a League of Legends analysis blog
To appreciate this playoff series, its foundations have to be established:
1. The meta has funneled into a stale one: Tank top, carry jungle, utility mage mid, tanky support, mobile ADC
Top-tier Power Picks in LCK
Note: Fiora, Lulu, Kalista & Corki have been nerfed but remain contested choices
2. It’s all about the mind games now—SKT drafted to send messages to KT and ‘standard drafting’ has ensued
3. SKT opted for 100% red side to secure last pick for Faker
That said, it becomes interesting to review what SKT prioritized in this first round and where they chose to deviate. Similar to Worlds, when teams are in it for the long-haul, inevitable mind games start to play out. They don’t want to reveal their strategy too much in the beginning, yet at the same time teams need to mix it up just enough to keep future opponents in deep thought during pick-ban phase.
Here are the top 3 things SKT supplied in their first playoff series vs JAG:
TEAM COMPOSITION: Right off the bat, SKT on red means they get to grab a pair in the second round of picks and every single game against JAG they nabbed Maokai and Sivir. This is very typical SKT. At Worlds 2015 they ran the same few power-picked compositions over and over (think Bang’s Sivir and Faker’s Ryze) whilst allowing MaRin to switch it up with Rumble in the later stages so much so that it became a must-ban against him. The more opponents ban pocket picks, the higher the chances of power-picks being available and vice versa.
I’ve mentioned that ironically, power-picks for SKT this season have been more a bane than not. Sometimes they draft with care, sometimes they horde all the power which may not gel together, and at other times they draft too specific counters to each role that the composition also fails.
Of late however, it’s great to see SKT drafting responsively since their last regular season match against SBENU which gave us hints to this playoff series where Maokai and Sivir remain as SKT’s first two picks on the red side.
So what has SKT run that other teams have not? For one, they unbenched the Kench. Game 2 versus SBENU Ryze got through the draft, first picked by Soul. SKT responded with Tahm and Wolf earned the well-deserved MVP for his entertaining performance.
Rune Prision? No problem. Eat your team mate. Only in Game 3 vs JAG, Faker’s Cass shut down Kuzan’s Ryze so hard that Wolf didn’t even need to Devour anyone caught in jail.
Secondly, SKT showed a couple of mashups in mid: A Lulu-alternative, Cass as a response to Ryze, and their use of TF not for split-push but to create picks. After their loss to KT, the problem was who to bring in mid following their protect-the-ADC-comp when Lulu and Azir are out of the picture? Adapting from KT themselves, SKT ran Zilean in Game 1.
Both teams hover around the 4th Dragon spawn but JAG could not quite get the flank they needed with Lissandra, so Blank walks up to smite Drag away and JAG chose to force an awkward head-on engage after SKT already retreated.
Watch SKT’s saving graces: Lamb’s Respite just as Bang appeared almost dead followed by Chronoshift to deter any further damage onto low-HP Sivir.
Aside, Faker has also proven that after KT’s 3 straight kills on him with Lissandra-Nidalee that it would not be allowed to continue. All season during the lane swap, junglers have taken advantage of his aggressive early pushes and picked him off repeatedly. Game 2 vs SBENU already exhibited a reformed SKT where both Blank and Bang were invested for the kill and save onto Faker.
In the 4 games vs JAG you’d also notice small things Faker did, hugging the side of the lane his bot lane was at, intentionally not pushing the minion wave, and Blank and Wolf making appearances for insurance.
COMBOS: Fun-fact—SKT will not run Kindred without Sivir.
I highlighted this trend recently and this series against JAG solidified it. Micro-wise, this serves SKT very well because of the way they utilize Alistar offensively.
A vision-inspired play onto Winged’s Graves early in Game 1 classically demonstrates the full combo SKT deploys over and over to create picks with these 3 champions:
Alistar Flash -> Pulverize -> Headbutt into team mates -> Sivir activates On the Hunt -> Kindred’s Mounting Dread -> Wolf’s Frenzy -> Dance of Arrows
We see it yet again to get a pick off Trundle with the exact same combo. Even if the opponent flashes out, these series of spells guarantees death. There’s just no fleeing that.
Kindred also works well for SKT because Lamb’s Respite provides the back-up save for Bang as Wolf and Duke are expected to be in the front line, while Blank, Bang and Faker stay in the back.
VISION & OBJECTIVE CONTROL: The one thing SKT did this series that definitely revealed some cards in their deck was their brilliant 3-man Baron in Game 3 which totally escaped JAG.
I love this scene so much because it played 100% to SKT’s strengths and their team composition: Vision control, objective control, navigating around terrain to prevent any give-aways with Kindred’s over the wall Dance of Arrows and Tahm’s Devour, maximizing champion efficiency with a sated Kindred, tons of damage/self-healing Cassiopeia and tanky Tahm Kench. This play could not be more perfect.
In sum here are some trends we can expect from SKT going deeper into the Playoffs:
-SKT would rather deal with Ryze than Azir
-If they let Ryze through, they will pick Tahm Kench support to deal with him
-Don’t expect Karma or Lulu to be picked by Faker again
-Don’t expect Faker to push aggressively and be susceptible to ganks during the lane swap anymore
-[Faker does what he pleases]
-Don’t expect SKT to take a gold lead early, or be up in kills. They’re not at Worlds standard just yet. They will continue to be objective-oriented as always, and play around teleport timings
-Expect more plays by SKT to burn their opponents teleports and key spells in order to open an objective, but at the same time also be more defensive about clearing out opponents’ potential teleport flank wards
-Expect bans against junglers to emerge versus top-tier teams KT & ROX because Blank is the rookie in the club, and SKT’s strong hands have to come from the laners creating plays as opposed to the way KT and ROX play around Score and Peanut; therefore expect less SKT’s Sivir-Kindred combo going forth
-Similar to their last series against the Tigers at Worlds 2015, I promise these upcoming games will be fun so do tune-in!