DWG KIA: The Rise to Glory

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Oct 15

2020 was the year an unknown entity to many Western fans entered the Worlds group stage, planning their own rise to glory. DWG KIA was all but previously an unknown until they burst onto the Worlds group stage and forced everyone to take notice; now the Worlds 2020 champions are back for Worlds 2022.

Having claimed victory over Suning, in true LCK style—DWG KIA claimed the Worlds title for a region that had previously struggled against the LPL. Damwon had made their mark on the world stage. Two years on, Damwon Gaming Kia are on the World stage once more; ready to do one better than last year—where they placed second to the LPL team EDG—and recreate the glory of 2020.

But what’s the story behind this Korean powerhouse? Just why are they one to watch this Worlds?

Damwon Gaming Kia began as a new team having acquired a Challengers Korea slot in 2017. The slot, which was purchased from MiraGe Gaming, was then transformed into Damwon Gaming (which subsequently changed again following the Worlds 2020 win). Playing in the CK during 2017, the starting roster featured DRX’s current support Beryl (as ADC), along with retired jungler, and now coach, Crush. Others on the roster included, mid laner Try (Boroona), the support of Kwangdong Freecs—Hoit, and the top laner of KaBuM! e-Sports, Parang. The roster had limited success, placing fifth at the end of summer split out of eight.

Following three of the players leaving, Damwon signed two of the most influential players in the Worlds 2020 success in the form of top laner Nugeri and midlaner Showmaker. Another top laner, Iron, was bought in alongside ADC Alive and a new coach M4sin, in a move that saw Beryl move to the position of support.

This new, shaken-up roster, plus some jungle changes throughout the season, saw Damwon start their road to greatness. After finishing the Spring split of 2018 in second place with a score-line of 11-3, Summer Split 2018 saw this upward trajectory continue as the roster, now with Nuclear in the ADC position, claimed the top spot and win the split.

2019 saw a strong continuation for the team. Having been promoted to the LCK, the team added the now notorious jungler, Canyon, to the roster. Despite such a recent promotion, finished fifth in the Spring split.

By Summer 2019, the roster was only missing one of the iconic 2020 Worlds main players. And in that split placed second overall, qualified for regionals, and won a spot to debut at Worlds 2019. However, their Worlds debut was also the same year that an LPL representative once again scooped the World title. So while Damwon placed a disappointing eighth, the last Korean team to win the world title was two years prior. The region was in a slump, and this where Damwon began to push harder than ever before.

Damwon demolished their region in the competitive LCK season of 2020, sending themselves straight to the Worlds 2020 tournament being hosted in China. Nuclear moved to sub during the season, as Ghost entered as the new ADC.

This completed the roster that would send one clear message to the LPL; the LCK would not lose three Worlds in a row. Qualifying for the group stage, Damwon were put into Group B alongside JD Gaming, PSG Talon, and Rogue. Throughout the entirety of the group stage, Damwon dropped just a singular game (to JD Gaming), and successfully finished top of their group.

The roster then proceeded to 3-0 fellow LCK team DRX and 3-1 the LEC team G2 Esports, before progressing to the finals to face up against Suning. This was the moment Damwon had been waiting for, to finally reclaim the glory for the LCK from the LPL teams. And there was no better place to do it than in the home team’s region. Prior to the match Showmaker had said in an interview that “when you have something stolen away from you, the desire to take back what was once yours is greater than the desire to protect what you currently have.”

Damwon had come to prove that the LCK would stop at nothing to get their trophy back, and despite an original quiet reception from the live audience at Worlds 2020 in Shanghai, Damwon pushed on. The new Worlds champion of Damwon cleaned up Suning in a clean 3-1 match, taking the trophy and the title back to the LCK once more.

But for Damwon, the success of Worlds 2020 could unfortunately not be mirrored in 2021. Despite rebranding to Damwon Gaming KIA (a result of winning Worlds 2020), 2021 was not to be the year of Damwon. Having won both the Spring and Summer splits; Damwon secured tickets to both MSI 2021 and Worlds 2021. But placed in second to LPL teams at both (RNG and EDG respectively).

Despite the defeat, it was clear that Damwon wanted to bring back the titles for the LCK. Multiple roster swaps and changes were made throughout the season to attempt to recreate the glory that had been bought back to the LCK from 2020. These changes included Nuguri leaving to the LPL and top lane being filled by Khan. Despite being undefeated in the group stage, Damwon missed out once more to the LPL.

For those unfamiliar with international LoL, the LPL vs LCK fighting for titles, is the equivalent of LCS vs LEC. The LPL and LCK have been battling routinely at international tournaments for titles as the two regions fight to claim the titles of MSI and World champions. Prior to the Worlds 2020 win, the LCK hadn’t won the Worlds title since 2017. Or MSI title since 2017.

MSI 2018, 2021 and 2022 were all won by the LPL, while Worlds 2018, 2019 and 2021 were also won by the LPL. This back and forth between the two regions for the international titles sets the scene for Worlds 2022 where the LCK will be wanting to prove they can take back their title. For both regions this Worlds will be a testament to the calibre their region. For DWG KIA though, the pressure remains the same; to bring back the title of world champion to the LCK and claim the glory once more.

With Worlds 2022 all ready in full swing, and Damwon’s group stage slot in Group B confirmed; is this the year that Damwon is once again able to reclaim glory for the LCK? Group B is an interesting group, as there is a team from each major region. Damwon will face up against the LEC’s G2 Esports; who are on their own journey of attempting to reclaim glory (since their last international title win of MSI 2019). As well as the LCS’s Evil Geniuses, and an old adversary of the LPL’s JDG Intel Esports Club (formerly JD Gaming).

The roster for Damwon heading into Worlds 2022 is reminiscent of the roster seen in 2020; with Nuguri (having returned from the LPL), Canyon and Showmaker all back in their 2020 positions; while the ADC slot is held by deokdam and support filled by Kellin. The strong topside is clear, this Damwon is ready to replicate their 2020 success; and with what we know of this team, many expect them to go far within Worlds 2022. Including to reach finals, to see if they can reclaim the title once more for the LCK.

Damwon’s first match of the group stage was against G2 Esports, who Damwon demolished in a 32-minute back and forth match. Increasing the head to head 5-4 in Damwon’s favour. The match itself was a clinic by Damwon and set the tone for the rest of their Worlds run. Although the match was slower than Damwon’s fastest win over G2 (just 19 minutes); this match was a statement–This is the LCK third seed, they are at Worlds to reclaim glory, and they began this by dismantling the LEC second seed.

The second match of groups was against the LPL first seed of JD Gaming; but a loss for Damwon setting the backdrop for another Worlds tournament of LCK vs LPL. Finally, their most recent match was against the LCS Evil Geniuses. DWG KIA secured the dragon soul, wiping EG out of the pit with ease, and taking the nexus before 30 minutes. This is the DWG KIA we were expecting to see at Worlds 2022; and this DWG KIA is coming back for their title.

The next DWG KIA match will be October 14th against G2 Esports in the rematch. The match will start at 11pm CEST/3pm EST/11pm CST.

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