It’s kind of hard to comprehend that next month’s League of Legends World Championship will be the eighth time that tournament is contested. It’s been nearly six years since the regional league format really kicked off in 2013.
What do you remember about the early seasons of competitive League? It’s easy to remember the champions: Since season three, you only have two choices, SKT and Samsung. It’s harder to remember teams like Fnatic in 2013 or Cloud9 in 2014, who had tremendous success but couldn’t quite take it all at international events.
This year’s version of an exciting team that couldn’t quite go all the way came from the LCK. Griffin Esports won the promotion tournament to gain entrance to the LCK in the Summer Split. Once they got there, they didn’t stop winning until their seventh match. In total, they won 22 series in a row in the Korean Challenger and LCK leagues, a run that included sweeps over defending Spring Split Champions KINGZONE DragonX and the vaunted SK Telecom T1 dynasty.
If there’s one word to describe Griffin’s audacious run this summer, it’d be courage. They simply weren’t afraid of anyone or anything. They didn’t let the fact that they were a rookie team stop them, nor did they care about the names on the fronts or backs of their opponents’ jerseys. Hell, they were even brave enough to play—and win—with a Teemo.
No two players exemplified that fearlessness more than Griffin’s duo lane of bot laner Park “Viper” Do-hyeon and support Son “Lehends” Si-woo. Viper was the one who locked in that Teemo, after all. Viper and Lehends played everything, from the mages and bruisers to his preferred ADCs. He has almost a 90-percent win rate on Vladimir in the world’s toughest region.
That flexibility allowed the team to try all sorts of strategies to great aplomb. They were one of the best funnel teams in Korea in the first half of the split and were nearly as successful in traditional comps through the playoffs. They made the playoff final in their first split off of strong five-vs-five teamfighting that left opposing teams shattered and embodied coach
Kim “cvMax” Dae-ho’s “Five as One” motto.
There was just one team they couldn’t beat, and that was KT. KT ended Griffin’s win streak to start the LCK Summer Split and beat them again in the final, sending Griffin to the gauntlet, where they fell to Gen.G. KT was the team that was strong enough in the lane phase to set Griffin behind, attacking through the duo lane and preventing Griffin’s teamfight from coming online.
More than anything, KT used their experience to come out victorious. And KT have a lot of it—unlike Griffin, they struggled through the initial iterations of the so-called super team. They learned harsh lessons when they missed Worlds themselves last year, and corrected things this time around.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from Griffin’s incredible results this summer. Teams all over the world should emulate their fearless style, the way they took it to the best teams in the LCK with abandon. Everyone should be taking notes from the way Griffin fought as a team and had each other’s back.
It’s impossible to know which aspects of League of Legends season eight will stand the test of time, or which players, teams, and performances will stand out in our collective memories. But if there’s one team that deserves to be remembered, it’s this Griffin squad that taught us all how to play fearlessly and to fight “Five as One.”