FunPlus Phoenix was one of the frontrunners competing for the title at the 2021 World Championship. But the iconic organization dropped out dead last in the group behind two western teams.
How do previous world champions, the second seed from the strongest region, bomb out with a 0-4 day? We’ll break down FPX’s most glaring weaknesses and evaluate some Fandex takeaways for the competitively-minded.
Heading into the LPL Summer 2021 grand final, FPX hadn’t lost a series for nearly two entire months. Since week 5 of the LPL, FPX had a game record of 22 wins to 2 losses, with the losses being from EDward Gaming and Rare Atom. FPX looked unstoppable.
Then FPX met EDward Gaming in the grand finals, and suddenly the team seemed off its game. Game one was a one-sided affair with EDG’s top side of the map bringing the pain to FPX. Game 2 was no different, with Scout’s Ryze going nuclear for a 10-0 scoreline. FPX clawed back a game three off of a spectacular Varus game for Lwx, but it wasn’t enough to stop Viper’s 11-1 Aphelios from detonating Tian and Nuguri with ease.
This series seemed like a fluke, a poor day of play for FPX. In hindsight, it was the first cracks in the armor that FPX began to show when under pressure.
When groups began, FPX was one of the strongest available contenders for the tournament itself. Fun Plus’ name was being thrown around with EDG, T1, and DWG KIA as possible victors.
The first stint of group play showed exactly what many expected. FPX had trouble beating DWG KIA but could topple western teams with ease. With the only loss being to Damwon, fans figured this was a secure second seed out of groups for Kim “Doinb” Tae-sang and crew.
But October 15 brought disaster.
The first game for FPX’s last day was against DWG KIA, so hopes were still high for FunPlus. Jang “Nuguri” Ha-gwon’s 0-6 performance on Gragas was certainly a tad uncharacteristic, but not unthinkable against such a top-tier team.
The next three matches were where FunPlus Phoenix imploded in upon themselves.
The LCS’ Cloud9 should have been road bumps in the way, but the game became a very wild ride. Cloud9 looked unrecognizable from the 0-3 start, bringing the fight to FPX from minute one. Cloud9 secured first blood, turret, dragon, baron, and herald. With immediate momentum and a triple kill for Robert “Blaber” Huang’s Xin Zhao at the five-minute mark, C9 steamrolled FPX and ended the game before 30 minutes.
Whatever edge FPX had when the group stage began was completely gone. FPX was squashed by Rogue in the following game with a deathless Odoamne bringing the terror alongside Inspired’s Fiddlesticks pick. FPX was hemorrhaging gold and matches at a rate it simply couldn’t seem to reverse.
With a 0-3 performance on the day, FPX was forced to play two possible tiebreakers, if the team could make it that far. FPX couldn’t even rally for the first one and had an even more disappointing loss to Rogue.
Notably poor performances from Lin “Lwx” Wei-Xiang, Gao “Tian” Tian-Liang, and Nuguri cost FPX games that should have been easy on paper. While Rogue and Cloud9 certainly both stepped up, FPX’s departure from Worlds feels more like a catastrophic internal collapse than either western team ascending to god-like prowess after a single day of rest. After the first loss to Cloud9, FunPlux Phoenix seemed to lose its way and proceeded to have some truly uncharacteristically awful performance.
Group A has led to some serious turnarounds for Fandex choices. Both C9 and Rogue topped their expected wins and ended up being solid picks for those with faith in the LEC and LCS. Meanwhile, FPX careened out of the group with half its expected wins and an early trip home. Fans looking for similar upsets can turn their eyes towards Fnatic and PSG Talon in Group C.
FPX’s exit in last place proves anything can happen at Worlds. Group play continues through Monday, October 17.