MVP were expected to be here. For much of the LCK spring season they hovered between fourth and fifth. Good enough to reach the playoffs and make some noise, but not a serious contender to win it all.
Afreeca Freecs on the other hand were not expected to make it. For weeks, they sat at the cusp of the playoffs with MVP and Longzhu Gaming above them. Bad luck in week eight, in which the Freecs lost to SKT (expected) but also Rox Tigers (an upset), they could well have fallen short.
Instead the team buckled down, beating Longzhu 2-0 the next week and taking control of its own destiny. The winning continued into the last week and the tiebreaker, where they beat MVP to wrest away side control in their opening round playoff match.
When that match started early Friday morning, it looked like the Freecs would keep up their winning ways. Jungler Lee “Spirit” Da-yoon found successful ganks all over the map. Meanwhile, MVP jungler Kim “Beyond” Kyu-seok just kept doing what he does: Power farming. Spirit is not normally an aggressive early-game jungler, so it might have caught MVP off guard. But Beyond didn’t look like he was making any effort whatsoever.
That’s when the sloppiness started. Spirit threw nearly his entire lead away by tunnelling on first turret gold and overextending without vision. The Freecs had the highest ward numbers in the regular season, but it doesn’t do any good if they ignore those wards, or if the wards are in the wrong locations. Multiple times Spirit and company would die for no reason, staying for turrets they had no business taking.
Even when they did get the turrets, it wasn’t clean. The issues primarily revolved around synergy with top laner Jang “MaRin” Gyeong-hwan. MaRin is a fine laner, but consumes a ton of resources. A lot of times he looked out of sync with the team, initiating on MVP while everyone else was trying to get out.
Still, despite those errors, Afreeca had one saving grace: ADC Ha “Kramer” Jong-hun. They first-picked Ashe (on blue side) for him in both games, and he delivered. It was fun to see him kiting on the outside of teamfights, dealing a world of hurt to everyone on MVP with his Q and Hurricane bolts flying. When they did fight around Kramer the team was unstoppable, and they pushed right up the mid lane taking an inhibitor in under 30 minutes. Seriously—how do MVP lose this game?
Sure, mid laner Lee “Kuro” Seo-haeng went down. But MVP’s only remaining nexus turret was a stiff breeze from falling and Afreeca was playing with double teleport. Surely, this game was over right?
MVP thought so. Backs against the wall, they went for Baron, and got it when An “Ian” Jun-hyeong pressed “R” on Syndra. But the Freecs were so far ahead that even that Baron only reset the map, and when Spirit came back and stole a second Baron attempt, it looked like the game was over. But in a repeat of their earlier communication miscues, the team threw it all away.
Who cares that Kuro was coming up from Guardian Angel? The whole comp was built around protecting Krame, the ADC they picked first in the draft. Without Kuro, the Freecs had Baron buff on four members and an open inhibitor—and nearly open nexus. It cannot be overemphasized that the key carry was Kramer—not Kuro. But they stayed to help Kuro, Ian pressed “R” again, and the entire team was wiped.
That type of play could tilt anyone, and it certainly got the Freecs. Both team comps were nearly identical comps to game one, but this time Beyond had a step on Spirit. Afreeca’s tilt continued as they stubbornly tunnelled on objectives, telegraphing to MVP exactly how they wanted to play the map. The showed no ability to peel or reset, making it incredibly easy for MVP to counter their plays.
The play was way too greedy. MaRin ulted the wrong person, and MVP punished them. Things would only go from bad to worse for the Freecs and MVP made short work of them after that play.
MVP should be relieved to survive to the next stage in the LCK gauntlet, where they will face KT Rolster. They certainly have the ability to beat KT, but will need much cleaner play than what they showed against Afreeca. Specifically, they need Beyond to be more consistent at providing early pressure and the duo lane needs to step up. The victory against the Freecs was sloppy on both sides, and MVP’s play will need to be much sharper going forward.