On the eve of the start of the League of Legends Champions Korea knockout stage, there could be no more unknowns than this year. Tomorrow on the Summoner’s Rift, T1 and Afreeca Freecs will appear, fighting for promotion to the next round and the dream of every professional LoL player — Worlds. However, there are five teams still able to go to Shanghai, and only three spots. There are five teams in the Korean league playoffs alone, so we ask the five most important questions before they start.
A legend or a successful youngster?
Everyone knows Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok’s legendary play on Zed in season three of the LCK. Midlaner for SKT T1 then became the most popular representative of the LCK in the world and keeps this title to this day. Although many believe that his game level may be a bit worse. T1 started poorly this Split, and about halfway in it was tempted to change its star, Faker, to 17-year-old Lee “Clozer” Hu-hyeon.
Three weeks have passed since the recruit’s debut and so far it has been fulfilling excellently. Moreover, on maps where the Korean LoL icon reappeared on the Rift, the three-time world champions had to recognize the superiority of their rivals. It is therefore logical that T1 will go ahead and bet on Clozer in the first line-up against Afreeca Freecs. Is the young Korean not yet under pressure? Won’t the weight of the play-offs prove overwhelming, and won’t Faker intervene? We will find out on Wednesday morning.
Can we see a repeat of schalke’s miracle run?
If someone followed the Korean league at least to a minimal extent, it could easily come to the conclusion that this year’s summer round is a clash of four contenders. However, the league format allows for five teams in play-offs, and Afreeca Freecs has filled that gap. It is a band made up of outcasts, after all, everyone has heard about Lee “Spirit” Da-yoon or Kim “Kiina” Gi-in, among others.
Theoretically, they are not at the level that would allow them to enter the most important tournament of the year. The same was said about Schalke a few weeks ago, and today they are one series away from Worlds. Will the organization get lucky and will they visit the Championships again, as they did in 2018? I dare to doubt, but history plays tricks.
super-win or super-fail awaiting the superteam?
Gen. G has undergone quite a reconstruction before this season, but so far it has produced rather positive results. Spring runners-up and their domination during its main phase are just two of many examples. The new version of the band includes several renowned names: Kim “Rascal” Kwang-hee, Kim “Clid” Tae-min, Gwak “Bdd” Bo-seong and Park “Ruler” Jae-hyuk. On paper, for many it looks like a team of future champions.
At the same time, with its game, Gen.G perfectly fits the idea of the superteam. But as it often happens in esports, superteams have a tendency to super-underperform. Ruler’s team has already disappointed their fans in the aforementioned Spring Split final, in which they painfully lost to T1 0:3. Therefore, these play-offs will be the final test of the team.
If they pass, they will fly to China with irreplaceable confidence. However, if not, we will face another shuffle, and players will have a stain on their careers that will be difficult to wash away.
can THE VETERANS LEAD THE YOUNGSTERS TO SUCCESS?
I have the impression that almost every year in each of the major leagues we have a team that is doing great, even smurfing for most of the season, and is mainly made up of inexperienced players. In our European backyard, the perfect example is MAD Lions. In the LCK, that team was DAMWON last year and now it’s DRX.
One of the main features of these formations is having an experienced person who will guide the rest, be a mentor to them, and extend a helping hand in need. There is Marek “Humanoid” Brázda in MAD, and the quarter-finalists of the last Worlds have Lee “Flame” Ho-jong, who despite the fact that he usually sits on the bench, still supports the rest of the team.
In the case of the DRX, Kim “Deft” Hyuk-kyu, and midlaner, Jeong “Chovy” Ji-hoon, have the greatest baggage of experience, who in this respect is a few years in the back, but has already been to Worlds. Will it be enough for the aspiring five to fight for the Korean Championship and the international tournament starting in a month? In May, the shortcomings and pressure of high-stakes matches were clearly visible, but this time it can only get better. But will it be enough?
Who can stop a speeding train?
The main phase of the 2020 LCK Summer Split was won by DAMWON Gaming, who looked simply outstanding. The leaders haven’t lost a series since July 15, and their map balance is even more impressive. Of the 39 battles played on the Rift this summer, they lost only five. A machine that will potentially not be stopped has started. What is the reason for this success?
DAMWON just looks much more confident than last season and the changes in between were minor. This, combined with precise mechanics and map control, prevents the opponents from taking the initiative from the very first minutes. Only two of their defeats were served to them by DRX and Gen.G. Will anyone manage to spoil DAMWON’s chances in the playoffs and steal the championship hopes from them? As they say, hope dies last after all.
Regardless of whether Afreeca Freecs perform a Schalke-like miracle, or whether T1 will win the title again, or eventually DAMWON will win the coveted championship, one thing is for sure. The knockout stage of the LCK promises to be extremely exciting, and there are a lot of potential scenarios. All you have to do is wait and see what decisions will be made by the best Korean representatives on the Summoner’s Rift.
LCK play-offs start on Wednesday at 10:00 CEST. At the start, T1 will face Afreeca Freecs. The broadcast will be available on the LCK channel on Twitch.tv.