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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MSI: SK Telecom T1 vs. Flash Wolves Preview

In the first round of the knockout stage of MSI, SK Telecom T1 is poised to take revenge upon the only team that has taken a win from them during groups. What may be the most competitive game in this tournament, SKT vs. Flash Wolves will be the game to tune into on May 19th at 11 am PST.

SK Telecom T1

 

Peanut and Huni share a moment while leaving the stage. Courtesy of Riot flickr

Coming into MSI as the most highly favored team in the history of League of Legends is SKT, three-time League of Legends World Champions.

 

SKT’s six-man roster starts with their top laner, Seung-Hoon  “Huni” Heo, a player who currently holds the highest CS per minute in the MSI.

Jumping out of the jungle, Wangho “Peanut” Han holds the most kills at 52 in groups. Known most for his Lee Sin, Peanut is known to be the most aggressive jungler in Korea, with the ability to get 15 kills in a single game.

No introduction is needed for Sanghyeok “Faker” Lee. Faker is simply the best.  

SKT’s bot lane, Junsik “Bang” Bae and Jaewan “Wolf” Lee, are looking better than ever. The two are typically found taking laners that complement each other with  Wolf picking champions that can bail out the immobile carries that Bang has frequently utilized to great success. Wolf has the second most assists throughout Groups, trailing Shou-Chieh “SwordArT” Hu, who also used one more game to have Wolf beat 93 to 90.

 

How SKT Wins

Peanut shares a lot in common with his opponent Karsa. Courtesy of Riot Flickr

SKT wins by having Peanut play Lee Sin and picking their bot lane comfort picks before the Flash Wolves take them out in the draft. With Bang’s adept performance on Twitch, aided greatly by the peeling supports Wolf is often seen on, expect the bot lane picks to come through in the first round of the draft phase. SKT is greatly favored in this matchup. Their chances of failure are minimal as long as they do not lose too much ground early game. SKT can win late game team fights with great ease given their opponents are not too far ahead.

Flash Wolves

The Flash Wolves have proven to be a mixed bag this tournament, showing that they have the skill to beat SKT while simultaneously dropping games to almost every team in the tournament. As the underdog team in the fourth versus first place match, their performance in this best of five will likely decide who takes first place at this year’s MSI. If they can beat SKT, they can beat anyone. Right? Maybe, but this is not guaranteed with the Flash Wolves. However, they are the strongest contender for taking down SKT alongside Team WE.

Playing top lane for the Wolves is Li-Hong “MMD” Yu, a player known for his aggression and carry style, but also able to play supportive tanks by the likes of Nautilus and Shen.

Tearing through the jungle for the Wolves, Hao-Xuan “Karsa” Hong, has the same champion pool and play style as Peanut. He also has 41 kills to his name during groups. He may have what it takes to deny Peanut through a well-executed draft.

Laning against God himself, Yi-Tang “Maple” Huang ties Peanut for the highest KDA throughout groups at 6.1.

Perhaps the Flash Wolves greatest strength lies in their bot lane, where Yu-Huang “Betty” Lu and SwordArT dominate the bottom half of the map. SwordArt is a veteran shot caller, playing supports that can influence more than just the bottom lane. Expect to see Lulu and Tahm Kench as high priority champions for both teams. Meanwhile, Betty has the most kills to his name out of all the ADCs at MSI, and he’s looking to continue this streak. Betty plays many ADC’s, but his Ashe is a staple for the Flash Wolves. Betty may have to branch into other ADC’s in order to take away Bang’s Twitch and secure a victory for the Wolves.

How Flash Wolves Win

They have done it once before, but can they do it again? To win, Flash Wolves need to stifle Huni in the draft much like they did in their only victory over SKT. Because banning out Faker is impossible, their bans must be directed to the top lane carries that Huni plays, and the Marksmen that Bang feels most comfortable on. The optimal top lane draft will have MMD on his signature Kled and Huni on a tank, allowing Flash Wolves to take the game from the top lane.

As for the Jungle, it goes without saying that Peanut’s Lee Sin must be denied in order for the Wolves to have a fighting chance. Taking Lee Sin on the side of the Flash Wolves will also

SwordArT is not the cool, calm, and collected shot caller you may be used to. Courtesy of Riot Flickr

greatly aid Karsa, as he is adept on the champion. In the middle lane, Maple’s utility orientated champion pool must be able to survive the likes of Faker’s assassins. If Maple can avoid giving a lead to Faker, he may be able to turn some mid game team fights into a victory for the Wolves with his excellent Weaver’s Walls and Realm Warps.

 

Taking a lead in the bottom lane is most important for the Flash Wolves. Giving SwordArT the opportunity to roam and snowball his team’s lead alongside Karsa, will be the win condition the Wolves need. However, the lanes go, if the Wolves do not start with leads, it is unlikely they will ever bounce back to take a lead.


Featured image courtesy of Riot Flickr

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