to imagine how explosive a match between these two games can be. We've already seen it.
But, with all the talk of millions pouring online to watch the final (thanks China) and the possibility of a five-game instant classic, how do the previous worlds finals stack up heading into the Nov. 3 showdown? We have you covered.
Here is our Summoner's Cup Final power rank from worst (or, well, invalid) to the best, and what Fnatic and Invictus have to live up to this Saturday.
No. 7/Invalid/Disqualified - Fnatic vs. against All authority (Season One Championship)
How can we rank this as a Summoner's Cup Final if there wasn't even a Summoner's Cup at the time of this final? The Season One Championship stands as the beta test of what would eventually become the League of Legends World Championship. While some will argue that this tournament should hold the same value as the others, I'm not buying it. There was no Summoner's Cup which would be presented for the first time in 2012, major regions like South Korea and China weren't invited, and there was only eight teams in the whole event.
The field was so small at the Season One Championship, North America placed third, fourth, and fifth. Can we really count this as a world championship with results like that?
For the final itself, Fnatic bested France's against All authority -- oh how do I love random capitalization in esports -- in a best-of-three final. The final match itself didn't even go three games although the ultimate scoreline was 2-1 in favor of Fnatic. Since the Season One Championship was double-elimination, Fnatic began the final with a 1-0 advantage as the French team needed to work its way up from the lower bracket.
Paul "sOAZ" Boyer was on aAa, Enrique "xPeke" Cedeño Martínez was a top laner at this point, and the final took place in front of approximately 30 people inside David "Phreak" Turley's Swedish basement (DreamHack). It was a weird time in League of Legends, and although Fnatic did get commemorative skins in the game for winning the "world championship" years later to match the other winners, I'm not buying it.
No. 6 - SK Telecom T1 vs. Royal Club (2013 World Championship Final)
Remembering back, this final might bring you some wistful, nostalgic memories. Let me be the first to tell you that this final, outside of it being the coronation of Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok as the game's new overlord, was a complete walkover. Some of the games in the series appear close if all you look at is the kills score, but Royal was never a serious threat throughout the entire three-game sweep. The Chinese representative only accrued five towers throughout the entire final. While SKT T1 lost a few fights and were sometimes pressured around neutral objectives, they were never in real danger of even dropping a game to Jian "Uzi" Zi-Hao and his team.
No. 5 - Samsung White vs. Starhorn Royal Club (2014 World Championship)
I'm honestly not trying to pick on Uzi here, but in both of his final appearances, his team was outmatched in almost every single way by their finals counterpart. At least in the 2014 version of Uzi's despair, he picked up a victory, this time only losing the final 3-1.
In the 2014 final, it was held in South Korea, and Samsung White were the heavy favorites to run away with the final. After getting unlucky and being drawn into the same side of the bracket as sister team Samsung Blue, the other heavy favorite in the field that year, the fated meeting between the two in the semifinals was expected to produce the tournament's champion. What people didn't expect though was how one-sided the White and Blue clash would be, with White making its sister team look like it didn't even belong to be in the same venue as them.
So when it came to the actual final, White dominating wasn't a surprise. Although Starhorn Royal Club showed more fight and objective know-how than the 2013 version of itself, it didn't result in anything more than a bit of a moral victory when it snatched a game away from White. That was all, however. After letting the third game slip away from them, White put a swift end to matters, rolling over SHRC in game four to lift the Summoner's Cup.
No. 4 - Samsung Galaxy vs. SK Telecom T1 (2017 World Championship)
The night the SK Telecom T1 empire toppled. The final when it came down to score wasn't close, Samsung Galaxy taking three-straight to sweep SKT out of the tournament, but it was a closer match than the score would have showed. At times in the match it felt like SKT, the back-to-back defending champion, would flip a switch and become the invincible monster it has shown to be over the course of its existence. There were moments in the series where things were about to tip the scales into SKT's favor, and then Samsung would reel everything back in an instant, making a big play to keep the defending champions down on the mat.
In the third game of the series where SKT T1 was a single teamfight away from picking up its first win of the final and putting pressure on Samsung Galaxy, finals MVP Park "Ruler" Jae-hyuk flashed forward on Varus to ensnare Faker, take him off the map, and win the Summoner's Cup. Everything happened in a split-second. One moment, SKT and Faker were staging a comeback, and the next, Samsung was running out of their booth to lift the championship.
