Wow. The World Championship 2016 Semifinal match between SK Telecom T1 and ROX Tigers will probably go down in history of League of Legends as one of the best matches ever. It is definitely the best match of this season. If you haven’t watched it… you missed out. While the Final is left to play, most people will probably forget it. The true Final has happened already. SK Telecom T1 won in a nailbiter of a series, there’s nothing left to see, folks.
The series started with a weird Ezreal ban by ROX, complemented by Ryze and Syndra. With Faker not being able to play Aurelion Sol, SK Telecom T1 banned that champion, as well as Nidalee and Jayce, to avoid giving the two best players on ROX the powerful champions.
Starting on Blue side, ROX Tigers used their first pick to snag Caitlyn for Kim “PraY” Jong-in. SKT responded by snagging themselves the most contended Support, Zyra, and Jungler, Olaf. Then, Han “Peanut” Wang-ho got himself Elise, one of his most played Jungle champions, and Lee “kurO” Seo-haeng picked Poppy for the Top Lane. SKT responded with the traditional Poppy counter, Trundle, and ASHE. ROX rounded out their comp with one of kurO’s best champions, Viktor, and Karma. Finally, Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok got himself Orianna, one of his best and most played champions ever.
The game started out slow, with teams basically farming up for 13 minutes, before a fight broke out at Dragon. ROX Tigers, with Song “Smeb” Kyung-ho leading the charge, picked up two kills and an Infernal Dragon. Then, a bit later, a Bot Lane party took place, SKT managed to catch up and even get a lead, before one more fight around Infernal Dragon. SKT killed Smeb’s Poppy and were burning through the Dragon, when ROX’s Elise stole it. Then, the biggest misplay of the whole series happened. Elise has just went into the Dragon pit, where three SKT players were waiting for her. Peanut rappelled, but he had nowhere to go. Then, SKT’s Support, Lee “Wolf” Jae-wan put a ward over the dragon pit, giving Elise a target to rappel to, getting out of the pit and getting the hell out of there. Sad.
Despite losing a couple of Infernal Dragons in a row, SKT still managed to keep up in gold, holding a lead. They got a Baron, answered almost immediately by the third Infernal for ROX. SKT didn’t really take advantage of their Baron too well, ROX got the next one, kinda wasted it too, because SKT’s inhib turrets were still standing. The next big fight to break out was around the Elder Dragon. Peanut tried and failed to steal it. SKT collapsed on their opponents, taking most of them out and went Mid as a three man unit to try and close out the game, while Olaf and Zyra were playing with Smeb’s Poppy to stop her from defending. When the three man unit closed out the match, most ROX players still had around 20 seconds on their death timers.
Game 2 and 3
While the first game of the series was very good and surprising because of the Ashe pick for Bae “Bang” Jun-sik and Poppy instead of a carry champion for Smeb, the second game is when the craziness, because of which this match will go down in history, started.
Starting on Blue side, SKT banned out Aurelion Sol, Jayce and Jhin, while ROX took away Syndra, Ryze, and Nidalee. By banning Jhin, SKT were counting on forcing the Ashe vs. Caitlyn matchup, with some Ezreal, maybe.
SKT first picked Olaf, securing the most contested Jungler for Kang “Blank” Sun-gu. Then, ROX took Ashe and Karma. The Karma pick was a weird one, because Zyra was still open and it works with Ashe superbly well, as anyone who watched Cloud9 in their first LCS Split could tell you. ROX had a plan, however, they were baiting SKT into signing their death warrant. Well, SKT fell for it, hook, line, and sinker. They picked Zyra and Ezreal and thought to have a pretty good bot lane matchup. After all, Zyra has a small advantage against Karma and Ezreal can Astral Shift Ashe’s Enchanted Crystal Arrow. Then, ROX kept reeling SKT in by picking their Top and Jungle (Rumble and Lee Sin), acting as if they were leaving their counter pick for Mid Lane. SKT got themselves Ekko and Viktor. Then, ROX dropped the bomb when they instalocked Miss Fortune and traded their Karma to kurO, while Gorilla kept MF as the Support. Yes, you read that right, one game down in the Semifinal of Worlds 2016, ROX Tigers had enough BALLS to run Karma Mid, Ashe ADC, and Miss Fortune Support. Let that sink in for a second. Needless to say, Twitter blew up.
