World Championship Preview: KT Rolster

In this article I will go into detail about the third seed from Korea, KT Rolster. Wildly popular with a rabid, hardcore fan base, their expectations for this tournament are quite high. I will be discussing their likely placement at Worlds and reviewing how their overall season went. I’ll go over every player individually and where I believe them to fit in the context of the Worlds tournament.


Season In Review (49-39 Total Record, 56% Win Percentage)

KT Rolster entered the year on uncertain terms. The exodus and Winter offseason hurt the organization greatly. KT Arrows stars Rookie and Kakao booked it for China to play for Invictus Gaming, and the KT Bullets team had fallen on incredibly hard times. The end of sister teams would result in a mash-up of previously thought of mediocre players coming together during Spring. The KT Bullets mid laner Nagne would reprise his role on the new team and KT Bullets mainstay marksman Score would make the third positional swap of his career in taking up the jungle mantle. Filling in the pieces would be players left from the Summer champs KT Arrows squad; Ssumday in the top lane, Arrow in the marksman role, and Hachani in the support role. KT would bring in multiple players attempting to bolster the roster with Edge challenging Nagne in the mid lane and Fixer eventually replacing Hachani at support.

Their initial Spring split was a roaring disaster as they never found their footing. Going 2-5 in sets during the first round robin of Spring, they entered the second round robin with new support Fixer and, as his name suggests, he fixed quite a lot. One of the weakest points of KT Rolster during the first round robin was their absolutely horrid duo lane performance. What presence Hachani brought was almost entirely negative and as such with his replacement things appeared on the upswing. Score continued to adjust to the jungle and with the patch 5.5 changes introducing Cinderhulk, he found his comfort zone. The meta started placing more and more emphasis on the top lane performance and before any other team could do so KT Rolster figured everything out. Focusing their top lane proved to be fruitful, taking their final four sets of the season including wins over the dominant GE Tigers and the faltering, yet talented Jin Air Green Wings. They would be on the outside looking in during the playoffs with a middling 6-8 total set record on the split, however with four of those set wins coming at the tail end of the split along with players like Fixer and Score becoming more acclimated to the team, many people believed KT Rolster could make a run in Summer.

That run in Summer would be a little delayed as they still found inconsistencies against the top half teams, dropping sets to SK Telecom, KOO Tigers, Najin e-mFire, and CJ Entus. In the break between the first and second round robin KT Rolster would find the player who would push them over the edge, Piccaboo. Not re-signing with SK Telecom after the Spring split due to a wrist injury, he found a new, healthy home with the rivals of his former team. Immediately Piccaboo showed a large improvement over his predecessor, bringing his patented roaming focus to the team along with laying down more mid lane pressure. Arrow’s individual laning through the year had become better and better with each successive support and he looked at home with his former Xenics Storm partner. Taking the first four sets of the Summer split, they matched up against an SK Telecom squad who were entering the set on a 17 match win streak. KT Rolster would take the first match off the back of Piccaboo’s aggression and rare SK Telecom miscommunication, ending the streak of their telecom rival. Despite dropping the final two matches and losing the set, they would continue hot through the end of the split with four straight set wins. Going 13-5 in sets during the Summer split, they claimed the second seed in the playoffs. There they would square off against the KOO Tigers who had bounced back from a poor ending to their split with consecutive playoff set wins. Despite playing rather poorly, KT Rolster would claim the set in a game five blind pick match. Moving into the finals, they would be rolled over by their esports rival in a sound sweep.

From the playoff finals loss, KT Rolster would be placed into the top seed of regionals to claim the number three seed to Worlds from Korea. Once again squaring off against an upstart team who had faltered near the end of the split, they would knock off the Jin Air Green Wings 3-1 and grasp the third seed to Worlds.


The Players

Top Lane | Kim “ssumday” Chan-ho (김찬호)

The definitive star of the roster and center of attention within the team, Ssumday is the person to watch for on KT Rolster. Debuting in Champions all the way back during the Spring 2013 season, he had a fairly rough entrance to the league on the KT Bullets. To make room for Kakao’s return to the KT Bullets after the Spring season, star jungler Insec would swap positions to the top lane so he could remain on the team going into the Summer season. Ssumday transitioned to the KT Arrows squad and after failing to qualify for the Winter season, they revamped their lineup before Spring by having Kakao rejoin their roster and adding Xenics Storm marksman Arrow. One quarterfinal run in their initial Spring season paved the way for an incredibly surprising upset win over Samsung Blue in the Summer finals. Moving to the gauntlet to fight for the third seed the Arrows would fall in disappointing fashion to Najin White Shield. Entering 2015, Ssumday chose to remain with the organization that found ways to make him fit through the two seasons prior.

