The WashUp – ROX v SKT – The Final – Part 1

Usurpers v Champions. What do ROX Tigers and SKT T1 bring to this Final? What identities have these teams established for themselves? The revered history of Champions Korea has delivered another blockbuster match.

The WashUp – ROX v SKT – The Final – Part 1

In a change to a normal The WashUp article, this piece will take 2 parts – One Pre Game and one Post game. I am hoping readers can understand a sense of how analysis of a game happens before and what influences that, and how that can change in the post-game.

Whether we like it or not, the past influences our present and therefore our future. The past is the soil which propagates the fruits of the present, which then promotes our future. Despite the weight people place in recognising the past and its influences, the future is based on the experiences we have had and is adapted to suit our present needs. This weekend, the Champions Korea 2016 Spring Final between ROX Tigers and SKT T1 has a unique melding of the player’s colourful pasts, fruitful present and an unknown but exciting future.

Golden Days

Lets flash back (pun alert) to 2014. This was an age where Shyvana and Renekton ruled Top lanes and where many household top lane names that we refer to with respect today were making their names: ssumday – Duke – Flame – MaRin – Looper – Acorn – Impact. Teams were coming to the peak of their influence. Again we refer to these teams with reverence and respect – Najin (Sheild and Sword), KT Rollster Bullets, MVP Ozone, CJ Entus Blaze and Frost. Smeb was lost in translation somewhere around Incredible Miracle with Reignover. CloudTemplar was still playing. Before Samsung White and Blue, there was MVP Blue and Ozone. Faker excitement was incredibly high and finished with a few MVPs, and SKT T1 leading KDA in most positions.  Short of calling this a Golden Age of Champions Korea, it was most certainly a character building one for the championship. When we talk about 2016 Champions we look back and use teams the past as a yardstick to measure many different indicators of success – Rookies, Dominant teams, dominant laners, good players in particular positions, new ways of affecting a map. Despite the change in the Meta over the years, the past influences our present and our future. Rather than deeply seed out current commentary in shadows and memories of the past, we look to make parallels – similarities if you will – because after all, it is still the same game.  

Where to Now

This weekend is going to a character building exercise for both of these teams. SKT T1 are the elder statesmen of the League. Their strengths are based on their adaptability and deep understanding of Metas and their oppositions. ROX Tigers are the ursurpers who have stumbled at every final hurdle they have faced to remove the over barring and continued strength and dominance the 2 time world champions place over the LCK. The Tigers (in all their derivatives) have bought colour, light-heartedness and character to LoL’s premier championship despite the fact that they play in booths. Pink vests and cat ears was a huge highlight for me, and whenever I think of the Tigers I think of the camera panning down, each player grinning like a Cheshire Cat because of the outfit they were wearing. Good or bad game, Peanut is always having a laugh with the rest of the team and perhaps this is indicative of their relaxed but focused approach to the game. Their gameplay suggests that immense practice has taken place and that their abilities are by no way an accident. SKT T1 on the other hand, seem to approach the game with focus and rock solid dedication. They don’t require the flamboyance of the Tigers to have the same effect on crowds – they are SKT. Their iconic red is significant to the League community, and to the contemporaries of the LCK. Cliché this weekends final any way you want – clash of styles; clash of approaches; clash of old v new – its going to be a monster match up. Well, potentially anyway.

Lets not forget – GE Tigers were very much in this position last year. Ladder and seeding position. Finishing the season 12-2 for matches, and 25-6 for games played, they were very dominant for the regular season. In Spring as well. Hojin was in the jungle (as the only change to the current line up), and for much of the season had an effect on the map with ganks that had a result. Not necessarily a kill, but pressure was build or summoners were burnt. The problem was that he didn’t gank very much, and it was very champion dependent. Perhaps his champion pool was more limited than was shown, but in the Summer split he was less effectual. GE lost the final to SKT in a fairly dominant 3-0 fashion. Pray hadn’t build any pressure, Smeb had been well contained by MaRin and Easyhoon was well on top of Kuro – the Tigers had no way forward. And they hadn’t been pressured in this way previously. Lee (nee Hojin) could not affect the map in the way he probably wanted to, and the Tigers were missing the pressure. He was almost sandbagging the team in that final. And that’s how the Tigers played leading into worlds. Sure they finished Summer 2015 in 3rd place, but there were cracks in the happy now KOO Tigers demeanour. And it showed in their play. SKT had build on some wonderful consistency from their Spring Split win, and were solid all through Summer and Worlds.

ROX this season have been more innovative and more dominant than the last Spring Split and are in a position to win their first Champions crown. 16-2 Matches and 34-7 in games played, the Tigers have been a changed team. Assertion over SKT is included – their record against the World champions is 4-1 this season. Peanut is probably the main protagonist behind this change, as the pressure he has created out of his creative jungle playstyle has been insurmountable for most teams. I have written about Peanut and the Tigers in the past ( and how the lane control displayed by the Tigers to support Peanut’s pathing, pressure and ganking has made them so strong.

