It seems to be a tradition for Korean teams to, once seemingly at their peak, dissolve and disperse their players throughout the world. It’s almost like a kind of redistribution of talent. Fan favorites Rox Tigers followed such a tradition, as their five members left the roster to find themselves new homes. The two Tigers to highlight here? Well, obviously Top laner Song “Smeb” Kyung-ho and Jungler Yoon “Peanut” Wang-ho, the two stars of the old Tigers roster. Where better to find themselves but new homes, across the rift, in some of the most storied teams in Korean esports history: SKT T1 and KT Rolster. But this is Korea, baby, so these weren’t the only high flying players signed: KT signed Smeb, while also picking up “Faker Stopper” in Heo “Pawn” Won-seok, one time World Champion Cho “Mata” Se-hyeong, and LPL ravaging Kim “Deft” Hyuk-kyu. SKT retaliated by signing up-and-coming Peanut, and locking up the polarizing, talented Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon from North America’s Immortals.
You should all know this already though. I’m not here to report on the players, but ask the kind of question I find myself always asking when these super teams come together: will these teams become tyrants of their region, or is it just another fallacy of composition? The fallacy of composition is a logical fallacy where someone wrongly assumes that what is true of the parts is true of the whole. To put it another way, if we have the best players in each of our roles, we’ll have the best team. Super teams have abounded in many regions, Europe coming to mind quite often (read Alliance.) These teams haven’t always worked out. Sure, TSM’s super team eventually meshed into an almost flawless machine (pre-Worlds.) But this isn’t always the case.
SKT’s move, in a lot of ways, falls much lower on the chance of being this tried and failed pattern. SKT kept a solid ‘core’ with ever scary, Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok in the Mid lane, and dynamic duo Bae “Bang” Jun-sik and Lee “Wolf” Jae-wan in the bot lane. Peanut was just simply a solid pick up, having matured as a player and, pending he integrates well with the team, will bring only positives. Huni, too, makes a lot of sense. He’s a kind of diamond in the rough, and at his peak can be insane mechanically. SKT’s support infrastructure should be more than enough to bring out the best in him as a player. If SKT can’t do it, nobody can. SKT made the necessary moves in the off season to secure their position as the top in the world, only really seeming to be a super team because their core was so strong to begin with.
KT’s move is a little more on the super team side, and it both intrigues me and makes me wonder: are they committing a similar fallacy that has failed so many other teams? Smeb is a solid pick up, no questions asked. Any team would do better to have Smeb on their side. Score is the kind of player you always want to have around. He is a true veteran who still holds his own mechanically. The three remaining, newly signed players are all from Samsung teams (back when sister teams existed) that dissolved. While I’m definitely on the Telecom War reboot going on, I think I have to cautiously point out that it may not be all it’s cracked up to be, just yet.
That’s why I brought up the Fallacy of Composition. I look down the roster of KT and I literally cannot think of players I would replace. They seem to all fit, they’re some of the best available and I cannot fault the KT management for anything but a stellar off season. Just because each player is a good player doesn’t mean they’ll mesh though. Particularly not against a rival that, truthfully, had retained much more of their core lineup and have brought in rookie stars who can and will be molded. KT’s roster is a strong roster of good players, but recognizable faces that have been in the scene for quite some time.
To put another way, I think there’s a contrast here. SKT, in my mind, is in it for the long game here. Faker will, eventually, retire. Bang and Wolf are an amazing duo, but you can’t put your eggs all in one basket. You have to keep the long term in mind. So the signing of two amazingly talented ‘rookies’ (not really, but in contrast to Faker, rookie seems due,) is a developmental way of thinking. Not that they’ll suffer, it’s not like a rebuild, but they’re developing. KT, on the other hand, have assembled a team to win. Their thirst for a Worlds showing is evident. They’re thirsting to come out on top of their telecom rivals. They’re thirsting for the formal recognition they’ve long been due. That all might bite them in the ass if it doesn’t work out. Or it might be the smartest move they’ve made yet.
I think the hype surrounding the rebooted Telecom Wars is well warranted. This will produce some amazing series’ over the next two splits. I think the highlight games will come from LCK, and any and all viewers should make sure to watch. But I think there needs to be a cautious voice out there too. I don’t think we can expect the players and teams to all completely mesh and be the team they are slated to be right off the bat. But it won’t take long either. This is Korea, the place where professionalism and support infrastructure are well developed. If there’s any region in my mind that could break the ‘Super Team curse’ I think it’s Korea. I also think we may need to wait a split, particularly for KT. But once they’re settled, oh man, will it ever be the clash of titans we’re all hoping for.