Istanbul Wildcats come back and shock the world!

Riot Games hosts the EMEA Masters, a LoL tournament designed to boost the less-known regions' popularity and interest, twice a year. This competition started out as the European Masters. The event serves as the culmination of each split that is played in the EMEA Regional Leagues. For teams that are not a part of the League of Legends EMEA Championship franchise, this is their chance to rise and enter the LEC.

How did the EMEA Masters begin?

Before 2018, both the European League of Legends Championship Series (EU LCS) and the European Challenger Series (EU CS) were considered the most competitive leagues in Europe. In order to compete in the EU LCS, you had to qualify via the EU Championship Series. You could be invited to the play-ins if you had competed in and won a prior open qualification or if you had triumphed in one of the regional leagues. Once you were accepted into EU CS, you were required to finish in one of the top two or three spots in the play-offs, depending on the season. After finishing in the appropriate position in the European Championship Series play-offs, your squad would qualify for the Promotion Tournament. We might even have had some LoL elo boost pros playing in the tournament at one time! In this competition, the team would compete against one of the worst teams from the previous European League of Legends Championship Series season in order to earn a place among the elite.

Riot Games changed the EU LCS to a franchise format and renamed the competition the Legends European Championship (LEC) at the start of 2019. With the change to a franchise format, you could no longer gather a team to boost your rank up to Challenger and keep climbing until you got to the LEC, rendering the Challenger Series obsolete. However, there were still regional leagues throughout Europe that provided the opportunity to move up to the European big leagues. With the majority of European organizations lacking an international competition, it was decided to develop a new Champions League-style tournament. The competition was dubbed the European Masters (EU Masters), and it would include the best teams across the European Regional Leagues (ERL).

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Riot Games confirmed the extension of the European area to cover the Middle East and North Africa regions in late 2022. The League of Legends European Championship became the League of Legends EMEA Championship, while the European Masters became the EMEA Masters. The Arabian League and Turkish Championship League were added to the EMEA Masters family, but the format of the competition remained the same.

The Istanbul Wildcats prevailed in a nail-biting championship match to take home the title of EMEA Masters champions, which is the second European level of the game League of Legends. After what looked like a guaranteed win for the Unicorns, ahead by 2-0, the Turkish squad managed to do what few teams can brag of ever doing. They got the reverse sweep! With three wins in a row, the unstoppable Wildcats proved they are LEC material and took home the trophy.

The Wildcats had a terrible start to their final and were having a hard time keeping up with Min-gyu "Peach" Lee, who was spotless in his jungle at the beginning of the game. The Unicorns, however, were unable to hold on to their lead as the Turkish squad awoke. Despite being sick, Hyeon-woo "BAO" Jeong led his fellow players to a reverse sweep and awell-deserved championship.

Although the EMEA Masters is considered the lesser competition besides the LEC, it's still a hard-earned cup for the champions of some of the regions that never got to play in the old EU LCS, as well as a huge boost to their popularity. There were both more experienced players and better-funded teams in the tournament, which just goes to show how, once again, an underdog can become a champion.

Congratulations, DenizBank Istanbul Wildcats! We hope to see you triumph in the LEC next.

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April 30, 2023