DraftKings Esports

The LCK Coaching Swap – T1 sign Zefa & Daeny, kKoma joins DAMWON Gaming

The franchising era of LCK has ushered in more coaching staff changes for teams as they prepare for 2021. Missing the World Championship for T1 was a massive failure, which was felt by the players and fans alike. This year, upper management has made it their goal to surround Faker with the best possible resources to give him the best odds to succeed.

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With that in mind, the signings of Lee “Zefa” Jae-min and Yang “Daeny” Dae-in as their new regular and head coach are welcome additions for that goal. Adding to that news, T1 also signed former StarCraft pro player Choi “Polt” Seung-hun to the general manager role.

Finally, T1 announced the return of 3-time World Champion Bae “Bengi” Seong-woong as its Academy Head Coach role as T1 has gone for a complete top-down revamp of its coaching staff. To combat the loss of their Head Coaches, DAMWON Gaming has pulled a reverse Uno. The 2020 World Champions are not taking their foot off the throttle for next year.

The announcement of Kim “kkOma” Jeong-gyun is a major point of intrigue for LCK next season. The T1 dynasty, coached by the staff who just won the World title, versus the crowned Champions who are being led to battle by the former general of T1. A story for the ages and only the most dominant force in Korea will reign supreme. But which team will it be?

Old friends, new rivalries

If you know anything about the great teams in League of Legends history, the SKT T1 kKoma-Faker dynasty is at the very top of that list. The outstanding duo of Faker and Bengi secured wins on stage, but the framework and gameplan for those wins were drawn up by the Head Coach. This ‘perfect formula’ for victory, coupled with the utter cheat code of having Faker as a player, led to one of the greatest titles runs in esports history.

Once the kKoma-Faker dynasty ended, so did their illustrious spree of results. While T1 enjoyed flashes of success and won domestic titles every odd split, the level of international dominance was never relived again to the same capacity. Inversely, once kKoma ventured off into coaching outside Korea, his reputation as a winning coach started to dip.

kKoma coached SKT for nearly eight years

Image Credits | Inven

In the meantime, DAMWON Gaming was crafting the next dynasty just across the horizon. Back in 2018, DoubleLift, formerly a member of Team Liquid at the time, mentioned there was a Challenger Korean team that was scrimming opponents during Worlds. This team was performing so well against other teams’ first and second seeds, it was as if they were a top LCK team already. That team went on to win the qualifiers for their region and successfully joined the LCK the year after. That team was DAMWON.

Just one year later, and DAMWON would qualify for their first World Championship and impress in the group stage round, only to be destroyed by G2 Esports in the quarterfinals. Those losses soon turned into lessons for the organization. DAMWON instantly made moves and picked up Zefa as a new coach. Their consistency in the Spring of 2020 was due to a variety of factors, most notably being the addition of Jang “Ghost” Yong-jun at ADC.

Consistency soon led to winning runs for DAMWON Gaming. On the back of a shaky, but promising Spring Split, DAMWON put all the pieces together to resulted in a 1st place finish in Summer. This time, their execution in the knockout rounds proved to be the difference-maker as they made easy work of the LCK region en route to their first domestic title.

DAMWON won Worlds 2020

Image Credits | Riot Games

The miraculous 2020 run of DAMWON is a joint effort between sound coaching tactics and expert playmaking ability. Without the proper minds in place, DAMWON would have never learned the necessary lessons to best opponents such as G2 and Top Esports at the League of Legends World Championship. However, few scouts could have predicted the ensemble of Canyon, Nuguri, ShowMaker, Ghost, and BeryL operating so effectively. Ultimately, the spotlight that comes with winning a World Title will always bring a high bidder.

The coaching gamble

T1 has put all its chips on the table in hopes of securing another world championship title for their franchise player and co-owner. While Faker may very well be in the twilight years of his career, his hunger to win is still the same. T1 always reacts aggressively in seasons where they underperform, and 2021 will prove no different as they jam-packed their coaching staff with proven tactical minds that have already won the biggest trophy of them all.

In their wake, a revitalized DAMWON Gaming will look to the expertise of former SKT great kKoma to possibly become the first team to ever win back-to-back World titles. Generally speaking, there are always at least two Korean juggernauts that start the LCK season looking to dominate. While the coaching staff of both teams has seemingly swapped outfits, the objective remains the same. Secure a title and make history while doing so.

Nick Vera

About

Nick's passion for League of Legends started as he got his shot as a shoutcaster at amateur tournaments. Nowadays, he covers a variety of esports titles while pursuing a B.A. in English at Rollins College.

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