The 2019 season of the League of Legends Champions Korea ended when T1 players and staff gathered to hoist the LCK trophy with wide smiles on their faces. A rowdy crowd cheered them on to celebrate their win in the season’s playoffs in August.
Described as one of the hardest and most balanced season by the players, 2019 saw the rise of young players and the fall of others. It also saw some moments that will be remembered for years by the fans. Here are the most iconic moments of the Korean region throughout the year from outstanding plays to last-minute moves and those that changed the face of the LCK.
The new blood in LCK—Spring Split
T1 vs. Afreeca Freecs
In the last week of the 2019 LCK Spring Split, something unexpected happened. Before the match between T1 and Afreeca Freecs, the face of a mythic player appeared on the screen: Bae “Bang” Jun-Sik.
The AD carry played alongside T1 for four years, building the famous botlane with Lee “Wolf” Jae-Wan. During his journey on the team, he grabbed two World titles and four domestic titles. He left T1 after the 2018 season and flew over the Pacific ocean to join 100 Thieves in the LCS.
Before T1’s last LCK Spring Split match of week 10, he stood at Park “Teddy” Jin-Seong’s place wearing the team’s jersey. Once the camera reached to him, he laughed and made way for the team’s newest bot laner who handed a fan’s banner to him in response. It symbolized a “hand-off to the new generation of SKT AD carries,” caster Brendan Valdes commented on the video.
Earlier in November, Bang joined Evil Genuises for the 2020 LCS season.
Griffin win with style—Spring Split
Griffin vs. T1
During week seven of the Spring Split, the stakes were getting higher with the playoffs’ approach. Griffin and T1 were in contention for first place and both teams fought with all they had in a match balanced until the very end.
Even the last game, with a 2-2 score, was as dominated by T1 as Griffin. When T1 went after the Baron at 34 minutes, many teams would have decided to fight to get it instead. But Griffin didn’t. They decided to make a backdoor. Choi “Sword” Sung-Won, Jeong “Chovy” Ji-Hoon and Lee “Tarzan” Seung-Yong rushed T1’s base, only defended by Kim “Khan” Dong-Ha. T1 lacked the time to get back to the Nexus, harassed by both Griffin players who rushed at the Baron. In one minute, Griffin secured the victory.
Throughout the Spring Split, Griffin defeated T1 twice. But T1 would get their revenge in the Spring Split finals by grabbing a clean 3-0 victory against their rivals.
Gen.G end Griffin’s win streak—Spring Split
Gen.G vs. Griffin
The 2019 season started in the same fashion for Griffin as the previous year: They crushed the stage and boasted an outstanding winstreak through the Spring Split. In 2018, KT Rolster ended their streak after 22 consecutive wins. This year, Gen.G were the group to accomplish the feat after Griffin locked down 12 straight wins.
The match took place in week eight of the Spring Split, two weeks from the end of the regular season. At the start of the match, Gen.G AD carry Park “Ruler” Jae-Hyuk surprised the crowd by picking Vayne, a risky choice that suggested the team was preparing an aggressive approach. Despite a weak early game, the team took the lead with a successful Drake teamfight. They kept it going until the end and won the first match of the best-of-three series. Then, they beat Griffin in a slower 36-minute game and secured the victory (the replay is here).
Gen.G couldn’t turn this achievement in long-lasting performance, however. They placed seventh in the Spring Split and sixth in the Summer Split. To turn things around in 2020, Gen.G parted ways with almost all of their players and signed with four other talents, including T1 jungler Kim “Clid” Tae-Min and KT midlaner Gwak “Bdd” Bo-Seong.
Faker’s sixth sense—Summer playoffs
T1 vs. SANDBOX Gaming
Mid laner Lee “Faker” Sang-Hyeok is undoubtedly the LCK superstar. As such, he appears the most on the list of popular plays of the 2019 LCK season thanks to his precision and well-executed combos. But among all of his plays, his excellent prediction skills in the match against SANDBOX Gaming stands out as one of his most formidable display of his skills.
