SKT T1 is back on the international scene, and breaking records once again. However, the record they set today is likely one they would like to forget. Their loss to World Champions Invictus Gaming clocked in at 16 minutes, by far the shortest international game on record.
This game was talked about over and over again in the lead up to MSI. SKT had a difficult time last year, failing to make it to Worlds. As such, IG claimed the title without having to face Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok and the rest of the legendary Korean team. The hype built as IG continued their domination of China in the Spring Split, and SKT returned to form, battling for the top spot in the LCK with very few hiccups.
In champion select, SKT secured the much-coveted Sona/Taric bot lane, which has recently been a strong mid/late game option. Unfortunately for SKT, they wouldn’t even make it to the middle game, let alone late. The early game was much more explosive than people expected out of this matchup. After an early river skirmish that left each team with a kill, the pace only increased. As with most teams that find success against SKT, Invictus camped the Mid Lane, putting Faker at 0/3 before 10 minutes.
As IG closed in on the enemy base, they were up nine kills to four, and every lane was up in farm, including IG ADC Yu “JackeyLove” Wen-Bo having nearly double the farm of both SKT Bot Laners combined. A 10K gold lead at 15 minutes allowed IG to walk into the base nearly uncontested, and JackeyLove picked up a Triple Kill before taking down the Nexus.
Time to Panic?
The question everyone is asking: is it time for SKT and their fans to panic? No… and yes. Much of what makes a team like SKT great is their strength in a series. They aren’t invincible, and may drop a game here and there, but will nearly always rectify their mistakes and come back stronger to take the series. This is likely still true against any of the other teams at MSI besides IG, but there is one problem: First, they have to get out of the group stage.
At 2-2, SKT is tied for third place with Team Liquid from the LCS and right behind G2 Esports. They have several winnable games before facing IG again, and will need to make the most of them. Though they are likely to move on to the playoffs, it is not yet guaranteed. If they fail to rectify their mistakes that cost them against IG and G2, they need to make sure to make a statement against their other opponents.
What can they do?
Though still clearly a top team, it has been a while since SKT has been THE top team. To their credit, SKT has done more than nearly any other team to regain their spot at the top, making roster change after roster change, attempting to find the winning formula.
While it seems like they have formed their best possible roster, they’re obviously not out of the woods yet. With teams focusing so hard on Faker, they need to turn this around and take advantage of the freedom this provides in the other areas of the map, and enable Park “Teddy” Jin-seong and Kim “Khan” Dong-ha to carry. Kim “Clid” Tae-min has been playing consistently well, even in their losses. If they can fix some of the early mistakes, and Clid can enable the side lanes as well as he is able to, SKT has a solid shot at Finals, despite these early struggles.