The Other Incredible Miracle of KOO: Lee “KurO” Seo-haeng

The deafened crowd in Brussels sat in near silence. The KOO Tigers, Korea’s second seed at Worlds, had just finished their kill of the incapacitated number one European seed, Fnatic. Sparse applause followed, the Tigers waved to the crowd, and they ventured off to prepare for the finals against their Korean comrade in SK Telecom T1. Following the set there was wide-spread acclaim for the performances of top laner Song “Smeb” Kyung-ho and marksman Kim “PraY” Jong-in, along with the general praise that star support Kang “GorillA” Beom-hyeon typically garners. What went unnoticed was the play of mid laner Lee “KurO” Seo-haeng, who bested a mid laner many considered far superior. Written off as another “over-performance”, KurO continued to do his job, being the anchor of his team in the mid lane. Entering the set against Fnatic he would be squaring off against Fabian “Febiven” Diepstraten, the rookie European mid lane prodigy. Nearly every analyst and commentator agreed on two things entering this set: Smeb would outclass Fnatic top laner Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon and Febiven would stand far above Kuro. Only one of those held true as Smeb put on a monumental performance, showing every single flaw of the rookie Fnatic top laner. In the mid lane Kuro did what he has done for three years now, standing toe to toe with a player most would consider superior.

One of three members on KOO who previously participated in the Incredible Miracle organization, Kuro held a standing with his team, Incredible Miracle 2, in a way Smeb did not. Whereas Smeb was more of a punching bag and a slight joke in Champions prior to leaving the ill-fated KeSPA organization, Kuro was one of the very lone bright spots for the bottom of the barrel team. All throughout his time with Incredible Miracle 2 Kuro was regarded as a player that was good, but not great enough to carry the pieces placed around him. Performing well through the assassin heavy meta in Season 3, he led Incredible Miracle to their greatest finish in League history with an NLB runner-up placing. From there he played on Incredible Miracle teams marred with a complete lack of talent until he would find a bigger and better opportunity.

Najin Black Sword underwent reconstructive surgery between the Spring 2014 and Summer 2014 seasons of Champions. Replacing four of their previous starting members with four up and coming players, including Kuro, Najin Black Sword suddenly had a renewed future. After SK Telecom S and Lee “EasyHoon” Ji-hoon stole a game five victory away from Sword in Champions Summer Quarterfinals, Kuro would once again help bring his team to the NLB finals. There he would meet his assumed opponent for the Season 5 World Championship finals: Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok. In what was the fifth ever meeting between the two, they dueled it out in the mid lane multiple times with Faker always coming out the victor. In a deceptively close sweep, SK Telecom T1 K would take the NLB crown. The massive exodus of talent and coaches that followed the Summer split brought us the formation of the now-KOO Tigers.

While everyone is talking about Smeb for his ascension during the year to the top of carry mountain, the other solo laner on the team has garnered extremely little attention or praise. Kuro’s style is not in the same vein as most other mid laners and as such he has received the brunt of fan criticism on the team. From a fan perspective, the prime example for mid lane and the player every mid laner should be modeled after is Faker. Lane dominant, snowball heavy game play that can single-handedly take over and win a game. The one vs nine mentality is pervasive in the mid lane role, carry oriented players being championed while secondary role players get discarded. Kuro is very much in the latter segment of mid lane. He brings stability, self-sufficiency, and versatility to the mid lane in lieu of lane dominance and hard carry potential. He wins game not by mechanically out playing his opponent, but by playing smarter than them; By filling the exact role his team needs and executing it to a high level. He has been the rock for KOO, the glue to every team composition coach Jeong “NoFe” No-chul has come up with.

In the Fnatic match up, Kuro adopted the mid lane teleport for all three matches while his lane opponent, Febiven, adopted more combative summoner spells in the first and third games. Despite bringing non-combative summoner spells, and playing weak laning champs, Kuro maintained an even-keeled lane against the more lane driven Fnatic mid. Once out of lane play began Kuro’s decisions to give up the lane for the late game paid off, making key teleports around the map. KOO’s map play and teleport usage swiftly gashed the neck of the European giant and the Brussels crowd fell into silence. Showing the ability of knowing what and how much to give up, sacrificing his personal laning performance and playing for the team has been one of Kuro’s greatest positives. It all shown through during the semifinals.

On October 31st, Kuro will presumably be squaring off against someone who he is personally 2-14 all time against, Faker. With the Season 5 World Championship final matches, Kuro will have faced Faker more times than any mid laner not named Heo “PawN” Won-seok and thus far he has historically shown disastrous results. While he has been able to stand toe to toe with nearly every other mid laner throughout his career, Faker is very much the white whale to Kuro’s career. Sporting a 1.96 total KDA against Faker, well below his 4.60 career KDA, very little has ever gone right in this match up for the Incredible Miracle alumnus. In fact, one of the plays that garnered Kuro a lot of attention was whenever he almost solo-killed Faker in NLB finals.

Kuro showed more success against Faker during the 2015 season, particularly at the beginning of the year when KOO were widely regarded as the best team in the world. The then-GE Tigers won a best of three set against SK Telecom with Kuro outperforming Faker for the first time in his career. Since then however, the Tigers have gone 0-9 against SK Telecom and Kuro’s performances, both against Faker and Easyhoon, have left a lot to be desired. Faker has broken out Irelia and Master Yi, style counter picks, and stomped versus the KOO Tigers during the Summer split. Many predict another stomp in the finals with the largest gap in talent sitting tall in the mid lane. If KOO are going to even make it a set, Kuro’s going to have to reverse his history with Faker and continue his “over-performance” for this tournament. The match up between the two teams has been incredibly one-sided since February and if KOO are to pull off the near impossible in the finals they will need an incredible miracle. No one expected them to get this far, yet here they are.

The Failure of North America

It looked hopeful. After the first week of the group stages for the World Championship, it looked very hopeful that two North American teams would make it out of groups. Hell, the third North American team, Team SoloMid, had performed better than the expected win-less showing, taking a game off Chinese powerhouse LGD Gaming. Counter Logic Gaming sat in a comfortable 2-1 record after the first week. Seeing LMS side Flash Wolves drop a match to the Brazilian paiN Gaming squad gave even more credence to the idea that Counter Logic Gaming would make it past groups. Cloud 9, who stumbled into the World Championship via the North American Regionals, unexpectedly swept through the first three matches of the group stage. The team many expected to sit in the lowly last place instead sat atop the group that contained the unsteady Chinese roster Invictus Gaming, the number one European squad Fnatic, and LMS hopefuls ahq e-Sports Club.

After week two, the hopes of North America were dashed. Win-less. Every North American team failed to win a single match in the second week of groups and they all failed to progress. Counter Logic Gaming were in prime position to secure one of the top two spots in Group A. All they needed was one single win and for Flash Wolves to not go undefeated just to secure a tiebreaker. Anything more than that and they would have clinched a quarterfinals berth. 0-3 was the result on the final day and they would fail to progress to quarterfinals. Cloud 9 sat undefeated coming into the second week. All they needed was a single win. They had a tie breaker clinched and they only had to win one of four matches. 0-4 was the result for Cloud 9 on that final day and like Counter Logic Gaming they would fail to proceed to quarterfinals. Team SoloMid, being in the toughest group, would, as expected, drop all three matches. 0-3 was the result on the final day for Team SoloMid and they would be knocked out of the tournament.

0-10 combined during the second week of group stages for North America. The combined collapse of both CLG and C9 to fail when in prime position to succeed is the League equivalent to Van De Velde collapsing at the British Open. In sports, a “choke” is the failure of an athlete or an athletic team to win a game or tournament when the player or team had been strongly favored to win or had squandered a large lead in the event. Both Counter Logic Gaming and Cloud 9 are by definition chokers. The one-dimensional style of both CLG and C9 led them to losing every match they needed to win. C9’s inability to be successful on any non-fast push composition led to their demise. CLG’s inability to be successful past standard buff the marksman compositions led to their demise.

