The League of Legends Champions Korea (LCK) is approaching the halfway point of its Summer season. Of the ten teams, only five can progress to the playoffs. With the first round robin drawing to a close, teams must work hard to take what they’ve learned and face off against each other once more.
Four teams currently teetering around the fifth-place cutoff are kt Rolster (KT), SANDBOX Gaming (SB), Gen.G and T1. They will meet on Summoner’s Rift later this week to determine who edges closer to the LCK championship.
kt Rolster vs SANDBOX Gaming
kt Rolster is, as is tradition, emulating the roller coaster from which the team takes its name. The team cycles between wins and losses like clockwork. This has led to huge upset victories over the currently-first DragonX, and out-of-the-blue defeats to a team like, coincidentally, SANDBOX Gaming.
All eyes are on KT’s support position. KT’s starting support, Jong-ik “TusiN” Park, is currently out due to health issues. Instead, legendary top-laner Kyung-ho “Smeb” Song role-swapped to fill for Week 4, playing traditionally top-lane champions like Maokai and Rumble. It worked for the massive upset over DragonX in a close 2-1 victory, but also lost 0-2 against Sandbox later that week. Time will tell if TusiN can return and stabilise the roster, or if Smeb’s off-meta picks will have to suffice.
Contrasting the KT roller coaster, SANDBOX Gaming is on a stable upward trajectory. Sandbox shocked the League of Legends world when they signed Jakob “YamatoCannon” Mebdi to coach their LCK team: the first time in history a non-Korean has filled such a position.
Sandbox initially started off the season rough with a five-game loss streak. Since returning from online play to the LoL Park arena, the team has gone on a three-game win streak. While still unlikely to truly contest for a top position, Sandbox is shaping up to be a decent team with upset potential. Of special note are the solo laners: rising star Woo-tae “Summit” Park in the top-lane and breakout newcomer Su-hyeok “FATE” Yoo.
The supports will heavily determine the outcome of this series. The primary laners are all proven, capable players. Depending on who starts for KT between TusiN and Smeb, it heavily warps the entire bottom lane and consequently the rest of the team’s compositions. Much will fall on veteran support Beom-hyun “GorillA” Kang to either outplay the younger TusiN, or outthink Smeb’s shenanigans.
KT are the favorites to win and exact their revenge for last week’s loss, but not by much. All early objectives (first blood, first tower, first drake) should go in favor of Sandbox with their strong solo laners and stabler bottom lane.
T1 vs Gen.G
Fourth-place T1 are coming off an embarrassingly one-sided loss to Team Dynamics. It is a stain on the defending LCK champions’ record that they will hope to wash out with a convincing win against Gen.G. Currently the slowest team in the LCK, T1 plays a style that seems methodical and calculated when it works, and sluggish and hesitant when it doesn’t.
T1’s hopes for victory rest on two sets of shoulders: mid-laner and greatest-of-all-time contender Sang-hyeok “Faker” Lee, and bot laner and CS king Jin-seong “Teddy” Park. Faker’s ability to play near-all champions remains a boon to the T1 draft. Teddy is one of the best in terms of sheer consistency: his farming is unparalleled and his mid to late-game team-fighting currently defines T1 as a team. The main issue is that this style is becoming increasingly one-dimensional as T1 struggles to manoeuvre decisively around key objectives.
Gen.G sit in third place but seem much more confident and stable in their position than T1 does. Gen.G’s victories are brutal and swift. The players-to-watch are mid-laner Bo-seong “Bdd” Gwak and bot-laner Jae-hyuk “Ruler” Park. In particular, Bdd is having a resurgent year after a lackluster 2019, exerting great pressure across the map on Twisted Fate and his signature Zoe to accelerate the pace of the game.
A potential weak spot is jungler Tae-min “Clid” Kim. Normally a star player in his own right, he has been regularly targeted in any match-up between Gen.G and his former team T1 (as SKT T1 in 2019). This was most evident in their previous match in Week 3, in which Clid was consistently targeted and forced out the game, exposing the aggressive Bdd to counter-attack.
In the match-up, for all T1’s flaws, they still hold an edge over Gen.G simply due to historical pressure. In 2020, Gen.G are 2-9 against T1 in maps won, and 0-4 in matches. Much of it is centered around Clid, who for some reason cannot perform to his usual level against T1. However, if T1 elects to field El-lim “Ellim” Choi as jungler over regular starter Woo-chan “Cuzz” Moon, then this may give Gen.G the edge they’ve needed this year. Otherwise, expect the jungle dominance from Cuzz to give first blood, first tower and first drake all to T1.
The LCK holds two matches daily from Wednesday to Sunday. kt Rolster plays SANDBOX Gaming at 10 a.m. CET on Saturday, July 18. Later that same day, T1 takes on Gen.G at 1 p.m. CET. The English broadcast is available on the LCK Twitch and LCK Global YouTube channels. For viewers looking to increase the stakes for these matches, betting is available on Thunderpick.
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