Another Year, Another SKT
There are a couple of rules in League of Legends. Don’t chase Singed, Liquid 4th, and don’t bet against SKT. This year has been the Super Korean Team’s shakiest-looking year since their inception in 2013 (barring their failure to qualify for the 2014 World Championships). After an incredibly dominant LCK Spring, they had a less-than-stunning run in LCK Summer, including a 2-week loss streak where they didn’t win a single game, even against bottom-tier team Jin Air. The phrase “Can SKT still make worlds?” went from a passing joke after the first loss to a “Wait seriously, can they?”
As fate would have it, they could, and they did. The story continued, however. SKT’s history of (fairly) effortlessly squashing their opponents at Worlds came to an end and was replaced by a story of struggle and comebacks. The once-heralded best bottom-lane in the world has failed to impress in a bot-centric meta. In a world of tank jungles, Peanut hasn’t made as large of an impact as we’re used to seeing from him in his ROX days, and Blank has had to step up. Huni, like the rest of them, has had moments of stardom but otherwise hasn’t proven to be the rock SKT would like him to be.
The one thing SKT has going for them is Faker. Faker, the playmaker, the Michael Jordan of League, the Unkillable Demon King. The pinnacle of the mid lane has somehow evolved and become an even greater threat than he used to be. In the games against Edward Gaming during group stages, SKT was down 10k gold in both games, and Faker & co. were able to make miraculous comebacks off single teamfights to win. In the best-of-five semifinals against Royal Never Give Up, Faker played Galio, a tank, every single game and was able to pull SKT back from a 1–2 deficit to bring them back to the World Championship Finals.
Starting at last year’s semifinals against ROX Tigers, SKT have had four best-of-five sets in a row. Each has gone to the 5th game, and each has seen SKT emerge victoriously. In fact, SKT was down 1–2 in three of those games; last year’s finals against Samsung Galaxy was the only series in which they were up 2–1 after the 3rd game, and they were one nexus explosion away from being reverse swept. Every single time, people thought this was it. This is the series they lose. Every single time, they’ve been wrong.
Even now, Samsung is coming into the Finals with a 6–1 record in the knockout stage, having swept Longzhu Gaming, the team most people considered the best in the world, and handily eliminating World Elite, what most analysts considered the best team from the LPL. Samsung has arguably had a cleaner run than SKT at this year’s World Championships, and for all intents and purposes should be entering the Finals as the favorite to win it all. The defending champions are weaker than ever, and Samsung has a salty run-back to fulfill. They’re out to prove that they’re the exception to the rule, but while Samsung is chasing a legacy, SKT is chasing godhood.