The demise of these teams based on their one-dimensional play is the standard stamp of North America on the year. Inability to be flexible and flesh their style out allowed every other team to solve the simple puzzle they presented. This is nothing new to the North American region. During the Spring split Team SoloMid rushed through the North American LCS by having the strongest individual player in-region and giving him the ability to carry. Despite the team’s very obvious flaws, they won the Spring split rather easily. Summer split saw the rise of a Gravity team that lacked a coaching staff and spammed the same play style and composition week after week. After over a month of NA LCS domination, the competition finally figured it out and Gravity proceeded to flounder in mediocrity as they had nothing else up their sleeve. Despite Team SoloMid’s obvious flaws and incredibly one-dimensional play, they still found themselves in the NA LCS finals. They would be crushed by a more versatile Counter Logic Gaming side, yet that versatility CLG showed in relation to the North American scene meant nothing when forced onto the World stage.

What took other North American teams a month to figure out, the Worlds participants solved both CLG and C9 in a matter of days. CLG won their first two matches in week one off the back of a protect the marksman composition that was facilitated by Pobelter on Lulu. By the time CLG played the KOO Tigers, the team that exposed SK Gaming at IEM Katowice months ago and who would also exposed CLG at Worlds, banning out the single champ that facilitated the success of the team was all that was needed. The other teams in the group picked up on what KOO led with and CLG lost their head. In Group B, two of C9’s first three wins were championed by the fast push strength that Azir brings from the mid lane. Incarnati0n’s stellar Azir play in combination with Sneaky’s tower pushing marksman strategy allowed Cloud 9 to move around the map and out push the competition. Starting with the first match of the second week, Incarnati0n would never see Azir again and the one strategy Cloud 9 prepped with for Worlds quickly collapsed.

Both teams seemed to have entered Worlds with extremely limited strategies and certain players who looked individually great in the North American region suddenly didn’t look so amazing once they had to square off against international competition. It was a very disappointing end to an exceptionally low quality year for North America. After a success of a Worlds showing in Season 4, where both Team SoloMid and Cloud 9 made it out of the group stage, this Season 5 Worlds showing should have been unacceptable. Hopefully the regression shown on the international level brings about changes in the offseason. Many obvious flaws or black holes of talent existed on numerous teams throughout the year, or in the case of certain players throughout the past two or three years. Poor coaching and preparation led to one-dimensional styles and inflexibility, both in-region and internationally.

Whereas North America had hopes of soaring through groups after that well-played first week, those hopes should now turn to the offseason where multiple legacy players look to retire and multiple imported players may find a new home in another region. With every NA LCS playoff team facing potentially sweeping roster changes, we should hope for progress to be made at the coaching level and for teams to have a more dynamic team style. Too many teams in North America hold onto the same stale style for far too long, Team SoloMid and Counter Logic Gaming being the most heinous offenders. If the North American region is to ever be remotely competitive on the World stage these areas must improve.

World Championship Preview: SK Telecom T1

In this article I will go into detail about the number one seed from Korea, SK Telecom T1. The most popular team from Korea, SK Telecom has utterly dominated the region since the exodus of over 50 players last Winter. They come into Worlds fresh off a tough Mid Season Invitational loss looking to reclaim the crown. 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 (87-22 Total Record, 79.8% Win Percentage)

Entering Champions this year, SK Telecom was the only KeSPA organization who seemingly upgraded at every position. Whereas organizations such as CJ Entus, Najin e-mFire, KT Rolster, and Jin Air Green Wings lost a host of impact players to other regions, SK Telecom retained four of the five players from the 4th place finishing SK Telecom S lineup and dropped three of the five players from the underwhelming SK Telecom K lineup. They dropped the under-performing, erratic bot lane from SK Telecom K, in favor of the more stable SK Telecom S bot lane, along with sticking with a more carry oriented top laner in Marin, who serves as a dominant in and out of game leading voice. SK Telecom T1 looked primed and ready to renew their dominance at the very top of Korea after the exodus of roughly 80 Korean players during 2014.

The initial Spring split was fairly underwhelming as they experimented a bit more with a rotating mid lane situation with Faker and Easyhoon. With almost every team in Korea adapting to the wide sweeping roster changes and the newly formed KOO Tigers starting Spring off hot on a tear, SK Telecom were firmly in the middle of the pack, not where they wanted to be. Finishing the first round robin with a disappointing 4-3 set record, including losses to CJ Entus, Jin Air Green Wings, and the aforementioned KOO Tigers, they wouldn’t truly hit their stride until the second half of the split. Not dropping a single set during the second round robin, they would go 14-2 in overall matches, garnering themselves the second seed in the Champions playoffs. With the 5.5 changes that introduced Cinderhulk, they would square off in the semifinals against what was arguably the true second best team in Korea, CJ Entus. After starting rookie jungler Tom for the first two matches, both losses, SK Telecom would finally bring their now-standard lineup in for game three and proceed to reverse sweep CJ Entus, which included the single best match of the season with game four. SK Telecom would quickly down the declining KOO Tigers in three straight matches to claim the championship and a place at the Mid-Season Invitational.

At MSI, SK Telecom would enter in unprepared and on a poor schedule as the Champions finals had only been conducted days prior. Regardless, SK Telecom would go undefeated, albeit quite shaky, during the group stages. Matched up against Fnatic in the semifinals, they would be given a tough test in a close five game set where they would come out the victor. Moving into the finals, they would face off against Edward Gaming. Despite playing Easyhoon for the first three matches, SK Telecom would push it to a fifth and final match where EDG had one of the most spectacular drafts I’ve ever seen, their coach Aaron out playing the SK Telecom coach kkOma. With certain members underperforming, SK Telecom would fall to Edward Gaming in the fifth deciding match.

Moving back to Korea for the Summer season, SK Telecom would experiment far less often and burn through the league. Going 17-1 in total sets, the lone loss coming against CJ Entus, they would lay claim to being the most dominant team in the region by a very wide margin. With Faker seemingly bringing out a new champ to crush his opponent with every other night, they looked nigh unbeatable, at one point running through the league on a 17 match winning streak. Capping the near perfect regular season with a flawless 3-0 sweep of KT Rolster in the playoff finals, they would gain the number one seed to the World Championship.

The Players

Top Lane | Jang “MaRin” Gyeong-hwan (장경환)

The captain and oldest member of the roster, Marin has been a hyped talent for quite some time. Coming out of solo queue touted as the top lane Faker, he joined as the centerpiece on SK Telecom S prior to Champions Winter 2013. Bringing a highly aggressive and headstrong play style to the top lane, he was the source of a lot of woes for the team as he had trouble transitioning to the competitive scene. Known for his carry mentality, season four did not suit him well as top lane was regarded as a more utility and tank position, two areas of his game that he was deficient in. However, as he improved so did SK Telecom S. With his improvement and a transition in the meta late in the season, SK Telecom S would squeak past a newly formed Najin Black Sword squad in the quarterfinals before falling to eventual Champions KT Arrows. Through the exodus, Marin would stick with the SK Telecom and take up the mantle as the team captain.

The first half of the season, Marin was fairly unimpressive. His typical failures, over-aggression and poor game sense, were still present in his play even though he had markedly improved since his debut. It wasn’t until a shift in the meta that placed large importance on getting the top laner ahead did Marin really look a lot stronger. SK Telecom focused on forcing him ahead in every way possible, throwing tiny advantages his way in the hopes that he would snowball out of control. Often times that would be the case. His play style is mint for snowballing out of control as he’s really good at putting pressure on whatever side of the map he’s on. Bengi especially really sacrifices a lot in the task of getting Marin ahead, giving up a good amount of jungle camps and spending copious amounts of time on the top half of the map. During the regular season, 41 total matches for Marin, no other top laner received as much gold or attention as Marin did. SK Telecom and KT Rolster were ahead of the curve when the meta shifted to top lane carries and it paid off in spades.

