Rift Rivals saw Korea cement themselves at the top of Asian League once again. Showing off a mix of their old guard and their future stars, they triumphed over their long-time rivals China in a dominant display on home soil.
Returning back to the domestic leagues saw some teams rise, and some favorites fall. Heading into the second round robin, every series is crucial for securing championship points and a shot at Worlds.
|5)||SK Telecom T1||19|
|9)||Hanwha Life Esports||6|
|10)||Jin Air Green Wings||3|
Where will things stand heading into the final stretch? Let’s find out.
Fighting for survival: Gen.G, KT Rolster, Hanwha Life, Jin Air
There’s a clear gap between these four teams and the rest of the LCK. While everyone above them has a chance of getting one of the coveted Worlds spots, for Gen.G, KT Rolster, Hanwha Life, and Jin Air, international events are but a pipe dream in 2019.
Gen.G has shown the most promising signs out of these bottom four teams. They took down Griffin last week in a surprising 2-0, where they abused the weaknesses of the rookie team and punished them across the map. There’s still some strong decision-makers on this roster, especially Park “Ruler” Jae-hyuk, but sadly the rest of the map has looked wildly inconsistent.
KT Rolster, on paper, looked promising too. Bringing back Kim “PraY” Jong-in from retirement, there was hope that this roster of veterans would be able to assemble one last push to the top. What we’ve seen instead is a team in shambles, without any sort of identity, who have been mechanically outclassed by the younger generation.
Then there’s Hanwha Life and Jin Air. Both of these teams are in massively deep holes that stem well past player talent. There’s nothing more to be said of either team other than the LCK promotion tournament is imminent, and any chance of salvaging this season of LCK has been snuffed out.
Old dogs, new tricks: Kingzone, SKT, Afreeca
Bringing up the rear end of the gauntlet spots in the LCK isn’t the rookies now—it’s the veterans they’ve overtaken. Kingzone, SKT, and Afreeca are all storied teams brimming with talent, but they are stumbling just one step behind the young guns of Korea’s future.
That doesn’t mean they are playing woefully. Kingzone and SKT were a part of Korea’s successful Rift Rivals campaign, bringing one more trophy home to the cabinet at LoL Park. Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok is peaking at just the right time for SKT, while Kim “Deft” Hyuk-kyu played like a man possessed at Rift Rivals.
Afreeca have looked decent domestically too. Having Kim “Aiming” Ha-ram consistently starting for the team is paying off, and the young roster is finding their footing in the LCK. Led by Kim “Kiin” Gi-in and Son “Ucal” Woo-hyeon, Afreeca have a good chance of making the gauntlet after a disappointing Summer split.
They have started to adapt to the new style of play too. The pace of League has dramatically picked up in the last two years, with the late-game vision-based meta long gone. Players like Park “Teddy” Jin-seong and Moon “Cuzz” Woo-chan have brought those new tricks to these rosters, and that mixture of experience and freshness are moving these teams forward.
A bright future: Griffin, Damwon, Sandbox
The real future of Korean League of Legends lies in these three teams though. Griffin, Damwon, and Sandbox all sit atop of the LCK standings right now, and on top of our power rankings too. There’s a good reason for this—after Korea’s decline at international events, these teams have brought the adaptations needed to bring Korea back to the top.
You’ve got the hyper-aggressive lane kingdom superstars like Jang “Nuguri” Ha-gwon for Damwon, or Jeong “Chovy” Ji-hoon for Griffin. In the jungle, Kim “OnFleek” Jang-gyeom and Lee “Tarzan” Seung-yong are always capitalizing on mistakes and keeping the pace of the game high.
They can play slow and methodical, although all three teams struggle in this style of play against the likes of SKT and Kingzone. They lack some teamfight coordination, but they’ve got the tools to help them fine-tune their plans heading into the rest of this split.
The talent on these teams is there, and with a bit more experience, they will become the strongest rosters ever assembled in Korea. These three teams are the powerhouses of the LCK currently and are soon to become the leaders of League globally.
LCK returns on July 18 with Sandbox taking on Gen.G.