The 2017 World Championship promised to be different from what happened in 2016. The NA teams looked to be better than ever, EU was promising, the Chinese looked strong. In the end, we have the same Worlds Finals matchup we had in 2016, SK Telecom T1 vs. Samsung Galaxy.
This doesn’t mean that the Finals isn’t going to be an exciting match. Last year’s Finals between SKT and SSG was one of the best League of Legends series in the game’s history. After a long battle, Sanghyeok “Faker” Lee and the rest of his SK Telecom T1 team put the Samsung roster on its back in a thrilling five-game series.
The matchup between SKT and SSG has a lot of backstory behind it, starting with the rivalry between Faker and Chanyong “Ambition” Kang. In his first professional game, Faker made Ambition look like an amateur on Nidalee. The clip of it is second only to the Zed mirror duel between Faker and Sangwook “Ryu” Ryu in its infamy.
Where Ambition’s career went to shambles for a while after that episode, Faker rose to the top of the League of Legends pecking order, earning himself the right to be called the undisputed best League of Legends player in the game’s history.
After making a comeback in the jungle role, Ambition went to the Finals in the 2016 World Championship with Samsung Galaxy, where the whole team got pimp slapped by SKT.
Now, despite it being extremely unlikely in the face of Longzhu Gaming’s power, Samsung managed to sweep the champions of the 2017 LCK Summer Split in their Quarterfinals series, making their way to the Semifinals. There, SSG had to face Team WE.
After a disastrous first game, they came back with a vengeance and put away the legendary Chinese team 3-1, advancing to face their old nemesis.
The two teams have already faced each other in a series quite recently in the 2017 LCK Summer Split Playoffs. SKT won the series easily, though their lineup for most of the Playoffs was different from what they are using at Worlds. Seonghoon “Huni” Heo took a backseat to Jinpark “Untara” Ui in the LCK Playoffs, while being picked to go to Worlds.
SKT’s road to the Finals was more difficult. They were brought to the brink of defeat by European underdogs Misfits, they had to play a long and exhausting five-game series against Royal Never Give Up. It’s a meme at this point that SKT starts each best of five by getting behind 1-2 and then clawing their way back to come out victorious.
The 2017 Worlds Finals matchup is exciting. SSG has a lot to prove, and vengeance to take; SKT has a legendary legacy to protect.
Analyzing the two teams and trying to predict which one is going to win is supremely hard, partly because both excel at macro play. That usually allows them to pull through even when the early game doesn’t go as expected.
Looking at the stats, Samsung Galaxy has played through a more even level. They only had to go through 13 games, winning 10 and losing three, while SKT T1 had a harder road, finding themselves playing 16, winning 11 and losing five.
What does this tell us? SKT is more vulnerable than ever. If SSG can find ways to gain an early game lead, their macro should cancel out SKT’s comeback potential, the thing they’ve been relying on throughout the World Championship to win games.
Both teams finish their games at around the 35-minute mark, one way or the other, proving that once they are in a position to win, they do so.
While both teams spend more gold on average than their opponents, SSG holds the advantage at 5% to SKT’s 2.2%. What does this mean? SK Telecom T1 either wins with smaller leads than Samsung or simply loses more. Both are probably true in this case.
The two most damning stats for SK Gaming T1 is Oracle’s Elixir stats for Early Game Rating and Mid/Late Rating, two stats that are supposed to represent team’s prowess at the corresponding parts of the game. SKT is behind both in EGR and MLR when compared to Samsung Galaxy.
SSG is ahead in EGR with the score of 50.7 to SKT’s 46.6 and in MLR with SKT’s 22.1 and SSG’s 26.2. What does this mean? Essentially, Samsung is better than SKT’s in their past matches in the World Championship both in the early and mid to late game.
Tw0 more stats support this assertion. While SSG is statistically +79 gold ahead at 15 minutes, SKT is -373 gold behind. Also, they take tower first blood in 69% of their games, opposed to SKT’s 56%, a considerable difference. They are also the first two take three towers considerably more often, in 77% of their games, opposed to SKT’s 56%.
All of this supports the idea that if Samsung Galaxy can get ahead in the early game, and they can, as proven by the stats, they are unlikely to let the lead go.
It has to be pointed out at this point that the usual opponents all of these stats were earned against isn’t on SKT’s level. Faker and the rest of the SK Telecom T1 roster is likely to stand up better to their opponents despite the less than exciting stats in some categories. SKT’s been called many things, but one of the most popular words that come up is “clutch.”
Now, we have to look at how each player stacks up against their direct opponent.
Going by KDA alone, SSG’s Sungjin “CuVee” Lee should be better than SKT’s Huni. After all, KDA of 4.3 wins against 2.8. That is not really the case, however. While CuVee is definitely more consistent from game to game, Huni is one of the top laners who can stand up to him.
In fact, Huni might actually be stronger than CuVee in lane. SKT’s top is ahead by 168 gold at 10 minutes to CuVee’s 128. Their CS difference at 10 is similar, CuVee comes out slightly ahead in terms of XP.
It does come at the price of attention from the jungler in SKT’s case because of the FB% being in favor of Huni, 13% to 8%. There aren’t many first blood kills being earned without the help of the jungler in pro play, especially in the top lane.
Another thing to consider is that Huni likes to play carry top laners whenever possible. This gives him an advantage in lane against tankier matchups at the cost of a prerogative to get fed and make up for the advantages of cheaper tank itemization.
All in all, Huni and CuVee should give us a very interesting matchup with different playstyles, strengths, and weaknesses.