During the match, Faker’s sharp instinct allowed him to dodge every assault from enemies he couldn’t see, allowing his team to pick up two kills. T1 went on to smash SANDBOX with a 3-0 score, throwing them out of the playoffs. Faker’s team then grabbed the LCK Champions title and became back-to-back champions.
Drake roasts Canyon—Summer playoffs
DAMWON Gaming vs. Kingzone
DAMWON Jungler Kim “Canyon” Geon-Bu might remember this moment as one of the most frustrating ones of his career. In a match during week five of the LCK Spring Split against Kingzone, he found himself surrounded by opponents who forced him to hide in the dragon pit. But when he tried to escape with Jarvan IV’s Flag-and-Drag combo, the drake bumped him and canceled his ability at the worst time.
When his cooldown allowed him to grab his flag again, he disappeared almost at the same time. His total lack of luck killed him; he flashed through the wall but died in the enemy jungle nonetheless. DAMWON Gaming lost that game 2-1 to Kingzone.
Canyon also had outstanding moments. He’s the rookie who took over the Rift in 2019. The 18-year-old player stepped onto the LCK stage this season for the first time alongside DAMWON Gaming. Throughout his very first year at the top level of Korea, he grabbed the Summer Split MVP title, a spot in the World Championship and an invitation to the Rift Rivals that they won. He will compete under DAMWON’s colors again in the upcoming season.
T1 win their eighth domestic title
T1 vs. Griffin
T1’s win of the LCK Summer Split was a historical moment because the team broke a new record in the Korean league. By grabbing this win, they secured their eighth domestic title, second LCK title in a row, and a comeback to their throne as the best team in the region.
T1 started this final match in a convincing fashion, taking the first blood on Griffin’s mid laner Jeong “Chovy” Ji-Hoon. Then, the team went on 4-0 and dominated the game, winning the match without any of T1’s players dying once.
The second match was more balanced, but T1 ended by grabbing a second win. They faltered in the next game that Griffin won, giving a glimpse of hope to their fans. But T1 took the lead early in the last game and pushed closer and closer to the Nexus. Finally, they won the Summer Split finals 3-1. They hoisted the trophy, proudly watched by their coach Kim “KkOma” Jeong-Gyun. The replay can be found here.
PapaSmithy’s last match
Jin Air Green Wings vs. Hanwha Life Esports
Christopher “PapaSmithy” Smith officially retired as an LCK caster in the last match of the year at the LoL Park, the 2020 Spring Promotion match between Jin Air Green Wings and Hanwha Life. He was one of the most popular faces of the Korean league.
He started casting the LCK in 2015 alongside Christopher “Montecristo” Mykles and Erik “DoA” Lonnquist among others. He became very popular over the years with sharp knowledge and famous punchlines. After the end of the 2019 season, he announced his signing with the LCS team 100 Thieves as a general manager.
Score retires—Summer Split
Kingzone vs. KT Rolster
The 2019 LCK season Go “Score” Dong-Bin’s last one as a professional player. He played his final match during the last week of the Summer Split against Kingzone. He left the LCK by grabbing a win 2-1, placing eighth in his final split. His retirement is part of a larger trend of some of the oldest LCK veterans retiring this season, such as Cho “Mata” Se-Hyeong, and Lee “Wolf” Jae-Wan.
Score stood as one of the oldest faces of the LCK. He joined the league at its creation in 2012 with StarTale, but his signature team was KT Rolster, which he joined eight months after. He won his first LCK title in 2012 with KT and stayed with them until his last match. He stepped onto the World Championship stage in 2015 and 2018, where his team dropped in quarterfinals each time. For all of those years of competition, he stayed with KT Rolster and sacrificed everything for his team. He role swapped two times following the needs of the team, starting as toplaner, then AD carry before ending up in the jungle.
Even with those significant changes, he displayed impressive skills and won several MVP of the match titles. He was the first player to ever reach 500 games played in the LCK. He also surpassed 1,000 kills in the Korean league. His retirement was not a choice: The 27-year-old has to enlist in South Korea’s mandatory military service, will last two years. “Whatever happens, I want to come back to the LoL esports scene,” he told Inven.