For seven weeks, Griffin went undefeated in the 2019 LCK Spring Split. The best team in the world beat all comers, including the SK Telecom T1 superteam, recently promoted juggernauts Damwon and Sandbox, and every other team that threatened them. It was evocative of their run last summer when they beat team after team to prove that they belonged in the top league in Korea.
But just like last summer, when the wheels fell off for Griffin, they crashed hard. Back then, it was a shocking loss to Gen.G in the regional gauntlet that knocked them out of Worlds. This time, Gen.G were the start of Griffin’s troubles.
At first, it seemed like all was well in Griffin’s second series vs. Gen.G this split. Despite a strange fascination with blind-picking Galio—who has a sub-50 percent winrate in the LCK this split—Griffin were able to win a series of fights, gaining map control in the process.
But then a horrific recall timing just handed Baron over to a Gen.G team that just minutes before seemed out of it. In the second game, things only got worse. Griffin’s blind Galio was irrelevant again and Gen.G had full control of mid lane, which led to another uncontested Baron.
It was shocking not only that Griffin lost to Gen.G, but that it was a 2-0. But more surprises were on the way in Griffin’s series vs. Afreeca Freecs. Afreeca ran over the first game when Griffin’s mid lane Galio gave up pressure and Afreeca stacked drake after drake. But Griffin dominated the second game after Afreeca forgot to ban Kalista against Griffin bot laner Park “Viper” Do-hyeon and an early dive by jungler Lee “Tarzan” Seung-yong basically ended the game. Even a fed Jax for Afreeca couldn’t save them against the power of mid game Kalista.
In the game three draft, Afreeca found Kalista in their ban menu and took her off the table. They still lost bot lane via a four-person Griffin gank. But Afreeca refocused around star top laner Kim “Kiin” Gi-in and survived a Griffin Baron push. In the pivotal moment of the game, Kiin dove onto Viper with Akali and won the last fight for Afreeca.
So where does that lead us with Griffin, who just a few days ago were still the best team in the world? Well, some of it is just bad luck. It’s hard to win every game in the LCK, even against lesser teams like Gen.G and Afreeca. Both those teams have underperformed this year, but it wouldn’t be surprising at all to see either—or both—become a contender sometime in 2019. Griffin just happened to have two bad series in a row, and even in the games they lost, they held clear advantages at certain points.
But these losses are concerning. They remind of what happened to Griffin in 2018 in more ways than one. As the meta shifts toward a more standard ADC pool, like it did last year with the rise of the Xayah and Kai’Sa meta, Viper hasn’t looked as comfortable. And while mid laner Jeong “Chovy” Ji-hoon has looked like the best player in the world this year—his KDA was at one point in the triple digits—he remains unproven on mages, which are in meta right now.
Griffin probably still are the best team in the world. Nobody else is winning as heavily in their region outside of maybe Team Liquid in North America. It will take more than a couple stumbles to dethrone them from that spot.
But they’re also an extremely young team. The highs can be incredibly high with this talented bunch, but in some games, you can sense their lack of a compass, a direction provided by a more veteran player who has won championships before. And until Griffin finally do win a crown, we’ll likely continue to wonder whether they have it in them.