On October 31, DAMWON Gaming silenced the audience at the Pudong Football Stadium by defeating Suning in the 2020 World Championship finals. Earlier that day, the audience refused to cheer for the DAMWON players as they were introduced by the host. Instead of letting it affect their mental state, the DAMWON players used it as motivation to deliver the performance of their lives. Four games later, DAMWON became the first LCK team to win the title since 2017.
DAMWON has joined a very exclusive LCK club, joining SK Telecom T1 and Samsung Galaxy as the region’s only champions. Heading into a new era of the LCK, all eyes are on DAMWON and what the team is bringing to the table next.
Unlike the LPL where a new top team emerges every year, dominant teams in the LCK are expected to reign for multiple seasons. T1 is the first and only team in history to win back-to-back World Championship titles. In 2018, Gen.G, known at the time as KSV, was expected to repeat the feat but couldn’t make it out of groups.
In 2021, DAMWON is expected to dominate the LCK and international competitions. That’s the standard for the LCK teams, but the question is, will DAMWON be able to stay on top for another year? Will DAMWON be able to defend its title in the next World Championship?
In an unexpected turn of events, top laner Jang “Nuguri” Ha-gwon refused to renew his contract with the team. Instead, the top laner took an offer in the LPL and joined former World Champion FunPlus Phoenix. Losing one of its core pieces would’ve shaken any other team, but not DAMWON. The organization signed Kim “Khan” Dong-ha who recently had finished his contract with FPX.
As players, Khan and Nuguri are fairly similar. They both like to play unorthodox picks in the top lane and are extremely aggressive players that can manage on their own. Fans didn’t have to wait long to see Khan and DAMWON in action. On December 21, the new iteration of DAMWON played its first match against Nongshim RedForce in the 2020 KeSPA Cup. DAMWON finished the day with two convincing victories.
The new DAMWON felt exactly like the old one, and some might say the team looked even better. Every player played their role to perfection and it looked like a team that had been playing together for more than just a couple of weeks.
On the third day of the KeSPA Cup, Khan faced his first big challenge, Afreeca Freecs’ top laner Kim “Kiin” Gi-in. Kiin is an institution in the LCK, often regarded as the best top laner in the league and was formerly a member of the national team that competed in the 2018 Asian Games. Khan managed to neutralize Kiin and render him useless for the entire game. DAMWON took over the event and on January 2, will be playing in the final against Nongshim RedForce.
The short answer is pretty darn good. The most outstanding trait of this team is its ability to adapt to the enemy and change its style. No other team in the world has this flexibility. While some teams have limited champion pools and a static game plan, DAMWON can play anything, anywhere.
With Khan on the roster, DAMWON can still do the same, a scary prospect for the LCK teams who will be facing this juggernaut in the spring. The players on this roster are mechanically gifted and the coaching staff is world class.
Former SKT coach, Kim “kkOma” Jeong-gyun is now in charge of DAMWON and he’s excelling at his job so far. kkOma previously worked with Khan during his SKT days and knows exactly how to lead a team to victory.
In the 2020 KeSPA Cup, DAMWON only dropped one game against Hanwha Life Esports during the semifinals. The team quickly recovered and won the series with a 3-1 score. DAMWON is the favorite to win the tournament in January, so the team is starting the new year on a high note.
It’s been less than two months since DAMWON’s victory in Shanghai, but everyone’s already thinking about the next Worlds. DAMWON is in a strong enough position to stay at the top of the LCK, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into international success.
The real test for DAMWON is not the domestic competition, but the international stages. The first international stop of the year is the Mid-Season Invitational, a title that DAMWON wants in 2021. After that, it’s all about Worlds and defending the title.
DAMWON is looking better than good. The team is solid and it feels it can only get better from here. The current World Champion must follow the LPL closely because the greatest threats it will face on the international stage will likely come from China.