The stage is set for the League of Legends World Championship final, and the home nations of the teams competing in it are in some way no surprise: The 2015 World Champion will feature two Korean teams after KOO Tigers beat Europe’s champions Fnatic in a clean 3-0 sweep today.
In many ways today’s series mirrored the shellacking SK Telecom T1 applied to European side Origen in the other semifinal yesterday. After a close first game where the Europeans built a lead and came close to taking down the Koreans, the next game was not as close with the final match, simply put, a blowout. For Origen, that’s what most expected against Korea’s top team SK Telecom T1. But many believed Fnatic, a team that dominated all European foes throughout the Summer season, including Origen, would fare better against KOO Tigers.
Sadly for the home crowd in Brussels, Belgium, that wasn’t the case.
Fnatic put up a fight in a game one where they lead for most of the game but couldn’t close it out and then nearly turned game two on its head with a miracle comeback, but it wasn’t to be for the European side. The final game was an afterthought.
The opening row showcased what this series should have been: A close tactical series filled with great individual play and plenty of action. It featured interesting team compositions and new champion picks in Nautilus and Zac. Fnatic chose an early game focused strategy featuring three Ignites, bucking the teleport meta. Both teams put together teams that looked to fight, with KOO Tigers slanting more towards the late game with solo lane weapons Riven and Kassadin. Fantic executed their early game strategy to build a commanding gold lead, reaching nearly 5k through 15 minutes. But in many ways, all those best laid plays mattered little once the teams started smashing into each other.
This was a bloodbath featuring 43 kills in a 43 minute match. Both teams clashed in team fight after team fight, eking out close wins on the back of individual plays and small mistakes.
After scoring first blood, something they’ve done at every game in the tournament up to that point, Fnatic built a big lead. But KOO Tigers managed to claw it back after Fnatic pushed for an ill-fated five-on-five dive in the bottom lane. Eventually the Koreans managed to take down two inhibitors after some more battles, but Fnatic angled for a comeback with a brilliant engage in the Baron pit.
But that wasn’t enough. Fnatic could only use that buff to defend against two lanes of pushing super minions. And with a mid game strategy that sacrificed every single dragon, the timer on another decisive fight soon came up. At the 42 minute mark, Fnatic defended against KOO Tigers securing the fifth dragon, and while they managed to take it, the resulting fight was a disaster.
Kassadin scored the quadra kill to end the first match with an exclamation point.
The next game revolved around a key pick for KOO Tigers: Lee “KurO” Seo-haeng’s Veigar in the mid lane. While Song “Smeb” Kyung-ho’s top lane Fiora was as dazzling as ever, it was Veigar that controlled the pace of the game. Initatiations revolved around whether his Event Horizon stun was up or whether it hit a target. Team fights were decided on whether Veigar one-shot a Fnatic carry or if the Europeans kept him from making an impact. The Veigar pick shut down Fnatic’s ability to score picks with their jungle selection Skarner.
While Fnatic nearly pulled off an incredible comeback, evening the gold and taking a Baron after losing all three of their inhibitors, KurO simply executed Fabian “Febiven” Diepstraten to start a fight. The Tigers quickly ended the game.
The final match is barely worth mentioning. While Fnatic scored farm leads early, KOO Tigers simply decimated them across the map. Smeb posted a 9/1/7 KDA with Hecarim, embarrassing his counterpart Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon, who went 0/8/5 with his Riven.
Player of the Series: Song “Smeb” Kyung-ho, 22/7/31 KDA, 757 DPM
“The most important point happened in the first game when Smeb won his lane against Huni,” support player Kang “GorillA” Beom-hyeon said in his post-game interview.
The most anticipated matchup of the series was Smeb, KOO Tigers’ shot caller and MVP so far at the tournament, against Fnatic’s effervescent young star Huni. And Smeb owned him.
In game one, Huni got a chance to counter-pick against Smeb’s Riven, and he shone, ending the game with a 10/5/11 KDA. In game two, Fnatic left open Fiora and his ability to split push left Fnatic wanting. Then in the final game, Smeb picked the Hecarim counter to Riven that Huni did in the first and dominated the matchup from the other side.
Over the course of the series Smeb dealt 31 percent of his team’s damage. Not only was he important as a carry in team fights, he was the lynchpin of his team’s success. In games one and two, where he received next to no jungle pressure, he still managed to outplay his opponents, giving his team the big advantage they needed to eventually win games.
When KOO Tigers faces SK Telecom T1 in the finals next week, much will be made about the performance of mid laner Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok on SKT. But the real key matchup of the series will be just how Smeb performs against Jang “MaRin” Gyeong-hwan. The only way KOO Tigers wins is if Smeb gets the better of SKT’s own top lane shot caller. If his performance the past two weeks are any indication, he has that ability in him.
Play of the Series: Smeb wins a 3v1
In the third game, Smeb’s Hecarim made the match a living nightmare for Huni’s Riven. After securing a solo kill on Huni earlier in the game, Fnatic knew they needed to make sure Smeb did not get out of control, especially while running a team composition that feature Huni as their primary damage.
Little did they know they were already too late.
Despite a three-on-one matchup, with Fnatic jungler Kim “Reignover” Yeu-jin and support player Bora “YellOwStaR” Kim attacking alongside Huni, Smeb came out of the gank not only alive, but with a kill to his name.
That play showcased the dominance of Smeb through this series. His ability to positively impact the game for his team cannot be overstated.
The KOO Tigers victory sets them up for a final series against SK Telecom T1 on Saturday Oct. 31 at 8AM EST in Berlin. The Korean champions SKT will try to become the first team to win a World Championship without dropping a game, entering the series as a heavy favorite. In the Champions Spring final, KOO faced SKT and lost in a 3-0 sweep, a fate that befell the Summer finalists KT Rolster as well. Whether this time the Korean challenger will do better against Korea’s best team remains to be seen, but KOO Tigers has shown they have the weapons to make it a series. Otherwise, we’ll be crowning the most dominant team in the history of League of Legends.
The 2015 League of Legends season has one series left, and today KOO Tigers earned the right play it.