After two LCK versus LPL finals in the last two Mid-Season Invitationals, which Royal Never Give Up won, MSI 2023 instead featured a LPL Spring 2023 rematch between JD Gaming and Bilibili Gaming.
Making history, second seed Bilibili Gaming started their journey from the Play-Ins before sweeping Cloud9 in the first round of the Bracket Stage. After losing to rivals JDG in the second round, they climbed through the lower bracket, upsetting both Gen.G and tournament favorites T1 to reach the finals.
Both LPL Spring 2023 finals and MSI 2023 grand finals ended in 3-1, continually in favor of JD Gaming. Lead by head coach Yoon “Homme” Sung-young since 2020, JD Gaming are achieving more and more every year.
Together, JD Gaming threw Bin’s predictions into the trash
BLG opened game one by banning Ahri, Annie, K’Sante, and Sylas — four mid lane champions to deny Zhuo “knight” Ding. In the same vein, JDG banned three top lane champions in Gwen, Fiora, and Gnar to deny Chen “Bin” Ze-Bin, so it was obvious which player each team was most wary of.
JDG also threw a curveball by flexing Nautilus to jungle so that they get a favorable matchup in mid in Jayce versus Syndra.
The combined roaming of knight’s Jayce and Seo “Kanavi” Jin-hyeok’s Nautilus earned early leads. Outplaying BLG at objectives, they gradually built up a gold advantage. At the 25-minute mark, BLG overchased knight deep into blue side’s jungle, which JDG completely turned around for an ace into the Nexus to secure the first game of the series.
Both teams swapped sides in game two, and of course, Jinx was still a first-pick on blue side. This time around, BLG banned Gragas over Annie, which JDG snapped up for knight.
A slower paced game, BLG built up advantages by securing dragons off the back of Peng “XUN” Li-Xun’s Maokai, putting pressure on bot side. After all, top side was the strong side as Bin was on Gwen, one of his best champions.
They also managed to secure the first Baron, and eventually Infernal Dragon soul, which tilted the game in their favor, extending their 6,000 gold lead.
Unable to match their opponents offensively, JDG crumbled to concede game two without ever pulling off a single effective team fight with Annie and Sion’s combo.
Teams pulling out surprise champions is what makes grand finals fun. In game three, BLG took a risk on bot lane Vayne after Jinx and Aphelios were banned out. She stood alongside a high base damage, early game lineup comprising Kennen, Kha’xiz, and Annie.
JDG went back to what they do best: three protect two, with Sion, Sejuani, and Rakan on the frontline. Again, it boiled down to Kanavi and knight’s roams down to bot. By mid game, knight’s Jayce and Ruler’s Zeri had two kills each, and bounties on their heads.
The turning point was at the 19-minute mark, when BLG thought they had caught out Bai “369” Jia-Hao in a bad spot. However, he was too tanky to fall, and by the time he disengaged, his entire team had come to back him up.
Killing three, including the jungler, JDG secured Baron to end game three in just under 24 minutes.
Sticking to their big guns, Kanavi and 369 were again on tank duty in game four. Playing Sion for a third time in a row, he was joined by jungle Maokai and support Thresh to surround knight’s Jayce and Ruler’s Aphelios.
For the first 10 minutes, there wasn’t a single kill — until Kanavi and 369 made a move at top with a perfect Sion knock-up and Nature’s Grasp combo to get first blood on Bin’s Gnar.
From there, they snowballed methodically, suffocating BLG’s comp, never giving them a chance to team fight on equal ground, closing out the solid 3-1 victory, proving in every best-of-five that they are the better team.
Knight’s Jayce maintained a perfect KDA in two games, and ended with a 5/1/4 scoreline in game four. For his wave control in mid and movements around the map, consistently supporting his team all while dishing out an average of 677 damage per minute — even more than Ruler this series — he was awarded the Finals MVP.
JD Gaming’s win also cements LPL’s strength among major regions, for it is the third year in a row where an LPL team has won MSI. The last time an LCK team won was in 2017.