The reigning World Champions overcame T1 in a brilliant but brutally close series to move on to the finals next weekend.
Relief and joy were palpable in the DWG KIA staff and players as they took over from T1 at the post-match press conference.
DK - Welcome to the Greatest Show (Maker) in the world
It was the players' individual reactions after winning the first topic of inquiry. For Ghost, it was full of tears. “I knew that this was the last Worlds - or potentially even the last match - that the five of us would play together, so I was so worried about losing the final game, I would have been devastated if we lost the series. I was so relieved after winning, so I can say those tears were tears of relief.”
ShowMaker on the other hand, pulled a camera staredown that would make WWE production envious. “It was mostly because I was happy… but also because the cameraman came up to me and was like “Wow ShowMaker, come on! Come on!” so I just pulled that face.”
Khan also weighed in on his reactions and emotions during what was potentially his last series before heading off to military service, which is mandatory in South Korea. Down 1-2, Khan was understandably nervous. “I’m pretty sure anyone who enjoys those kinds of scenarios at a big international event are mentally ill [sic],” he started with a trademark explosive statement, “maybe they want to show that they are calm and collected, but they are just acting or faking it. I was very pressured when we were 1-2 down, and I was feeling very scared and very nervous to be honest.”
The same theme was present in a later answer from Khan as well when he was asked about how he was feeling about being one series away from earning a World Championship star for his jersey. “I feel so stressed, to be honest; every night I’m so nervous I have trouble sleeping. At the same time, I really appreciate the fact I get to play with these great players and coaching staff. They’ve taught me so much and I’ve improved so much thanks to them. I have a much wider point of view when it comes to reading the game as a result, so I want to thank those around me who’ve helped me get better at this game."
As for what he’s doing to prepare for finals? “It’s simple: I will always try to figure out how to play this game called League of Legends, and how I am going to build a lead and stretch that lead in order to close out the game. I will always practice with that approach to the game.”
And the pressure was certainly on DWG KIA in this series. In Game 5, they decided to switch up pick/ban, giving over Gumayusi’s prized Aphelios and drafting a Ziggs/Zoe poke comp in response. “We were preparing a lot of different picks and comps in scrims, “ coach kk0ma said, “so based on the flow of the entire series, during the feedback discussion we decided to do something different in game five. It was mainly because we were playing a Best of Five, so we had that freedom to adapt.”
And even then, game five ended up closer than it seemed when the Elder Dragon that sealed the win for DWG KIA came down to a smite fight. “Because we had a poke comp we wanted to zone them out, but we saw that T1 were very low HP, so I was getting ready for the smite fight,” Canyon said, speaking of the contest, “Also, I’m pretty sure Talon is favoured over Xin Zhao when it comes to smite contests, so that helped me steal it away.”
BeryL though, was questioned on the strength of his surprise Maokai support pick, and also about why he ran Steel Shoulderguards over Relic Shield. “Maokai’s strengths are the same as when he was a champion in top lane: he’s so stable heading into the later stages of the game. As for the starting item, I went for Steel Shoulderguards because Maokai’s base attack speed is fast and I wanted to make use of it.”
Ghost was also asked for his thoughts on the Jhin priority during the series - a pick he’s earned a skin for as a World Champion, and that went 4-0 in the series being traded back and forth between the teams. “There are many factors that made Jhin so powerful in the series today, but the biggest reason is I am very well versed on the champion and Gumayusi is also very proficient on the champion. Add in that both the players and teams as a whole knew how to play around Jhin, and I guess that’s why Jhin was able to find a lot of success.”
It was almost impossible not to talk to ShowMaker about how he evaluated himself as a mid laner. Considering the impressive calibre of players in the role during the knockout stages one press member suggested, these matches are almost a competition to see who the best mid in the world is. “The tournament isn’t over yet,” ShowMaker answered cautiously, “I still have the finals to play, so I need to wait and see. Still, I appreciate those kinds of comments about me!”
As for how he evaluated his series against Faker? “I think we both had a really fun match,” was the short and sweet response. ShowMaker was less pleased with his own level, saying he played “alright.” He had more to say about T1 as a whole, though. “They prepared a lot of different picks, and also I could tell they had become a lot stronger since the last time we faced them in the LCK.” Speaking of, ShowMaker admitted, “the pocket picks were a bit surprising the first time, but we could deal with them by just playing out the games.”
Canyon was also asked to evaluate his own performance and that of his opponent, Oner. “I think everyone played well except for some minor mistakes that happened several times in this series. And after facing Oner I realised he’s really good at teamfights - he’s a player that knows how to win the game, so it was pretty tough playing against him.”
Legendary coach kk0ma was also grilled about his thoughts on being only one series off a fourth World Championship to his name. “I’ve been repeating this same answer, but I don’t really care about my own record, I want to focus on DWG KIA making it into Worlds finals two times in a row and potentially being back-to-back World Champions - that’s what matters more to me.”
It’s a topic that was brought into a different lens when kk0ma was asked to reflect on beating Faker, the player he won three World Championships with and now denied a fourth. “I’ve always thought that you can’t compare the career of a player and a coach by the same standard. They’re so different, and I believe winning those titles as a player has more value. Personally, I pay more attention to DWG KIA winning Worlds, not my own record.” He bluntly reiterated his take just after. “One more time: I’ve never believed that the career of coaching staff equals the career of a player.”
However, Kk0ma was very unsure about who DWG KIA would be facing in the finals. “I honestly think it will be a 50/50 because the two teams are just so strong. I think it will all come down to their form on the day,” he said, before quipping, “I just hope it goes to five games so they expose all their picks to us!”
Either way, kk0ma was “pretty confident” in DWG KIA lifting the trophy once more, whoever their opponent was. More ominously though, he did admit sheepishly that “every time I express confidence I end up having bad results.”
Part and parcel of that confidence was DWG KIA’s undefeated run up until the semifinals. But, now that they’ve been pushed in such a tight series against T1, kk0ma believes that will help DK in the long run. “Because we were forced into different game scenarios than we’re used to, we've been able to see what we’re lacking as a team so I think this series will have been a really big help in preparing us for finals.”
As for any potential skin choices for winning Worlds? ShowMaker spoke for the team by saying “we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves!” Maybe that will have to wait until next week.
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Featured image courtesy of Riot Games and Getty Images