Since the sister team merger and the replacement of the 16-team format with the league format in the LCK, only a handful of names have dominated the top of the league’s standings; SK Telecom, KT Rolster, Samsung Galaxy (now Gen.G Esports), and more recently Kingzone DragonX. Yet in the Summer Split of 2018 a new team, made up of players who have never played in any major league or tournament burst onto the scene to claim the top spot in Korea after the first round robin, a feat that has never been achieved since the inception of League esports.
Griffin Esports is made up of 6 rookies, all of whom have never played a professional match in the top leagues prior to their rookie season this split. The team first came to the attention of the world as the opponents to SK Telecom in the 2017 KeSPA Cup in the quarterfinals. Having already taken down the Afreeca Freecs to qualify for the Cup, there were many whispers about the challenger team who could be potentially as good as the LCK teams. Although the team would go down 1-2 to the Worlds runner-up, the team left an impression on OGN commentator and former pro, Lee “CloudTemplar” Hyun-woo, who noted, “We’ll being seeing Griffin more often from now on.”
In Spring 2018, Griffin would go on to have an undefeated Challenger series, finishing 16-0, then going on to sweep both of their matches in the Summer Promotion tournament against Kongdoo and MVP. Their success would continue into the LCK Summer Split, going 8-1 in the first round robin to secure first place, a feat that has not been achieved by a newly promoted challenger team since 2015 in Korea.
What is peculiar about Griffin is not the absence of a single star player on their roster, but the presence of 5 outstanding rookies. No single member of the team stands out more than the other, as each member steps up when needed of him. This is best exemplified in each of Griffin’s 5 starters topping the KDA standings in their respective position for the entire first round of the Summer split.
Moreover, Griffin do not bring the scrappy, solo queue style of strategy that is typical of many challenger promoted teams across the world. Instead, Griffin’s victories come through exceptional late-game objective play and team fighting. In an interview with Inven Global, Griffin’s coach Dae-ho “cvMax” Kim, cited a “Five as one” mentality that guides the team’s gameplay, as well as a low risk, low reward style of play, allowing the team to obtain small incremental advantages over time, until finally culminating in an overwhelming advantage in late game teamfights.
Griffin’s success so far has not been without shock, and with the team currently at 12-5 with a game score of +13 (they sit on top of the LCK standings as of writing). Having already qualified for playoffs, they are looking to secure the first seed into the playoffs, becoming the first newly promoted team since the Unicorns of Love in EU to reach the finals of major region’s finals.
Written by Benjamin "RedPyroMage" Letran [2018 Marketing (Publications) Subcommittee]