The jungle is not the strongest part of the map for either of the two teams. SKT does have more options, however, due to the two junglers that play the same amount of games.
Wangho “Peanut” Han and his sub, Sungu “Blank” Kang have both played eight games in the 2017 World Championship. Usually, Peanut starts and either gets lit, gaining confidence and leading his team to win after win, or runs into trouble and gets replaced by Blank after a couple of games. In their Semifinals series against Royal Never Give Up, SKT put an end to this Worlds trend by starting Blank and tagging in Peanut after Game 3, when behind 1-2.
This turned out to be the winning strategy once again. It’s likely that SKT does this for several reasons, chief among them the mental reset it affords the roster. Also, the player who’s coming in from the bench has the advantage of having seen the previous games from the role of a spectator, including the movements of the opposing team.
In that situation, Ambition will have a bit of a challenge on his hands, especially when you keep in mind the fact that he’s not what’s known as the best jungler in the world.
In KDA, he’s smack dab in the middle when compared to the two SKT junglers. Peanut leads in this stat line with 4.8, Ambition has 3.5, and Blank is in the last place with 3.0. KDA is not everything, however, especially for a jungler.
Kill Participation is one of the stats that are more important for a jungler. There, Ambition is in the middle once again, with 75.8% against Peanut’s 77% and Blank’s 73.8%. Where he does come out ahead, however, is in FB%. At 33%, he’s head and shoulders above both Peanut’s 13% and Blanks 25%. This might be part of the reason why SSG has early leads—they are the ones getting the first blood, while SKT gives it away.
Faker vs. Minho “Crown” Lee. What a matchup.
Stats-wise, Crown actually holds the advantage over The Unkillable Demon King who’s been much less unkillable over this World Championship.
The roles of the two players couldn’t be much more different. Crown is relied on to carry the game and gets ganks to help make it easier for him while Faker’s job is to absorb the pressure from the enemy team, allowing his own to gain advantages in other places.
While both have respectable KDAs with 4.3 for Faker and 5.2 for Crown, the reason for Faker trailing behind is his tendency to die more and not the number of kills or assists he gets. With the enemy jungler and sometimes support doing their utmost best to relieve the mid pressure Faker creates, that is not surprising.
Despite getting the first blood in only 19% of his games, as opposed to 31% of Crown, Faker still manages to beat his direct lane opponent in 10-minute stats. He has slightly more CS, more experience, and more gold overall in the first 10 minutes than Crown.
After the laning phase ends, Faker gets a bit more of the free gold available on the map. His CS%P15 is better than Crown’s at 27.9% to 26.2%. He also gets 23.1% of his team’s total gold to Crown’s 22.6% but uses it worse, dealing 24.6% of his team’s damage to 25.1 from Crown.
Stats have to be taken with a grain of salt overall, but never more than when talking about Faker. The guy hates losing and has the gas in the tank to minimize the chance of it happening. When it comes down to the wire, Faker is the one who carries SK Telecom T1 to victory, no matter how he performed in the previous games.
The SK Telecom T1 bot lane has been underwhelming in the 2017 World Championship. Opposed to that, SSG’s duo looked a bit better. Stats show this as well, while also revealing some trends about how the two teams treat their bot lane.
Jaehyeok “Ruler” Park has a higher KDA than Junsik “Bang” Bae at 6.3 to 5.5. Ruler also plays a bit more with his team, shown in his kill participation of 72.9%, compared to Bang’s 71.4%.
Ruler seems to be a better laner than Bang as well. He is usually 56 gold ahead at the 10-minute mark, while Bang is usually around 65 gold behind, despite only getting a First Blood 15% of the time to Bang’s 25%.
It’s quite obvious that Ruler is not the player SSG helps out in getting ahead first. Overall, however, he does get a bit more of his team’s overall gold than Bang, 25% to 24.5, but deals less damage with it, 31.2% to Bang’s 32.9%.
Stats don’t tell the whole story when discussing supports, even more than in the case of junglers. Despite that, there’s one stat which looks absolutely puzzling when comparing Jaewan “Wolf” Lee and Yongin “CoreJJ” Jo.
What is it?
FB%. CoreJJ participates in 31% of his team’s first blood kills while his AD Carry only shares in the credit for 15%. What does that tell us? CoreJJ leaves his ADC to go help somewhere else. What is the most likely destination for his roams? The mid lane, where Crown will try to hold down Faker.
Another indication that CoreJJ is more likely to be where the action is, even if Ruler isn’t there, is kill participation, where CoreJJ has 82.2% while his ADC trails behind.
Opposed to all of that, Wolf shares the same FB% as his ADC. His kill participation is also more in line with his duo’s.
The last thing we have to talk about here is vision control. Both supports place and clear a similar amount of wards. Nothing less should be expected from these two world-class supports.
It is almost impossible to predict which team is going to win the upcoming 2017 Worlds Finals. The top laners are about even, though SKT’s Huni gets more attention from his jungler and averages around the same numbers CuVee gets without the extra help.
The junglers aren’t the stars of either of the two teams and Ambition shows a tendency to gank more before his opponent makes the first move, which just so happens to center around the mid lane, which is what SKT’s been used to for years due to the presence of their gank-magnet, Faker.
The bot lanes aren’t the greatest on either team, but they still put up when it matters or neither of the two teams would have made it into the Finals.
This series could go either way. For the storyline, if nothing else, we will be rooting for SK Telecom T1. A World Championship title three years in a row is something that hasn’t been done in esports. If Samsung wins, it will be an achievement for them as well, but SSG 2 – 3 SKT after five World Championships just isn’t as exciting.