Royal Never Give Up went the distance at the 2019 Demacia Cup this Sunday, when they bested EDward Gaming 3-1 in the grand finals to take home gold for the third time in their history without their star ADC Jian "Uzi" Zi-Hao.
Demacia Cup began on Saturday, December 21, when we saw 16 LPL and four LDL teams start their venture in one of the most prestigious League of Legends tournaments in a bid to reach the summit and claim the title of Chinese LoL champions. The teams got split into four single round-robin groups of five, where they clashed with each other in best-of-one fixtures as they slowly fought their way to claim the top-two seed in their respective group.
Despite featuring a plethora of great teams, all eyes were set on a select few, which are widely regarded as one of the best teams in the LPL scene. Those teams were no other than 2018 world champions and 2019 LPL Spring champions Invictus Gaming, reigning world champions FunPlus Phoenix, second-most successful LPL team in history RNG and the most successful LPL team EDward Gaming, who entered Demacia Cup with a handful of new members, which they acquired during the off-season.
While some teams lived up to the expectations throughout the group stage, others failed to see the same success. In fact, only one of the four favourites reached the expectations, seeing how EDward were the only team to top their group. FunPlus Phoenix and Invictus Gaming both crashed out of the tournament during the group stage, while RNG barely made it through with a 2-2 record.
While FunPlus Phoenix and Invictus Gaming's failure to impress was a shock to many, RNG struggles were nothing unusual, considering they entered the tournament without their star ADC Uzi, who opted to skip the event due to health issues, which have been plaguing his career for a few years now.
Mata, who took over the role as RNG's head coach earlier this month decided to replace Uzi with a new arrival Lu "Betty" Yu-Hung, who struggled to perform during the group stage, however, found his stride in the playoffs, where he played a pivotal role in RNG's success.
Betty alongside his Shi "Ming" Sen-Ming laid waste on Rogue Warriors in the tournament quarter-finals, as they proved to be crucial members in RNG's 3-0 win and their promotion into the semi-finals.
In the semi-finals, RNG met with an old enemy - JD Gaming, who bested them in quarter-finals of LPL 2019 Spring Playoffs earlier in April and barely one week earlier in the group stage of Demacia Cup, suggesting RNG will struggle once more. That, however, was not the case.
Betty and Ming put up another impressive display in the bottom lane and completely outclassed JD Gaming's tandem of Lee "LokeN" Dong-wook and Zuo "LvMao" Ming-Hao in all three maps of the series, finishing their bout with an aggregate record of 17-7-63 as compared to 4-13-27 of JD Gaming' bottom lane.
After two commanding wins in quarter-finals and semi-finals, RNG set themselves for the final fixture of the tournament, where they met with EDward gaming, who edged past Team WE (3-2) and ViCi Gaming (3-2) en route to the grand finals.
The clash between EDG and RNG started with EDG winning the first map mostly due to success of their bottom lane duo Wang "Hope" Jie and Tian "Meiko" Ye, which outclassed Betty and Ming, who opted for an untraditional Senna-Shen pick. That being said, RNG's bottom lane bounced back in game two with a more traditional Miss Fortune-Morgana pick and even saw success with Senna-Shen in game three, to turn the series upside down, as RNG took the 2-1 lead.
In game four, it was Li "XLB" Xiao-Long who was laying waste on EDG squad from the jungle, while Betty and Ming kept EDG's bottom lane tandem in check, and prevented Hope's Kai'sa from getting to fed, which could spell out trouble. RNG slowly gained an advantage, won an important team fight at 35-minute mark and made one last push to blow up EDG's Nexus for the fourth and final time in order to lift the trophy and claim the title of Demacia Cup champions.
It was an incredible achievement for RNG, who were expected to struggle without Uzi, yet they proved that even without one of the best ADC's in the world, they are still the strongest LPL team ahead of 2020 season.
Of course, all the spotlight was on Betty who outperformed all the expectations by finishing the Demacia Cup with the second-highest overall KDA (8.53), only trailing IG's Ding "Puff" Wang, who played only four maps and earned 14.75 KDA. We must also mention RNG's new jungler XLB, who finished the tournament with the eighth-highest overall KDA (5.66) and played a pivotal role in RNG's success.
The team has not yet announced whether Betty will take over the role as their main ADC instead of Uzi, who is struggling with injuries and is even rumoured to retire, but based on Betty’s performance throughout the Demacia Cup, it's easy to see RNG’s new ADC is more than capable of replacing Uzi if Mata will require him to do so.
Despite losing in the grand finals, it was a very successful tournament for EDward Gaming, who put up a show and impressed everyone, especially considering they missed out on entering 2019 World Championship last season.
While tournaments as such rarely display team's true strength ahead of the season, EDward Gaming's run to the finals surely sparked a lot of optimism among their fans, who will be hoping 2020 will be the year when EDG rise to their former glory.