EDward Gaming claim MSI crown by toppling titans SK Telecom T1
It was the final everyone wanted to see when the world’s best League of Legends teams headed to Tallahassee, FL for the Mid-Season Invitational: China vs. Korea. And it did not disappoint.
EDward Gaming claimed the crown by beating SK Telecom T1 in a close 3-2 series where they had to overcome everything the Koreans could throw at them—including the most feared player in the game on his most feared champion.
The pride of China was EDward's back and they carried it to glory—primarily on the back of jungler Ming "Clearlove" Kai, who turned in an MVP performance. The team won as five though, with every team member showing their dominance throughout the series. But it certainly wasn't easy.
Game one the Korean mega giant SK Telecom T1 came out with guns blazing. The team opted to start with substitute mid laner Lee "Easyhoon" Ji-hoon, known for his safe mid lane play, and he dominated on Cassiopeia, showing that even though he's second billing to Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok, he's still world class.The most interesting pick of the game was SK Telecom’s jungler Bae "bengi" Seong-un who picked Gragas, a champion he’s never played this year despite its prominence in the meta. EDward Gaming targetted him with bans, but he responded by dominating the game with aggressive ganking and fantastic map control. Like Easyhoon, marksman Bae "Bang" Jun-sik played his famous Kalista and put together a great game, helping the Koreans secure a lead.
Game two was a different story. The pick and ban phase of EDward Gaming looked like a completely different animal, as they banned out SKT's bottom lane of Kalista and Alistar. Then they used their first pick to take Easyhoon's Cassiopeia, giving it to their own mid laner Heo "PawN" Won-seok. They backed that up with Kim "Deft" Hyuk-kyu’s signature champion Jinx, the most dangerous weapon of the world's top AD carry.
On the back PawN, Deft, and Tian "meiko" Ye, the Chinese team stomped SK Telecom in convincing fashion. The game ended in 31-13 kills in favor of EDward Gaming and Deft, who played phenomenally on his comfort pick. The series was now tied and game three was only shortly around the corner.Game three was another EDward Gaming romp, but this time with PawN’s Azir leading the charge. With constant pressure and fantastic team play from EDward Gaming, they took down SK Telecom in a convincing fashion. They had seemingly figured out SKT's composition, handing Easyhoon his second loss and forcing the Korean team to make a move.
It was the moment the fans were waiting for: SK Telecom summoned superstar mid laner Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok for game four. The legendary mid laner had already saved his team multiple times on the road to MSI in the Champions playoffs. What's one more series? Bang pulled out the Korean signature AD carry, Ezreal, and coupled with Faker’s Kassadin, the team bounced back and took down EDward Gaming, sending the series into a decisive fifth game.
With a roaring crowd of nearly 12,000 people, the final game was monumental—the winning team would place their region at all League of Legends.
It wasn't the first time SK Telecom had been brought to five games in this tourney. European giants Fnatic nearly eliminated SK Telecom T1 before they pulled out the perfect trump card in game five. But this time, it was EDward Gaming who came prepared.
No team has ever beat Faker's Leblanc, until today. EDward Gaming left the champion open for SK Telecom T1 and the bait proved too juicy to pass up. But the Chinese team was prepared. They instantly locked in Morgana mid lane and Sivir, two champions with spell shields capable of denying Leblancs damage, and surrounded them with Alistar and Maokai, two champions capable of catching Leblanc out. Then they backed it up with Evelynn, historically jungler Clearlove's best champion. It was an odd composition in many ways; Morgana and Evelynn are not meta champions. But they were the perfect picks to win this all-important best-of-one game.
The laning phase opened a bit rough for PawN, but the rest of EDward Gaming pushed down towers as SKT struggled to stop them. In clutch moments, PawN rarely missed a Dark Binding and pinpoint SK Telecom’s marksman Bang repeatedly, denying his Urgot impact in the game.
But SKT hang in there, with Faker harrying the Chinese team at every moment, despite EDward Gaming building a solid lead. Then, with Baron in their sights, it happened: Faker was caught. Tong "Koro1" Yang's Maokai dashed into the mage, securing a kill that signaled the final push as the commentators screamed "Faker's down!"
The crowd lit up and chants of “EDG! EDG!” echoed through the Donald L. Civic Center. EDward Gaming were champions. It’s the first time a team has beaten a Korean squad in a best-of-five series in years, the perfect ending to the most competitive international tournament in quite some time.
Photos by Jacob Wolf