There are only two weeks left in the 2021 LCK Spring Split. If you can recall the beginning of the spring, the LCK was a highly unstable league. Teams were shifting up and down our power rankings dramatically on a week-by-week basis. Then, things started to calm down and it looked like Korea was one of the most dependable and predictable regions in professional League of Legends.
But at the last possible moment, the bottom half of the LCK decided to collectively wake up and throw every ounce of effort it had at the league’s top teams. Now, the playoff waters have become muddier than ever with little time left at all to figure things out.
One final playoff spot remains open for the taking and five teams are still eligible to claim it before the split comes to a close. But even beyond which squads are actually going to be in the running for the LCK title, the final two weeks of the Spring Split will mostly determine where those squads will be placed in the postseason bracket.
This week, several high-priority matches should steal the spotlight, especially in regard to the playoff picture. As things reshape one final time, we made an honest attempt at giving structure to the chaotic LCK playoff race.
Here are our LCK power rankings heading into week nine of the 2021 LCK Spring Split.
Last seed longshots: Fredit BRION, Afreeca Freecs
This time last week, we were talking about Afreeca’s potential run to the playoffs. Now, we’re wondering how a team with such a solid roster managed to fall down the LCK ladder so quickly. How is a team filled with proven LCK veterans such as Kiin, Bang, and Lehends—most of whom have found extensive international success—able to fall so short so fast? Apparently overnight, Afreeca Freecs went from a team on the bubble to one of the worst in the league.
Of course, the unstable nature of the LCK’s bottom half could warrant a comeback for Afreeca, but the hole that the team has dug itself might be too deep. Two of their final three opponents include playoff contenders Liiv Sandbox and Nongshim RedForce. If Afreeca can claw out victories in those matches, while potentially upsetting T1 as well, they might just be able to secure a playoff spot. But the odds are certainly stacked against them.
As for Fredit BRION, the future isn’t entirely bleak. While the team has been immensely inconsistent since day one, the final three games of the split could present BRION with a fortunate situation. Matches against Liiv Sandbox, Nongshim RedForce, and Hanwha Life Esports could actually be winnable games for a team that’s proven they can beat anyone—even DWG—on a good day.
We’d still bet against BRION’s chances when much more qualified and proven teams are standing right there, but with how unpredictable the bottom half of the LCK has been over the span of the last two weeks, a Fredit BRION playoff appearance wouldn’t even be surprising at this point.
On the cusp: KT Rolster, Nongshim RedForce, Liiv Sandbox
KT Rolster stood out as a potential favorite to lock up the LCK’s final playoff spot just a few weeks ago, but four crippling losses in a row have caused them to fall out of favor in comparison to some of the league’s other back-end contenders. Tough losses to T1 and Sandbox—two teams that KT had beaten during the Spring Split’s first round robin—were bad omens of things to come.
Now, with four games left on the schedule, the window of opportunity is tightening for a KT team that needs a practical metric ton of good things to happen in an immensely short amount of time. Three of KT’s final four matchups on the Spring Split include matches with Gen.G, Hanwha Life, and DWG. If KT want to make it into the playoffs, they’ll have to prove they belong in the same conversation as the LCK’s best teams.
KT’s rough outlook paves the way for other squads to eke their way into the back end of the Spring Split playoffs, though—namely Nongshim RedForce and Liiv Sandbox, who both have fairly soft schedules moving into the final two weeks of the split. Both teams will have an opportunity to capitalize on a matchup with last-place Afreeca at some point in their final three games. Additionally, Nongshim will go head-to-head with KT Rolster on the second-to-last day of the Spring Split. Whoever wins that match could make the race for the sixth seed a lot more clear-cut.
The playoff field: Gen.G, Hanwha Life, DRX, T1
With two weeks left on the board, the LCK can be easily divided into two divisions of teams: those that are in the playoffs and those that are out. These four teams are safely in the playoffs but have yet to have their seeding determined. Only DWG have their seed locked in for the playoffs. But the next two weeks will determine exactly where these squads end up.
If there’s going to be any team in this tier to keep an eye on as the Spring Split winds down, it’s DRX. They came into the 2021 season as a wild underdog but have since emerged as a top-half contender with the potential to burst into the upper echelon of the LCK. Of course, teams like Gen.G and DWG have kept the gates to that upper echelon shut throughout the entire season. But over the span of the next two weeks, DRX will have the chance to dethrone both of those teams directly. If the squad full of young guns and potential superstars can end the Spring Split with an unrivaled pair of statement games, they could easily walk into the playoffs as potential postseason heartthrobs.
One of those teams waiting to cut DRX down, though, is Gen.G. The squad that’s sat in a comfortable position of “second-best” since the beginning of 2021 has suddenly found the rest of the LCK breathing down its neck. Gen.G are tied for second alongside Hanwha Life, while DRX are just one game back of a share of that tie. Gen.G’s main goal as the split comes to a close should be proving to the rest of the league that they’re still the main foil to DWG. Taking down DWG in the first match of week nine would certainly be a much-appreciated piece of supporting evidence for Gen.G’s claim. A winning result for Gen.G still won’t have much of an impact on the race for first place, though, considering it’s entirely wrapped up.
Clinched: DWG KIA
Last week, DWG solidified their place at the top of the LCK by securing first place in the Spring Split. Right now, it doesn’t look like anyone is going to be able to catch DWG before the LCK wraps up. While teams like Gen.G, Hanwha Life, and even T1 have taken the defending world champions to a decisive third game at some point in the split, DWG have always found a way to come roaring back. And with much of the Korean competition proving time and again that it’s falling short of each mark that DWG sets, the conversation will soon move toward foreign teams and whether they can put a dent in DWG’s quest for consecutive international titles.
If DWG can win their final three matches of the year, the team can eclipse last summer’s unreal record of match 16-2 and finish this spring 17-1. Mind you, DWG have already lost more individual games than they did last summer, but matches mean everything in the LCK.
DWG can theoretically lose every game between now and the playoffs and still waltz into the postseason bracket as the top seed in the LCK. At this point, the only mark they’re chasing is history. A chance to surpass the most dominant mark in the organization’s history and in the league’s history would be groundbreaking. A Korean team hasn’t won 17 of 18 games in a split since the 2015 Summer Split. Back then, it was SK Telecom T1 who accomplished the feat. And that team went on to win the World Championship later that season.
To achieve near perfection, DWG will have to take down a formidable slate of teams that includes Gen.G, DRX, and KT Rolster. Additionally, if DWG win out, Fredit BRION would go down as the only team to beat them this split. If nothing else, that would be a great trivia question down the line.
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