Who would’ve thought SKT could make such a spectacular turnaround and make it to the end? I honestly thought they would be happy with just 3rd or 4th only a few weeks ago, but the comeback is real. Blank has risen and exceeded expectations to be the meta jungler SKT so direly needed. The ROX Tigers on the other hand also came, together with their jungler Peanut and completed dominated the standings, only dropping a few games the entire season. It’s funny to call SKT the underdogs, but this time they really were.
SK Telecom: ROX Tigers:
Top – Lee “Duke” HoSeong Top – Song “Smeb” GyeongHo
Jungler – Gang “Blank” SeonGu Jungler – Han “Peanut” WangHo
Mid – Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok Mid – Lee “Kur0” SeoHaeng
ADC – Bae “Bang” JunSik ADC – Kim “Pray” JongIn
Support – Lee “Wolf” JaeWan Support – Gang “Gorilla” BeomHyeon
Coach – Kim “KK0ma” Jung-gyun Coach – Jeong “NoFe” No-chul
The Faker mind games continued with the Zilean pick! He took it a series or two ago but I figured it’s subtle manipulation; in other words, I don’t think they actually want to pick Zilean, but because Faker plays it so well it can draw bans. Also somewhat unusual is the Tahm Kench pick, as the character fallen extremely far out of favor due to the movement speed nerf on his W. Regardless, SKT went into the first match of the series looking to skirmish while ROX wanted to siege with their triple AD.
Right off the bat SK Telecom came out swinging, burning summoners in only the first few minutes, and this pretty much set the tone for the rest of the game and even series. After an early first blood by Blank, ROX were forced to stay on the back foot, and even when they had the advantage of engaging a double teleport to the bot lane they just couldn’t get anything. Well, it was close at least, until Blank’s phenomenal Kindred ult completely turned the tide of the fight. The final nail in the coffin would be Gorilla getting caught out which SKT were able to punish incredibly hard by taking Game 1 of the grand finals.
As mentioned, ROX appeared to be scared of Faker’s Zilean, and it would be banned out for the rest of the series. Similarly, SKT used many of their bans to take away Peanut’s comfort picks, notably Nidalee. Going into the match SKT would take a well rounded skirmish composition while ROX continued to try to make a multiple AD siege comp work. It was kind of unfortunate, they seem to generally do better with hard engage. Are they scared? Tilted from the first match? Or simply being outdrafted?
That SKT hyper aggression from the previous game would would be stopped dead in it’s tracks this time around. ROX slowed down the pace of the match considerably and instead let Smeb do his thing on Ekko – and do his thing he would. He went absolutely nuts with early kills and killer pressure across the map. Not just in the small skirmishes either, in a team fight he dove the backline after he caught a flank and decimated the squishies. They didn’t know what hit them.
Immediately afterwards, ROX took Baron – and at the win was just a snowball away. Although Smeb did well, it’s important to note 3 of ROX’s damage carries had their vital Sheen power spike which certainly helped them demolish SKT. After this power spike ended, and a bit of misplay from the Tigers, SK Telecom clawed their way back into the game with multiple picks and objectives. In fact, they looked to even win the match despite being so far behind. However looks can be deceiving, in an unfortunate series of events Duke mistakenly ult’d Pray right into Faker; Pray would then annihilate the unsuspecting Azir. With such a huge threat gone ROX chased down the few remaining members and ended the game…oops. To be fair it was not completely Duke’s fault, as Faker’s positioning could’ve been better.
ROX continued to ban Maokai, Sivir, and Zilean – 2 of the 3 I understand, but is Maokai really deserving? Duke, it turns out, has 5 wins and 1 loss on the champion (2016 LCK Spring) with a 10 KDA, which is quite impressive and suggest the bans was a good idea. Then things got weird.
Faker picked Vel’Koz… the super out-of-meta pick during the grand finals… I mean if anyone can pull it off when the stakes are this high it’s him, but, generally I think there could’ve been a better pick there. Maybe he was trying to style on ROX? Pray does kind-of the same thing with a Twitch pick, another out-of-meta champion. Regardless of their actual pick intent, SKT looked to poke while the Tigers wanted to team fight.
Surprisingly, a huge mistake was made by Bang quite early in the 3rd game. He overstayed despite being low on both mana and health, and all it took was a flash by Alistar to finish the kill for first blood. Wanting to press their advantage, ROX pulled off their composition trump card: the double TP play. As it turns out though, SKT don’t care about being outnumbered, and came out ahead with 2 kills anyway; well, 3 if you count Faker flash ulting a running Kindred after the engagement. Just Faker things.
