The 2019 League of Legends season is underway. Korea needs to shake up their poor performance of last Worlds and quick, and SK Telecom T1 is the most promising team to do so. We will review their most recent roster changes, as well as their results for their first match of the year.
As we all know, 2018 was not the best year for Korea competitively. Losing both MSI and Worlds to their direct rivals, the LPL Worlds was particularly disastrous because Korea. They hadn’t won the tournament since 2013. Last year, Korea did not even get to semifinals, and ended up as the 4th best region of the world. This is behind China (who won both big tournaments last year), Europe, and North America.
2019 needs to be a breath of fresh air for Korea. They need to correct the mistakes they made last year and accept the fact that other regions have caught up with them. And they can’t just steamroll their way to success anymore. That’s why it is so interesting to watch the LCK this year. Although there always seems to be a reason to watch the Koreans play League of Legends. It’s expected to see a lot if not all of the teams trying new strategies.
The Ones to Watch
Of all the teams that will probably be interesting to follow in 2019 are as follows:
- Kingzone (dominant)
- Afreeca (consistent)
- Griffin (wild-card)
- SK Telecom T1 (standout)
The World Champions of 2013, 2015 and 2016 managed to build yet again another team of superstars, and is looking very promising. Drafting Khan, considered the best Top Lane of Korea last year. He secured another powerhouse on the team besides Faker, who is the only member repeating from last year. Reinforcing also the Jungle and ADC positions with Clid and Teddy respectively. And finally securing the incredibly good Mata for the Support role, who is now the rank 1 player in Korea Solo Queue.
The question is, will the superstar be able to function as a team? Perhaps their individual personalities will crash on the rift? SK Telecom T1 has on his side the option of new non-mid-focused strategies. This, with Khan acting as both the center of the composition, or soaking the pressure so the rest of the team can move freely on the map. Mata and Teddy also allows SK Telecom T1 to secure bot lane goes ahead or even when exiting the laning phase. But they need to get it right and complement each other as players. Luckily they have all Spring Split to do so, but a good first step is important.
The Test of Fire
This is the first week of LCK Spring 2019. SKT’s first real challenge in the form of Jin Air Greenwings. This is to see if the stars could carry the team. In a best of 3 series, as it is standard for all korean split matches, SKT faced a bold team willing to take risks. Like picking Xin Zhao with Hail of Blades on the first match. The series looked promising since pick and draft.
Jin Air tried to focus on putting Khan behind, since he was playing the immobile mage Viktor. It was successful the first minutes of the game, as Lindarang’s Sion was perfect to set up ganks against Khan. The problem was, as Khan soaked up all the early attention. Faker’s Urgot was left free all game, and became a menace for Jhin Air. That combined with Clid’s extremely clean Lee Sin, and Teddy’s Ezreal, made for a mobile hitting squad on SKT’s side. Using their lead, mobility, and Mata’s Tahm Kench to move across the map with Abyssal Voyage. They were able to take objectives rapidly and secure the first win for the team of superstars.
The Second Game
SK Telecom T1
SKT already proved their team can secure steady victories, but a 2-0 stomp will send a message to their fan base. That they were right to believe in this new team, and will boost the morale of the players greatly. So for the 2nd game, Faker and Mata picked their previous champions again. Khan went with another mage in the form of Ryze, but Clid and Teddy favored Sejuani and Varus, trading mobility for damage and crowd control.
Jin Air’s strategy didn’t change, the focused the Top Lane to put Khan behind, but this time they executed their plan a little less flawed and the game was more even. However, they did not counted how much safety Mata’s Tahm Kench would provide to SK Telecom T1, keeping them equal in kills in the early-to-mid game. The best example of this is a 3-man gank on to Faker, who was saved by the skin of his teeth thanks to Mata’s Devour and Guardian’s shield, which soaked up the last ticks of Ignite that would otherwise kill the Urgot.
Overall SKT played the map better, and managed to sneak a Baron that would help them close the game. The MVP of the match was given to Teddy, since the unrelenting pressure he put as Ezreal, and the incredible damage he did as Varus. That helped SK Telecom T1 secure the match. And even if Jin Air is not the most menacing opponent of the LCK, this is a first step in the right direction for SK Telecom T1, who we will follow closely this year.