Known for trending more on the carry side of the top lane, Ssumday was one of the known variables for KT Rolster. He wasn’t spectacular by any means entering the season, but finished up 2014 with some incredible performances that gave everyone a glimmer of hope. While the rest of the roster tried to mesh together during Spring, Ssumday performed at a fairly high level on a consistent basis. Once the top lane became the center of attention on the map during the latter half of Spring he and the team saw more success than ever before. Transitioning that success into Summer, his play was one of the standouts in the league during the split and he helped lead KT Rolster to a second place finish and a third place seed to Worlds.

Champions Summer Statistics

  • Total Games Played – 56
  • Kills – 150
  • Deaths – 109
  • Assists – 346
  • Most Played Champs – Maokai (14), Shen (8), Gnar (5), Riven (4), Fizz (4)
  • Unique Champ Wins – 13 (Maokai, Shen, Gnar, Riven, Fizz, Ryze, Hecarim, Rumble, Yasuo, Irelia, Lulu, Fiora, Malphite)
  • Gold Percentage, League Rank – Regular Season (23.4%, 2nd), Playoffs (24.5%, 1st), Regionals (24.3%, 1st)

Ssumday’s style really trends on the carry side of things and he is at his best whenever he’s on a champ that can snowball hard, split push, and get into a one vs one situation where he can’t be contained. That is his bread and butter and KT Rolster loves to set him up for success. They give him an abundant amount of resources that allow him to accomplish what he needs to, but he has also proven himself versatile enough to perform whenever he’s not the center of attention in-game. Playing well on champs such as Lulu, Maokai, and Shen, he has an added dimension to his game that certain carry oriented top laners lack. His teleport usage is down right brilliant and he is phenomenal at creating plays not just for himself, but for his team. KT loves to give him priority in champ select, allowing him to get lane counters often. In game, Score likes to dedicate a lot of time to whatever lane Ssumday finds himself in.

Being placed in Group D alongside LGD Acorn, OG Soaz, and TSM Dyrus, Ssumday should fare well against his competition. He has a style that is more distinct than what Acorn and Dyrus have shown, who both play more team oriented overall. The problem with Ssumday is that, due to him being the number one priority on KT, he also garners a lot of enemy attention and is prone to being shut down. When he’s shut down KT Rolster doesn’t function.

Games to Watch

Shen vs SK Telecom T1, Game 1 in Regular Season Second Round Robin

Gnar vs KOO Tigers, Game 1 of Summer Playoffs

Yasuo vs Jin Air Green Wings, Game 2 of Regional Finals


Jungle | Go “Score” Dong-bin (고동빈)

The longest tenured member of the KT Rolster organization and the only member remaining from the prolific 2013 KT Bullets roster, Score finds himself in his third different professional position. Previously playing top lane and marksman in the Champions setting, Score has acclimated himself well to the jungle and adopted a play style far different from the incredibly safe, precise marksman style that he was famous for. Trudging along through 2014 on the faltering KT Bullets teams, he stuck with the organization through the exodus and it has all paid off with his first Worlds appearance.

Entering the 2015 season it was uncertain where Score would land in the blown up jungle habitat that was Korea. Not being the only role swapping jungler after multiple top-level players in the role left, Score ended up faring well in the region. Initially struggling to mesh with his new roster, he eventually found a stride upon the release of Cinderhulk. The item that helped so many previously mediocre junglers look remarkable did the same for Score and down the tail end of the Spring split he was one of the catalysts that helped KT find success. Moving into Summer he kept improving his individual play and upon the acquisition of Piccaboo, the two came together like a well oiled machine, becoming arguably the strongest jungle-support combination in Korea.

Champions Summer Statistics

  • Total Games Played – 56
  • Kills – 101
  • Deaths – 104
  • Assists – 405
  • Most Played Champs – Rek’Sai (19), Gragas (12), Elise (7), Evelynn (6), Ekko (5)
  • Unique Champ Wins – 7 (Rek’Sai, Gragas, Elise, Evelynn, Ekko, Rengar, Sejuani)
  • Total Kill Participation – 70.2%

Score’s play style and jungle pathing in a way is completely opposite from the extremely safe and calculated style he showed for two years as a marksman. He is very aggressive and erratic as a jungler, bringing one of the very few strong early games out of any jungler in Champions. He is swift in his action and while this has many positives, both he and Piccaboo are very prone to errors as they have a tendency to go a little too deep or force a play that shouldn’t be forced. Score loves pressuring the top side, it seems he generally knows which side of the map he should be on and he knows the pecking order on the team. When he can help garner KT even a slight lead, he will pair up with Piccaboo and roam around together for minutes at a time trying to make picks and set up their vision. With the jungle meta being tank and team oriented, he hasn’t had many struggles picking up jungle champs to play and has low priority both in the eyes of his team and the opposition.