ROX did what they could to keep from getting too far behind but everything they tried ended in them going away worse for wear. For example, Kuro thought he could 1v1 Faker, but turned out to be wrong. Faker lived and Kuro died, then the rest of Kuro’s team died trying to save him, before finally that Twitch started to come online about mid way through the game when he picked off several people and helped his team win a team fight.
They turned onto Baron, as one does after a solidly won team fight, but Bang was heroically able to stop them and stall for time. Pray attempted yet another engage with his Twitch, but this time things would not go to plan – in fact it was a disaster. As he approached the vulnerable Ezreal, while invisible, Bang just so happened to land his skillshots at the hidden, squishy, Twitch and very nearly killed him in one rotation.
The rest of SKT swooped in, mopped up the the remainder of ROX, and finished the match. Well, they tried to anyway, as they took both nexi turrets but were aced. Fear not though fans, SKT simply won another team fight with Bang doing an absolutely absurd amount of damage – although it was Duke’s engage and lock up of Pray that pretty much won them the game.
SKT banned out Ryze every single match of this series which is surprising to me because Faker can undoubtedly play it better than anyone on ROX, and I feel they could’ve let it ride and threaten the pick, although they may have calculated it as not worth the risk. SKT came into this 4th match with a team fight composition with the strange Rammus and Cassiopeia while ROX wanted to skirmish often.
This game was just textbook tactical maneuvers. SKT didn’t want to reduce it to mechanics, instead, they baited an early baron, which seemed questionable at first. As it happens, ROX had to check, in fact, they went into panic mode. SKT is aggressive in general, we know this, but even for them it was brave to pull off such a risky strategy. Agree or disagree, it worked, ROX rushed over one by one and were demolished in that fashion.
Despite this early Baron and kills the gold was even, but not for long. At the next engagement Faker flash ult’d locking up key members of ROX for the rest of SKT to collapse on. It’s incredible how Faker is so confident both in his skills and in his team to follow up immediately. Similarly Peanut played things a bit more on the risky side and stole a second dragon of the match, which was ultimately useless but cool nonetheless. Grasping at straws, ROX attempted to rush a baron only for SKT to swag walk in and demolish the Tigers for an ace at the cost of only one. With that, SKT won the grand finals 3-1. I suppose that’s just another lump of metal to throw on the pile by this point.
It may seem like a blowout, but really, as far as LCK play offs go this is about as close as it gets. In fact most, if not all, LCK finals have been 3-0, making this a kind of progress! ROX played some close games, but I don’t think they were in top form. Don’t get me wrong, SKT played out of their minds, like they did at Worlds 2015 even, but ROX just seemed unlike their usual selves, picking champs/composition they don’t usually pick, and playing much more passively in general.
It was mentioned before but it’s like they were scared, afraid to make a move at all. They weren’t playing to win, they played not to lose. SKT however, weren’t going to accept anything less. Despite this less than stellar finish for ROX, they have had the best season they have ever had and I have no doubt they will do just as well during the summer split and beyond. Need I say anything more about SKT? I learned an important lesson today: never bet against SKT.
It’s time for some awards at the end of a long season. You could watch the ceremony, but it’s pretty drawn out and in Korean; here’s the short and sweet of it along with my opinion.
Greatest KDA per position:
Every award went to each member of the ROX Tigers. That’s hard to believe, but yes, Smeb, Peanut, Kuro, Pray, and Gorilla had the best kill/death/assists respective to their roles. Granted, they played well all season whereas just about everyone else was a bit patchy, but it’s still incredibly impressive to sweep the entire category.
Most MVP points of the season:
Smeb of the ROX Tigers.
My opinion: Bang of SK Telecom. He doesn’t really hog the spotlight, he’s more or less in the shadow of Faker, Duke, and previously Bengi; however he has been a rock the entire season for SKT. His consistently above average performances and even moments of absolute brilliance every step of the way are truly incredible.
I don’t believe he gets enough credit for how amazing a player he his. I mean, when people think of the best ADCs they think Deft, Imp, Pray, Forgiven, Uzi, but hardly ever is Bang even a consideration. I think Bang is the greatest ADC in the world, maybe not the best ever because there have been some greats, but right now he is #1 in my mind.
Most MVP points of the playoffs/finals:
Incredibly surprisingly: Duke of SK Telecom
I don’t believe Duke deserved this award; I mean sure he did well, but so did everyone else on SKT. The player I think went above and beyond, even more than Bang, is of course: Faker. His aggressiveness while not getting caught out gained advantages no other team in the world could acquire at this level of play. His flash ult’s more than once turned the tide of the match, either from losing to winning – or just winning to super winning. When they call Faker a god, when they call him the best player ever in League of Legends, or Esports in general, it’s not hyperbole – he’s the real deal.