LCK Match of the Week: Samsung Galaxy vs. Afreeca Freecs
Every week, I'm going to cover one LCK match that stands out, either because the match just had very high quality play, an interesting team comp or strategy being used. This week, it's a little bit of both, as we look at Samsung Galaxy taking on the Afreeca Freecs.
Top - Lee "CuVee" Seong-jin
Mid - Lee "Crown" Min-ho
ADC - Park "Ruler" Jae-hyuk
Support - Jo "Core JJ" Yong-in
Top - Jang "MaRin" Gyeong-hwan
Jungle - Lee "Spirit" Da-yoon
Mid - Lee "Kuro" Seo-haeng
ADC - Ha "Kramer" Jong-hun
Support - Park "TusiN" Jong-ik
Samsung Galaxy was a team that wasn't considered to be top-three in Korea for last year's summer split. After a convincing loss to KT in the summer playoffs, it was assumed KT would be grabbing the third spot to represent Korea at the world championship. Samsung surprisingly took a close 3-2 series to grab that third seed for Korea, and went on to have a great run at Worlds, taking SKT to five games in the final. With great results, the team retained all of it's members, but added on Haru as a second jungler to the team.
Afreeca Freecs had a pretty interesting summer split, where they managed to 2-0 SKT on both occasions when the teams met. However, Afreeca finished the regular split with an 8-10 record in fifth place. The team lost to Samsung in the first round of both the summer playoffs and the regional qualifier. Looking to make some changes, Afreeca took full advantage of the offseason. They acquired veterans MaRin and Spirit, who were among the many Korean talents returning from overseas. At the same time, a few Korean players were looking for better opportunities, so the team was able to fill out a pretty solid roster looking to get revenge on Samsung for the previous defeats.
Winner: Afreeca Freecs (Blue Side) in 30:27
Bans in order:
Afreeca - Kha'Zix/Zyra/Jayce/Karma/Lee Sin
Samsung - LeBlanc/Camille/Rengar/Rumble/Elise
Picks in order:
Afreeca - Malzahar/Cassiopeia/Varus/Olaf/Kennen
Samsung - Ryze/Ashe/Maokai/Rek'Sai/Taric
Looking at the drafts, we see neither team grabbed a jungler until the second pick phase, resulting in them defaulting to Rek'Sai and Olaf. Samsung secured the Maokai pick in the first phase for their top lane, whereas Afreeca first picked Malzahar for TusiN. Taric is one of the responses we've seen to Malzahar, as a well-timed ultimate from Taric is able to nullify the damage a target would take during the lock-down. The most interesting part of this draft is Afreeca giving MaRin Kennen to go up against CuVee's Maokai. Here, we're looking at two teams with very heavy cc compositions with a scaling advantage going to Samsung due to the excellent late games of Maokai and Ryze, but a much stronger early game in Samsung with Cass, Olaf and Kennen all spiking much earlier than their counterparts.
Right off the bat, we saw some action with Spirit setting up shop in Ambition's jungle. Olaf's strong level one allowed Spirit to push Ambition's Rek'Sai out; he was only able to take a single small raptor before having to head over to his bottom jungle. A look at the top lane shows a large wave pushing into CuVee's Maokai as MaRin on Kennen was up to 11 minions by the time CuVee was able to grab a single one after already using a charge of his flask. Jump down to the bottom lane, and stepping a bit too forward resulted in Afreeca's bottom lane getting Ruler's Ashe down to half HP and forcing the supports to trade exhausts to end the fight. In the mid lane, Kuro overstepped his boundaries, attempting to all-in Crown's Ryze, who had lost both summoners at level one, but Kuro ran out of mana. Kuro underestimated Crown's damage and didn't use cleanse on Rune Prison, resulting in him having to burn his flash. At three minutes in, we already had some extreme pressure from Afreeca, with Crown getting the only advantage for Samsung in the mid lane.
The game slowed down a bit for a few minutes, as the bot lanes and junglers farmed up while Kennen continued to zone Maokai off of as much farm as he could. Ambition was spotted in the bottom river looking to make his way into enemy territory for some counter-jungling. Spirit used this information to go straight up to the top lane and gank a wardless overextended Maokai, resulting in CuVee's flash being burned, as well as first blood for MaRin.
