While most consider SK Telecom the number one team in the region currently, the spots directly beneath them are absolutely up for debate. The two teams with the best résumé’s for the number two spot in the league are currently KT Rolster and CJ Entus. After one week of results, KT Rolster are joint first place in the league; meanwhile CJ Entus are a single point behind in a comfortable fourth place. Even though we are only entering the second week of the LCK summer season, this game holds the mystique of a playoff match-up, and should deliver. Often when looking back on a season, the games that stand out above the rest are the one’s where two in form powerhouses meet and a winner is decided, further establishing their world class caliber. This could very well be one of those matches. CJ Entus need to make a top three finish this season to realistically punch their tickets to the World Championships; as where KT Rolster must make a trip to the grand finals to give them a decent shot. Basically, both of these teams desperately need to secure match wins against other top teams if they want to be on the worlds’ stage this autumn.
Week 1: (2-0 Win vs Samsung Galaxy)
Last season KT Rolster ended the split as one of the hottest teams in the league in terms of results. Despite their amazing end to the season, it wasn’t enough to lift them into the LCK playoffs as they finished a game behind Jin Air. However, all of those positive results came after the patch 5.5 changes, and since then they’ve been easily one of the strongest teams the region currently has on display. They narrowly lost to CJ Entus 2-1 in week nine, and since then have gone on a five series unbeaten run, knocking out teams like Jin Air and KOO Tigers on their path. For summer season we’ve only seen them play a single set against Samsung Galaxy, a series they easily won 2-0. In that series KT Rolster won both matches before 40 minutes, and generally outclassed their re-qualified opposition.
In each game against Samsung they showed off bit of their depth in strategy, but crucially held a 7-1 dragon advantage over the series. In game one they controlled objectives and won the big 5v5 team fights with a well thought out composition. Arrow on Jinx was able to keep safe behind his front line plus Azir wall, and in every major fight, the combination of Gnar, Sejuani and Alistar provided more than enough engage and peel for anything extra. In game two KT Rolster were much more focused on shutting down the enemy Maokai and winning in small fights across the map. After a level one invade kill and repeated ganks from Score’s Rek’Sai, the enemy Maokai managed a measly eight creep score by seven minutes. KT Rolster’s Top and Jungle moved onto the rest of the map and the majority of fights began to go their way. There is a lot of good to talk about, but the one clear strength we can take away from this series is that when it came to major fights, KT Rolster had the edge on Samsung.
Week 1: (2-1 Win vs Anarchy)
CJ Entus were another team that finished last season riding a high note. They finished third place in the standings and won their first playoff series 3-0 against a struggling Jin Air side. In the LCK spring semi-finals they battled SKT to the brink and forced their rivals to game five where they came up short. That series was extremely close, and after KOO fell easily to SKT in the finals, CJ looked to be the clear number two as the season ended. CJ Entus shared in similar fortunes to KT Rolster after the 5.5 changes, and have been 17-5 in game scores since the patch was implemented competitively. This season has started off well overall for CJ Entus, claiming a 2-1 win over the promising rookies of Anarchy. Though they did drop the first game to the former amateur side, CJ pulled it together and rather comfortably won the second and third games.
While by the end CJ Entus looked the better team over Anarchy, it wasn’t without an obstacle or two to overcome. In game one Space played his rather infamously bad Vayne, perhaps in an attempt to copy Ohq who had ran the champion successfully the day before. CJ couldn’t stop the engages into their back line as Vayne and Ziggs struggled to put out meaningful damage in most fights, eventually leading to their downfall. Game two was much different, as CJ Entus managed to get all five of their players on comfort picks. The game stayed even until CJ started looking for fights and skirmishes, where Shy’s Rumble, Coco’s Jayce and Madlife’s Thresh, all were played to extremely good effect. The final match was highlighted by another standout performance on Madlife’s Thresh, as he roamed around the map making lantern saves and hook plays for a large amount of the early game. This set up CJ Entus for a pretty straight forward mid game that they played out well.
These teams meet up pretty well stylistically, and that’s another reason this series could be very exciting. Often when teams play compositions with the same win conditions, whoever manages the first relevant lead will likely take the match. Both CJ Entus and KT Rolster shy away from early dragons for the most part. Neither are known for going to crazy in the early game and don’t take huge risk until the midgame. Coco likes playing champions that can scale into the late game well, and already has picked Ziggs and Cassiopeia to start the year. Additionally, Space is well regarded as a Sivir and Jinx player. Based on those facts it shouldn’t be unexpected if CJ tries to out scale their opposition. However, this may be playing a bit too much in KT Rolster’s hands, as they often pick champions that peak a bit earlier on. KT didn’t play a single champion they played in set one in their second game vs Samsung Galaxy, but managed to still draft a composition that had a strong mid to late game team fight in both games. Ssumday showed proficiency on both Gnar and Hecarim in 5v5’s, and Score seems as reliable as any Jungler you can find in the current meta.