Within Group D he’ll be up against LGD TBQ, OG Amazing, and TSM Santorin. The only jungler of the bunch that I could think to be better than Score is Amazing. TBQ and Santorin are both incredibly lackluster while Amazing has been a centerpiece for Origen in their wins. I fully expect Score to show up and be one of the top performers in the group. Things on KT typically begin and end with Score making things happen with his support.

Games to Watch

Elise vs Jin Air Green Wings, Game 4 of Regional Finals

Rek’Sai vs SK Telecom T1, Game 2 of Summer Playoffs

Gragas vs KOO Tigers, Game 3 of Summer Playoffs


Mid Lane | Kim “Nagne” Sang-moon (김상문)

The man who challenged Faker. Playing at the Season 3 World Championship with Najin Black Sword while having only roughly ten NLB matches under his belt, Nagne impressed many with his international debut. Standing in the mid lane as the NLB champions took the future World Champions SK Telecom T1 K to five games, he showed a lot of promise being fairly unknown. Great things were expected out of the rookie mid considering that tournament and yet nothing seemed to pan out correctly. Najin Black Sword, the team he was with for Winter 2013 and Spring 2014, were both falling apart at the seams. In one of the biggest transaction steals in League history, he was dealt to KT Rolster prior to Summer 2014 along with top laner Limit in exchange for top lane star Duke. Initially, Nagne went from one dumpster fire on Najin Black Sword to another on KT Bullets. While the KT Arrows had won the Summer finals, the Bullets were in complete disarray as older players such as Mafa and Ryu were heading out the door. With Arrows mid laner Rookie leaving for greener pastures in China, KT stuck with Nagne as the immediate option, trying out other up and coming options for potential replacements.

Nagne’s play failed to impress during the first half of the 2015 season. His Spring play was one of the areas I felt KT Rolster needed to upgrade at or they would fail to improve as a team. His lackluster play continued into Summer and with it the KT Rolster inconsistencies stayed true. His mid lane substitute, Edge, would see a handful of promising matches midway through the Summer split. Whether this was to push Nagne to greater heights or a legitimate replacement is unknown. All I know is that Nagne came back renewed in the second half of the Summer split and performed quite well above his usual level of play. Still, he found himself individually outmatched by many of his peers in Korea over the split and playoffs, but performed well enough to get into his second Worlds appearance.

Champions Summer Statistics

  • Total Games Played – 48
  • Kills – 200
  • Deaths – 98
  • Assists – 239
  • Most Played Champs – Viktor (12), Azir (11), Cassiopeia (8), Leblanc (5), Lulu (3)
  • Unique Champ Wins – 8 (Viktor, Azir, Cassiopeia, Leblanc, Lulu, Kassadin, Twisted Fate, Diana)
  • Damage Percentage, League Rank – Regular Season (30.4%, 4th), Playoffs (31.0%, 1st), Regionals (32.1%, 3rd)

Nagne is an extremely unusual player, but he fits the mid lane meta right now. He loves playing assassins, yet he’s typically a very safe, passive mid laner and hasn’t shown an ability to snowball like his peers. He performs quite well on control mages, what is in vogue at the moment. He plays the meta picks well, his Azir being a standout, and has fair depth to his pool. In the Summer season he was being outlaned and outmatched by certain players who aren’t thought of particularly highly, Kuro of KOO Tigers being one in particular during their playoff set. He is the player I would deem as the replacement line at the mid lane position in Korea. He’s serviceable in a decent amount of aspects, but he’ll lose you games more than he’ll win you games. His priority within the team is uneven. He typically is strapped onto something like Azir or Viktor and told to just farm, but in-game he has seen a bit of a resurgence recently with Piccaboo who applies a lot of pressure and brings more safety to the mid lane via vision. Nagne is generally placed in a secondary carry role and is rarely in a position to take a game over to hard carry.

In Group D he’ll be facing off against very stiff competition in LGD GODV, OG xPeke, and TSM Bjergsen. I fully expect Nagne to be the worst mid laner in the group even with his recent bump in positive play. GODV and Bjergsen look to be two of the best at the tournament and xPeke seemingly always shows up well at Worlds despite how he may have looked in the European region. I don’t have high hopes for Nagne and if KT is going to falter anywhere in this group it’ll be in the mid lane. Nagne must step up. He is the weakest point on this roster and even though the mid lane meta is very friendly to him, he may be a point that the other teams in this group attack.