By the time Maokai made his way back to lane, he was down a kill and 36 CS to Kennen. With the mixed damage and AD Kennen was putting out, there wasn't any item breakpoint in the near future that was going to get Maokai back into this lane. By 11:15, MaRin secured first tower, and was up 40 CS over CuVee. Right as this happened, a flash ult from Malzahar onto Taric allowed Olaf and Varus to burn him down before his ultimate was able to activate, resulting in another kill for Afreeca and burning three-fourths of Samsung's bottom lane summoners. Samsung used the timing of Afreeca's recalls to secure themselves the mountain drake, as the game stalled out for the next few minutes.
Rek'Sai was spotted clearing a control ward, and got hit by an ax from Olaf. As both top laners begin to channel their teleports, Samsung attempted to disengage, hitting an arrow on Malzhar to delay the ultimate, and immediately popping the Taric ultimate. Ambition, knowing he didn't have a way out, went in to take out TusIN as soon as he was out of the Malzahar ultimate. Spirit stayed headstrong, keeping Samsung as slowed up as he could until MaRin was able to arrive and start to clean house as Spirit's Olaf was taken down. Both mid laners showed up a bit too late to the party to have any impact, and while defending their turret, MaRin flashed as CuVee used Twisted Advance to drag the Maokai away from Ryze and into the Afreeca team. Another kill for Afreeca resulted in a four-for-two trade in favor of them overall.
Attempting to get dragon vision with their mid laner in base resulted in Samsung being collapsed on by Kuro, who gave Ambition his second death of the game, while Afreeca went on to get the infernal drake, which greatly helped their heavy damage solo laners continue to snowball. Afreeca traded their bottom lane outer tower to take down Samsung's mid lane outer tower, which allowed them to set up vision and a death bush in Samsung's top jungle. A pick onto Core JJ allowed Afreeca to bait Baron, and catch Crown and Ambition face-checking, resulting in a kill onto Crown. Using Malzahar and Kennen to zone out Samsung, Afreeca took Baron while sacrificing Kennen, but this was all they needed to grab themselves a couple more towers.
As Samsung attempted to get their lanes cleaned up and get some defensive vision out, Spirit took the ocean drake for Afreeca. Afreeca set up a four-man siege in the top lane to pressure Samsung's last remaining inner tower, while MaRin used his heavy attack speed Kennen build to pressure the bottom lane. MaRin was able to take out the inhibitor turret before Samsung responded with Ryze ulting behind him. Despite Ashe joining in on the party, MaRin was able to flash into Samsung's jungle and make his narrow escape, while Afreeca finished off the top lane tower, advancing their gold lead to 11,400.
With Afreeca committing to the Baron, TusIN flashed out of the pit to lock down Ambition while the other three members of Afreeca secured the Baron. Meanwhile, Ryze and Maokai found themselves getting 1v2'd by MaRin's Kennen, who was just out of control at this point. MaRin went back to base and teleported to join up with the rest of his team as they marched through Samsung's base, giving Afreeca a 1-0 lead in the series.
Looking to game two, Samsung was going to need to either ban out Kennen or find a way to neutralize the pick in the early game. Afreeca would look to keep up a similar level of early game pressure to set themselves up for another successful mid-late game.
Winner: Samsung Galaxy (Blue Side) in 42:12
Bans in order:
Samsung - Malzahar/Varus/Ryze/Elise/Olaf
Afreeca - Camille/Rengar/LeBlanc/Kha'Zix/Lee Sin
Picks in order:
Samsung - Ashe/Zyra/Maokai/Taliyah/Graves
Afreeca - Jayce/Ziggs/Miss Fortune/Rek'Sai/Kennen
This draft showed a some very nice adaptations from Samsung. With Afreeca being forced to ban the three standard red side bans, Samsung used their early ban freedom to ban out the bottom lane champions Afreeca previously used. They were also no longer interested in the Ryze pick, as their draft was about retaining their power picks for ADC and top, while just adding more early game power in their jungle and mid picks. With neither of the top two ADC picks being available, Kramer went to the new sensation of bottom lane Ziggs, while TusIN grabbed the Miss Fortune to counter the Zyra pick. We're looking at Afreeca running another high damage composition, but lacking a lot of the cc they had in the previous game, while Samsung retained a very well balanced team.