Champions Summer Statistics

  • Total Games Played – 44
  • Kills – 177
  • Deaths – 90
  • Assists – 278
  • Most Played Champs – Rumble (14), Maokai (13), Gnar (6), Fizz (4), Dr. Mundo (2)
  • Unique Champ Wins – 9 (Rumble, Maokai, Gnar, Fizz, Dr. Mundo, Hecarim, Morgana, Nunu, Malphite)
  • Gold Percentage, League Rank – Regular Season (23.8%, 1st), Playoffs (22.5%, 4th)

Marin’s individual play style has evolved quite a bit. He’s far less reckless than he used to be and I think a lot of that can be attributed to him just stepping up into a leader, shot caller role. The team is very dependent on him being in control, being a factor in each match, and I think his decision-making, something that had historically been a problem, is far less of an issue now. He still has times where he’ll engage poorly or force a fight that really doesn’t need to be forced, but it’s rarely a large concern. Marin typically trends to a split push style a la how Ssumday works for KT Rolster and SK Telecom is more of a skirmishing team than they are a team fighting team. Five vs five team fights have been one of their very few exploitable points and it’s definitely not Marin’s strong suit. He’s a lot stronger in a broken up skirmish than a full-blown, coordinated team fight. One of the more notable champs I think he’s struggled the most with is Gnar, and it definitely goes in line with SK Telecom’s relatively weak team fighting ability. Their ability to engage a full-out team fight has been quite lackluster and it’s not a role Marin is adept at filling outside of his pristine Maokai which he is 30-1 on in his career.

In the group stage he’ll be facing off against EDG Koro1, H2K Odoamne, and BKT Warlock. This groups top lane pool isn’t particularly strong and that extends to Marin. I think Koro1, when in usual form, is the best in this group by a pretty wide margin. I’m very interested in seeing how Marin matches up with Odoamne, arguably Europe’s very best top laner. The meta will be top lane heavy, just as it has been all split long. It’ll be up to Marin to pick up some of the newer champs that are cropping up.

Jungle | Bae “bengi” Seong-ung (배성웅)

Many people called for Bengi to be cut from the team during the last Winter offseason. After a horrendous 2014 performance where he looked like he had completely lost his touch with the game, people were baffled that SK Telecom would even keep him. With Impact and Piglet not being retained, the only guess as to why Bengi stayed was that he’s Faker’s best friend. Going through the first half of the Spring split, it looked like most people who questioned the decision to bring him back were all right. His performances were extremely shaky and anything outside of a supportive Jarvan or Nunu looked out of the question for his pool. SK Telecom brought in a rookie jungler to start a few matches. Tom, an Udyr main fresh out of solo queue, entered into the equation weeks before playoffs and crushed it. With his arrival to the team SK Telecom went undefeated going into playoffs. He looked like the immediate successor to Bengi, not even needing time to be groomed. Then playoffs happened. The pressure got to him and Bengi entered into the series against CJ Entus. In one of the best jungle performances Korea saw this season, Bengi completely dominated the final three matches in a reverse sweep, saving the split for SK Telecom. Tom would play in the finals against KOO in a resounding 3-0 sweep, but Bengi showed everyone the old dog still had a few tricks.

Entering Summer it was Bengi’s spot to lose and he blew expectations out of the water. Storming through the competition, he actually looked like a renewed Bengi. His mechanics weren’t as strong as they were when he dominated the Season 3 World Championship on Lee Sin, but his decision-making and smart vision control were all near the top of Korea. He worked extremely well at prioritizing the teammates who needed attention and became one of the most selfless junglers in Korea, bringing in the third lowest amount of gold in relation to his team of any jungler. He played the “get top lane ahead” objective exceptionally well and is one of the largest reasons why Marin has looked so damn good. How he assists in getting Marin ahead now is very reminiscent of how he would assist Faker during season three.

Champions Summer Statistics

  • Total Games Played – 38
  • Kills – 99
  • Deaths – 76
  • Assists – 313
  • Most Played Champs – Evelynn (12), Rek’Sai (11), Gragas (7), Elise (4), Nunu (2)
  • Unique Champ Wins – 7 (Evelynn, Rek’Sai, Gragas, Elise, Nunu, Ekko, Olaf)
  • Total Kill Participation –  63.68%

Bengi plays a very supportive style of jungle these days, always relegating himself into the tanky, utility build on anything he plays. He focuses hard on snowballing the top and mid lane, laying down safe vision so his lanes can operate unimpeded. His focus on the bot lane is almost non-existent and he’ll generally let Bang and Wold fend for themselves. While his pathing and objective in-game is somewhat predictable, no one has really been able to stop it thus far this split. His duo work with Wolf has been fairly solid and they’re pretty good at pairing up together, securing objectives and forcing fights. Much like Marin, I think Bengi’s best work comes in the two vs two and three vs three skirmishes that happen around mid and top. While he’s not great mechanically anymore, he’s very smart and he knows when to dip in and out of a team, exploiting cooldowns, playing to his limits, and going onto the right target.

I think Bengi, much like Marin, will only be outperformed by one player, EDG Clearlove on an individual level in their group. H2K Loulex and BKT 007x are bugs and Bengi is a shoe. Really though, Bengi is a very streaky player and when he’s on, he’s a very good jungler. When he’s off, he’ll lose you games straight up. This split he has been really on and we’ll have to see if he can continue it. He’ll be one of the key players if SK Telecom wants to win it all again.

Mid Lane | Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok (이상혁)

The man who needs no introduction. It has been roughly two years since Faker last won Champions Summer 2013 and the Season 3 World Championship to stamp his mark as the absolute greatest player to touch the game. Since that time, there has been no serious, credible doubt that he was the best in the world. He trudged through 2014 with lacking teammates, with the previously mentioned Bengi as the only returning member. Being unable to carry SK Telecom to the Season 4 World Championship, he stayed with the organization through the exodus despite receiving offers from around the globe. He has shared the position on the team with former SK Telecom S mid laner Easyhoon and despite a dip in the meta during Spring where mid lane was at an all time low on how impactful it was, Faker has been the best mid in the world yet again this season.

His individual play during Summer was so absurdly dominant in Korea, it looked effortless for the superstar mid laner. It looked like he was individually experimenting during certain games, trying out mid lane Master Yi one match, trying an Azir counter pick in Irelia the next, and even breaking out his flawless Riven during the Summer playoff finals. With players like Coco, GBM, and Kuro in Korea it’s not as if Faker wasn’t playing against some strong mid lane competition, yet he was pulling stuff off as if he was just practicing for a greater challenge. Well, Worlds has to be that challenge. He has dominated Korea in such a fashion that there’s nothing to really look forward to when going back unless all the Koreans in China end up returning after Worlds and the league is restored to its former glory. Winning Worlds again is basically it for him.

Champions Summer Statistics

  • Total Games Played – 32
  • Kills – 186
  • Deaths – 65
  • Assists – 172
  • Most Played Champs – Viktor (9), Azir (4), Orianna (3), Ahri (2), Ezreal (2)
  • Unique Champ Wins – 13 (Viktor, Azir, Orianna, Ahri, Ezreal, Master Yi, Irelia, Diana, Riven, Ryze, Kog’Maw, Varus, Cassiopeia)
  • Damage Percentage, League Rank – Regular Season (32.1%, 3rd), Playoffs (25.2%, 5th)

Cocky. Aggressive. Intelligent. The three words I think best sum up Faker’s play style. His laning is almost disrespectful to the opponent in how he positions himself and how he typically plays it out. It’s like he dares the enemy to call him on whatever move he makes just so he can outplay them. I would say he always gets away with it because it does seem like it, but he actually has the highest death share of any mid in Korea. The usual lane for Faker will result in Bengi making his presence felt in either lane pressure or surrounding vision. Allowing Faker to get comfortable and control the mid lane, making efficient roaming plays or just setting up the perfect dive so he can crush his lane even harder than he normally does. His team fight positioning is nearly always great and much like Bengi he’s an incredibly intelligent player, knowing every single limit to every single champ he plays. With how diverse the mid lane meta looks to be at Worlds, I think Faker is really going to shine more than normal, if that’s even possible.

He’ll be laning up against EDG Pawn, H2K Ryu, and BKT G4. He’s the best mid in this group by a wide margin. Having a very interesting history with both Pawn and Ryu will be sure to make great storylines. I think he’s the only player on SK Telecom who is better individually than his counterpart on both EDG and LGD, making an exception for Bengi over TBQ, so if SK Telecom wants to win this tournament it will be up to Faker performing above expectation if they want to climb atop both of those mammoth Chinese teams.

