The quarterfinals between KT Rolster and KOO Tiger was set to be the closest quarterfinal due to their previous match in the Korean Playoff Semi-Finals where KT Rolster narrowly won through blind pick in game 5. At that time, KT Rolster showed a significant decrease in performance in the post season due better competition, which inhibited their ability to win matches cleanly through top lane pressure. KOO Tigers on the other hand, began to show impressive improvements in the post season where they played a very defensive early game and relied on their mid game coordination to win matches.
During the group stages, KT Rolster has seemed to sure up their mid game deficiencies and seemed to play out games a lot more cleanly ending week 2 at the top of Group D, the group of death. Ssumday looked very strong in the top lane, even in KT Rolster’s loss the Origen, and Score seemed to sure up KT’s early game by applying more pressure to the bottom side of the map. KOO Tigers also looked strong during the group stages, only losing to the Flash Wolves through overconfidence.
KOO Tiger’s Adapted the Most From Week 1
What was shown in the quarter final of the World Championship was how well prepared KOO Tigers were for this tournament. The KOO Tigers have a history with innovating with champions such as Viktor and Kog’maw. Due to the huge patch before Worlds, it was expected that team would have to be well-prepared and adapt quickly to results in week 1. The KOO Tigers and in particular, Gorilla, adapted very well to the changes playing Tahm Kench and Shen very well. This prevented KT Rolster from playing any pick style compositions with Thresh and Braum and forced KT to require more than 3 bans.
KOO Tigers out-KT, KT Rolster
A significant differerence is KOO’s play was their ability to use Smeb as a split push threat. The majority of the plays made by KOO were made as a team where picks would be made with the entire team. I mentioned that Smeb gave KOO Tigers more ways to win other than playing 4-1 splitpush compared to Ssumday. Smeb was very much team-focused and was reactive to split pushes. What I didn’t expect was KOO to play around Smeb getting ahead and employing KT’s strategies against them. This turned out to be a very effective approach to shutting down Ssumday and KT. This was the most impressive thing that I noticed and was extremely effective against KT since it prevented KT from converting early game leads to getting objectives in the mid game – especially when KOO’s bottom and mid lane were significantly stronger than KT Rolster’s. The KOO Tigers were also impressive when punishing Ssumday’s over-extensions and turned around Ssumday’s early leads. This is a good sign for their match up against Fnatic when they may have to employ the same strategy with Huni being a primary carry for Fnatic.
KT Regress Back to Playoff form
I mentioned before that KT looks very good against teams that are significantly weaker than them. During the regular season and especially the group stages, Ssumday provided a constant threat to objectives on the map, allowing the rest of his team to pick apart their opponents. With an underwhelming performance from LGD, Ssumday was rarely tested in the top lane after dominating Soaz in both group stage games. When KT was matched up with a team of similar skill (in the form of KOO Tigers), KT rarely had a second strategy to win the game. I once thought that was not an issue anymore after their clean performances during the group stages, however it’s possibly that Ssumday was simply just not tested in the top lane throughout the group stages.
KT during the summer season were criticized for their inability to carry early game leads through to the mid game which was very evident in Game 1 of the Korean Playoff Finals. Their mid game had somewhat improved in group stage however, their mid game in the quarterfinals regressed to a point where their MLR (Mid-Late Game Rating) regressed to below par at -2.4 in comparison to 5.7 and 3.7 in the regular and post season respectively.
Not that Nagne was in contention for top 5 mid laners in the world, but in regular season matches Nagne could very well hold his own against the very best in Korea, possibly due to how passive mid lane was before 5.15. The gradual decrease in Nagne’s damage percentage is very emblematic of his gradual decrease in performance as the summer season progressed. His champion pool was exposed during the group stages as he only showed proficiency on Lulu and Azir. Currently, he ranks last place in damage percentage. His Leblanc was very underwhelming and didn’t suit a team that was so top lane-centric. Leblanc requires a significant gold lead to remain relevant during the mid game for which he was not set up to do. Once the KOO Tigers could control Ssumday, KT needed another carry to step up. Unfortunately that was not Nagne.
Coming into this series, I was unsure about the strength of the KOO Tigers due to their losses to the Flash Wolves. Their quarter-finals against KT Rolster showed there are definitely a range of strategies that they will able to employ against Fnatic. Their semi-finals against Fnatic should present some very interesting dynamics in the pick/ban phase with Kennen, Tahm Kench, and Shen becoming contested picks in this match up. The Smeb vs Huni match up will be definitely the one to watch as Huni seems to be more willing to pick Riven into very even match ups.