One more All-Stars event is behind us, and in retrospect, not much has changed. The Korean team, SKT T1 K, has swept the finals and taken yet another international title. Their opponents never had a chance.
Coming into the finals, one thing was clear. Both teams, SKT and their Chinese opponents, OMG, were on a roll. The semi-final matches were fairly one-sided sweeps.
And while the Chinese team was playing strong with their aggressive style, all eyes were on Korea’s SKT, who struggled earlier this year in their regional league. SKT, who won a $1 million prize at the World Championships last October, seemed back on track as they trucked through the group stage and semi-finals earlier this week.
Photo via SK Telecom/Twitter
Setting the stage for the finals was the final round of the All-Stars Challenge, a fan-driven event where top players around the world competed in special modes of League of Legends, such as Ultra Rapid Fire Mode. The last day was a series of 1v1 and 2v2 duels between these players on the solo-lane map, Howling Fjord.
Team Fire came out to an early lead when their Korean representative, Park “Shy” Sang-myeon, outplayed the Team Ice player with some impressive play on Quinn. Quinn is well-known for being strong during the laning phase of the game, but weak when the game becomes more about massive team-fights. This makes her perfect for one-on-one duels, and Park came out ahead with great decision making.
Ice tied up the match next, after a tense matchup where both players selected Lee Sin as their champions. Yu “Cool” Jia-Jun of Ice proved to be the superior one.
The 2v2 matchup next proved to be the most exciting. Fire fielded a pair of players who were used to a duo lane, while Ice went with two players who were from much more individual positions. Ice aimed at catching Fire by surprise with unconventional picks in the champions Brand and Annie.
The plan worked like a charm—Annie’s massive stun potential, combined with the burst damage of Brand, allowed Ice to isolate and burn down their opponents for a win. The victory tied up the point totals between both times
Which meant that it all came down to the final match, between European mid laner Henrik “Froggen” Hansen and China’s Gao “WeiXiao” Xuecheng.
Hansen’s surprise pick of Yasuo proved too much for Gao to handle. Despite falling behind initially, Hansen’s darting in and out of the fight made it impossible for Gao to land any abilities. This strategy meant that Hansen could stay in lane and gather slightly more experience and gold. As soon as Hansen hit level six, he utilized his ultimate to scare Gao out of lane so that he could take down the turret and win the match.
After the match, Hansen commented on how it felt to have the entire match resting on his shoulders.
“The pressure was definitely on… I had to win.”
With the pregame show over, the two teams who would fight for the $50,000 first prize took to the stage.
Game one started with a bang, when OMG’s star mid laner, Hu “xiyang” Bin, selected to play on the champion Syndra. Armed with deadly orbs and stuns, Syndra is a high-risk champion that requires absolute control to be successful with—and Bin is regarded as one of the best with her in the world.
Initially, it appeared like allowing Bin to play his favorite champ would be a deadly mistake for SKT, especially when OMG’s aggressive style began to overwhelm the Korean team. Bin and his teammates appeared to be everywhere, taking kills whenever possible. What’s worse, Bin was thrashing his lane opponent, Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok, one of the best players in the world.
SKT’s only course of action was to win by weathering the storm. They relentlessly took any advantage they could, staying just slightly ahead in gold through the first 40 minutes.
However, as the late game approached, SKT began using some creative strategies. Feints within feints allowed SKT to set up a perfect fight at the baron pit, where SKT blew up OMG and killed every member of the Chinese team.
Now firmly in the lead, SKT took the game with ease. The OMG players looked devastated—how could they lose, even on their favorite champions?
The next two games didn’t go any better for OMG. In game 2, SKT executed a unique strategy using a duo lane combination of Zilean, the Chronokeeper, and Twitch, the Plague Rat. Twitch’s deadly arsenal, boosted by speed bursts from Zilean, proved overpowering against OMG. With Lee manning Twisted Fate, another champion who, like Syndra, requires phenomenal control to be successful with, SKT took another victory.
The final game between the two teams proved just how dominant SKT can be when playing their best. The match, which lasted just over twenty minutes, was an absolute stomp that saw OMG only get 4 kills, to SKT’s 25.
Lee, who had been steadily improving over the three-game set, ended the final game with 7 kills, 9 assists, and only a single death. And he did it using Syndra, his opponent’s favorite champion.
Once again, SKT has taken an international title. The team, which faltered a bit in the Korean leagues earlier this year, is clearly back on track.
And for the rest of the regions, it’ll be back to the drawing board for how to win an international competition against one of the best teams in the history of esports. All eyes now turn to the World Championships this fall, where they’ll get another shot.