In a League of Legends World Championships full of upsets and surprises, Korea’s KT Rolster is one of the few teams to live up to expectations. The No. 2 seed out of the region were placed in what many considered to be the Group of Death. But despite a shaky start in the opening week, they proved their dominance and secured first place by the end of group stages.
For KT mid laner Kim “Nagne” Sang-moon, that less-than-ideal start was all down to nerves.
“In the first week I was under a lot of pressure,” said Nagne, who many had targeted weak link on the team after a poor showing in the tournament’s opening matches, told the Daily Dot. “I was really nervous because it was my first time at Worlds. So I didn’t do very well in my game against TSM, and that had an effect on the subsequent games, so I didn’t do as well as I would have hoped.”
KT ended the first week at 2-1, a respectable score, but an unexpected loss to Origen left them stranded in second place in the group—and still within range of both TSM and LGD. After a six day break between their games, the team was able to come back and take their remaining games 3-0, including a revenge victory of Origen, to secure first in the group. Ultimately it seems preparation and time to re focus was key for KT.
“While we had a break before the second week I tried to control my mentality and have a calm mindset going into the next set of games” Nagne said. “And I think that worked and we were able to do a lot better”
KT’s group really did seem like the Group of Death. Chinese No. 1 seed LGD were expected to storm the standings and make a statement for the knockout stages, with Origen and KT battling it out for second place. But LGD flopped, only picking up two victories on their way to an early exit. Nagne thinks it was down to communication issues.
“I think the current meta favors laneswaps and a lot of rotations, so it’s quite difficult for LGD who have two Korean players and three Chinese players to communicate properly with each other,” he explained “The meta favors European teams like Origen, for example, and it’s because of that communication problem that teams with less mechanical skill are able to overcome teams with greater mechanical skill in this tournament.”
While Kim Sang-moon was obviously focused on ensuring his team qualified out of the group, a side narrative opened up before the tournament even began. Fans and media built up the story of the mid laners in Group D. Soren “Bjergsen” Bjerg of TSM and Enrique “Xpeke” Cedeño Martínez were both talked about a lot coming into the start of the games. With the former being considered one of the best in the world, and the latter billed as the weak link of his team.
“Before coming to worlds I was really confident that I would be able to defeat the mid laners I would be facing,” Nagne said. “In the first week I was very nervous and I didn’t perform very well at all. In the second week I regained my confidence and by playing with confidence I was able to face them better.”
Bjerg didn’t quite live up to the hype. Despite the Dane’s strong performance, it was only enough to see TSM take one game out of six in the group. Martinez, however proved a lot of people wrong, with a dominating performance in the group stage, something Nagne definitely took note of. “Some people say he’s the weakest link in Origen. But I think while his laning phase might not be the strongest, his contributions in teamfights are really good, so I don’t think he’s weak at all.”
KT Rolster now look ahead to a quarterfinal matchup against fellow countrymen KOO Tigers. As a team topping their group it was arguably the worst draw they could have hoped for. Nagne, however, is confident his team can make it all the way. “As long as we don’t meet SKT in the process I think we have a really good chance of making it to the finals” he said to the Daily Dot shortly before the quarterfinal draws were made. “And as long as I don’t lose my nerves again and play with the confidence I had in week two of the group stage I think I can continue to play better as the tournament goes on.”
KT Rolster and KOO Tigers will be in action on Thursday Oct 15 in the first quarterfinal. The showdown will kick off four days of League of Legends action at the Wembley Arena in London. Eight teams will enter, only four will be headed off to Brussels for the semifinals.
Photo via Riot Games/Flickr
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