One final series remains in the 2016 League of Legends World Championship.
Two familiar foes, both previous world champions and both hailing from the same country, will battle it out one last time to see who will be crowned and earn the $1 million prize.
SK Telecom T1’s journey to the Finals
SKT is here to extend their dynasty and add to Faker’s legacy, having already claimed two World Championships (the only team to win twice) with a chance at a third.
A win at Worlds this year would mean SKT winning three of the last four world titles.
SKT had a much tougher road than its opponent to get to this stage of the tournament, facing off against ROX Tigers in the semifinals. This would also be a rematch of last year’s World Championship Finals.
The first game was a classic SKT mechanical showcase.
Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok was doing one vs. three things, despite Song “Smeb” Kyung-ho doing his best to carry ROX Tigers. A huge Oriana Shockwave from Faker late in the game was the crucial play that sealed the deal.
ROX Tigers went all-in with this second game, showcasing Miss Fortune in the support role for the first time ever in LCS history.
The bottom lane duo of Kim “PraY” Jong-in and and Kang “GorillA” Beom-hyeon was able to take complete control of the lane. Plays like the intricate tower dive allowed ROX Tigers back into this series.
Game Three was more of the same for ROX Tigers. GorillA was once again on Miss Fortune, and the combination with Ashe proved to be fatal.
Even Faker was caught out a few times in this game.
SKT were then left with the bleak task of winning two decisive games to get to the finals. First, they would need to force a Game Five. Miss Fortune was also banned in this game for the first time this series.
That proved to give some relief to bottom lane, and SKT was able to make plays on the other end of the map in return. That left little doubt SKT was going to win this game.
Game Five was a pristine example of how League of Legends should be played at the highest level.
This game will go down as one of the best in the history of Worlds, with both teams leaving it all out on the Rift. A huge teamfight at Baron in the mid game swung momentum in less than 30 seconds.
While ROX Tigers secured the Baron kill, it was SKT that came away with four kills. That lead allowed them to snowball the rest of the game and reach the Finals for the second straight year.
Samsung Galaxy strolls into the Finals
Samsung enters the finals having won their past 10 games at Worlds.
While that’s an amazing feat, this has come against less-than-stellar competition compared to SKT’s side of the bracket. Nonetheless, they’ve done what they needed in impressive fashion to get to this stage of the tournament.
In the semifinals, Samsung Galaxy faced off against Europe’s H2K, a heavy underdog versus the Koreans.
Game One started out superbly for H2K, with an early First Blood going to Konstantinos “FORG1VEN” Tzortziou. Despite being up 14-8, a huge teamfight loss near Baron pit turned the game in favor of Samsung.
Game Two was essentially a mirror image of Game One, but at a much faster pace. Once again, H2K started out strong, finding the early game picks. Lee “Crown” Min-ho was huge for Samsung in the mid game.
He was essentially an unstoppable machine on Cassiopeia, and carried Samsung to victory.
Game Three was a 26-minute showcase of why Korea is the best region in the World right now. They completely out-farmed and out-performed H2K at every facet of the game.
The sweep sets up yet another all-Korea Finals.
2016 World Championship Finals analysis
These two teams have a rich history, and we can look at their most recent season for a glimpse into how this matchup may go. SKT is playing at a championship level right now, and they also swept Samsung 4-0 during the LCK Summer Split.
In particular, Faker went 17-6-27 in those four games, compared to Samsung’s mid laner, Crown, who went 6-15-10.
Crown has appeared to gain confidence as Worlds has progressed, and it’s clear he’s playing at a different level now. He’s statistically been a top three mid laner, posting the third highest KDA.
SKT will most certainly first pick away or ban Viktor in every game this series. A rush on midlane bans would significantly hurt Crown, as we’ve seen Faker’s champion pool is nearly unlimited.
The one area that Samsung Galaxy may find an advantage is in the jungle position.
SKT had issues against ROX Tigers when Kang “Blank” Sun-gu was in the game, but seemed to have much better cohesion with Bae “Bengi” Seong-ung (Faker’s longtime jungle).
Despite Bengi’s instrumental plays in helping SKT beat ROX Tigers, his play has declined in 2016 compared to past Worlds.
The emergence of Jo “CoreJJ” Yong-in as the support player for Samsung, a former NA LCS ADC for Team Dignitas before they were relegated, has also helped this team reach their full potential. His Zyra has actually received target bans in this tournament.
Of course, facing the juggernaut that is SKT immediately makes any team extreme underdogs in the finals of an international tournament. Samsung Galaxy will be fighting for recognition here and a chance at pulling off one of the biggest upsets in Worlds history.
But SKT isn’t here to prove themselves anymore. They are the de facto best team in the World, and they’re here to establish a dynasty.
SKT makes history here, going 3-1 against Samsung and repeating as champions.
SKT is too battle-tested, too resilient, and just too good for any other team to beat them in a best-of-five series.
Image c/o Riot esports