You might have been just as surprised as any hardcore South Korea Telecom fan when their spot for the playoffs was denied. Placing seventh out of ten teams, South Korea Telecom was two matches away from getting the last spot.
This is a far fall even from the 2018 Spring Split where they managed to make the Spring Split playoffs but fell short when it came to playing kt Rolster. It’s an even bigger fall when you consider the legacy they created in the League of Legends world.
Before they came onto the scene, the League of Legends world was dominated by the Chinese and Russians. During Season 2, Moscow 5 and Invictus Gaming were the top two contenders at the Season 2 World Championship.
Now, it’s all Korea. When you think of World Champions, you only think of Korea. Whenever you think of the League of Legends community, you only think of Korea, and this can all be attributed to the success of South Korea Telecom.
But do they still have a chance at keeping their legacy alive? Do they still have a shot at winning it all once again? Time will only tell, but there are still factors that may hint at it. South Korea Telecom may have lost the fight, but they can definitely win the battle.
A History of Their Disasters
During the 2017 season, signs of decay had already begun to show for the once global powerhouse. They had a terrible Summer Split, barely notching the fourth place seed when they were expected to place first.
Despite the fact that they managed to make it to the finals of the tournament, they were decimated by a then-stronger Longzhu Gaming who had names like Bdd, Khan, PraY, and GorillA holding the team together.
Of course, they did manage to show up during the 2017 World Championship, but this was due to the fact that they had one of the easiest groups during Groups Stage and then proceeded to receive an extremely easy bracket for the Knockout Rounds.
Despite having a much easier bracket than the other Koreans, they still fell short in the finals of the World Championship, losing to Samsung Galaxy in a 3-0 sweep. After this match, South Korea Telecom’s dynasty began to fall apart.
During the 2018 Spring Split, South Korea Telecom didn’t even come close to making it to the finals of the tournament. They were quickly knocked out by kt Rolster, a team that they rarely ever lost to, and their Spring Regular Season didn’t compensate for this, either.
South Korea Telecom also placed a measly fourth place compared to strong finishes from the previous seasons during the 2018 Spring Split, and this led to them only grabbing the fourth-place seed instead of an expected first-place seed.
As you can tell, South Korea Telecom went from a team that dominated every region without any trouble to having troubles of all kinds. This is the first time they’ve missed the playoffs with their superstar, Faker, on their team, and I can guarantee you that no one saw this coming.
So, what exactly happened, and do they have a shot at next year’s Spring and Sumer Split playoffs? These are questions which are being asked right now in the South Korea Telecom fanbase, and my job is to answer them. I can guarantee that South Korea Telecom’s time is not up and that, if you have a little faith, they’ll go back to being the superstars they once were.
What happened? That’s a question hundreds of thousands if not millions of people have been asking. No one expected South Korea Telecom to fall, and this happened because of various reasons. However, there are a few reasons that had more effect than others.
Faker Is No Longer “Faker”
There was a time when everyone hailed Faker as the best in the world. They looked to him for new revolutionary moves and champions to pick. They copied the champions he was playing and the playstyles he tended to play.
At one point, he was ruling the meta of League of Legends. Now, he’s someone that’s struggling to find his once-dominant spot as ruler of the League of Legends world. This is largely due to two things: new players are coming in, and the meta doesn’t favor him.
When Longzhu Gaming played versus South Korea Telecom during the 2017 Summer Split finals, it was Bdd who came out on top in the mid lane, not Faker. Compared to Bdd’s mechanics and game knowledge, Faker played extremely subpar, doing very little of what he was known for.
Another big piece as to why he isn’t who he is anymore is because the meta in League of Legends has changed so much since Season 3 when South Korea Telecom was dominant, and Faker could rule the mid lane without any problem.
In Season 3, it was all about the mid lane. Top laners were usually oriented around split-pushing while junglers were built to farm and grab objectives. It was the mid laners who had the power and could make the moves around the map.
Now, while mid laners are still extremely important, AD Carries have since then taken more power, and more top lane carries have become prevalent. Meanwhile, the mid lane has lost some of its central power.
The AD Carry meta forced junglers to gank more and thus made mid laners more dependent on their jungler. This made mid lane a passive lane nine times out of ten and took out the excitement of going for the kill, yet another piece of Faker’s gameplay that proved some important to his success.
That being said, Faker has lost the mojo and solo-carry potential that he once had. It used to be the defining factor as to why South Korea Telecom could play horridly during the Regular Season but still win when it came to Playoffs—because if Faker was playing well, no one could stop them.
The New Star Teams
South Korea Telecom may have been the star of Season 3, but nowadays, there are at least four or five teams that can play exactly like they did during their shining period. Names like Longzhu Gaming and Samsung Galaxy — now renamed KING-ZONE DragonX and Gen.G respectively — as well as kt Rolster have taken over the scene.
