a League of Legends analysis blog
LCK was the last major region to wrap up Spring, leaving SKT the least amount of time to prepare for MSI. It appears that the LCK meta was different enough that SKT stumbled 4 straight games on Days 2 and 3. Some commentators remarked that because they played like they did in the LCK, their strategy just didn’t work. Others cited Blank’s performance alongside Duke’s as key factors pulling the team down.
SKT’s 4 straight losses to the top 3 seeds
It’s a little more complex than that.
While I would have loved to see bengi on stage again, it’s highly unlikely SKT will use ‘The Jungle’ in this competition at all. I highlighted 4 tendencies we could expect from SKT coming into MSI last post and they certainly lived up to their disposition.
Assassin mid? Check. LeBlanc used against CLG…and lost.
First-pick jungler on blue side? Check. Nidalee grabbed twice…losing to RNG and FW.
Targeted bans over power bans? Check. 100% targeted bans locked in against CLG…and lost.
Changing it up in some ways? Check. Wolf played Soraka. Faker played Lulu for the first time since mid-Spring…and it worked out.
Befittingly, in their very last game in the group stage SKT went back to their championship-winning composition—protect Bang’s Lucian with Faker’s Lulu who hasn’t been picked up since her nerf. If we look purely at champion picks, SKT’s winning games were those where they managed to get their standard LCK-type draft. At the same time they’re trying to show the World that they can play what other regions run, similar to how they intentionally started picking Zilean against JAG in the playoffs as a warning to KT the next round. Unlike regionals, MSI is about morphing alongside other international teams and adopting the competition’s meta: think LeBlanc.
Here’s 3 seemingly simple matters that required specific adaptations for SKT coming out of LCK into the fire:
Picks and bans are 10x more interesting at international competitions. Put yourself in their shoes: Do you ban power-picks or targeted champions? If targeted champions are the way to go, how then do you prep to play against a handful of power? If you choose to take away power, can you handle these supremely comfort picks in your enemy’s hands?
These were very real questions for the Koreans coming into MSI.
As predictable as night and day, LCK’s bans standard stuff. All 1st and 2nd tier power-picks are barred—with Ryze, Aizr and Ekko topping the list. Coming in at 4th place, because SKT started fielding their ‘Lulu replacement’ Zilean, it gave teams a reason to use up a ban on him as well which gave SKT leeway to grab leftover power-picks.
Compare this with the top bans at MSI in the last 10 games SKT played.
Maokai is no surprise as he is a continued ban from the LCK. By the time ROX played against SKT in the finals where majority of the Playoffs SKT prioritized this pick, it became a staple ban against them. Ryze is also very much still up there while Ekko’s absence is explained by the nerfs. Jungle wise, because Blank showed the most success on Kindred in the Playoffs, this takeaway is expected.
Like last MSI, LeBlanc made an entrance. RNG took down SKT with this pick and since then, SKT have been insistent on censoring her. Similar to how LZ shredded them with Kog’maw earlier in Spring, whenever SKT gets rekted by a champion—which gives other teams ideas on how to defeat the divine—they will simply remove it to preserve the balance.
Who would have thought though, that a support would top the bans at MSI? Wolf’s Alistar definitely looks like a formidable foe particularly after his showcased performance vs G2 on Day 1. Teams have good reason to ban one of SKT’s favourite initiators.
“Who’s ready to lock horns with me?!”
It leaves SKT with Braum, which RNG banned in their last match too, Trundle and Tahm Kench.
It may not seem significant, but SKT with one less initiator and arguably Wolf’s best champion may give opponents enough breathing room…for now.
Finding picks and initiating team fights aren’t the only ways to win. Playing defensively and turning things around are what ranged supports were born for…but unlike other regions, they haven’t existed in LCK Spring outside of Bard who can set up fights with Tempered Fate.
Then this happened:
Initiations were thrown to Lee Sin, picks to Ryze, while Ekko gets the award for the Most Annoying Buffed Champ in 2016 still.
“I’ll see this through.”
Wolf? Well, he gets to press W. Heal Faker, heal Bang, stay at the rear.
“Violence cannot go unanswered.”
If there’s one thing SKT cunningly does, is that they look ahead. At any point in any competition it is guaranteed that this team is playing for the Championship. They played Zilean against JAG, then ran 3 different team compositions against KT to give the Tigers a mulling: Lissandra with the picks, protect the AD Carry, and the assassin mid.
Fielding Soraka wasn’t just for fun against the 2nd bottom ranked team in MSI. CLG emerged strongly from Group Stage and giving a show with a ranged support and Lee Sin lets other regions know that SKT can play their game too.
Susceptible as SKT can be, the known strategy used against them was deployed to great effect by RNG at their first meeting.
SKT vs RNG, Day 2
This formula never gets old.
Interestingly the second time teams faced each other LeBlanc wasn’t banned by SKT because they were on red side and left the counter-picking to Faker. What surprised me more was that 3 late game power-picks landed right in RNG’s lap with Ryze, Sivir and Ekko.
Yet despite mistakes, SKT could hold on because unlike their previous comp, they drafted a bunch of tanky champions with a little more disengage: Maokai, Graves, Lulu with Wild Growth and Trundle support who can handle himself.
Going into the Playoffs, we can expect more Protect-The-AD-Carry drafts to nullify RNG’s aggression. SKT would also look to cut down sloppiness. If they’re going to bring on their methodical game they’re going to have to be extra calculative.
Wolf tried to burn Sivir’s flash, but no summoner spells were used as Wuxx calmly walked away with Mata’s help. Yet, bot lane with Blank’s Graves attempted to force this play because Sivir was hovering at low HP. It dragged out, gave Lee Sin enough time to walk down bot lane and punished SKT’s overstaying and overall ineffectiveness.
Top teams won’t burn key spells as easily as G2 did, but these small CD windows are exactly what SKT will look for in the playoffs. Blank admitted in the post-interview that late game vs. RNG, SKT’s win condition was keeping track of Flash CDs on the APC and ADC. Burning important spells leads to easier objective gains and we’ll definitely see more of that today when SKT turns on their calculated switch.
But to do that, SKT will first need to find their footing. CLG’s undying response to RNG was to draft Kindred, Kalista and Morgana with Azir to create zones. A mix of these champions with SKT’s tendencies to run Maokai and Trundle would make a solid draft. One thing’s for sure though—Nidalee should undoubtedly be left in the wild as she was in the LCK playoffs.
Is SKT ready to face RNG on their own terms? Will they be able to set the pace, or will they continue to play defensively and reactively against RNG’s assaults? My take is that inevitably there will be times SKT needs to solidify against the onslaught, but not frequently as less mistakes will be made. Expect Twitch and Alistar to remain ousted, expect the Protect the AD comp, expect undying, tanky picks all-round, expect effective control mage counter-picks from Faker in mid, expect excellent map movements from the Koreans, expect SKT bringing on the chaos as their confidence intensifies in the Bo5, and maybe, just maybe we’d see a Bard pick just to show up their next opponent.
CLG aphromoo’s solo Q
FW SwordArT’s solo Q
“All great changes are preceded by chaos.” –Deepak Chopra
Let the riots begin.