The Anatomy Of A Last Place Team: Liiv SANDBOX
Liiv SANDBOX has had a rough go of form since its first season in the LCK. In the beginning, there was talk of a new wave of Korean League of Legends talent in the organisation's first year in the league. Some compared the team to another new LCK squad, Griffin, and predicted that the two squads would take over the league.
Now, SANDBOX is the bottom team of the LCK, sitting at a 2-10 series score and 6-20 in games played. The organisation was on a steep decline in 2020, finishing 9th and 7th in the spring and summer respectively, and now seem to be headed in the same trajectory.
But what does a 10th place LCK team look like organically? How does an up-and-coming healthy Korean squad ruin its body of work to be scraping for a third win? Well we first have to start with the heart of the squad through the 2021 season so far, Lee "Effort" Sang-ho.
The Heart of SANDBOX
Effort joined SANDBOX at the tail end of 2020, leaving T1 after fighting for a starting spot on the roster for most of the season. The T1 disciple is the main core and heart of the team, with all the good and the bad that comes with that role.
Thanks to the current meta of the game, and the style that SANDBOX likes to implement in its games, Effort is often on engage champions. His most played champions are Alistar and Nautilus so that he can dictate when the team will fight and what angle his teammates will engage from.
So far this season, Effort’s engages have been poor to uninspiring. The T1 product seems to be one step ahead of his team in most games and is willing to scrap with the enemy team even when he should be playing safe or defensive. Couple that with his willingness to re-engage fights after the team has already lost to somehow recoup losses after the fact, and you have a 10th place team’s heart.
The Lungs of SANDBOX
Park "Summit" Woo-tae and Kim "Croco" Dong-beom are what make SANDBOX a genuine threat in most games. Summit for his laning prowess and team fighting ability and Croco because he sets the fast tempo that the team likes to play. Both bring air into the team and attempt to filter out any impurities that the enemy may throw their way, acting as the lungs for the team.
Summit is the most reliable player on the SANDBOX roster. The top laner has over 10 unique champions played so far this season, but has been relegated to Gnar duty for most games. In the few wins that SANDBOX has managed to scrape together in Season 11, Summit has been on a tank champion that can follow up with Effort’s engages and dive the enemy carries.
Croco on the other hand is slightly more inconsistent, if only for his high tempo style that can sometimes beat faster than even Effort. The former streaming personality has been a massive upgrade over Kim "OnFleek" Jang-gyeom, taking the starting spot quickly, and has adapted to the jungle meta well despite his willingness to pick Graves in many games.
Both players are what keeps the team breathing in most games and are not afraid to make plays, unlike other lower-table teams.
The Brains of SANDBOX
While the lungs and the heart are important parts of a last-place team’s anatomy, the most important body part for any team, or human, is the brain. The brain drafts the team’s composition, sets the culture and chooses which players get the starting spot that week. For SANDBOX, the brains of the operation is Kim "Micro" Mok-kyoung.
The current head coach of SANDBOX, Micro has a reputation in the LCK for bringing up young talent. He was famously the head coach of DAMWON Gaming from the team’s days before LCK qualification and was a big reason for the team’s legendary run through the league in 2019. Now the tenured coach is fielding a mixed roster of new and veteran players for SANDBOX and has not seen positive results.
The team has looked good in matches, proactivity in-game most likely means players know what to do and have practised situations before, but its record is not as good as Micro may want. He has made interesting moves to add some life into the squad, picking up Croco before the start of the season and bringing in Lee "Prince" Chae-hwan recently from the LPL.
But, the team has obviously struggled and has yet to break through into any meaningful success this season.
While there does seem to be some disconnect from the brain to the rest of the body, there does not appear to be any rot or disease that is holding the brain back. Unlike some other LCK teams that look to be floundering in-game, but make up for it with individual skill, SANDBOX’s brain and all other vital organs seem to be improving game to game. Maybe someday the anatomy of the team will change, sparking a mid table push out of LCK elo hell.
Images via lolesports and LCK