Even in today’s present day and age, the newest Korean superstar team — Griffin — has stepped into the spotlight, shoving out South Korea Telecom with the little stardom that they still had. Now, they’re playing a game that’s much faster-paced and much riskier than what South Korea Telecom plays.
Before, kt Rolster was a team that struggled to even take a game off of South Korea Telecom despite having such a stacked roster, and now, they don’t break a sweat whenever they’re matched against SKT. Meanwhile, Gen.G and KING-ZONE DragonX have both had experience taking down the once star-studded roster.
As for South Korea Telecom, their highest-ranked player when it came to KDA was Bang who placed fourteenth, nothing impressive when it comes to the competitiveness of the LCK. If these stats don’t show you the skill level of the new teams coming in, maybe the players themselves can give you an idea.
The definition of a superstar team is one whose entire roster is stacked to the very end, and this was SKT’s 2013 and 2015 rosters. In 2013, they had Impact at the top lane, bengi in the jungle, Faker in the mid lane, Piglet in the AD Carry role, and PoohManDu as the support.
Every player in their respective role was considered the best or at least top three in the world, hence why they were almost impossible to beat. In 2015, it was the same thing. They had MaRin in the top lane, bengi in the jungle, Eazyhoon and Faker in the mid lane, and the duo of Bang and Wolf in the bot lane.
This is the definition of a super-team: a team so powerful that no one can seem to stop them in any form or fashion, and that’s exactly what SKT had built in both 2013 and 2015, which eventually led to two World Championships alongside another one in 2016.
Nowadays, there are at least three or four super-teams vying for the top spot in the LCK, when back in season three, four, and five, there were only one or two. This has made the competition so much harder and prevented players such as Bang and Faker from carrying by themselves.
South Korea Telecom may still be one of the best in the world, but they definitely did not show it during their Summer Split Regular Season. Time and time again, they failed to show up, and time and time again, they were taken down by the better team.
That being said, will South Korea Telecom still have a shot at becoming a strong LCK team to bet on for the next season? After all, they have almost a year to prepare and get ready as well as the means necessary to improve.
What Does South Korea Telecom Have to Do?
South Korea Telecom has quite a bit they need to fix before they can come anywhere close to becoming a team that has any chance at winning yet again. First off, they’ve fallen behind and have become the followers when before, they were the leaders.
Names such as PraY and GorillA from KING-ZONE DragonX as well as Viper from Griffin have revolutionized different playstyles to work in their favor, while SKT’s Bang and Wolf have been falling behind.
Before they can fix anything team-related, they need to fix themselves. Faker needs to become the carry yet again, and Bang and Wolf need to be able to pull their own load. In 2015, 2016, and 2017, Bang was the main reason South Korea Telecom could clutch out wins.
If both Bang and Faker can become their previous selves and play to the standards they were playing when South Korea Telecom ruled the world, there’s no doubt that SKT will yet again become the best team throughout all the regions.
Another piece which has kept SKT from achieving anything outstanding is their inability to adjust to the meta. There’s no denying that the meta has completely changed and even “screwed over” the competitive scene, but names like Griffin and kt Rolster were able to adjust without any problem.
We saw in the past how the meta changes made South Korea Telecom less of a threat since their best player, Faker, couldn’t perform like he usually could. Now, with the whole off-season to themselves, South Korea Telecom has the opportunity to fix their mistakes and become a team that is open to anything.
If these two things can be fixed, then there’s no doubt that SKT will become a team that can thrive under pressure circumstances yet again. They may have not met the best of standards this year, but they will have the chance to redeem themselves within the following months.
SKT, a once-thriving empire that built a legacy of three World Championships and countless other titles, has now fallen to its knees. A team that literally revolutionized Korea and its presence in League of Legends now stands defeated.
No one saw it coming. Everyone expected them to at least grab the sixth place spot and come back to take out every other team standing in their way so that they could go and win their fourth World Championship.
There is a possibility, though. Despite the fact that there are opposing powerhouses like KING-ZONE DragonX and Gen.G in their way, South Korea Telecom has the entire off-season to recuperate and prepare for a shot at redemption.
They need to fix their players. This year, they came up short—especially Faker and Wolf. Even though Bang was the highest KDA out of all the players on SKT, he still finished at a measly fourteenth place. Whenever they fix this, they need to also work on fixing their inability to adapt and change.
Especially in today’s meta, where everything is changing at the blink of an eye, staying behind for even a day could mean you lose the match, especially in the LCK, where every team is competing tooth and nail to get one of the playoff spots.
I have no doubt that South Korea Telecom can become the team it once was. They have a thriving community of players who are all talented individuals and players as well as experience from different layers of success.
There may still be doubts on whether or not SKT can live up to the standards they once set. After all, their performance wasn’t one to be proud of in both 2017 and 2018. But we’re talking about a team that has won three World Championships here. Put a little trust in the team because if any team can make the comeback happen, it’s going to be South Korea Telecom.