AD Carry | Bae “Bang” Jun-sik (배준식)

The first part of the bot lane that replaced the Hundred Acre Lane after their season four collapse, Bang has been Mr. Reliable all throughout his career and that’s what he brings to SK Telecom. With roots in the Korean scene dating back to late 2012, he had sporadically started for teams up until joining SK Telecom S. There, he and Wolf reunited after a stint on Najin Shield in late 2012. During 2014, the Bang and Wolf bot lane were one of the strong points of SK Telecom S, being extremely smart and reliable, showing up at nearly every match, and at least breaking even with other bot lanes. Bang was one of the largest factors in SK Telecom S’s 4th place finish in Champions Summer 2014.

As stated, he and Wolf would outright replace Piglet and Mandu through the exodus. Like every SK Telecom player, they rejected outside offers to stick with the premier Korean esports organization and it has led them to being on a team that are favorites to finish at least top two here at Worlds. Bang’s play all throughout the season has been very steady with some incredible high points, including one of the most spectacular ADC performances I’ve ever seen vs CJ Entus in the Spring playoffs. Due to maintaining a more independent role within the team, Bang doesn’t garner much attention from his team or the enemy, rarely the focus on either side. He plays a more versatile, selfless role, bringing in the lowest gold share of any ADC in Korea while playing exactly what the team needs to fit a composition.

Champions Summer Statistics

  • Total Games Played – 44
  • Kills – 184
  • Deaths – 72
  • Assists – 261
  • Most Played Champs – Corki (14), Vayne (9), Ezreal (4), Lucian (4), Kalista (3)
  • Unique Champ Wins – 10 (Corki, Vayne, Ezreal, Lucian, Kalista, Kog’Maw, Sivir, Tristana, Urgot, Ashe)
  • Damage Percentage, League Rank – Regular Season (27.2%, 9th), Playoffs (25.0%, 5th)

As you can see above, the versatility is real. No other marksman in Korea had more unique wins than Bang did; he is an incredibly modifiable player that can fit any role needed. In game Bang is generally left alone with Wolf, just safely farming or pushing down towers until the late game hits where he can do his thing. SK Telecom rarely build compositions tailored to their bot lane and this makes it so Bang really doesn’t stand out. His damage numbers are what you’d think is a knock against him, but it’s more a result of SK Telecom not being a big team fighting team. A lot of times Marin and Faker will just crush the top half of the map so badly that Bang doesn’t need to do anything. He’s the third fiddle on the team behind his mid and top, but it doesn’t mean he’s not a weapon. In general Bang is very smart about his positioning and he died the second fewest times of any marksman in Korea, only behind Arrow. Even though he does play some safer picks like Corki and Ezreal, he also has a very strong Vayne and Kalista that he can take a game over with even without the help of any attention or jungle pressure.

He’ll be matched up against EDG Deft, H2K Hjarnan, and BKT Lloyd. I suspect he’ll be the second best ADC at in the group, or best depending on how Deft shows up since he has been a little iffy this split. I do think quite highly of Hjarnan so, much like Marin, I’m interested to see how the H2K player looks just on individual levels. I think if Bang just plays the role needed of him, that of a reliable and safe DPS source, he’ll be more than fine against every bot lane at the tournament.

Support | Lee “Wolf” Jae-wan (이재완)

The subject of a lot of scrutiny in the team, the second half of the lane that replace the Hundred Acre Lane, Wolf is definitely the weakest link on this team. Wandered around Korea on various teams, including a quarterfinals appearance on Chunnam Techno University, before finding his way to SK Telecom S. One part of the bot lane that showed a lot of success with the team during 2014, he naturally stuck with his lane partner through the exodus and they’ve risen as one of the better bot lanes in Korea, still fairly average overall. Entering 2015, SK Telecom signed current KT Rolster support Piccaboo to give some competition and potentially upgrade. Both supports ended up playing really well for the team, Piccaboo having more favorable performances while Wolf brought much better synergy with Bang as a lane duo. Piccaboo would end up not re-signing due to a wrist injury and Wolf would reclaim the sole starting position.

Played really well during the Spring split, but had a poor performance at the Mid-Season Invitational that put a lot of people off. Despite the relatively poor conditions under which they were playing in, many people took that performance to heart and shaped their opinion about his play entirely around that. Entering the Summer split, Wolf bounced right back from the poor international showing, the first of his career, and continued being one of the top supports in the region. Probably the largest plus in having Wolf on the team is his comfort with Bang. Having landed together steadily since late 2013 along with a stint together in 2012, they know each other’s playing pattern, they look like they’re in sync whenever they’re playing. It’s rare to see a missed beat between the two of them. That said, Wolf still isn’t a particularly fantastic support and has had his fair share of issues. I think a lot of people’s main issue with Wolf is the “he chokes” line which I generally brush off as nonsense.

Champions Summer Statistics

  • Total Games Played – 44
  • Kills – 31
  • Deaths – 72
  • Assists – 479
  • Most Played Champs – Alistar (17), Janna (12), Annie (4), Thresh (3), Kennen (3)
  • Unique Champ Wins – 7 (Alistar, Janna, Annie, Thresh, Kennen, Nautilus, Leona)
  • Wards Per Minute, League Rank – Regular Season (1.25, 9th), Playoffs (1.28, 3rd)

Wolf is much like Bang in that he’s very well-rounded and has shown some really great play on a host of champions. While I wouldn’t say he’s near as versatile, or flat-out as talented, as someone like Gorilla, I will give Wolf the compliment in that he has shown solid disengage and engage support play, often times being placed as the only engage in an SK Telecom team composition. He fits whatever slipper Kkoma puts on him in any given match which is what you should ask for out of the support role. His vision control alongside Bengi has been solid, they’re both very good at pressing advantages that both Faker and Marin gain. It’s very rare to see SK Telecom not close a game out whenever they get a lead early on and I think it’s appropriate to attribute that to both Bengi and Wolf. One skill he has shown off towards the end of the season is a really nice ability at setting up dives around the map and getting other lanes ahead in small fights with champs like Alistar, Thresh, and Kennen. One large downside to Wolf is that I don’t think his team fighting is particularly good. Sometimes he’ll have trouble just getting on a priority target or making a clean engage, sometimes he’ll just mess up mechanically which is something you very rarely see out of Piccaboo or Gorilla, his peers at Worlds. He, along with Marin, are the two biggest issues in SK Telecom’s team fighting and why I view it as a bit of a worry going into Worlds.

In group C he’ll face off against some solid competition between EDG Meiko, H2K Kasing, and BKT Moss. I’d consider Meiko well above Wolf on an individual level and I’m interested in seeing how Wolf matches up against Kasing. While I do believe SK Telecom will roll over H2K, I do think H2K has a couple of players that are more than worthy of watching out for based on their individual prowess. Wolf has to show up. He didn’t show up at MSI and I think you can write that off as just a bad tourney under some poor circumstances. If he doesn’t show up then it’ll be a trend and that would be very worrying for SK Telecom.

How SK Telecom Wins and Loses Worlds + Prediction

SK Telecom wins Worlds whenever they can play the small team fight skirmish game against LGD or EDG, the only two teams I think are capable of beating SK Telecom in a best of five. As I’ve stated multiple times in this article, the one exploitable weakness I see on SK Telecom is their lack of team fight prowess. That is the one issue with SK Telecom that I feel other teams can have a real factor in. The only team in Korea that were good enough to not get stomped in the early game and still force tight, coordinated large team fights was, funny enough, CJ Entus. KOO are a phenomenal late game team fighting squad, but they struggled mightily just keeping up in the early game. Jin Air, another very good late game team fighting squad, also gave SK Telecom more than a scares over the year. CJ Entus could make it through the early game and then force large-scale fights where their five on five coordination was just a bit better than SK Telecom’s. It’s how they forced a game five back in Spring playoffs and it’s how they won the best of three set during Summer. CJ Entus aren’t a great team and they have many flaws, but their team fighting is nothing to scoff at and they gave SK Telecom trouble multiple times during the year.

If LGD and EDG can get past the very strong early game of SK Telecom, which I do think is more than possible, they’ll have to force the five on five team fights and beat them there. That is the area of the game where I think SK Telecom can flat-out lose matches. You can’t fight spread out skirmishes against carries like Faker, Marin, and Bang who are so mechanically sound and often have impeccable positioning. I believe SK Telecom will win the Season 5 World Championship.


