As the 2018 regular season comes to a conclusion across the globe, and the race to the World Championships heats up, the LCK finds itself in a position it has never found itself before. No longer the favoured region to bring home the Summoner’s Cup, the region has also seen a shakeup in its representatives to the biggest international tournament of the year. KT Rolster, a team that was once thought cursed to never make a world championship after rebuilding its roster in 2016, has automatically qualified by virtue of having the most championship points or winning the Summer Split. Griffin are a team of young upstarts looking to become the first team to win the LCK in their first split after being promoted. KT Rolster are a team filled with veteran talent, looking to validate the last 3 years. In the Samsan Gymnasium in Incheon this weekend, both teams will be looking to write themselves into the history books, as either greatest rookies, or the redeemed ones.
Rising Stars: Griffin
Griffin’s rise to the top of the LCK has been nothing short of historical. A newly promoted challenger team who went 8-1 in the first round robin and finished the regular season in 2nd place is unheard of the in the post-Champions era of Korean League of Legends. The team rides off not only the raw talent of their young players, who from top to bottom reveal no obvious weak links in the roster, but also their controlled playstyle reminiscent of SKT in their glory days. All 5 starters on Griffin are top 3 in their positions in their league, and you could make an argument for 4 of them to be the best in their position. They take small advantages incrementally over time before their opponents realise it, they have a 5000 gold lead at 30 minutes with less than 3 kills. This slow style can make watching Griffin dull for viewers yet is odd as similar rookie teams in the past oft relied on heavy aggression only to be bested by more experienced teams. If you take away the nameplates you would be forgiven for believing that this team of youngsters were all veterans playing at the highest level. Griffin have defied all expectations by reaching the LCK Finals, and they look to defy even more by becoming the 1st newly promoted team to qualify for worlds since Origen.
Player to watch: Jeong “Chovy” Ji-hoon
The 17-year old wonder kid has forged a name for himself as the successor to great Korean mid-laners. The last time a 17-year old made an impact like this, he became a world champion within 6 months of his debut in the Staples Centre in Los Angeles almost 5 years ago. On a team of superstar rookies it is hard to isolate one individual player. However, Chovy has stood out in a region notorious for her strong mid laners including Ucal, his opponent this weekend, Fly, Kuro, Bdd, and the Unkillable Demon King himself, Faker. He’s most noted for a his high preference for Zoe, despite the champion being much different after her nerfs, but his mastery of her has made a force to be reckoned with, and thus should be a pick to look out for on Saturday.
The Promised Ones: KT Rolster
This. Is. It. For the last two and a half years, KT Rolster has always played the role of the bridesmaid; always standing next to the brides who go off to worlds, but never being able to go themselves. Despite being stacked with talent after their rebuilding in 2016, the team faltered in the final round of the regional qualifiers each time (coincidentally, to the same opponent, Samsung Galaxy, now Gen.G Esports). This year, things have changed. KT have locked themselves into either the 1st or 2nd seed going into the 2018 World Championships by either winning the Summer Split Finals, or by having the most championship points by the post-season. So, having locked themselves into automatic qualification, can KT afford to kick back and take it easy against Griffin. You’d be wrong if you said. For anyone who has followed the LCK in the last 3 years, they would know worlds is not the only goal of KT, they want to win. They want 1st place. Not just in the regular season, they want a title, and for jungler and captain Go “Score” Dong-Bin, it would mean the validation of one of the longest careers in League of Legends esports. Over the course of the regular season only KT has maintained a consistent winning record against Griffin, being the only team to drop a series against them. KT’s early game aggressive style has been the kryptonite of Griffin’s slower, more controlled style, and the strength of its laners have prevented Griffin from simply brute forcing their way through dominant laning as well.
Player to Watch: Go “Score” Dong-bin
In one of the longest careers in League of Legends, Score has never been able to capture the elusive title of domestic champion. The last time he reached the finals of an LCK split was in Summer 2018 against SKT in a final he’d rather forget, going down 3-0 to the eventual world champions. The captain of KT has another shot at glory this Saturday to finally achieve validation for his long tenure as a player. Playing through his strong lanes, Score will want to maintain early game aggression against Griffin to prevent them from the reaching the late-game teamfights and objective control they are known for. Controlling Tarzan will also be essential, as the 17-year old jungler has been one of the best jungle talents to emerge this split.
Going into the Saturday matchup, two teams will write themselves into the history of League of Legends. A rookie team who rose from the amateur scene to conquer one of the most competitive regions in the world. The other, a glory-starved team having already secured themselves a place at worlds, looking to head into the international tournament with a trophy. KT are the favoured team this weekend having already beaten Griffin twice this Summer. However, one should not count out the rookies just yet, for if anything, they are just as hungry as their veteran opponents to secure their first piece of LCK silverware.
Written by Benjamin "RedPyroMage" Letran [2018 Marketing (Publications) Subcommittee]