The League of Legends pro scene definitely delivered in 2021, both during the regular leagues and at the culminating World Championships. Drama unfolded at just about every turn as rivals went head-to-head in back-and-forth series. Giants bled, new teams took the crown, rising stars turned heads, iconic players cemented themselves in the history books. With 2021 drawing to a close, take a look back at some of the best moments and games from League of Legends in the LCS, LEC, LCK, and LPL.
We picked a narrative or series from each of the major regions, so you can relive all the excitement. These are matches you won’t want to miss out on watching, whether for the thrilling plays that unfolded or for the background stories—and consequences—tied to each game. In no particular order, here are the defining League of Legends moments in 2021.
League of Legends best moments and matchups of 2021
LCS: Cloud9 complete miracle run out of Worlds groups
With a history of qualifying for Worlds time and again, Cloud9 (C9) enjoyed that miraculous gauntlet run in 2015—achieving great things, but getting there the hard way. Earlier on this past year, C9 looked poised to regain the throne in NA. However, in the Summer split, the squad looked a little rough around the edges. They barraged through the lower bracket in the playoffs, but ultimately lost the LB finals to LCS Summer champions 100 Thieves.
Still, C9 went to Worlds as the third seed from NA, reaching the main event after a decent play-ins showing. The group stage, however, was another challenge entirely, pitting C9 against 2020 World Champions Damwon Gaming (DWG), 2019 World Champions FunPlus Phoenix (FPX), and a formidable EU side in Rogue (RGE). Ironically (as LCS teams usually fare better in the first round robin), the first week was utter disaster for C9. The squad went winless, 0-3, and looked just about ready to book the next flight out of Iceland.
By the second round robin, however, C9 started off with a crushing victory over RGE, then survived FPX to get themselves two much-needed wins. With some help from the other teams, C9 ended up in a tiebreaker scenario against the LEC squad. The grueling 54-minute match saw the two Western teams fight tooth and nail for the last spot out of their group, with C9 eventually taking down Rogue’s nexus and booking their playoffs spot.
The miraculous turnaround sparked the hope of not just C9 fans but NA supporters in general. While they didn’t advance farther than the quarterfinals, C9 yet again proved to be the only LCS team to reach the Worlds playoffs stage—doing so as the underdogs in a very competitive group, at that—earning them a highlight to remember this 2021.
LEC: Fnatic shut the Worlds door on Rekkles and G2
LEC fans were expecting to see the rivalry between Fnatic (FNC) and G2 unfold in dramatic fashion in 2021. Except that, perhaps most would have predicted it to be for the domestic title, rather than Worlds qualification. After all, the two orgs have essentially established themselves among the upper echelon of EU League of Legends teams. Even with other teams rising through the ranks as well, not many would have guessed either of them to fail to reach Worlds.
Before the 2021 season, FNC had lost their long-time ADC Martin “Rekkles” Larsson—who had spent eight years with the org—to none other than G2. At the end of the regular season of the Summer split, G2 came second in the standings, three places above FNC. This put G2 against MAD Lions for the playoffs winner’s bracket, while FNC was seeded into the lower bracket against Team Vitality.
But how the cookie crumbled in the Summer playoffs surprised fans and analysts alike. G2 surrendered their first series to MAD, 1-3, dropping into the lower bracket. Meanwhile, FNC ignited their LB run with thrilling 3-2 victories over Vitality followed by Misfits Gaming—advancing until they matched up against G2. The age-old rivals again went the distance for their series, vying for a spot in the lower bracket finals, which would essentially guarantee the squad a ticket to the World Championships.
Fnatic were fueled by the momentum of winning their past two playoffs matchups, pulling themselves over the line in the do-or-die game five. Not only did FNC go on an exhilarating run that led them to become the LEC runners-up this year, but their victory effectively snapped G2’s hopes of making it to Worlds. Rekkles ended up leaving his new team after just a season, heading to Karmine Corp in the LFL.
LCK: Damwon continue their dominance in Korea
There is but one Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok, and his legacy in League of Legends arguably remains unrivaled to this day. And yet, how many times have we seen up-and-coming mid laners be branded as the “next Faker”? Especially in recent seasons, when T1 as a team hasn’t performed well domestically and much less so internationally, new mid prodigies have been inching ever closer to challenging the most legendary player in the game’s history.
The most palpable case that we’ve seen has definitely been Damwon Gaming’s Heo “ShowMaker” Su, especially with DWG earning the LCK and Worlds crown in 2020. That year, T1 didn’t even come close. They placed fifth in Summer after losing the opening series in the playoffs against Afreeca Freecs. T1 fared a little better the next split—Spring 2021—reaching the semis, but losing 0-3 to Gen.G, who then conceded the crown again to Damwon in the finals.
ShowMaker and team were making their mark in LCK history, no doubt about that. To add fuel to the fire, they were also coached by kk0ma, who famously steered (SKT) T1 to their historic three-time Worlds crowns. But Faker wouldn’t go down without a fight. In the Summer playoffs, T1 got themselves to the finals, challenging defending champions Damwon.
At that point in the season, however, the titleholders dealt with T1 handily, 3-1. If fans weren’t convinced yet, the victory cemented DWG’s place in the LCK history books. In yet another rematch in the Worlds semis, T1 came much closer, pushing the series to five games, but ultimately Damwon made sure that ShowMaker stepped out of Faker’s shadow and built his own legacy. Moreover, ShowMaker and teammates, jungler Canyon and top laner Khan, took home multiple year-end awards—with the mid icon named as the Best Player of the Year.
LPL: EDward Gaming and China grab Summoner’s Cup, dethrone Korea’s Damwon Gaming
After successfully defending their throne in Korea, Damwon looked poised to become back-to-back World Champions. They cruised through the group stage, 6-0, confident of their ability to win even when they fell behind in a game or two. DWG even extended their undefeated streak to 9-0 after dispatching their quarterfinals opponents, MAD Lions, without too much fuss.
While we didn’t want to be too cliché by picking the Worlds finals as a moment to remember for 2021, it’s the gravity of the win that made it too good of a series to overlook. Not only was it a question of taking down a Korean powerhouse—the Korean powerhouse of the hour—but it was also a matter of settling the debate between LPL or LCK as League‘s strongest region.
After all, Korea looked the heavy favorites by the time the playoffs stage rolled around. All four LCK representatives had made it out of their respective groups, while only EDward Gaming (EDG) and Royal Never Give Up (RNG) remained from the LPL. Not to mention, the two teams from China were even pit against each other in the quarters, meaning that only one could hope to challenge the Korean overlords on the other side of the bracket—if they made it that far.
The quarters could have swung either way, going to all five games as EDG eventually held out to grab the win and advance. The semi-final matchup against Gen.G also went to the death. But EDG clawed their way through, booking their spot in the Worlds finals for the first time ever in the org’s history. Uncanny, really—the semifinalists at that point consisted of three LCK squads, all of whom had already garnered the Worlds crown at least once.
Fans had already witnessed a sensational best-of-five between T1 and DWG, with many even lamenting that the all-LCK series should have been the finals. But the EDG-DWG matchup proved just as thrilling—if not more so. EDG definitely exceeded expectations, never raising the white flag even with their backs against the wall. Pulling out all the stops, EDG came out on top and claimed the prized Summoner’s Cup after a bloodbath of a game five.