For translated interviews –

For stats on every league –

More stats and profiles –

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


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.


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For stats on every league –

More stats and profiles –

World Championship Preview: KOO Tigers

In this article I will go into detail about an anomaly of a team out of Korea, the KOO Tigers. Fairly unpopular in their own region and widely disregarded in the scope of winning Worlds, 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 (56-30 Total Record, 65% Win Percentage)

The KOO Tigers roared to a fast start in Spring, meshing their new roster composed of former Incredible Miracle and Najin players together quicker than any other team in Korea after the massive exodus. With a versatile and innovative team they would kick off the Spring split with a 20-2 match record prior to IEM Katowice, not dropping a single BO3 set in Champions. Heading into IEM Katowice, they would cleanly knock off top North American and European teams Cloud 9 and SK Gaming in groups before falling in a massive upset to Chinese cellar dweller Team WE during the bracket stage. Returning to Korea on the back half of the Spring split they would struggle a bit more. With the Cinderhulk patch entering the competitive scene their struggles intensified and they would drop two of their final four sets in Spring before heading off to playoffs. Going into playoffs, despite being the number one seed, they were widely regarded as the second or third best team in the region. Being swept in the finals by SK Telecom they would end their phenomenal first split together in a weak state.

They would regroup heading into Summer split, bringing in former Incredible Miracle jungler Kim “Wisdom” Tae-wan to help out in the jungle position as it had been a notable weakness both domestically and internationally. Their struggles from Spring had crept into their Summer play as they showed erratic inconsistencies dropping three of their first four sets of the split. After a tough start to the split, things clicked yet again for the Tigers as they rattled off another large streak of success, taking 15 of their next 16 matches and winning eight straight sets leading up to a mid-season match up against the nearly impeccable SK Telecom. In a one-sided stomp, SK Telecom would take two straight matches and end the streak of success for the Tigers. After dropping the set to SK Telecom, KOO would end the split on another low note as they dropped three of their final five sets. Falling down from second place to fourth place in the span of a couple sets, their playoff hopes didn’t look strong. Both CJ Entus and Najin e-mFire ended the split strongly and looked poised for a solid playoff run. KOO would come well prepared and wiped them both out in consecutive sets to square off against KT Rolster. In a very close five game set, KOO would fall out of playoffs, but they were now in prime position to secure the number two seed to Worlds as long as SK Telecom won the Summer playoff finals. SK Telecom swept through KT Rolster, securing themselves the number one seed and securing the KOO Tigers the number two seed.

The Players

Top Lane | Song “Smeb” Kyung-ho (송경호)

The player most would regard as the center, main carry on the roster, Smeb really only broke out and made a name for himself last Summer. Despite not escaping group stages on Incredible Miracle #1, he showed off some very slick individual play on a variety of champs against Samsung Blue and SK Telecom T1 K. Coming into the season Smeb was one of the larger question marks for the Tigers, but has more than proven his worth for the team over the course of the season. He is one of the keys that really unlocks this innovation and uniqueness among the team. With a very wide champ pool that has no limit, he has shown an incredible ability to transition from anything and everything from a Malphite to a Fizz to a Riven to a Lulu. He is all over the place style wise and is arguably the best performer on this team.

His one versus one lane play is top-notch, especially whenever he’s on a more carry oriented champ that he feels he can play more aggressive on. He has stood toe to toe with everyone in Korea and really demands attention from the enemy jungler to keep him in check. Another attractive attribute to Smeb’s play is his really smart and proactive teleport usage. In the set against SK Telecom during Summer, where both teams entered in with massive win streaks, he was really outperforming Marin in the teleport game despite the rest of his team getting crushed around the map. He was making plays happen that shouldn’t have been happening and he beat Marin to the punch on numerous occasions.

He is also the main in-game shot caller for KOO and for those that have watched KOO play you’ll see that they have a great sense for the map, knowing where to be and when. Their mid and late game team fighting is another large plus. Against KT Rolster in the Summer playoffs they played two matches from behind really well, making it an absolute pain to close for KT Rolster even though they were holding near 10k gold leads. In game three of that set, KOO even gained two separate, uncontested barons despite having large gold deficits. Their play around vision in the mid and late game is extremely smart, and everything really begins and ends with Smeb.

Within Korea I praise Smeb on an individual level, putting him as an easy top three top laner. Duke, of Najin e-mFire, and Ssumday, of KT Rolster, are the only ones I would place at, or above, his level. Phenomenal player in multiple aspects, but I feel KOO sometimes lacks direction in their team dynamic, having struggles with where jungle pressure should be applied. In the Worlds tournament, I would say Smeb is likely a top three player at his position, only behind Acorn and possibly Ssumday or Koro1. He is the player to watch on KOO and if he turns up in good shape, things will be very promising for KOO.

Jungle | Lee “Hojin” Ho-jin (이호진) and Kim “Wisdom” Tae-wan (김태완)

The major weakness on KOO is their jungle position. The only position where they have two players on the roster has been a constant source of disappointment through the season. Both junglers initially started playing professionally last Summer and neither has stood out in any particular way. Wisdom showed some success with Incredible Miracle, however he was incredibly inconsistent in his play with his highs being quite high, but his lows being present far too often. Much like Smeb, Wisdom first made a name for himself with a brilliant performance alongside Frozen during last Summer’s group stage match against Samsung Blue. Ever since entering the competitive scene his results have been very hit or miss, but mechanically he’s a very strong player.

It’s doubtful we’ll see Wisdom play at Worlds. Hojin played every single match in playoffs after a small break near the end of the regular season where Wisdom took over. At the moment I would definitely say Hojin is a superior jungler and the right choice for KOO. While he’s not spectacular by any means, he has more experience with this roster than Wisdom and, for the time being, a much better and consistent game sense. With the meta shifting away from pure tank style junglers, Hojin has found himself in a much better place in-game. He was the main source of inconsistency during the latter part of Spring and the earlier part of Summer due to that inability to adapt. Eve being a staple pick, Elise coming back, and Lee Sin being a solid pick competitively both mean he has three of his top junglers available.

One of the good points about Hojin is his mid and late game play. You rarely see him get caught out of position or create a negative play. Vision control wise he’s a pretty solid player throughout the entirety of a match, and he works well with Gorilla in setting up deep vision, helping his team get through the early laning. Unfortunately Hojin is not a ganking jungler. He’s not a play maker and despite excelling mechanically on champs such as Elise and Lee Sin, he’s just not the type of player that looks to create a play. The lack of pressure he puts down in the laning phase is probably the largest overall weakness for KOO. Whenever he does try to lay pressure down it’s typically in the top lane, trying to get Smeb ahead. He never prioritizes the mid lane, preferring to leave Kuro alone, and focuses more on supporting the duo lane.

Both KOO junglers are pretty mediocre in the context of Korea and are the weakest point on the roster. Chaser, Score, and Bengi being considered superior in almost every aspect at their position. Certain other junglers would be arguably better. In the scope of the whole tournament at Worlds, one would be left pretty unimpressed by Hojin. Clearlove, Kakao, Score, Bengi, and Karsa would be junglers attending that I would definitely put ahead of him. I am thoroughly disappointed in lack of development in Hojin’s play through the past three splits, but his play in the playoffs does leave some hope as he really showed up in a big way.

Mid Lane | Lee “Kuro” Seo-haeng (이서행)

Probably the most contentious player on the roster, their mid laner Kuro does not generate much hype. He transitioned from the Incredible Miracle organization to the Najin Black Sword squad prior to last Summer and helped lead an up start, promising Sword roster to a surprising second place NLB finish. I disagree with the general opinion that Kuro is a weak, mediocre mid laner. He is a very different style mid that isn’t the focus for the team, which is completely different from almost every other top team. Playing very independent from the rest of the team, he is almost always left in a lane to fend for himself with extremely little jungle or support pressure. Over the course of his career, I’d say he has been one of the better performing mid laners in the context of Korea and has shown off multiple play styles with a wide champ pool, which makes some of his narrow play in the past year all the more questioning for me.