Games to Watch

Fizz vs Jin Air Green Wings, Game 4 of Regional Finals

Azir vs SK Telecom T1, Game 3 in Regular Season Second Round Robin

Azir vs KOO Tigers, Game 3 of Summer Playoffs


AD Carry | No “Arrow” Dong-hyeon (노동현)

The player who has most surprised me on KT Rolster this split, Arrow has given me a good amount of confidence in his play recently. Breaking through into Champions with the famous Xenics Storm roster that featured stars like Swift, Coco, and his current bot lane partner Piccaboo, Arrow never had a truly great support until Piccaboo returned to his side during the Summer split. Paired up with Hachani on the KT Arrows, they were known for their atrocious, yet very aggressive laning phase. Not uncommon to see Arrow be nearly 100 cs behind his opposing laner midway through the game, they somehow made it all work by running through three straight 3-2 set wins in Champions Summer to claim the crown. Sticking with KT Rolster through the exodus, Score moved to the jungle so Arrow could retain the marksman position.

Dropping Hachani midway through the Spring split in favor of the up and coming support Fixer, Arrow’s largest downside, his laning, suddenly looked a whole lot better. You didn’t see Arrow dropping 50 to 100 cs behind his laning opponent anymore. Still without his fair share of flaws, Fixer’s presence in the bot lane helped Arrow hit the mid and late game team fights that he always excelled at. Fixer’s presence brought a much more toned down aggression in the bot lane which seemed to fit Arrow’s style. The changes in Arrow’s performance from before and after Fixer’s arrival are night and day. The changes only got better with the return of his former Xenics support during the Summer split. Relegated into a more passive, self-sufficient laning style with Piccaboo, his Summer split was pretty great and he stepped up into a more defined carry role the team needed even in a meta that doesn’t favor marksmen.

Champions Summer Statistics

  • Total Games Played – 56
  • Kills – 208
  • Deaths – 87
  • Assists – 311
  • Most Played Champs – Sivir (14), Corki (13), Kog’Maw (10), Vayne (4), Kalista (4)
  • Unique Champ Wins – 9 (Sivir, Corki, Kog’Maw, Vayne, Kalista, Ezreal, Jinx, Urgot, Ashe)
  • Damage Percentage, League Rank – Regular Season (30.6%, 1st), Playoffs (29.3%, 3rd), Regionals (25.5%, 3rd)

I had never thought very highly of Arrow until this past split. He is the very definition of a player who shows that the bot lane is entirely dependent on how the support and marksman mesh in both personality and play style. Once he got the “right” support by his side, his game took a step up. His laning currently is on the more passive side of things, even when Piccaboo is by his side in a two vs two lane. Quite often you’ll see KT Rolster stick Arrow in a one vs one, or even a one vs two lane, while Piccaboo roams about the map for minutes at a time. He’s extremely good at playing a self-sufficient role and flat-out not dying. KT Rolster will put him on something like Corki, Sivir, or Kog’Maw so that he can farm in a safe manner on his own. Coincidentally those champs are also very good team fighting AD carries and that’s where Arrow excels at. He comes from the Score school of positioning where you’ll almost never see him get caught out or make a team fight losing move.

In Group D he’ll be squaring off against LGD Imp, OG Niels, and TSM Wildturtle. As of now I’d say Arrow is the second or third best AD carry in this group, only definitively behind Imp. I knows Niels is a very good marksman, yet I’m still trying to figure out just how good he is and that makes comparing the two players tough. One thing I will say does kind of concern me is that Imp and Niels are both apart of two really strong laning phase duos. I have less concern on the Imp side of things as LGD typically employ a lane swap to mask their junglers inability to play properly, and a lane swap is what Arrow should want. Either way, I don’t have too many concerns with Arrow. I think he’ll show up and be a solid piece in the KT Rolster puzzle that lifts them to the quarterfinals.

Games to Watch

Kog’Maw vs Jin Air Green Wings, Game 1 of Regional Finals

Vayne vs KOO Tigers, Game 3 of Summer Playoffs

Sivir vs Samsung Galaxy, Game 2 of Regular Season Second Round Robin


Support | Lee “Piccaboo” Jong-beom (이종범)

You’ve heard me talk about him and praise him all article long. The man, the myth, the legend. Breaking through to Champions initially back in Summer 2013, he came up as a sub behind current SK Telecom T1 support Wolf on the surprising Chunnam Techno University squad that made the quarterfinals that season. He would leave the team after the season and find a new home on the previously mentioned Xenics Storm roster. Once again, a very surprising and up start team that made the quarterfinals in their season of Champions. After that season Piccaboo was nowhere to be seen. He joined up with the Samsung organization in early 2014 and was the sub to Korean stars Heart and Mata. The once promising support was stuck behind two of the best players at the support role in the world.