The early game was fairly tame this time around; while Afreeca put some pressure on Samsung's jungle, no real advantages were gained from their efforts. At four minutes, Spirit really forced a gank in the mid lane where Crown was already within his tower range. Spirit landed the flash knockup onto Crown, but Crown was still able to flash out of Kuro's shock blast in time and knock Spirit further under his tower, turning the gank around to get first blood. Shortly after, MaRin was playing as aggressively as he did in the previous game, but this time, he got punished for it. Haru made his way through Afreeca's jungle, and following up on CuVee's flash engage, got his top laner a kill. Haru farmed up his top side jungle before immediately returning to the top lane, where he burned MaRin's flash and got himself a kill this time.
There wasn't too much action following this until around the 10 minute mark when TusIN caught Core JJ with MF's ultimate, followed by the Ziggs ultimate coming out, forcing Core JJ's flash and Ruler's heal. After this, Samsung intelligently took advantage of multiple Afreeca members recalling around the same time to take the infernal drake to boost their lead. The lanes continued to go pretty evenly and it seemed the early pressure from Haru really stopped MaRin's Kennen from taking over the lane again.
At 16:00, another gank from Haru burned MaRin's flash and got his team the first tower up in the top lane. As this happened, Crown made an excellent roam, blocking off three members of Afreeca with his ultimate and disrupting Ziggs's satchel charge to get himself a kill. Samsung, with all that pressure, took the bottom lane tower and grabbed a second infernal drake, with the team now sitting over 3,000 gold ahead of the opposition. Afterwards, Crown got caught trying to roam top and help CuVee in a fight against MaRin. Kuro and Spirit collapsed on Crown, getting a kill while MaRin handled business against the Maokai once again, getting himself his first kill of the game. Afreeca was able to use the man advantage to bring their bot lane mid and have Ziggs blow up the outer tower, getting them their first tower of the game and shortening Samsung's gold lead to only 1,000.
Afreeca was keeping the gold under control, but their map pressure was still lacking a lot. This allowed Samsung to take a third infernal drake completely uncontested at 23 minutes. Not much later, Samsung took down the third and final outer tower in the mid lane. We then saw MaRin attempt to all-in CuVee, but this time, he just didn't have the damage to get the job done, as CuVee's Maokai walked out of the fight just fine. At this point, Afreeca desperately needed to start getting some picks if they wanted to be able to pressure any lanes before they got out-scaled.
Afreeca actually did get a nice kill onto Haru, as well as the bottom outer tower and managed to pretty much erase the gold lead. This didn't matter too much for Samsung, who still had all of the vision control for the entire game at this point. Samsung was able to cleanly grab a Baron, despite Afreeca being nearby; Samsung's vision denial made it too risky for Afreeca to really commit. Samsung got a pick on MaRin and used the Baron very well, getting a tower in each lane and putting themselves in a great position to end the game going forward. Afreeca lacked the cc to get picks, and without a gold lead, they found themselves really unable to take any fights.
From here, Samsung was pretty much on autopilot. Samsung got a few picks here and there as they grabbed themselves another Baron and were able to open up Afreeca's base. Afreeca drafted themselves a team comp that really relied on winning lane, and with Samsung having a stronger jungler in the early game, as well as some slick outplays in lane, Afreeca was unable to meet their win conditions in time. Samsung played a very slow and controlled late game, but it was very effective as they didn't give up a single kill for the last 17 minutes of the game. A third Baron was all Samsung needed to push on through and tie the series up 1-1.
Going onto game three, it seemed like Samsung found a pretty well balanced team composition, with decent scaling but not sacrificing too much in the early game. Afreeca was either going to need some late game insurance or craft a stronger early game to snowball another victory and take the series.
