This 2017 Worlds story is brought to you by Predator.
2017 was the year of redemption for Samsung Galaxy.
After falling to SK Telecom T1 in the finals of last year’s Worlds, Samsung’s singular goal for the year was to beat their Korean rivals. They knew from experience they had the talent, ability, and experience to get back to the final. But overcoming SKT had always been out of their reach.
That goal sharpened their focus all year. No matter how much the world hyped up other potential SKT foes like KT Rolster and Longzhu Gaming, Samsung just bid their time, waiting for their shot. Even after playoff disappointments in both the Spring and Summer Splits, including a 0-3 loss to SKT a few months ago, Samsung remained undeterred.
They were doubted last year when they made the final. Many thought the true final had been contested a round earlier, when SKT downed ROX Tigers in a thrilling five-set match. They were doubted this year, after those playoff losses and some struggles in the group stage. But they also knew a secret about champions, one they had earned with that heartbreaking loss last year. Champions cut through the noise.
Given their second shot at SKT, the mark they’ve been hunting the whole year, Samsung didn’t miss. They didn’t let the noise cloud what was truly important. In the Bird’s Nest stadium, against the best team in the history of League, Samsung found clarity. A clean sweep in the Worlds final completed their redemption and made the champions.
Even more, the team that finally beat SKT will go down in history as legends.
The ambition to continue
This story is most sweet for Samsung jungler Kang “Ambition” Chan-yong. He’s the one that’s carried the most baggage and had to put aside the greatest doubts to make this moment possible. Until now, he was most known highlight was when he served as the unwitting victim of SKT mid laner Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok’s first professional kill.
Faker’s rise directly correlated with Ambition’s fall as a mid laner. Ambition bounced around on the fringes of the LCK for years before converting to jungler. That could have been it—taking on a mechanically easier position could have been the first sign in his inevitable decline. Even Samsung has tried multiple times to replace their veteran jungler.
But Ambition never lost faith or the will to continue. His team keeps crediting his veteran leadership. Under his tutelage, Samsung have mastered the one area of the game that SKT have ruled for years: The late game.
But that still wasn’t enough last year. This time, Ambition had something special. His relentless early game pressure, something the world has never seen from him, turned entire series upside down. His impeccable Jarvan IV play put SKT in a hole and prompted a panicked substitution at jungle, which merely glossed over SKT’s real issues.
Ambition took over the series in a way we’ve never seen until now, and in doing so, created a new highlight—holding the Summoner’s Cup aloft for all to see.
Let the ruler reign
The other position that let Samsung down last year was ADC. Park “Ruler” Jae-hyuk was the worst player on the team, and losing Worlds threw him into a funk. The nadir came in the spring playoffs when KT Rolster relentlessly drafted against him and made his life hell. His lane was the reason why Samsung lost that series.
When the summer meta shifted to heavily prioritize ADC damage, it looked like all hope was lost for Samsung. But again—champions don’t give a damn. Ruler took on the role of carry and started to embrace it. He still loves utility champions like Varus and Ashe, but he also figured out how to play damage-oriented ones. His Xayah was impeccable in the first two games against SKT. He dumpstered Bae “Bang” Jun-sik, handing the SKT ADC the worst series of his career.
Then SKT gave over that Varus in the deciding game, and Ruler made them pay. His flash-ult on Faker was the game-winning play.
That’s not just a game-winner. That’s a championship-winning play. And it came from Samsung’s most doubted player. Let Ruler reign.
Crowned as champions
Samsung did not hide from the fact that they wanted SKT at Worlds. They knew full well the dangers of chasing champions, the pressure that would create. Mid laner Lee “Crown” Min-ho made it very clear what his goal was for Worlds 2017. The last player to leave the stage last year would stop at nothing to leave as a champion this year. It didn’t matter how much pressure that put on his shoulders and the shoulders of his teammates.
Champions know that winning Worlds means overcoming pressure. It doesn’t matter where it comes from. Whether it’s the names on the backs of the other team’s jerseys or the logo on the front. Whether it’s borne out of years of disappointment, or the suffocating expectation of victory. The pressure is always there.
For years, SKT have handled that pressure better than anyone. The built a machine that allowed their players to focus, remain calm, and internalize the pressure into championship performances. On the path to three titles, SKT learned what it means to embrace pressure. That’s why they were undefeated in Worlds series, right until now. They earned it.
Samsung had to go on the same path. The journey required heartbreak, patience, and resolve. They had to learn how to share the pressure and elevate their weakest players into stars. What a thrill it is to see that transformation, to witness a new team become legends before our eyes. SKT gave us all that they had—the dynasty they built will be remembered forever. None of them should feel disappointment, for they played magnificently.
But tonight, the Rift belonged to Samsung. They showed us what a championship performance is by dethroning the champions. They made history by dismantling SKT in the most shocking way possible. We’ll always remember them, too.
What a night to see new legends be born.