Kuro’s role in KOO is to act as a secondary, background carry to both Smeb or Pray. He is very rarely ever given the resources or the pressure to really take a game over and due to their jungle woes has been a bit of a lone wolf on the team in-game. In recent playoffs against CJ Entus and KT Rolster, he broke that mold and was given the ability to take a game over on both Fizz and Ryze, two unpopular picks for him. Both games were a roaring success as KOO steam rolled both matches. That is the kind of play I would love to see more out of Kuro, given higher priority within the team, and I believe it gives KOO a multi-dimensional style whenever you don’t just have to worry about Smeb going off in-game. I think that trend is one of the keys for success at Worlds for KOO. He has to be more involved in a carry sense outside of whenever he gets placed on Viktor.

As stated, Kuro’s play style within the past year has been very much on the supportive side of things, but his play on zone control mages is really his bread and butter, impressing on stuff like Orianna, Syndra, Leblanc, and Viktor where he can completely control a team fight by himself. However, and this is where I’m thrown off, he has shown a great ability to pick up a more carry oriented role and just run with it. Certain times you’ll see him placed on something like Kassadin, Yasuo, or Leblanc and just hard carry a match. That is a part of his style that I feel is criminally underutilized. His laning play is very average and quite passive, but his team fighting sense is some of the best in the world. He knows exactly where to be positioned at within a team fight at all times.

In the context of Korea, he’s definitely in the top half at his position. Faker, GBM, and Coco being the ones I’d say are definitely stronger than him. In the context of the World Championship, his competition will be a lot stiffer. If utilized correctly, I think he would be a mid tier mid laner. In a pool of players including Faker, GODV, Rookie, Pawn, Bjergsen, Febiven, Maple, and Ryu it’s not exactly easy to stick out. His laning might be punished against of better mid and jungle duos, but I have no doubt his team fighting would be top of the class here. On a side note here, Kuro is one of the more vocal players in-game, being more of a team fight shot caller alongside Smeb.

AD Carry | Kim “Pray” Jong-in (김종인) and Support | Kang “Gorilla” Beom-hyeon (강범현)

The duo lane here is one of the high marks for KOO. Coming into the year Pray was still a question mark returning after a long break from competitive league and Gorilla had made a name for himself as one of the premier world-class supports after a phenomenal Season 4 World Championship performance. Together they’ve meshed extremely well and had been a large source of success whenever KOO abused strong mid game comps which is Pray’s best attribute. Pray’s play definitely took a dip earlier in the Summer split, but he has recovered just fine with the help of a little Corki and Sivir spam, two champs he went a combined 19-9 on during the regular season Summer split. Being placed on champs that he can shove his lane in and control objectives in the mid game with is the prime position for Pray to be put into. I definitely called Pray out earlier in the split for only being able to play Sivir and Corki, but recently in playoffs he has shown some more diversity with spot on Ashe play along with individual promising Vayne and Kalista performances.

Gorilla on the other hand has been one of, if not, the absolute best supports in Korea and has been extremely well-rounded. He has performed at an extremely high level in numerous support roles, moving from his patented Janna over to a hard engage threat Annie, and many, many more. His recent Kennen support play has also sparked some uniqueness out of the bottom lane. During the split his play, alongside Smeb, has been the rock for KOO in keeping them not just in the playoff hunt, but in gaining them a World Championship spot. He has worked extremely well in tandem with Hojin in the vision game, mind gaming the hell out of his opponents and securing his team objectives they probably shouldn’t be in a position to get. If there is one particular area I feel Gorilla could improve on or focus more on is his proactive roaming a la what Piccaboo has done for KT Rolster. Just bringing a more notable threat at the support position elevated KT Rolster to new heights and I feel if Gorilla were to focus on that it’d bring another dimension to KOO’s play. As is, he’s not an aggressive support and doesn’t try to force plays to happen, particularly in the early game.

I would place Gorilla at the very top of Korea. I think he’s the most well-rounded, best performing support in Korea now. At Worlds he’ll definitely have some stiff competition alongside Pyl, Piccaboo, and Meiko, but I’m confident he’ll stick up around the top-tier of supports. As for Pray, with his most recent play in playoffs I think much more highly of him. Deft, Imp, and Bang all attending will place him above the average level of marksmen, but not at the top. When he’s at his best level of play, he’s a force to be reckoned with, but we’ll just have to wait and see which Pray shows up.


As of now, I’m hesitant to put KOO on a pedestal and say they’ll make a large run in this tournament. This is because they are a team that is so incredibly dependent on great preparation and certain players are prone to just tilting that it’s tough to predict exactly which team will show up. Throughout the season their success has been based around exploiting extremely strong team compositions such as the Juggermaw or the well-played mid game comps centered around champs such as Leblanc, Viktor, Lucian, and Corki. The versatility they have among their solo lanes leaves KOO open to a lot of different strategies they can employ at this tournament. On an individual level, the ceiling isn’t that high for most of this team. Kuro isn’t going to dominate his lane and snowball a match on his own. Hojin isn’t going to suddenly burst out of his shell and turn into DanDy. Pray has his own limitations with his champ pool. These are players that are highly dependent on out-strategizing their opponents. With the given month of preparation and the brand new 5.18 patch that has a lot of changes, I am really interested in seeing what KOO can cook up and win with.

As of now, I would expect this team to make it out of groups. Unless they somehow get a hellish group with LGD Gaming and one of the LMS teams that perform above my own expectation. If they come prepared with compositions that led them on runs such as their mid Summer streak or their early Spring streak, I think Semifinals is a good possibility. If they meet EDward Gaming, SK Telecom, or LGD Gaming then they’re done. I don’t think any amount of great strategy can overcome the lack of talent KOO has in certain areas against those teams. Every other team in the tournament I feel is at worst a coin flip.

I am extremely excited to see KOO at Worlds. They are one team I just cannot wait to see what they come up with.


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Defining Moments of Champions: CJ Frost vs MVP Ozone, Game 5

This is a new series of articles where I will be examining and discussing pivotal moments of the Korean League scene. From certain individual matches, consequential moments, and special sets, I’ll be reviewing everything through a more historical lens. This particular match had a lot of consequences in the Korean scene and the Worlds scene as the circuit points system to qualify for Worlds from Korea was still quite unrefined. More than a few events had happened in the weeks prior to set up this very tense situation regarding the Worlds seeding as the NLB finals had occurred a few days prior and the Champions finals occurred days later. This third place match would be the decider for Ozone as they would end up automatically qualifying for Worlds. The consequences of this happening were many and how Ozone won the set was a bit unpolished, which would foreshadow their now infamous Worlds performance.

  1. Najin Black Sword – 570 circuit points (1st place Champions Winter, 1st place NLB Spring, at least 2nd place NLB Summer)
  2. MVP Ozone – 520 circuit points (5th-8th place NLB Winter, 1st place Champions Spring, at least 4th place Champions Summer)
  3. KT Rolster Bullets – 400 circuit points (3rd place Champions Winter, 3rd place NLB Spring, at least 2nd place Champions Summer)
  4. CJ Frost – 400 circuit points (2nd place Champions Winter, 4th place Champions Spring, at least 4th place Champions Summer)
  5. SK Telecom T1 K – 350 circuit points (N/A Champions Winter, 3rd place Champions Spring, at least 2nd place Champions Summer)

Those were the circuit point standings on August 24th, 2013, just prior to the NLB Summer finals between Najin Black Sword and Incredible Miracle #2. The day prior, SK Telecom T1 K had knocked Spring champs MVP Ozone to the third place match. SK Telecom would meet up with the KT Rolster Bullets in the Champions Summer finals while MVP Ozone were to meet CJ Frost in the Champions Summer third place set. No team had yet clinched either of the two automatic seeds to Worlds. Sword would be the first roster with the chance to clinch.

Najin Black Sword’s Clinching

On the night of August 24th, Najin Black Sword, with their recent roster change in the mid lane from SSONG to Nagne, would meet an upstart Incredible Miracle #2 roster led by KurO. Sword had climbed their way to the finals from the Platinum league of NLB after not making it out of the group stage in Champions. They tore through CJ Blaze and squeaked by Najin White Shield en route to the finals. In the finals, despite the weak performance of their new mid, Sword would take the NLB Summer crown, just as they did the previous Spring. This win would give Najin Black Sword at least one of the two automatic seeds to Worlds as no other team outside of KT Rolster Bullets could earn as many, or more, circuit points.