The sight of the game's best slumped in his chair after defeat, inconsolable, will be a moment etched in the minds of everyone who watched the 2017 final.
No. 3 - SK Telecom T1 vs. KOO Tigers (2015 World Championship)
The first championship final not held in Phreak's basement, SK Telecom T1 almost completed the entirety of the 2016 League of Legends World Championship without dropping a single map. Before losing the third game of the series to the KOO Tigers and a once-in-a-lifetime performance by maligned jungler Lee "Hojin" Ho-jin, SKT hadn't lost to anyone at worlds. Origen was expected to maybe take a game off of them in the semifinals, but the European upstart was no match for SKT. And on the other side of the bracket, what could have been Fnatic's chance to become the first team to lift the Summoner's Cup was thwarted by SKT's South Korean rival, the KOO Tigers.
Throughout the tournament, KOO's ace top laner, Song "Smeb" Kyung-ho was unstoppable. Given a difficult draw with KT Rolster in the quarterfinals, Smeb out dueled Kim "Ssumday" Chan-ho. He followed that master class performance up with an even better one against another South Korean top laner, Heo "Huni" Seung-hoon, who was the main win condition for Fnatic at the event.
Come the final, Smeb and the KOO Tigers weren't a complete enough team to take down Faker and his top lane partner Jang "MaRin" Gyeong-hwan. With the entire German crowd pulling for the Tigers to bring the series to a fifth game, Faker had what could be the magnum opus of his career, silencing the raucous crowd by finishing the series with a 9/0/4 scoreline on his signature Ryze.
No. 2 - SK Telecom T1 vs. Samsung Galaxy (2016 World Championship)
Before the heartbreak a year later in China, there were only tears of joy for SK Telecom T1 at the worlds final. Back in Los Angeles where they won their first Summoner's Cup, SK Telecom T1 entered the 2016 world championship with as much momentum as one team could possibly have. In what is still considered by many to be the greatest League of Legends match of all-time, SKT T1 defeated its longtime rival the ROX (formerly KOO) Tigers in the world's most famous arena, Madison Square Garden, in front of a sold out crowd. SKT T1 pulled back from a 1-2 deficit to win the series and eliminate the team expected to give them the most difficult fight in retaining their world title.
So when it came to the match with Samsung, it was an ultra-confident world champion facing off with the third-seed from South Korea who was gifted a draw from the heavens, only needing to dispatch of two western teams in the quarters and semis to play at Staples Center in Los Angeles. And while for the first two games of the series it did feel like the real final occurred back in New York City, Samsung Galaxy took an opening an overly confident SKT gave them in game three to prolong the series. It didn't take long until the series was deadlocked at 2-2, and the once believed one-sided final was the first world title match in history to go all five games.
Although Faker and company eventually pulled out the win in a relatively straightforward fifth match, it still remains the only world championship final to go the distance.
No. 1 - Taipei Assassins vs. Azubu Frost (2012 World Championship)
You always remember your first, and it's no different with League of Legends.
Although the Season One Championship is technically the start of professional League of Legends as we know it, the 2012 world championship final is what really set forth the vision of what we see today. Held at the Galen Center at the University of California, the world saw one of the biggest upsets in esports history as the Taipei Assassins defeated South Korea's powerhouse Azubu Frost in four games to be the first team awarded the Summoner's Cup.
We will never see another final like the Assassins and Frost again. Back then, teams were mysterious. Finding match results and important matches took time and effort. Nowadays, even in smaller regions like Japan, all you have to do is go to Youtube or Twitch, search for a few minutes, and you have dozens of matches of said team at your disposal to show you how they stack up with the rest of the world's best. In 2012, Taipei Assassins, were an enigma, a team with little to no public information on them. Worst for the teams playing them, the Assassins didn't even need to show anything in the group stages, automatically seeded into the quarterfinals where they began their historic run of knocking out NaJin Sword of South Korea, the western tournament-favorite Moscow 5, and then beating the eastern tournament-favorite Azubu Frost.
They weren't the cleanest games and it wasn't even the closest finals to date. Those negatives don't take away from the spectacle and the levity this final still holds. There is a chance Fnatic and Invictus can become the greatest Summoner's Cup Final in history, but with this final and the impact is had on the entire esports world, it's not going to be easy.