For several years, the League of Legends World Championships has been dominated by Korean teams — in particular, by one team.
SK Telecom T1 are the only squad to have won the LoL World Championships three times, and they only missed out on a fourth title when they were beaten in last year’s final by Samsung Galaxy (now with a new owner and known as Gen. G Esports).
Given a number of roster changes, many expected SK Telecom T1 would spend the time between the end of the LoL World Championships and the start of the new LCK Spring Split honing their skills to once again be the clear top team in Korea.
However, things have not quite turned out as SK fans would have hoped.
SK’s dominance (2015 to present)
- LCK Spring 2015 – Winners
- Mid Season Invitational 2015 – 2nd
- LCK Summer 2015 – Winners
- League of Legends World Championship 2015 – Winners
- IEM Season X – World Championship – Winners
- LCK Spring 2016 – Winners
- Mid Season Invitational 2016 – Winners
- LCK Summer 2016 – 3rd
- League of Legends World Championship 2016 – Winners
- LCK Spring 2017 – Winners
- Mid Season Invitational 2017 – Winners
- LCK Summer 2017 – 2nd
- League of Legends World Championships 2017 – 2nd
It is a stunning run of results, especially when you consider the team has also finished in tied third/fourth spot each year in the KeSPA Cup. However, the issues that started to show during the latter part of 2017 seem to have come to a head in 2018.
LCK Spring, Rift Rivals raise issues
Every year for the past three years, SK Telecom T1 has taken the title in the LCK Spring event. Yet this year was very different.
A shocking defeat against BBQ Olivers on March 14 left SK Telecom T1 with a 6-9 record. With just three games left to play, SK knew that they likely needed to win all three to stand any chance of reaching the playoffs.
However, as all top teams are capable of doing from time to time, SK did precisely that. They defeated KSV 2-0, MVP 2-0, and then Kongdoo Monster 2-1 in a nervy final game to ensure they ended the season with a 9-9 record. That was good for tied with two other teams, KSV and ROX Tigers. SK then made it through, but only by the thinnest of margins.
In past years’ playoffs, SK Telecom T1’s class really shown. This spring, they started brightly once again, defeating KSV 2-1 in the wild card game. But in the Round 1 match, they were outclassed by KT Rolster, who claimed a 3-1 victory to eliminate the three-time world champions.
After watching the Mid Season Invitational go on without them, SK scraped into the Rift Rivals tournament earlier in July by virtue of finishing fourth ahead of KSV. But once again, the Korean teams lost out to their Chinese rivals for the second year in a row.
The LCK Summer 2018
Currently, SK Telecom T1 are in the middle of the LCK Summer 2018 campaign. It is fair to say the tournament has gone as poorly for them, possibly worse than the Spring Split. So far, the team has played nine games and won just three. They currently sit in eighth place.
What is especially worrying is that the three wins that SK Telecom T1 have landed during the Summer Split have come against teams outside the top five: KT Rolster, Jin Air Green Wings, and BBQ Olivers. Then, all of the top five teams have already defeated SK Telecom T1 this season (Griffin, KING-ZONE DragonX, Gen.G, Hanwha Life Esports, Afreeca Freecs).
LCK 2018 current standings
- Griffin – 8-1
- KING-ZONE DragonX – 7-3
- G – 7-3
- Hanwha Life Esports – 6-4
- Afreeca Freecs – 6-4
- KT Rolster – 6-4
- MVP – 4-6
- SK Telecom T1 – 3-6
- Jin Air Green Wings – 2-8
- BBQ Olivers – 0-10
How do their World Championship hopes look?
In terms of LCK Championship points, SK Telecom T1’s Spring 2018 performance earned them 30 points. But if they fail to finish in the top five in the current season, they will not only miss out on direct qualification for the Worlds, but they could also miss out on the Regional Finals to decide the final spots in the Worlds.
What’s the issue?
Despite having one of the best League of Legends players to ever play the game, Faker, still on their roster, there is no doubt SK’s roster moves played a role in their struggles. In May, Profit moved to Ninjas in Pyjamas.
Then, the bigger blow came on Nov. 21 when midlaner Sky moved to RED Canids. Perhaps most crucially, jungler Peanut moved to rivals Longzhu Gaming. A few days later, toplaner Huni, another underrated star, moved to Echo Fox.
So far, the SK’s replacements have not yet managed to show the same level of ability. What’s more, other teams in the LCK have improved their rosters with some clever signings and investing in new players.
A LoL World Championship without SK may seem crazy to anybody who has followed League of Legends for the last few years. That’s now very much a reality, and the tournament may yet see the start of a new dynasty team over the coming years.