It’s becoming harder finding adequate symbolic representations for SK Telecom T1. The David vs Goliath comparison is no longer even fair, as David defeats the seemingly unstoppable giant. Maybe it would be more fitting to compare to the scorpion and the frog. As sure as the scorpion stings the frog, SKT defeat any team in their path. Winning is seemingly what they do. But there is something else we are forgetting here about Samsung Galaxy. They defeated KT Rolster at the LCK 2016 Regional Finals after seeding 4th in the regular split, upsetting the heavy favourites who just one week earlier, commandingly dispatched SKT. This good form would continue, entering coming out on top of hardest group at worlds, with America’s first seed and strongest NA roster to date, Team Solo Mid, the second seed out of china, the all-star line-up of RoyalNeverGiveUp and Europe’s second see, Splyce who if underestimated could easily take a game off anyone during the chaotic best of one round robin.
It’s no doubt that SKT are not just the most dominant organisation in League of Legends, but perhaps in all of esports. With the greatest player the grace the summoners rift the Unkillable Demon King Mid Laner in Lee Sang-hyeok aka “Faker”, a man that crowds everywhere refer to as ‘God’ only somehow looks to be getting better. Seongung “Bengi” Bae is too seems to be returning to his star jungler status, shot calling SKT through the historic win of the ROX Tigers in last week’s semi-final. But how can Samsung Galaxy deny SK Telecom T1 from repeating back to back worlds champions ship? What is it that they need to do to raise that Summoners cup?
First and foremost, and in my opinion the most important opportunity to handicap SKT is the pick ban phase. It’s no denying that SKT’s long standing coach Kim “KkOma” Jung-gyun is anything less than a genius when it comes to rallying his players. When ROX seemingly had SKT on the ropes, abusing SKT’s bottom lane with the peculiar Miss Fortune support pick, KkOma was there to save the day. He knows the strengths of his players, but more importantly he also knows their weaknesses. When Skt’s top laner Lee “Duke” Ho-Seong went up against Rox Tigers Song “Smeb” Kyung-ho in the top lane he knew he could not match MVP’s aggressive Jayce pick. So SKT draft Poppy, theorizing that it would be allow start for Duke, avoiding combating the better player on Jayce and turning into a late tanky game monster. This is exactly what happened. This is just one example of SKT’s brilliance when picking and banning. Now, banning and outpicking SKT is much easier said than done, as Faker is nigh on impossible to ban out and SKT’s flexibity seems endless.
From an analytical standpoint, I can see several options here for SSG. Both Samsungs support Jo “Core JJ” Yong-in and SKT’s support Lee “Wolf” Jae-wan will be competing for shared support picks. Wolf has gravitated away from his usual tankier picks this championship, capitalising on the high damage, high annoyance Zyra and Karma picks. CoreJJ is also incredible proficient in these picks, even more so with Zyra, so it will be no surprise to anyone if this is banned away from him. If this is to be the case CoreJJ has also show his terrify ability to roam on characters like Tahm Kench with his jungler Kang “Ambition” Chan-yong, snowballing other lanes after pushing up and pressuring bottom. Depending on picks and bans the potential to leave SKT’s bot lanes with slim pickings is there. It’s also worth mentioning that CoreJJ has used this tactic very, very well in his worlds run, and as a result he hasn’t lost a single game.
Another point of contention for Samsung and SKT is the jungle. Both Bengi, Ambition and SKT’s substitute jungler Kang “Blank” Sun-gu all have gravitated towards characters like Olaf, running through the enemy teams back lines causing chaos as they go. It’s here where SSG could potentially bait out a Blank substitution, forcing SKT’s flex jungle strength into a weakness. Ban out Bengi by denying him Nidalee, or Elise, dealing with his potential Lee Sin pick, capitalize for the win, bait in Blank and have a blank to abuse him. Again, in theory this could be perfect, but SKT are not easily thwarted.
Its also worth noting SKT haven’t had much luck against the Aurelion Sol pick. This mid lane character has proven to be a nightmare for SKT, who have recently chosen to ban him all together instead of dealing with his potential roaming power. This pick saw SKT’s downfall in the LCK regular split and also drew bans during their semi-final games. What better way for Lee “Crown” Mih-ho to get the one up on Faker, by destroying his side lanes in devastating roams with the galactic dragon. Faker is ultimately too good to 100% best in every game during the laning phase, so this avenue may be SSG only option in taking the 5-game series.
Finally is culling SKT’s overall game style. When I describe how SKT play to people I tell them its like watching a snake choke an animal, or a wrestler slowly putting someone to sleep in a guillotine. SKT play League of Legends better than anyone in the world, mythodically dissecting teams by systematically taking away objectives and opportunities as the game goes on. In order to counter this, SSG must play their game, their pace, and avoid the stylings of SKT. Do this three times and Samsung might, just might find themselves season 6 world champions. Do I think Samsung will defeat SKT? No, I do not. But in the words of Albus Nox Luna’s Likkrit “Just because you’re the underdog, does not mean you are loser”.
Samsung Galaxy take on SK Telecom T1 on Sunday 30th October 10:00AM AEDT Sydney Time here: https://www.twitch.tv/riotgames