a League of Legends analysis blog
IEM turned out to be a much needed break for SKT to review all the ways in which they lost to JAG, ROX, LZ & Afreeca. They deployed strategies used against them against international teams at IEM and opponents too attempted to use these same strategies against SKT, but you can’t pull the same trick twice against this team. It comes at the cost of defeat.
In professional leagues, small advantages can amount to greater advantages, and then victory. The first minute of the final Game 3 alone might have clinched SKT’s championship and FNC’s surrender.
“Go ahead, scare me.”
The 5-man cross over the river to secure a deep ward at the beginning has been a very punishable move this season. When SKT attempted this earlier in the LCK they got double killed in the enemy jungle. This game, SKT opted for the alternative response to the invade by placing deep trinket wards in FNC’s jungle to guarantee the lane swap: One by the top turret bot lane should FNC decide to port back to the fountain and walk down, and the other by the wolf camp if they decide to stroll through the jungle.
Now the fun of hide and seek begins. Just before the first wave of minions clash, Wolf and Bang start to make their way towards FNC’s top jungle, their prey already singled-out: They catch Lee Sin, force a flash and bring down his health which immediately curbs his jungling pace. Spirit had to port back to the fountain after only 1 camp. Versus the clear speed and counter-jungling of the number 1 Nidalee, this is crushing. He was consistently at half CS of his opponent’s.
What I like most is on the opposite of the map, Duke and Blank started red buff instead of Krugs as an extra precaution. Should Thresh have chosen to walk over and poke his head in their jungle, he would not have found them on time. It was a guaranteed effective clear, and SKT can thank LZ for using this strategy against them.
Look! It’s the Lissandra with TP to flank from behind during team fights. Where have we seen that used against SKT before?
“I’ll handle it!”
SKT’s response to a first pick Nautilus by FNC was to immediately take Poppy and Elise away, the 2 picks that LZ added to their CC-filled comp which won their team fights against SKT. Together with Braum, the hard CC to match FNC’s own bulk was real.
The difference between LZ’s and FNC’s Lissandra flank is that Febiven’s flank was from behind terrain, which gave Duke’s Poppy the perfect opportunity to Heroic Charge Liss once she ported over, disrupting her full combo and forcing her to ult herself. FNC was also relying on Liss to open the fight despite having a Nautilus, Thresh and Lee Sin, while LZ made more reliable plays with Liss to pick-off champs and lock down a running SKT.
And all this while, Bang single-handedly zones out both FNC’s support and ADC with his Iceborn Gauntlet Ezreal. His perfect positioning allowed him to simultaneously participate in SKT’s brawl while damaging Thresh and Kog by himself.
Gamsu uses his ult on the right target, disrupting Vel’s ult, but without Kog in the fight, Lee Sin and a burnt out Lissandra could not do enough to take down any members of SKT. LZ’s stomp with an 11-assist, 80% kill participation Lissandra definitely gave SKT some experience in this area.
So what did SKT show this IEM that was uniquely ‘SKT’?
Strategy wise, not much. They hashed out what other LCK teams threw at them. They executed their usual 4-1 split push. They capitalized on mistakes of opponents.
There is however, one aspect that signaled the resurrection of SKT’s prowess: Their exquisite team fighting. QG was hailed as the ‘Kings of Team-fighting’ coming into this tournament, but SKT slaughtered them and casters were quick to label them as the ‘Gods of Team-fighting’.
The thing about judging whether a team’s fighting is good or not is that team fights also depend heavily on your opponents making mistakes such as mispositionings, missing skill shots or choosing the wrong time or terrain. So perhaps a fairer way of assessing team fighting ability is when both teams have equal footing.
It’s Game 2, it’s late game. Yes SKT is up 10k gold, but this team fight is totally initiated by FNC who had a clear advantage in positioning due to their vision control around the mid lane. Rekkles’ Kog’Maw has a positive KDA, completed 3 core items, and is due to shine in a late game power-spike. Even before SKT could gather, FNC manage to catch Blank out early, creating a 5v4 situation.
Duke jumps the back line even with 1 down, and doesn’t quite manage to get Thresh. The deal gets sweeter as Gamsu’s Nautilus zones SKT’s backline at the same time, getting Faker’s Vel to half health and forces a flash. At this point, FNC turns back onto the offence believing they can take this fight all the way home.
Unfortunately, there is also a late game blue Ezreal on SKT’s end, who, together with Wolf, chunked and zoned the ADC, support and jungler, preventing them from joining Nautilus. This literally gives Duke’s Poppy a wide opening to finish what he started on Thresh.
Yet, just as FNC want to re-engage at this opportunity where Poppy’s CDs are down and Duke is running away, Faker throws out Vel’s ultimate to re-zone FNC’s backline out narrowly, giving SKT just enough time to deal with Nautilus.
SKT’s team fighting is beautiful not just because they know how to juggle the agro, but also because they are deliberately patient in their use of spells for zone control, and position themselves well enough to immediately re/dis-engage at exactly the right time. They eliminate the extra second to close or open distances, and those marginal plays give them a substantial edge.
LCK’s second half of Spring will see top teams bring out new strategies as patches evolve. It will not be enough for SKT to simply learn from their losses. At the very least, IEM will give them a buff when they restart tomorrow against Afreeca. How long this buff lasts depends on how well they can keep this tempo coming out as Champions of IEM.