a League of Legends analysis blog
Start of Summer season SKT beat all the top-tier teams in the LCK, only to close the first half of Round 1 losing to mid and lower bracket squads. Casters called them out on their form, the media likes to pin it on their jungle, while I like to highlight that the reason above all reasons is their team compositions.
Took them longer than expected, but SKT finally did away with Karma in their 2 straight victories over ROX. We’re in an elemental drake meta where depending on what’s cooking, teams will fight over mountain and fire drakes which provide that much more capacity to snowball stack. Eliminating a member off the enemy team through picks, burning summoner spells in prior skirmishes or shutting down a lane to create a teleport advantage are just some ways in which teams edge out the other to become more beastly.
ESC downing Mountain Drake while SKT are undecided about contesting (Source: https://youtu.be/khoKAuLBRE8)
One characteristic easily overlooked is how SKT adapt to opposing teams. After a string of losses, you bet they’ll rehash useful game plans in their following wins. They exhibited this at IEM, notably playing out lane swap strategies that Longzhu had hit them with prior.
This round, emerging from a 1-2 loss to ESC, SKT seized the opportunity to improve their picks and bans, sliding into victory.
Here’s an examination of what exactly they adopted and adjusted to suit their playstyle:
The game plan was clear. What did SKT overwhelmingly want to avoid, learning from their losses to ESC?
The subjugation of heavy initiations.
Even though it was a 3v3, the meat and extra shield plus the fact that Blank’s Rek’sai had already taken some damage from dragon allowed ESC to acquire 2 kills right off the bat. All game, ESC utilized Stand United offensively, milking every part of the map to create play after play. Stand United on cool down? No problem, just cut to commercial with teleport fillers.
The second obvious team composition error SKT wanted to do away with is running a squishy support.
Pitching Nami against Alistar made it so simple for the cow to punish her over and over not only forcing her to burn Flash but also
a) Squeezes SKT to channel too much resources into saving a support
b) Makes it so much more risker for Wolf to ward beyond, limiting SKT’s vision and
c) Opens objectives for ESC who didn’t have to do very much to create this pick twice over in less than a span of 4 minutes.
From there, objectives become a painless exercise as the snowball grew. SKT tried to contest the second dragon, but what could they do against the tanks? Keep your eye on Sivir as she remained completely untouched at the back.
Wisely in game 1 vs. ROX, SKT’s adaptations showed at the start. Shen is banned, and very rarely do you see this—Ashe is first-picked over an available Azir. Why? To deny PraY and give SKT that much more initiation.
Then came, you guessed it, Alistar and Gragas.
Now where have we seen that before?
Peanut thought he was safe because his team was in mid and the wave was going to push in—but not quite yet—so SKT punished the overextension. 3 bulldozers pile onto Kindred, and mutton is swiftly served.
Swapping out squishy supports for one Alistar works wonders for SKT. They are so good at punishing mistakes, deciding when to hit the button to engage, when to pull back, and when to go back online again. Why pack in all the reactive tools with Karma when they can simply wield the power of hard initiation?
As if Shen and Gragas isn’t enough for hard initiation, throw in a horsie as ESC did.
Now ROX took that one step further:
Shen + Hecarim + Taliyah = 100% death confirmed over and over and over again.
But I like to say, you can’t pull the same thing twice. Sure SKT can make the same drafting mistakes but if you’ve cheesed them out once, they won’t let it happen again.
SKT chose to ban Sivir over Shen in game 2, and did not prioritize the ninja either. Reserving last pick for Duke, they had to figure out ways in-game to deal with this new concoction ROX lined up. A quick GP lock in gave SKT a cross map response to Stand United, AoE, zoning and having Azir meant having a wall of your own too.
And you know what helped? Wolf being a cow instead of an exploding fish. Uh huh. With Faker, they burnt Hecarim’s Onslaught of Shadows late into the game to curb ROX’s engage, giving the team a significant leeway to push into base for the win.
Interestingly despite the varied drafts and meta, SKT deployed the same strategy against ROX as they have done since the Spring finals:
Ban junglers, limit Peanut’s pool and shut down Peanut in game with deep vision and steal smite those camps!
As Monte put it, Blank was being a jerk all game. This is exactly what bengi did in Round 1 as well, chocking up the Tiger’s esophagus.
That’s not to say it was easy fighting this particular team composition. Game 2 was a massive brawl with 49 kills in 43 minutes. That’s more than 1 kill/min which was rather uncharacteristic of LCK and more of an LPL thing.
But hey, it’s not every day you get to see Faker’s Azir get stuck between 2 walls, a pillar and a hard place.
Not to mention, the team fighting was nothing short of entertaining with earth bending, walls made of Emperor’s gold, spotlights and cannons reigning from the sky…
You might think oh no arrow misses, it’s not gonna be good for ROX especially since Blank follows up directly with an ult onto PraY’s Ashe. However Peanut’s Hecarim was able to catch a great angle to dive right in the middle of SKT, galloping straight into Azir’s face.
The saving grace for SKT was Wolf being on Alistar and not Nami/Soraka/Karma who was able to absorb Ashe’s damage for most of the fight and Headbutt her out of the screen. It bought enough time for SKT to focus on the front line and limit damages.
SKT really excels with a 3 man body wall in between Bang/Faker who can hold their own weight against the rest of the world. When they only run 2 tanks ie. When Duke’s on Gangplank or Irelia, or when they decide Wolf’s better off on a squishy, it just means less protection and heavy on execution which they’re capable but not favourable of.
Average Game Time standings, LCK Summer 2016
(Source: http://oracleselixir.com/ as of 8 Jul 2016)
This is a team that likes to bite chunks off opponents whenever they see dangling flesh. They don’t create a pick then try to force a turret. They will be trailing in gold, opponents will think they’re winning, but the moment an opening presents itself they catch one, two, three, transit into dargon/baron then take out a couple of towers in a row, earning the #1 spot for fastest average game time resulting in victories.