Another split of the LCK is set to kick off and the region has some work to do before returning to the international stomping grounds.
After being convinced that the league’s best team was, in fact, also the best team in the world, the LCK was denied the chance at another international trophy last month at the Mid-Season Invitational. Now, Korea as a whole is heading back to the drawing board for another split of regional play to tune up for a chance at the international crown later this year at the World Championship.
The run toward a Worlds repeat is already in sight for DWG KIA, but rest assured, there will be countless competitors on the homefront looking to snatch glory away from them throughout the course of the summer. With that in mind, we asked our League writers to vote on how those competitors stack up halfway through the season.
Here are our LCK power rankings heading into the 2021 Summer Split
|4)||Hanwha Life Esports||21|
Sneaky contenders: Afreeca Freecs, Liiv Sandbox, Fredit Brion
It’s not totally unfair to call the LCK the “deepest” league in the world from top to bottom. All 10 teams have a chance at securing a playoff bid this summer since even the squads that make up its lowest echelon are still relatively competitive. Last split, the entire league was in play for a playoff seed going into the final week of competition and we expect nothing but the same for the LCK this summer.
Teams like Afreeca Freecs, Liiv Sandbox, and Fredit Brion may not be as profoundly strong as the teams at the top of the LCK, but they still have enough talent across their respective lineups to contend throughout the Summer Split. Keep an eye on Afreeca, in particular. Even though the team finished ninth in the spring, any lineup that includes LCK legends like Kiin, Fly, and Dread can’t be kept down for too long.
Playoff hopefuls: Nongshim RedForce, KT Rolster, DRX
Remember how we said that the LCK is the deepest league in the world? Well, that statement couldn’t be more evident than it is in the mid-section of the league. Nongshim, KT Rolster, and DRX are all back-end playoff contenders that we’re expecting to trade blows throughout the course of the Summer Split.
These three teams traded places between the fifth, sixth, and seventh spots in the standings throughout the course of the spring. And by the time the Summer Split comes to a close, it won’t be totally out of the realm of possibility to see them finish in a similar order. Watch out for DRX to find the most success of the three, though, since a promising Spring Split could lead to more success in the summer. Sophomore jungler Pyosik has emerged as the de facto leader of this overnight contender, while the bottom lane duo of Bao and Becca has risen to make up one of the more head-turning lanes in the LCK.
Worlds is on the line: T1, Hanwha Life Esports, Gen.G
This split, it wouldn’t be totally unreasonable to suggest that any one of these three teams could challenge DWG KIA for a chance at the LCK title, either. With more experience and exposure, the LCK’s second-tier contenders could easily rise into the league’s first tier later this summer. But even beyond an LCK title, the region as a whole will receive four seeds at Worlds this year, setting up potential chances for success for each of these teams. We fully expect these three squads to make up the rank and file of LCK representatives attending the World Championship alongside DWG KIA later this year.
We’ve had good feelings about sending Gen.G and DWG KIA to Worlds as the region’s top two seeds for months now. But the idea of also sending a relatively promising Hanwha Life team and a T1 squad that features one of the most exciting young bottom lanes in the league, as well as the greatest mid laner of all time (on what could potentially be his last ride at the World Championship), is downright enticing. Should these teams plus DWG KIA actually end up representing the LCK at Worlds later this year, fans of the region could be treated to the most stacked lineup of Korean talent entering an international event in years.
Still on top: DWG KIA
So DWG KIA aren’t the best team in the world, anymore. Now what?
MSI left DWG KIA with more questions than answers. They now head into a Summer Split where they’re still on top of their region but will be facing an undeniable challenge once international competition rolls back around.
If we’re being frank with ourselves, DWG KIA will need to turn on the jets in the summer if they’re going to repeat as world champions. A 39-10 record in the Spring Split was impressive, sure, but it doesn’t stack up to what’s historically been needed to capture the Summoner’s Cup. Teams that win Worlds haven’t just been dominant, they’ve been historically great. Last year, for example, DWG etched itself into the history books with one of the greatest winning percentages ever seen in professional League (86.5 percent) through the back half of the season. A repeat in 2021 would most likely demand similar levels of greatness.
If there’s any saving grace for DWG KIA fans, it’s that even though the team looked slightly above average at best at MSI, they still came just one game away from capturing an international title. At times, it didn’t even appear as though the team was showcasing 100 percent of their power, and yet, they still came just one game away from glory. This summer, if DWG kick it into high gear (like we all know they can), there’s no reason to believe that they shouldn’t be a strong contender—if not a favorite—for another world championship.
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