Another LPL finals, another Zhuo “knight” Ding versus Zeng “Yagao” Qi matchup in the mid lane, this time wearing different colors.

After playing for JD Gaming since 2018, Yagao left to join Bilibili Gaming for the 2023 season. Taking his place is his long-time friend from the same hometown, knight, who departed Top Esports after four years.

These two teams already met in Round 4 of the LPL Spring 2023 playoffs, giving us a thrilling series that went the distance. JDG won 3-2, led by head coach Yoon “Homme” Sung-young, and went on to sweep Edward Gaming to qualify for the finals and MSI 2023. In the lower bracket, BLG fought tooth and nail, defeating Oh My God and Edward Gaming 3-2 to set up a rematch.

JD Gaming out draft and outplay Bilibili Gaming in three out of four games

In the opening game, JDG first picked Annie on blue side and left her open as a flex pick for either mid or support. Because of this, BLG chose to ban even more mid lane champions in the second phase.

Conversely, JDG targeted top lane in their bans, taking away three of Chen “Bin” Ze-Bin’s champions and blind picking K’Sante for Bai “369” Jia-Hao, leaving support for last — enchanter Lulu for Lou “Missing” Yun-Feng against an Aphelios-Thresh lane.

Two fights swung momentum in JDG’s favor. While Peng “Xun” Li-Xun stole the first dragon, JDG made them pay by going on the aggressive, earning two kills for Park “Ruler” Jae-hyuk’s Jinx.

After a couple of mid game skirmishes, BLG eventually caught up in kills, with both teams equal in gold. The triple scaling BLG comp comprising Jax, Veigar, and Aphelios were still a real threat, but JDG nipped it in the bud at the 23rd minute, picking a fight while BLG were doing Baron.

Knight found the perfect flank angle on Annie to open, stunning two key targets while zoning the rest. With Baron buff and an additional Hextech dragon, JDG took full control of the game, closing it out four minutes later.

BLG fell back to comfort in game two, opting for AOE champions Galio and Kindred, a draft strategy that’s gotten them to the finals. To prevent the full combo from taking effect, JDG banned Camille in the second half and Kennen in the first.

Support Luo “ON” Wen-Jun was also on his signature Blitzcrank, who reaped an early kill onto Ruler’s Jinx in the laning phase. By mid game however, Knight’s Ahri and Seo “Kanavi” Jin-hyeok’s Wukong managed to pull their weight in team fights. Using their champions’ mobility to their advantage, they navigated past BLG’s pick and AOE potential.

Leading 13 kills to three with a 6,000 gold lead, it was JDG who started Baron this time at the 22nd minute. Mobile champions Ahri and Rakan kept BLG at bay while the rest concentrated on taking Baron down. At the last second, Missing activated The Quickness, jumping into BLG’s backline, charming three while his team took care of Galio.

With the ace, JDG ran down mid to secure an advantageous 2-0 lead in the series in less than 23 minutes, with Knight holding a whopping 24 stacks on Mejai’s Soulstealer.

Changing up their draft altogether, BLG grabbed a first-pick Ahri on blue side, building a high single-target composition with Vi, Xayah, Gwen, and Nautilus for crowd control. In response, JDG went defensive — possibly too defensive — with Tahm Kench and Aphelios bot, Lissandra mid, and yet another tank for 369 in K’Sante.

Focusing on top side, Xun’s Vi got Bin’s Gwen, one of his best champions, ahead in the early game. Knowing they couldn’t take fights, JDG chose to give up many objectives in hopes that Ruler’s Aphelios would be able to scale, but he was constantly half an item behind his counterpart AD carry. Because they lacked damage in team fights, BLG snowballed into a 34-minute win, keeping their championship hopes alive.

Hotly contested this series, JDG on blue side in game four grabbed, you guessed it, Ahri as first pick. Going back to what worked in game one and two, they drafted Jinx for Ruler and Wukong for Kanavi again. And finally, 369 got to play something else this series — Gragas.

BLG too, relied on their winning formula last game, with repeat champions Vi, Xayah, and Nautilus. Syndra was added to add to their single-target mix, while Bin selected signature champion, Fiora, which previously took Suning the distance at Worlds 2020.

Knight however, posed too much of a problem. Mechanically skilled on this champion, landing high accuracy charms while being slippery, with added support from his teammates, he held a perfect 5/0/5 KDA from mid to late game.

With 16 kills to seven, Chemtech Dragon soul, 7,000 gold lead, and Baron buff, JD Gaming snowballed and never let go of the accelerator. Forcing skirmish after skirmish, they broke through BLG’s base to win the series and the LPL Spring 2023 championship title, 3-1, with CNY$2,000,000 (~USD$290,000) in prize money.

The Finals MVP was awarded to Ruler, a consistent AD carry who made minimal mistakes throughout the match. It is his first split competing in the LPL after leaving the LCK and Gen.G behind.

In his debut season in China, he not only finished first in the regular season with JD Gaming, but also picked up a back-to-back title since winning LCK Summer 2022 with Gen.G.

First seed JD Gaming and Bilibili Gaming will represent the LPL at MSI 2023.

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