Winner: Afreeca Freecs (Blue Side) in 35:16
Bans in order:
Afreeca - Kha'Zix/Zyra/Jayce/Elise/Karma
Samsung - Camille/Rengar/LeBlanc/Cassiopeia/Maokai
Picks in order:
Afreeca - Malzahar/Varus/Olaf/Orianna/Rumble
Samsung - Ashe/Kennen/Ryze/Lee Sin/Taric
Both teams kept the same three first bans from game one, and Afreeca once again first-picked Malzahar. Instead of drafting Ryze and Ashe, Samsung opted to take Kennen with the Ashe, so without the mid lane pick being locked in, Afreeca didn't take their mid laner and stuck with the Varus pick, but grabbed Olaf instead. This allowed Samsung to take Ryze, and then ban Cass before Afreeca was able to pick it. This didn't seem to be a problem as Kuro is perfectly fine with Orianna, which also gave Afreeca a very solid late game pick. While they took away Kennen from MaRin, he seemed to have no issue picking Rumble into the matchup. Samsung no longer had a vastly superior late game, and this time around, it was going to be pretty difficult for whoever is behind in the mid game to actually mount a comeback. Both teams had great pick potential, but the 5v5 fights could really go either way. Let's see how the teams approached the game with that in mind.
An early roam from Crown's Ryze at three minutes was able to pick up first blood for CuVee, who was hoping to leverage Kennen's pressure the same way MaRin did in game one. Importantly, CuVee was going for a more standard AP Kennen build, against MaRin's attack speed/on-hit build that had so much lane pressure. Samsung tried to set up a play in the mid lane, but Afreeca was well aware of this and ended up chasing down three members of Samsung, resulting in a three-for-one trade in favor of Afreeca. Despite a few picks here and there, we didn't see any lanes really start to pull too far ahead. Samsung was able to get Afreeca's bottom tower pretty low, and they decided to force it for first turret gold. This is where things got interesting.
Samsung attempted to fight Afreeca, but after a very underwhelming Kennen ultimate, had to get out as quickly as possible. Afreeca was able to chase down three members and get themselves Samsung's bottom tower, making the count even. This time around, it was Afreeca's superior vision control that allowed them to take an uncontested mountain drake, and roam around through Samsung's jungle, continuing to pressure mid and bot at the same time.
Samsung had three towers sitting on very low health and things were not looking good. Samsung found a pick in the bottom lane on MaRin that didn't really amount to much, but they knew they needed to make something happen. Realizing that Afreeca wouldn't be able to stop them, Samsung rushed down Baron and attempted to make their escape. Afreeca's team was able to take down every Samsung member, with the exception of Haru, who held the only remaining Baron buff for the Samsung team. If they were going to start a comeback, Samsung needed to make some use of the one Baron buff they had left.
Despite the brilliant attempt, the Baron buff didn't amount to anything for Samsung. The kills that followed the attempt gave Afreeca a ton of map pressure, which allowed them to finish off all three of Samsung's inner turrets. From here, we saw a few close calls, but no kills until MaRin was able to catch out CuVee's Kennen and bring him down in the 1v1. While Crown attempted to get a return kill chasing down the Rumble, MaRin made his escape while his team secured themselves a Baron.
From here, Afreeca just brute-forced two inhibitors down as Samsung was unable to do much. In a final attempt to save the game, Samsung lost a few members, which allowed a Baron-buffed Afreeca to burn down the nexus for the third blue side victory of the series, and Afreeca taking it 2-1.
This series showed some very interesting picks, as well as teams showing some very solid macro play when they had a lead in the late game. While they may need to work on playing from behind, both teams played a very controlled late game that is key for any top tier team. MaRin's on-hit Kennen build showed that with a lead it could bully out Maokai, and even get to a point where two members couldn't stop him. TusIN also showed us exactly what you want to see from a Malzahar support. His ults worked as both excellent engages, and even very smart lockdown to help his team secure Baron.
This series showed five different mid lane picks that all certainly have a spot in the current meta. The teams had some very smart drafting, as I liked seeing the third pick from red side be a different role than what the enemy has picked so far and then banning out the counters. We saw this with the Ryze pick followed by a Cass ban in game three, and the Maokai pick followed by a Rumble ban in game one. This was certainly an excellent showing from both of these teams, and it will be interesting to see how they matchup against the powerhouses of SKT and KT.
Photo credits: OGN