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Southeast Asia has bowed out of the League of Legends: Wild Rift Horizon Cup, after the Philippines' Team Secret fell to Chinese powerhouse Da Kun Gaming (DKG) 3-1 in the semi-finals of the Knockout Stage on Saturday (20 November).
Team Secret had a rough start in the Group stage, losing to ThunderTalk Gaming in a 2-1 reverse sweep before bouncing back and sweeping their way through eBRO Gaming, Team Queso, and Sengoku Gaming to secure their spot in the Knockout Stage from Group B.
Meanwhile, DKG cemented their place as one of the heavy favorites to win the Horizon Cup after they went undefeated in Group A and earned a direct seed to the semi-finals.
In an all-Southeast Asian affair at the quarterfinals, Secret swept Vietnam's SBTC Esports to avenge their loss to them at the Wild Rift SEA Championship grand finals and set up a match against DKG for a spot in the grand finals.
While both teams had excellent drafts in the first game, the Chinese squad outperformed the Filipino team on every lane. Secret’s questionable decision-making in the jungle greatly affected the game, as DKG’s star jungler Fangjun “Huiba” Li zoomed ahead and made it very difficult for the Filipinos to engage in teamfights.
DKG then easily smashed Secret’s gold lead record from the quarterfinals, snowballing their gold lead to 18,000 and denying Secret any comeback potential. And after a 17-minute stomp, the Chinese team notched their opening win of the series.
Game two looked to be following the same story as game one, with DKG dominating the early game with a comfortable gold lead. However, Secret were able to fight back through effective engages from Heri “Tatsurii” Garcia as well as an unconventional Lucian pick for Eleazar “Azar” Salle to bully the Baron lane.
Secret then repeatedly shut down Huiba to turn the game around and win some much-needed teamfights, even scoring a couple of aces. The Filipino then completed their comeback after 19 minutes of action to tie up the series 1-1.
DKG were able to get on their comfort picks in the third game as Secret attempted to redirect their attention in the bot lane. Unfortunately, this did not work out as well as the Filipinos hoped, with their Lucian-Nami combo failing to snowball and Tatsurii falling behind on his Orianna against DKG’s Muchuang “You” You’s Diana in the mid lane.
Secret sought to eke out small wins anywhere they could, storming down the Baron while Huiba was in the bot lane. However, Mochen “Emo” Fan slowed them down just enough to allow Huiba to join the fray and and set up an ace for DKG.
And with Secret lacking the tools to fight back, DKG destroyed their Nexus and took match point, 2-1, heading into game four.
The fourth game had both teams bring out astonishing drafts, with Secret bringing out Vi and Fizz and DKG pulling Brand and Blitzcrank into the rift. Secret also got creative with lane swaps in the early game, with James "Hamezz" Santos support Azar in the top lane to disrupt DKG’s regular way through the map.
Secret managed to keep a decent gold lead, with Tatsurii’s Fizz heavily affecting team fights and the Azar and Hamezz dominating the top lane. However, DKG clawed their way back into the game by stealing a Dragon from their Filipino opponents and scoring key pickoffs in team fights at the Baron pit and the mid lane.
Everything went downhill for Secret from there, as they found it virtually impossible to take down the Jax-Zed combo of DKG. Despite a valiant last stand from the Filipinos, DKG destroyed their Nexus after 16 minutes to take the series, 3-1, and advance to the grand finals.
DKG will be facing fellow Chinese team ThunderTalk Gaming in the best-of-seven grand finals on Sunday (21 November), with the grand prize of US$100,000 and the first-ever international Wild Rift championship up for grabs.
Meanwhile, Secret end their spirited run at the Horizon Cup in 3rd-4th place and will be taking home US$60,000 in consolation.
Anna is a freelance writer and photographer. She is a gamer who loves RPGs and platformers, and is a League of Legends geek. She's also a food enthusiast who loves a good cup of black coffee.