Pivotal Moves

As the Meta has shifted to a Top Tank/Utility/Hybrid role and away from a power jungle style, Peanut has stumbled slightly and struggled to find a way forward that followed suit from his earlier playstyle. Kindred has been a power pick for Peanut, because of that champions ability to create 1on1 pressure and output lots of mobile and quick damage. Tigers have plenty of ban worthy champions across the map, so Kindred has been free for Peanut for a long time. Kindred is an excellent pick for Peanut, because she synergises so well with the control of lanes that ROX display, that ganks usually have an excellent result. This may change though, because Peanut wont play Kindred against against Graves – it’s a fair counter to Kindred as Graves has enough mobility to be about to output more damage, while being tankier in skirmishes. Elise is then the pick for Peanut, for whom he has a           91% win rate on (in 12 games this season). Blank has utilised Graves the most this season in the games he has played. But Blank hasn’t fit into the SKT system for most of the Season. Playoffs has changed everything.  Picking Graves, Kindred and Elise, Blank has been mounting considerable pressure from the Jungle in a much more consistent way. Averaging 7% Kill Participation in the Playoffs, he has worked well with the SKT pressure and power spikes. His vision support has been consistent throughout the season and Playoffs (0.93WPM). His first blood participation is at 57%, which means that SKT usually don’t rely on him to establish huge dominance in the early game, but they need him as a threat and countergank. His CS at 10 minutes is -4.4, whereas other Playoff junglers are at <1.1 (6.7 for Score). There is a focus on the Junglers in this game, because the play styles of these 2 plays influences how the 2 teams play out their lanes and their strategies.

SKT as a unit tend to try to make the best out of the early game, and finish it as close to even as possible. Despite taking the first Dragon 71% of time, first tower is at 57%. In half of their playoff games, they loose the first tower. This is not a team that establishes early dominance. They are a team that establishes the footings of an early snowball. First Baron is at a huge 86%. Vision control is average because they have by the mid game, established enough map pressure that they do not need to worry about what the enemy is doing. They control 76% of all Dragons, which helps to ensure that their control on the whole map and the opposition power curve does not reach the desired levels. This is further supported by their Gold Differential at 15mins: 342 Regular season – 238 Playoffs.

Boasting the shortest game time in the LCK by 3 minutes on average, ROX look to scale off the early game and pressure the map consistently and effectively to play out wins. And it has been effective. They play around their own power spikes and place more emphasis on using their strengths against their opposition rather than be passive around their opposition’s characteristics. Playing behind the pathing and (and only what I can assume is) communication, the Tigers control waves to suit the goals of the team composition they are building. Their rotations are clean, crisp, quick and direct. Taking 51% of first dragons is middle of the pack for the LCK, but when we consider that they take 76% of First Barons we can see a trend here. Dragon control is not a particularly important objective throughout the game for the ROX Tigers, but building of that objective leads them to controlling more of the map to be able to take nearly 30% more first Baron buffs than the next closest team, Samsung Galaxy. Combine this with a 78% First Blood Rate, and we can see that the Tigers are wonderful at building dominance and maintaining it, using a Baron to further consolidate a victory.

Smeb and Duke have a huge battle top lane, and this match up can go either way. The gap between Kuro and Faker is smaller than ever, but Faker is Faker. He does Faker things. The bottom lane for both teams have the ability to take over a game. The biggest difference between the teams is the way in which they utilise their Jungler (discussed above) and how they get to their power spikes (discussed above). Peanut is a part of the ROX furniture in game, and seamlessly supports his teams exploits across the map. He has particularly defined strengths and weaknesses and ROX use these to their biggest advantage across the whole game. SKT understand the weaknesses of the new jungler Blank, and use their individual skill to withstand the early game and use precise decision making and weakness exploitation to turn matches in their favour at some point past 15 minutes. While SKT have skilled laners, it seems that Blank is still sticking out like a sore thumb when it comes to the SKT system. It could be argued that ROX don’t match up perfectly against the SKT Laners, but their synergy with Peanut gives them (and has given them) the edge that has tilted the season largely in their favour.

The WashUp – What happens next

Which approach to the game will win out? It’s hard to tell. Most of the Season, Blank has been well behind the par of the SKT course of what they expect/need their jungler to provide. Its been a very clear work in progress. BUT. That work is beginning to pay off, because Blank has been very effective in the Playoffs. Something seems to have just clicked. Spring 2015 has to be in the minds of the Tigers coaching staff, because it is in the minds of the Tigers fans. They failed last Champions final against SKT, and they don’t want to again. They have failed to best SKT in any final they have met. SKT have also had more time on the new Patch in more competitive games to learn about how to play in this new Meta. ROX had the last 2 weeks of the Regular season, and are Kings of the Mountain in the Playoff series and have had to watch and wait. NoFe and SSONG have surely not sat around or 2 weeks and “chucked an Immortals”, so surely they have come up with something to combat SKT with regarding their composition and objective control. However, it is this writer’s personal opinion that we have not seen anything particularly special out of SKT just as yet. Their victories in the Playoffs, particularly against KT was one sided and one dimensional. This doesn’t mean it was bad – it just means that SKT didn’t have to pull anything special and hidden out of the bag to get to the Final Round. kKoma always has something special in store, whether it be a Faker pocket pick, or a weird and wacky but effective team comp, the Tigers need to be concerned. Or, the Tigers aren’t concerned and will just be worried about what the Tigers are going to do– the team they have always been (which I think will be the case). The Tigers cannot continue to dominate the Regular season, and come up short in the finals, especially to SKT. SKT have a history of winning the LCK. If the Tigers want to become the Kings of Korea, Victory in this final is imperative. SKT on the other hand, want to maintain their Iron Grip on the best League in the world, and further consolidate their case of one of the greatest eSport teams in History.

 Either way, we are in for an incredible series.  


Part 2 of this ‘The WashUp’ will be written and release after the game – and we will break down what happened. And I’ll even be self-critical on the analysis of my analysis.  After all. That’s how we grow. 

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