What was the reasoning behind the Miss Fortune pick? Basically, all it was meant to do was make Zyra’s life absolute hell. Everyone knows that Zyra is one of the squishiest Supports in the game. Her main harass ability, Deadly Spines, has 800 range. Support Miss Fortune’s harass tool, Make It Rain, has 1000 range. It also slows anyone in its radius by 28-60% when maxed. Paired with Ashe’s Enchanted Crystal Arrow, this slow enables the Ashe MF Bot Lane to slow the Zyra, hit it with the Arrow, unless she Flashes out, and follow it up with MF’s Bullet Time, which is practically always enough to kill the Zyra. The problem with the comp is that if it comes to the late game, Zyra’s utility and damage outstrips Miss Fortune, making it a liability. Despite that, with ROX Tigers’ propensity to play aggressively, they were banking on winning early game hard enough to ensure that the match won’t get to late game in the first place.
That is exactly what happened in the second and third games of the series. Not completely dialed in, ROX didn’t abuse Zyra TOO much, only landing the full combo once, but still using MF’s slow and Ult to pick numerous kills. The third game was where the full potential of Ashe MF became apparent, when SKT declined to ban it, hoping that ROX will not try the gimmick again or expecting to be able to beat it with Caitlyn Zyra. Well, they failed. Due to some absolutely amazing Ashe arrows by PraY, together with MF’s Slow and Ult, ROX won the game, poor Wolf and the rest of the SKT team had a very bad time. Needless to say, SK Telecom fell behind 1-2 in the series. Ladies and gentlemen, we could provide you with a play by play of the two matches, but we won’t. Go and at least watch the Highlights, if not the full matches. This series was some of the best League of Legends of all time, you should see it yourself.
For the following match, with their backs against the wall, SKT switched out their Jungler, Blank, for Bae “bengi” Seong-ung. There could be many reasons for it. Their coach, Kim “KkOma” Jeong-gyun might have wanted a more experienced Jungler to steady the team, it might have been decided that bengi would do better due to champion pool considerations, or he might have decided that switching Junglers would reset the team’s mental state after the two crushing defeats at the hands of ROX Tigers and their Ashe MF Bottom Lane.
Whatever the case may be, SKT finally bit the bullet and banned Miss Fortune, followed by Jayce and Aurelion Sol. ROX answered with a slew of bans aimed at Faker, Syndra, Ryze, and Cassiopeia.
Having sacrificed the Nidalee ban to get rid of Miss Fortune, SKT pretty much had to pick the Bestial Huntress to take it away from Peanut. ROX didn’t waste time, getting themselves Ashe and Zyra. The reigning World Champions responded by getting themselves Jhin and Karma. Then, ROX filled their Mid and Jungle with Viktor and Olaf, after which SKT rounded out their comp with Gnar and Zilean. Smeb was the player with the chance to last pick. He elected to go with Rumble.
The first piece of action happened in the Mid Lane, where Faker landed a stun on kurO’s Viktor and bengi didn’t hesitate to follow up, diving the poor Machine Herald, killing him and barely getting away with his life. Next, a party was held in the Bot Lane. Bang sniped Kang “GorillA” Beom-hyeon’s Zyra with his ult. SKT had the option of diving for more, but decided to hold back. Then, a bit later, Smeb was caught hanging out in the river close to Mid by Bang, Faker, and Wolf. The poor Rumble paid for it with his life.
