A handful of games have been played in the LCK: what does this mean for the rest of the season?
Only a handful of matches in the League of Legends Champions Korea (LCK) have been played, as the first day had Gen.G taking on a changed KT Rolster while T1 got to play their first game in months against a Hanwha Life Esports looking to better last year’s performance.
Although nowhere near a good sample size, we’ll go over the first two matches, as well as how we think the LCK — its teams and the league as a whole — will perform this year.
Gen.G vs KT Rolster
Gen.G’s last performance was at the League of Legends World Championship last year in which they got handed a clean and decisive 3-0 in the quarterfinals by the hands of League of Legends European Championship’s (LEC) powerhouse, G2 Esports. The last time KT Rolster performed was at KeSPA Cup at the end of the last year. Going into this matchup, KT Rolster fielded a variety of rosters at KeSPA Cup, seemingly in preparations for the LCK’s Spring Split regular-season start.
Prior to this match, there was plenty of talk from Choi “Doran” Hyeon-joon self-proclaiming to be the best top laner in the league and Gen.G were looking to silence that. KT Rolster didn’t have to face a high calibre team like Gen.G at KeSPA Cup. This is a team that were in the upper echelon in all of 2020 — always in the top three in both regular season and playoffs, culminating with a quarterfinals appearance at Worlds.
Kim “Rascal” Kwang-hee and the rest of the Gen.G team quickly and decisively shut down Doran’s talking, shooting down his pride, and letting KT Rolster and the rest of the league know that they are still at the top even when there’s been numerous roster moves and a break in between. Rascal first blooded Doran five minutes into game one which prompted Doran to immediately teleport back to lane to not lose as much ground. With zero vision control at his disposal, Doran got properly ganked by Kim “Clid” Tae-min. After this, Gen.G just kept getting what they wanted from then onwards, winning game one.
High tempo ruled game two although a similar start to the game for Gen.G getting first blood once again. Gen.G made several early game plays, but KT Rolster were able to hang on. But ultimately, even though KT Rolster kept making plays, Gen.G would always respond — punishing overstays or getting control of another part of the map.
T1 vs. Hanwha Life Esports
The last time T1 got to play was back at the Worlds qualifiers last year as opposed to Hanwha Life Esports who got to play at KeSPA Cup. It was the unknown versus the known; the known also has two players from that DRX roster who also Worlds quarterfinals last year — mid-laner Jeong “Chovy” Ji-hoon and AD Carry Kim “Deft” Hyuk-kyu. In perhaps something that might occur more moving on in the season, T1 had Lee “Clozer” Ju-hyeon in place of Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok and Lee “Gamayusi” Min-hyeong instead of Park “Teddy” Jin-seong.
Game one saw T1 having a near-perfect game against Hanwha Life Esports leaving them with only two dragons and nothing else. This was an impressive showing by T1 for the first time on the rift in months. T1 were always a step ahead of Hanwha Life Esports. Come game two, Hanwha Life Esports turned it around, having a dominant performance themselves, although not as clean as T1’s first game. An Oh “Vsta” Hyo-seong Rell pick helped them change gears as it not only great for laning but he was crucial for team fights as well — Vsta looked very comfortable on this pick.
Once in game three, T1 took an early lead, constantly pushing the go button even if it cost them, this allowed Hanwha Life Esports to catch back up. The game quickly turned into a trade fest, but T1 always maintained their gold lead and dragon leads. It stayed neck and neck until Clozer decided he got tired of the tie; a perfect flank engage from him allowed T1 to clean house. Once the house was clean and the third dragon was obtained by T1 as well as more gold added to their pockets, T1 subsequently ended the game. Gumayusi took it home for T1 with an unofficial pentakill on the Samira.
The 2021 Season
Even though only two matches have been played, there’s plenty to dissect and plenty to speculate. First of all, the elephant in the room is that Clozer got to start over Faker. Faker has been in the league for quite a while now — he’s nearing eight years of pro play in February. Obviously, in the past, Faker hasn’t always been the starter for T1 as he’s shared the spotlight with a handful of players, most notably Lee “Easyhoon” Ji-hoon in that 2015 SKT T1 roster. One always tends to raise an eyebrow anytime Faker isn’t in the limelight, and rightfully so, he’s the greatest ever to play League of Legends. But this leaves the question on the table: Is Faker’s career nearing the end?
There are also changes going outside the T1 team; there have been several roster changes as seen by Hanwha Life Esports’ acquisition of Deft and Chovy as well as plenty others such as Jang “Nuguri” Ha-gwon leaving DAMWON Gaming behind after a World Championship win and moving over to the League of Legends Pro League (LPL). These are just the surface of the amount of changes rosters underwent. But there is one change that all teams share in common, the new playoff format for the 2021 Spring Split.
In light of Korea winning Worlds, and not only that, but having all of their teams make it past groups, the LCK switched things up. Their long reign over the international scene abruptly ended after the LPL took over for two years, with Invictus Gaming winning Worlds in 2018 and FunPlus Phoenix winning in 2019. This is a tangible way to help solidify what teams get sent to represent Korea at Worlds. No more fast track to the finals, now whoever secures the first seed during the regular season has to win more than one series.
These are all just a few things to ponder as Korea is looking to get back to the dominant form they have displayed in the past.
Images via Riot Games