Sink and swim for the LCK: Rift Rivals recap

With Rift Rivals completed, it may be time to examine the League Championship Korea’s surprising second place as each team continues their swim back to Korea.

Most already know that kt Rolster coach Lee ji-hoon had jokingly said that if “the LCK comes in second or third place, we’ll have to swim our way back to Korea, but that’ll never come to pass, so I hope the fans continue to watch comfortably,” tragically creating a bitterly ironic disposition as the LCK squad came in second place. Losing to none other than the LPL, jokes arose around LCK veterans who had spent time in China’s LPL giving birth to a new era of memes around players like Heo “Pawn” Won-seok, Cho “Mata” Se-hyeong and Kim “Deft” Hyuk-kyu.

As someone who mostly watches the LCK with some scattered NALCS throughout, watching the LCK lose at Rift Rivals was shocking. While kt Rolster proved that their team fighting was still on an LCK caliber of play, the other Korean squads are going to have to clean up their play on the swim home. This is all rather convenient as they will have to wash up on shore anyways after that 739-mile swim. Memes aside, the unexpected defeat suffered at the hands of LPL teams came in a best of five Relay match resulting in a 3-1.  

 

Game One: Samsung Galaxy v EDward Gaming

(LPL) EDG Victory 45:44

Here it is, a combo that is potentially stronger than the Galio and Jarvan IV ultimate synergy: Kalista and Rakan. Courtesy of Lolesports

Game one between SG and EDG started with a poor draft phase by SG and an even worse early defend of an invade, giving EDG a lead that they would not let go of. Draft phase left EDG with an incredibly strong engage composition with Kalista and Rakan, a combination that offsets Rakan’s lack of tankiness with the safety of Kalista’s ultimate. This combination is devastating, but even more so when the Kalista and Rakan combo is on a team leading in tempo. A tempo lead is exactly what EDG gathered in game one.

Brutalizing their opponents, the LPL’s EDG did not give up a kill until past the thirty-minute mark. This is especially impressive given the nature of their diving hard engage team composition. The double hard engage Kalista/Rakan combination allows for such a long duration of virtually unavoidable crowd control, that EDG was able to take each team fight without suffering casualties. This changed during a team fight at the forty minute mark, where a huge Orianna ultimate coming out of SG’s Crown was able to change the tides. However, this team fight proved to be a fluke as the power of the Kalista and Rakan engage was too much for SG to handle.

 

Game Two: SK Telecom T1 v Team WE

(LPL) Team WE Victory 31:55

WE miss the Galio and Jarvan IV ultimate combination, but they’ll have plenty more shots at it. Courtesy of Lolesports

Game two between SKT1 and WE once again began with the surrender of a crucial team fight combination by the LCK. This time around, SKT1 gave both Galio and Jarvan IV, giving up most team fights in the process. With play at this level revolving heavily around engage, SKT1, like their Korean counterparts SG, prioritized Ashe over all other engage tools. While Ashe is a strong pick, she performs much better when her AOE damage and slows can be combined with other AOE based champions. Champions that, with the exception of Cassiopeia, SKT1 failed to draft. In addition to not drafting for AOE damage, SKT1 picked carries whose only mobility comes from their summoner spells in the face of a Jarvan IV and Galio combination.

Regardless of the players behind the champions, SKT1 drafted a composition that required them to use their Achilles Heel as a battering ram. It would have been an amazing feat for the Korean squad to overtake the wombo combo styled composition that WE had drafted for. Even with improper execution of their team fights, WE was able to secure an early lead from the camp-the-Faker strategy that so many teams utilize against SKT1.

 

Game Three: kt Rolster v OMG

(LCK) kt Rolster victory 34:37

Kt shows that the LCK can draft a team comp and then put that comp to use. Courtesy of lolesports

With kt Rolster’s bottom lane giving up first blood to a gank so early on, you would have expected this game to go in much the same way as the games prior. But this time was different because kt Rolster drafted a team with enough AOE to capitalize on their engage. Ashe and Zyra already have devastating AOE CC and damage to pour into their opponents, but kt took this draft a step further by grabbing Jarvan IV and Zac to further disrupt their opponents alongside the high damage of the skillshot based Corki mid.

The frontline and CC of this composition gives Ashe, Corki and Zyra the time to drop their damage loads onto enemies who are not able to dodge out of the way, while the long range initiation of Ashe allows for easy follow up CC for Jarvan IV and Zac. Despite early laning hiccups, kt Rolster was able to finally prove that with a well-drafted composition, the LCK could stand toe to toe with the LPL.

 

Game Four: MVP v RNG

(LPL) RNG victory 55:14

MVP pulls off an amazing wombo combo using Rakan. Unfortunately for them, they lose this fight too. Courtesy of lolesports

The closest and longest of the entire finals had the LCK showing promising early game play-making that fell short despite some well-executed initiations by the likes of MVP Max. While draft phase looked good for MVP, as they drafted a hard engage composition into the poke composition of RNG, some crucial misplays by MVP or just genuinely good plays by RNG ultimately led to an LPL victory.

Every time these teams fought, there were heavy casualties resulting in a long drawn out game that was as close as it was tense. When MVP would secure Baron, RNG would take it off at least three members immediately, while the same would occur on the opposite side when RNG secured Elder Dragon. The game finally fell into RNG’s favor when they secured an uncontested Baron thanks to a Gragas ultimate that left MVP out of smite range. This baron buff then led to an open base that RNG would ultimately destroy through a TP back door. Unlucky.

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All images courtesy of LoL Esports

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Professional Route Setter and writer for Esports (League of Legends) at The Game Haus. I pursue my interests to intense depths, honing niche skills to the ephemeral point of perfection. I'm more likely than not to be climbing in my free time. Whether this is climbing the ranked ladder of my favorite video game, or a rock in the middle of nowhere, I am constantly striving to reach great heights.

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