When the exodus occurred, which sent both Samsung supports to China, Piccaboo looked for other opportunities. He would find a new home on SK Telecom T1 as a sub behind Wolf, yet again. Sharing the position during the Spring split, Piccaboo’s performance was phenomenal and many wondered why he abruptly stopped playing with the team in the second half of the Spring split. Turns out a wrist injury had him sidelined and as the split ended his contract with SK Telecom did as well. Once again the very promising support looked out of the game through unfortunate circumstance. He finally got his break by joining KT Rolster midway through the Summer split, replacing Fixer. The impact he brought to the team was immediate and they shot up the standings as they tried to claim one of the Worlds seeds. Taking eight of the nine sets in the regular season after Piccaboo joined, KT Rolster granted themselves the second seed in the playoffs. Despite falling to the gauntlet, they would eventually claim the third seed to Worlds with a win over Jin Air.

Champions Summer Statistics

  • Total Games Played – 35
  • Kills – 19
  • Deaths – 101
  • Assists – 277
  • Most Played Champs – Thresh (11), Janna (8), Alistar (7), Braum (4), Annie (3)
  • Unique Champ Wins – 6 (Thresh, Janna, Alistar, Braum, Annie, Leona)
  • Wards Per Minute, League Rank – Regular Season (1.45, 2nd), Playoffs (1.64, 1st), Regionals (1.62, 1st)

What Piccaboo brought to this team cannot be understated. Many people think Piccaboo to be this madman who roams around trying to make flashy plays and turning everything into a bloodbath. That is the opposite of what he does. He bolsters the early game with his roaming by pairing up with Score early and often to create safe areas via vision for both his mid and marksman. His presence cut the deaths on his team down by almost half the rate they were at prior to his arrival. He definitely makes his fair share of flashy plays and has a large impact on the overall kills that happen in the game, as evidenced by the first blood rate skyrocketing upon his arrival. He meshes extremely well with Arrow and there’s never a moment of miscommunication between the two of them. As touched upon in the Arrow segment, one area I feel teams haven’t really exploited is the rate at which Piccaboo leaves Arrow on an island, albeit a vision covered island. One interesting caveat with Piccaboo is that he leads the entire league in death percentage of his team. He dies a lot, however, the rest of his team outside of Nagne are all at the very bottom of their roles in how often they die. Piccaboo is often placed in the role of being the main engage and he makes it work dying as the sacrifice for his team.

In Group D Piccaboo is going against a star-studded lineup of supports, LGD Pyl, OG Mithy, and TSM Lustboy. Every single one of these supports brings so much to their teams whether it be vision control, macro strategy, shot calling, or play making. I would place Piccaboo and Pyl at the top of this group with Mithy and Lustboy a ways below them. These are the players to watch in this group.

Games to Watch

Leona vs KOO Tigers, Game 5 of Summer Playoffs

Thresh vs Jin Air Green Wings, Game 1 in Regular Season Second Round Robin

Braum vs SK Telecom T1, Game 1 of Regular Season Second Round Robin


Prediction

While I do believe Origen can challenge KT Rolster for one of the top two seeds, I have to give the edge and the quarterfinal position to KT Rolster. Despite a fairly unconvincing playoff and gauntlet showing, I have faith they’ll bounce back and across the board I think they hold individual upgrades over every Origen player outside of the mid lane. Even in the mid lane, considering Nagne’s play style where he almost never gets dumpstered in lane, I don’t think it’s much of an issue to consider. KT has been a phenomenal pick and ban team for the entirety of the season, even whenever they were struggling. They have an ability to get every single member on one of their top champs and mesh it together into a cohesive unit. I think it’s one of the more under-appreciated facts about this team is their drafting truly is magnificent. Even with my endorsement of KT Rolster, do not count Origen out. I believe LGD will take the first seed without much trouble and I believe TSM will struggle to win a single match. Going into Worlds I’d say it’s about 65:35 in KT Rolster’s favor over Origen, but the chance is there and it’s the one group I believe has three teams worthy of a quarterfinal appearance. Where can KT Rolster go once out of the group? I believe this team’s ceiling is the semifinals. I believe they’ll be outmatched against the three Chinese participants along with SK Telecom.


Credits

For translated interviews – http://barontimer.tumblr.com/

For stats on every league – http://oracleselixir.com/

More stats and profiles – http://lol.esportspedia.com/

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