  1. Najin Black Sword – 600 circuit points (1st place Champions Winter, 1st place NLB Spring, 1st place NLB Summer)
  2. MVP Ozone – 520 circuit points (5th-8th place NLB Winter, 1st place Champions Spring, at least 4th place Champions Summer)
  3. KT Rolster Bullets – 400 circuit points (3rd place Champions Winter, 3rd place NLB Spring, at least 2nd place Champions Summer)
  4. CJ Frost – 400 circuit points (2nd place Champions Winter, 4th place Champions Spring, at least 4th place Champions Summer)
  5. SK Telecom T1 K – 350 circuit points (N/A Champions Winter, 3rd place Champions Spring, at least 2nd place Champions Summer)

MVP Ozone’s Theft

With at least one trip to the Season 3 World Championship booked, the battle for the second automatic seed commenced. On the 28th of August, one of the most important sets of the entire season happened. CJ Frost and MVP Ozone were to battle it out in the third place set. If Frost won the set, they would have accumulated 450 circuit points and a guaranteed #2 seed in the Regional Finals. Frost winning would have also set Ozone back, ensuring they wouldn’t gain an automatic seed to Worlds as the winner of the Summer finals would have had more circuit points than Ozone to clinch one of the top two seeds. Ozone had entered the third place set as heavy favorites over Frost even though most had acknowledged they had definitely dropped a step down from their Spring finals performance. Ozone had one of the easiest paths to the top four of any Korean team in its history. Being granted the easiest group stage against two new Xenics rosters and a quarterfinal opponent in Chunnam Techno University, they were all but guaranteed a top four placing. However, this set should have been a breeze for Ozone as Frost was still adjusting to a new mid laner in GankedByMom and in other areas they didn’t look too stellar with CloudTemplar on his last legs.

Entering game one, all predictions appeared to be correct. Ozone looked superior in almost every single facet of the game and utterly dominated the first match. Dade, who had slipped in his performance, had acquired his extremely feared Twisted Fate and made plays happen around the map in conjunction with DanDy. CloudTemplar was a step behind DanDy at every turn and Ozone cleanly took the match in under 30 minutes. Game two of the set swung the other way. CJ Frost drafting a team fight centered comp that played to their own strengths and getting their fresh mid laner on one of the two champions he would later be known for, Zed. After Shy on Zac found a pick on Dade in the late game, CJ Frost closed out a game that they had control of for almost its entirety. Suddenly the predictions of Ozone sweeping by Frost on their way to a Worlds berth looked shaky.

Game three saw a back and forth between both teams. Ozone picking out a double AD carry composition while Frost yet again went with a team fight heavy draft. With Frost picking up a sizable early game lead off the back of stellar play by Shy’s Zac, Ozone fought back as their two AD carries rose in power into the mid game. 30 minutes into the game and it had turned into a “who can carry hardest” match between Shy vs Dade and Imp. That match up would turn into Dade and Imp’s favor as the match went later and later. After a spread out baron fight resulting in eight of the ten players dead, Dade and Imp were the only ones left standing as they rushed the Frost base and closed out. Sitting one match away from being in a great position for a Worlds seed, this series had turned into a much tougher fight than most had anticipated. Game four would give everyone a showcase of GBM’s skill on his patented champ, Orianna. With Dade falling into an uncomfortable Karthus pick, GBM brought out the Orianna and showed masterful play all throughout. With Shy split pushing to hell and back on Zed and the rest of Frost completely dominating team fights, an overpowering of Ozone in the fourth game sent this set into blind pick.

Entering game five, Frost were undefeated at 7-0 in blind pick matches through their career. Generally through all of the iterations of Frost, they have been regarded as a very stable and well-rounded team which would give them edges in a highly tense, blind pick scenario. Ozone had never been tested in blind pick up until this match. Two mirror matches were played. In the mid lane, Zed, and at the support role, Thresh. Shy and CloudTemplar would pick two of their signature champions, Jax and Amumu respectively. Space would complete the CJ Frost composition with a Twitch pick, one of his strongest individual picks. On the Ozone side, DanDy and Imp would revert back to their comfort Lee Sin and Vayne picks while Homme would bring out the top lane Nasus. Immediately into the match the Frost bot lane starts to bully the Ozone bot lane in a 2v2, securing first blood with the help of a smart CloudTemplar gank. Action in the mid lane follows right after as Dade and GBM duel with their Zed picks, both mid laners falling when jungle intervention arrives. When both mid laners enter the lane again, they go one on one yet again, solo killing each other. Once again upon returning to lane, the two mid laners go head to head in yet another Zed duel. Both fall yet again. Not even ten minutes into the game and there’s four kills on each team, all four being in Dade’s hands on Ozone’s side.

As the aggression stacks in the mid lane, Shy’s Jax becomes increasingly farmed, not being held down in the early game. In the mid game, Shy presses his split pushing advantage as no one can realistically stop him at that point in the game. As Frost groups and attempts to push down the mid lane, Dade makes a spectacular play going in one vs four and killing off Space’s Twitch, stopping the push down mid. Ozone counters the push immediately after the fight by going down the mid lane. Shy and CloudTemplar carelessly dive in while a man down onto Imp and through some incredible mechanical plays, Ozone flips the poor engage from Frost around taking two kills and the mid lane tower.

The action falls into a lull as Frost starts to set up picks in the jungle with their Twitch, Amumu, and Thresh. Picking off both Dade and DanDy, the Frost lead grows to over 4k gold before a team fight that appeared to be the end for Ozone. A swift engage from CloudTemplar’s Amumu onto Homme’s Nasus immediately after his teleport into the fight allows Frost to instantly blow up Imp’s Vayne. Frost would come out of the fight, losing only Space’s Twitch while Ozone lost everyone except for Mata. Frost’s lead ballooned to 7k gold after the fight as they turned towards baron. The fateful error from GBM as he failed the Living Shadow over the baron pit wall from the red side jungle, which would have allowed Shy’s Jax to enter the pit instead of walking around, gave DanDy the precious seconds he needed to walk from base off the respawn, ward hop into the pit, smite steal as the prince of thieves was known as, and flash out, stopping the Frost win in its tracks.

The 7k gold lead was now cut down to 5k and every Ozone member had the buff applied. All five Ozone members stack mid and push, punishing the lack of wave clear from the Frost team comp. Pressing in and earning an inhibitor, Ozone attempts to disengage and go elsewhere on the map. Instead, CloudTemplar forces an engage for Frost, catching four members of Ozone in his Curse of the Sad Mummy. As quick as the engage was from CloudTemplar, the fight ended in a crushing defeat for Frost. GBM was deleted on his engage, Space eats a Death Sentence from Mata, and Madlife is torn through by Imp’s Vayne. With no wave clear left, Ozone goes for the call to end it right then and there. Down 1k gold at the end of the match, Ozone had stolen the blind pick game five victory from CJ Frost and preserved their hopes for an automatic seed to Worlds.

  1. Najin Black Sword – 600 circuit points (1st place Champions Winter, 1st place NLB Spring, 1st place NLB Summer)
  2. MVP Ozone – 570 circuit points (5th-8th place NLB Winter, 1st place Champions Spring, 3rd place Champions Summer)
  3. KT Rolster Bullets – 400 circuit points (3rd place Champions Winter, 3rd place NLB Spring, at least 2nd place Champions Summer)
  4. CJ Frost – 400 circuit points (2nd place Champions Winter, 4th place Champions Spring, 4th place Champions Summer)
  5. SK Telecom T1 K – 350 circuit points (N/A Champions Winter, 3rd place Champions Spring, at least 2nd place Champions Summer)

KT Rolster Bullet’s Tragedy & SK Telecom T1 K’s Triumph

With the MVP Ozone victory over CJ Frost cemented, they had taken their step into securing the automatic seed to Worlds. Now they were hoping and rooting for an SK Telecom T1 K win as only the KT Rolster Bullets would secure more circuit points with a victory in the finals. If SK Telecom ended up the victor, they would finish with 550 circuit points, 20 below Ozone’s mark, and they would clinch the number one seed at the Regional Finals. This would also send the KT Rolster Bullets to the Regional Finals, guaranteeing one of the two teams being left out of Worlds. If the KT Rolster Bullets ended up victorious, they would finish with 600 circuit points, 30 above Ozone’s mark, and they would tie Najin Black Sword for the number one overall seed to Worlds. SK Telecom T1 K would end up taking the set in a historic five match set.