The direct overlap in picks is pretty limited after only seeing one series this season. In fact Rek’Sai, Sejuani, and Jinx were the only champions that both teams picked in week one. All the others were exclusively picked by one team or the other. For KT Rolster, this may mean that they can snag champions like Maokai, Hecarim, and Urgot without too much of a fight in pick bans. On the other side CJ Entus may be able to steal Cassiopeia and Rumble without much trouble. This next week of LCK will be played on patch 5.9, so it remains unseen if teams will still have Kalista as a must ban on red side after some nerfs. It’s also very unlikely that Gnar will ever make it through picks and bans as CJ Entus knocked it off the board in all three games they recently played against Anarchy; that along with the fact that Shy is not a noted Gnar player. KT Rolster similarly selected Lulu in each ban phase they played in week one as well. The most contested pick will almost certainly be LeBlanc, Coco and Nagne are both quite skilled with the mage, and she will likely see at least one ban this series. A close second is Thresh, who Madlife played in two of his three games, and Fixer had the banned against him in both games he played.
Position v Position
Top Lane: Ssumday vs Shy (Edge: Even)
While operating on slightly different champion pools, both of these players are integral parts of each team’s team fighting play. If I had to pick who would more likely grab a solo kill in this lane, I’d probably lean towards Ssumday who plays more lane bullies overall. In return, the small advantage in team fights would likely go to Shy, who more consistently than Ssumday can carry the 5v5 fights. This matchup will be close and of vital importance, as both of these players are seen as two of the best top laners the LCK has to offer.
Jungle: Score vs Ambition (Edge: Score)
Both of these Junglers just completed their first ever splits in their new role after changing positions, though to different degrees of success. Ambition has been good for CJ Entus, he can play the meta picks, has a very good smite, and makes strong early ganks; overall a nice jungler. However, Score is something of another level. The KT Jungler excels at tracking and counter ganking enemy junglers all through the early game, and has very high synergy across all three lanes when trying to form snowballs. In team fights his play really shines, whether it be from zoning, or landing a big ult. While Ambition is not some easy opponent, if Score plays to his normal level, he should have more presence and impact.
Mid: Nagne vs Coco (Edge: Coco)
This is a bit of an interesting matchup because the current mid lane meta has a large champion pool. There’s just no way from one best of three each to know what each of these players are capable of playing at a professional level just yet. This means our best bet is looking at the last few months of history from these players and take form into account. Nange has been much improved for KT Rolster, and is often trying to make big plays in team fights; to decent success. He is unlikely to fall behind and be a non-factor, and occasionally can carry a game on his own. While nice, Coco on the other hand plays a much bigger role in not just CJ Entus but LCK as a whole. He’s considered a top five mid laner by most, and is usually at the top of the damage dealt to champions for CJ. Add onto that his knack for picking up solo kills, and there’s plenty reason to believe Coco will have the more dominate performance this series.
ADC: Arrow v Space (Edge: Even)
Two generally mediocre marksmen, but within their team still play a very important role. Like most Korean ADC’s there is an enormous overlap in champion pools, as Arrow and Space were both massive Sivir and Corki players last season. This season they’ve both played Jinx already, and Urgot is a champion both players have favored recently. While Arrow can be pretty aggressive from time to time, he’s primarily just focused on playing a big role in team fights. Space follows basically the same style except there’s really not a big chance he’ll carry or feed. There are minor differences, but at the end of the day they both accomplish about the same from the marksmen role.
Support: Fixer v Madlife (Edge: Madlife)
Even though this is a match between a long time veteran and a relatively new rookie, it’s not as though Madlife outclasses Fixer by a long shot. Fixer has opened a rather interesting support pool this season by playing Bruam and Alistar. In both matches he focused heavily on peeling in team fights for Arrow and was very effective in lane. Meanwhile the CJ Entus support played Thresh and Nautilus in his first series of the season, favoring the hook style champions that helped bring him international acclaim. Both players engage in the early game roaming plays that are prominent in the meta currently, but when it comes to being a primary engage for his team, and precision in team fights, Madlife holds the edge over Fixer.
KT Rolster 2 – 1 CJ Entus
Recent form tells us nothing other than this should be an extremely close fought series. In terms of player edge’s I gave the advantage to CJ Entus though those are certainly debatable rankings, and don’t necessarily paint a picture of how the individual players operate within the teams themselves. For that reason and several others I think that KT Rolster will emerge from this series with a 2-1 victory. I do think player to player CJ Entus is a stronger team, and while they absolutely have strong team play, I’m of the opinion that KT Rolster’s is even better. Since 5.5 went through KT have been equally as dominant in terms of performance, and after building momentum from the end of last season, have a good chance of taking down CJ Entus. While I don’t think much of it, it is to be noted that the last two set’s CJ played were a 2-3 defeat to SK Telecom and a 2-1 win over Anarchy. The first loss is actually quite promising, but the result is still a defeat, and the Anarchy series was less than promising, but a victory. KT Rolster hasn’t put in any mixed performances in recent memory, and have been winning decisively for some time now. In the end it’s really hard to say which side will pull this match out, the favorites across the community are probably CJ Entus, but if forced to pick right now, the surging KT Rolster side has my vote currently. Honestly this match could go either way, and should hopefully be a game to remember for months to come.
Thanks for reading and please check out my twitter @ablindpuppy for more LCK related content!
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