Today the first semifinal of the League of Legends World Championships hit Brussels, Belgium.
Origen became the first team to take a tier two tower against SK Telecom T1 at the World Championship. Then they became the first team to score a Baron against them, and to lead a game after 20 minutes.
But they failed ito score the most important milestone: They did not become the first team to actually win a match against Korea’s juggernauts. While Origen certainly made a match of it, especially in a close game one, they couldn’t play perfectly enough to avoid falling to the favorites, losing a clean 3-0 sweep.
The first game Origen nearly pulled off the victory, playing a solid early game and keeping the pressure on SKT by making creative plays around the map. They gave top laner Paul “sOAZ” Boyer a ranged champion with Kennen, a solid answer to Jang “MaRin” Gyeong-hwan’s Fiora. While they had to give up Azir and Kalista, signature champions for Lee “Easyhoon” Ji-hoon and Bae “Bang” Jun-sik.
Origen pulled off a good early game lane swap and gave their AD carry Jesper “Niels” Svenningsen the turret gold on his Tristana, allowing him to bully Bang in the lane matchup. The sOAZ survived a gank from jungler Bae “Bengi” Seong-ung with some wizardry, and the race was on. While SKT did manage to score first blood eventually, Origen kept the pressure on with farm leads in all lanes and by exerting turret pressure. Then, at the 22 minute mark, Origen pulled off one of their signature moves: Taking an unexpected Baron. They secured the major objective without a response thanks to perfect timing and used it to build a 4k gold lead.
But the stalwart Korean side never wavered. While Origen managed to take down all of their tier 2 turrets, the Korean team still looked like an unbreakable wall. They managed to secure the next few dragons, stealing one at 28 minutes from under Origen’s nose, and eventually took Baron at 33 minutes. Whenever Origen made a small mistake, they punished it. Eventually, it was too much for the Europeans.
In many ways, it seemed like that first game was the death knell for the Europeans. With their energy exhausted in a blitz that nearly scored them a lead in the series but ultimately fell short, games two and three weren’t anywhere near as close. Origen scored first blood in game two, but SKT still scored an early game lead and built it into a comfortable win.
Then, for game three, they subbed in Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok, the best mid laner in the world. He pulled out Ryze, a champion that in many ways feels like an throwaway for the maestro, but he used to great effect. Origen never had a chance in game three as SK Telecom T1 picked them apart.
Player of the Series: Jang “MaRin” Gyeong-hwan, 17/5/7 KDA, 524.6 DPM
In many ways, this metagame is owned by the top lane carries. MaRin is a rock for SK Telecom T1, playing mechanically intensive carries like Fiora along with stalwart tanks like Renekton and making them shine.
As the team’s shot caller, he’s in large part responsible for SK Telecom T1’s ability to weather early assaults like the one Origen threw at them in game one.
No matter the matchup or the circumstances, MaRin always seems to find a way to eke out a lead. And if he’s ignored, he carries games. After a game on Fiora and a game playing against Fiora with Renekton, he pulled out Rumble to counter Origen’s early game composition in game three and blistered Origen in early fights.
No matter who SK Telecom T1 faces in the finals, they’ll need to find a way to shut MaRin down if they want to win.
Play of the Game: sOAZ’s great escape
Early in game one, SK Telecom T1 entered the top lane hunting for a kill on sOAZ in an attempt to snowball MaRin’s dangerous Fiora. Origen picked the slippery ninja Kennen for their top laner, knowing they needed to prevent MaRin getting ahead to have a chance in game. But despite getting caught by a ganke from the jungle, sOAZ pulled off a slippery escape, taking MaRin and bengi on a ride before escaping with a well-time teleport.
That set the stage for Origen’s best attempt at toppling SK Telecom T1, showing that their lanes had the ability to survive in the face of the World’s top team.
The victory sends SK Telecom T1 to their second World Championship final in their history. In 2013, Faker and Bae “bengi” Seong-ung won the world title. The current version of SKT will seek to do so again, and they’ll face the winner of another Europe and Korea semifinal: Fnatic and KOO Tigers.
In that one, the European side may be the favorite. Fnatic dominated local competition this year, including against runner-ups Origen, and have a solid shot at taking down a tough KOO team.
Whoever wins that match, though, will be hard pressed against SK Telecom T1, who look like the easy favorites at the tournament. If there’s anything to learn from today’s series against Origen, it’s that you can’t let up the pressure against SK Telecom T1 if you get to them early. The more chances your team has to make even small mistakes in the mid and late games, the more SK Telecom T1 will methodically build a lead.
As for Origen, they end the year with a result that was hard to see for them when they started the year as a new organization trying to qualify for the Challenger Series, much less a professional league. But the team, a mix of veterans like sOAZ and mid laner Enrique “xPeke” Cedeño Martínez and rookies like Niels, exceeded all expectations by qualifying for the LCS, reaching the LCS finals, and then ending the year as one of the top four teams in the world.
It was an expected result Saturday in Brussels. The better team took the series in convincing fashion and will look to win their second World title in Berlin next week.
Photo via Riot Games/Flickr