  1. Najin Black Sword – 600 circuit points (1st place Champions Winter, 1st place NLB Spring, 1st place NLB Summer)
  2. MVP Ozone – 570 circuit points (5th-8th place NLB Winter, 1st place Champions Spring, 3rd place Champions Summer)
  3. SK Telecom T1 K – 550 circuit points (N/A Champions Winter, 3rd place Champions Spring, 1st place Champions Summer)
  4. KT Rolster Bullets – 400 circuit points (3rd place Champions Winter, 3rd place NLB Spring, 2nd place Champions Summer)
  5. CJ Frost – 400 circuit points (2nd place Champions Winter, 4th place Champions Spring, 4th place Champions Summer)

Everyone is familiar with the rest of the story. KT Rolster Bullets being up two games to none. SK Telecom T1 K storming back in a phenomenal reverse sweep in pouring down rain. The Ryu vs Faker Zed mirror match. KT Rolster Bullets being stopped in the Regional Finals by their rivals in SK Telecom. However, the story changes if GBM didn’t fail the Living Shadow over the baron pit wall. The story changes if DanDy wasn’t proficient in stealing away gifted barons. The story changes if CJ Frost closed out their 7k gold lead in the game five blind pick. SK Telecom T1 K gain an automatic seed to Worlds. KT Rolster Bullets run through the Regional Finals without SK Telecom T1 K to stop them in the final set. The top two teams in the world end up going to Worlds beside each other and potentially meet up in yet another best of five on the World stage. Dade doesn’t go to Worlds and have the tournament that will undoubtedly taint his legacy. The consequences and rippling effects of that one baron steal by DanDy and that one misplay by GBM are far-reaching. That is why that game five between CJ Frost and MVP Ozone is one of the defining moments of Champions.

VOD for the full series: (games 1-4) and (game 5)

The Tragedy of the World Championship Qualification System

One of the most frustrating parts of League are the lack of international competitions. Outside of the annual IEM events, third party international tournaments are on life support in the League scene. They just do not exist anymore in any notable capacity due to each region having league formats. Every single region, from Japan all the way to Korea, has a set league format that constricts the freedom teams have over the course of a season in wanting to compete outside of their borders. Taking away the one IEM event, we have one major international tournament each year in the World Championship. The one tournament to find out who the best team in the world may be. We had the Mid Season Invitational for the first time this year which was quite nice to watch as the number one team in each major region competed against each other in sunny Tallahassee, Florida, however the stakes were low and the timing wasn’t ideal for certain regions.

This lack of international competition makes the World Championship qualification system an even tougher pill to swallow. Two out of the four “major” regions, the ones that can qualify for a number one seed at Worlds, have shown glaring flaws in their qualification process this split. Europe seeing a clear top two team be forced into a third seed or bust position, and China having a, more or less, worthless final to their playoffs due to how they choose to elect their number one seed. On the other side of things, we see lesser teams qualifying through much easier means. Where does this tournament go with Korean and Chinese dominance still continuing?

Origen didn’t form until prior to Spring split and as such they had to climb their way through the challenger scene into LCS. This left them with one single split to garner enough points to attend the World Championship. Making the finals of the playoffs, they took the previously undefeated Fnatic roster to a very close fifth game. With the loss, due to the lack of circuit points from not being able to compete in Spring, Origen were immediately relegated to the regional finals to fight for the third seed instead of drawing claim to the second seed from Europe. Instead, the extremely underwhelming H2K squad would claim the second seed due to the circuit points they accumulated from both Spring and Summer, placing third in both splits. That H2K squad went a combined 2-12 against Origen and Fnatic this season, 0-5 against Origen during Summer and 2-7 against Fnatic between Spring and Summer. Clearly not the second best team from Europe, they have claimed the second seed due to their longevity, something Origen physically could not overcome.

With newly formed teams being able to enter their respective leagues only during Summer, there should be some way to give them some allowance of circuit points if they hit a certain placement during the Summer split. Origen is very clearly a top two roster, yet solely because they couldn’t join LCS until Summer they were effectively punished.

Qiao Gu is another roster similar to Origen in that they formed prior to the Spring split and climbed their way from LSPL into LPL. After a very strong regular season where they finished in second place, they fought their way through Invictus Gaming in the playoffs straight to the finals against LGD. However, due to LGD knocking EDG out, LGD had already claimed the number one seed to Worlds from China. LPL doesn’t give the number one seed to the winner of the playoffs. Instead, they give it to the team that has amassed the most circuit points. Qiao Gu had reached the finals, however they had nothing to play for outside of money. It could even be argued, due to how the regional final seeding is set, that Qiao Gu would have been punished for winning the playoff finals. Had they beat LGD in the finals, LGD still would have gone on to Worlds as the number one seed, but Qiao Gu would be matched up with Snake in the regional finals. With the loss, they are actually kind of rewarded by being matched up with Invictus Gaming, a team they already defeated in the playoffs. Most Chinese experts would agree on stating Snake is a stronger team than Invictus Gaming.

Due to the playoff final winner not drawing the number one seed automatically, Qiao Gu had little to play for. I’m not stating they didn’t try or that they’re better than LGD, they tried and they aren’t better. Just that the format is flawed. Like Origen they were punished for being new and I don’t believe that’s a sound reason to punish a team.

Due to the infrequency of international competition, it’s hard to discount and ignore these kinds of glitches in the overall qualification system. Especially so as it has led to certain teams in the past finding their way to Worlds when they really weren’t at the top of their region by the time Worlds came around, most notably Najin Black Sword in Season 3 and Najin White Shield in Season 4. The best teams at the time of Worlds are not always attending when it’s the only notable, large international tournament. In Season 2, Azubu Blaze found themselves on the outside looking in as Korea only obtained two seeds. In Season 3, KT Rolster Bullets were left out in favor of NLB Champions Najin Black Sword. In Season 4, Summer Champions KT Rolster Arrows were knocked out of contention by NLB third place team Najin White Shield.

The best teams at the time of Worlds do not always attend and when your international tournaments are so very few and far between, it’s unacceptable to embrace a system that is so flawed. Wild Card teams have an easier path to Worlds than certain strong Korean or Chinese rosters do. This year, the Brazilian team paiN Gaming will take on Russian and Latin American champions for their berth to Worlds. Turkish team Dark Passage will be squaring off against Oceanic, Japan, and Southeast Asian champions for their berth to Worlds. For their berth to Worlds, those two teams will be facing other teams that would likely not even make it into the North American Challenger Series. The easiest path to Worlds is reserved for the weakest teams. These wild card teams being included also throws the balance of the group stage off-kilter due to only two teams attending with four groups to fill. Two groups are handed free wins in the group stage while the other two groups have to fight much harder. Wild Card teams need to grow, but they would grow a lot more through smaller, more frequent international tournaments with competition that is closer to their level. Their inclusion would not be such an issue if it weren’t for their incredibly easy qualification process along with the overall lack of international tourneys.

The lack of seeds or invitations for more dominant regions remains another question. When will we see Korea earn a fourth seed? They’ve won the past two World Championships in dominating fashion and were in the Season 2 World finals whenever they only had a regional server for 11 months. When will China earn another seed? They’ve been finalists the past two years and their region has shown they are a clear step ahead of every region outside of Korea. When will we see either Europe or North America lose a seed? Or possibly even dropping the wild card teams so stronger teams may attend?

The inconsistent league rule sets worldwide. The poorly thought out circuit point accumulation through the year that puts newer teams at an inherent disadvantage to older teams. The inclusion of far weaker teams for the sake of diversity. The lack of overall competition. These are all issues that set the World Championship back from being a true World Championship, a tournament to find the absolute best team in the world. This could be an incredible tournament, yet it is held back by so many issues from top to bottom.