SK Telecom T1 were the favourites, predominantly based on their back-to-back championship wins in 2015 and 2016. Add to that a third win a couple of years before that, and they were the only team in history to have won three times.
Samsung Galaxy lost to SK last year, making them the underdogs in this all-Korean clash. They too have pedigree in the event, winning it once themselves back when the team was called Samsung Galaxy White.
The end results shocked the millions watching the final online, as well as the tens of thousands in the stadium. While Samsung Galaxy’s victory was perhaps a mild surprise, it was the manner of the victory that stunned the watching millions.
The road to the finals
Throughout qualifying for the final, SK had ridden their luck at times. They relied heavily on star man Faker in many games. That said, they came through tight matches with Misfits and Royal Never Give Up in the playoff section, as well as qualifying from their group with a 5-1 record.
By almost all accounts, this SK team wasn’t quite as good as in previous years but was still rated first in the world. That view changed this past weekend.
Samsung Galaxy, who only finished second in their group and thus had two tough playoff games against Longzhu Gaming and Team WE, were growing into the tournament. Their adaptability exposed opponents’ vulnerabilities time and again.
SK Telecom’s worst fears confirmed
On Sunday, Samsung’s versatility again proved to be key. In the opening match, the world witnessed the toppling of a three-time champion in comprehensive fashion. It wasn’t just that Samsung won the opening map; it was easy work.
They smothered SKT all over the map, not even losing a tower in a game that was almost embarrassingly one-sided at times.
The second game of the final was arguably the most closely contested. But once again, Samsung’s ability to keep the pressure on SKT made the difference. For once, not even Faker could lift his teammates to victory. Samsung took the second map to lead the final 2-0.
In last year’s final, SKT went up 2-0 before Samsung pulled it back to 2-2, only to lose the decider. Perhaps drawing inspiration from that loss, Samsung looked determined not to let the three-time champs off the hook.
In the third game, things were relatively even until one crucial point. Samsung attacked a Baron. SKT put up a stern defense but lost the battle and, with it, the Baron. From there, Samsung established dominance and claimed a surprisingly straightforward 3-0 win.
Faker shed tears of despair following the defeat, but the most talented League of Legends player in the world didn’t have anything for which to admonish himself. Samsung Galaxy’s ability to adapt to new tactics undid SKT.
One thing is for sure: if 2018 is as good as 2017, we are in for one mighty battle to see who will eventually succeed Samsung Galaxy. Or maybe this team will be the new benchmark for League of Legends brilliance.
LoL Worlds 2017 positives
- The new Play-In allowed more teams from a wider range of qualifying sections to compete without compromising the quality of play.
- While SK Telecom T1 fans won’t agree, the end of their dominance signals an exciting power shift.
- Upsets created many of the event’s most entertaining moments.
- The gap between Korea’s best teams and the best of the rest, most notably from China, is shortening just a bit.
- After disappointing in recent years, European teams, notably Misfits, performed very well.
- The level of support across China was huge for all five weeks of action.
What could be improved for 2018?
- While the Play-In worked for lesser teams, once they reached the League Stage, their frailties were exposed cruelly. Fenerbahce lost all six of their League games, for instance. Only by playing top teams more often can lesser teams hope to close the gap.
- North American teams didn’t perform to their best at Worlds and should be disappointed with their performances overall.
- Despite having huge home support, China’s biggest teams couldn’t break Korea’s stranglehold on the event. This was likely their best chance to do so for many years.