The next big fight to break out was in the Top lane, where Smeb and Peanut were trying to demolish SKT’s Lee “Duke” Ho-seong, only to have him turn into Mega Gnar. With the help of Faker and bengi’s Nidalee, Smeb got taken down. Chasing after Peanut, bengi and Faker went past the turret. While bengi was trying to get Peanut, GorillA landed his root and ult on Faker, while The God still had turret aggro. He still had Ult but didn’t cast it on himself for some reason, dying to Zyra. After that kurO caught Wolf coming to the top lane through the river and unloaded everything he had on the Support. Wolf barely managed to get away from Viktor’s ult, somehow surviving. kurO tried to chase, but bengi wasn’t about to let his Karma die. He finished off ROX’s Mid Laner.
Following that, the teams more or less kept skirmishing in the ROX Top side jungle and all around it. While ROX did manage to snag several kills, SKT came out way ahead in the end. Once they got a Baron, they killed everyone on ROX and killed the Nexus. This game was a great comeback from the World Champions.
With their backs against the wall, the Blue sided ROX Tigers opened up the bans by targeting Faker’s Ryze. SKT, not in the mood for a repeat of Games 2 and 3, banned out Miss Fortune. Then, the campaign to shackle The God continued with a Syndra ban, answered by Nidalee. The final round of bans had ROX getting rid of Olaf and Aurelion Sol by their opponents.
When it came the time to pick, ROX surprised by getting themselves Karma first. SK Telecom answered by getting themselves Ashe and Lee Sin. Then, ROX got the better of their opponents a little bit, by picking up Zyra and Jayce, getting a power pick in the Top Lane, while also taking away the most contested Support in the World Championship. As a result, they had to play Karma in the Mid Lane, which spelled trouble for their late game prospects, if Faker decided to go with a traditional Mage. That is precisely what happened because SKT picked up Orianna for Faker and Nami for Wolf, to negate some of the Zyra poke. ROX rounded out their comp by getting Jhin for PraY and Elise, one of his best Junglers, for Peanut. Finally, SK Telecom used their last pick to get a Poppy for Duke.
The early game was where the ROX team comp had the advantage. They were supposed to be able to push lanes much more than their opponents, especially apparent in the Top Lane, where Duke was getting ready to get smacked around by Smeb’s Jayce. Once the game reached later stages, however, SKT was supposed to get stronger and stronger, with Poppy and Orianna massively outscaling their lane opponents. This match was a classic face off between a squishy poke comp and a traditional engage/team fight line up with a Tank Top, Bruiser Jungle, Mage Mid, AD Carry, and a traditional Support.
The match started with the Blue buff getting handed off to Faker. While that gave him a lot of pressure, it also gave ROX a lot of information about bengi’s movement on Lee Sin, as soon as Faker was sighted to have the Blue buff. Peanut took advantage of that by going to the brush between Red buff and Baron pit and waiting for bengi to show up. He didn’t have to wait long at all. SKT’s Jungler got chunked for most of his life from the initial Elise burst. He tried to get away, but wasn’t successful, as Elise chased him down.
Next, several minutes later, with Socerer’s Shoes and a couple of Amplifying Totems as his items aside from the Hunter’s Machete, Peanut went to lane gank for his Bot Lane. Both lane bushes were pinked in advance, so Peanut only had to patiently wait for an SKT player to come in range of his Cocoon. As it turns out, he didn’t have to wait long at all, as Wolf ventured too close and died for it. Then, bengi decided that enough was enough, getting a pick on GorillA, followed by an awesome Shockwave into Sonic Blast combo with the help of Faker a couple of minutes later.
After that, bot teams tried to make plays all over the map, eventually ending up with ROX trying to get a Baron at 22 minutes. At that point, both teams had taken down a couple of towers, kills were even at 5, SKT was 200 gold ahead, and had 2 Cloud Dragons. Bengi was the first player from SKT to come and try to stop ROX. He pinked the Baron pit to get some vision, while the rest of SKT were running to help him. Then, Bengi landed Q on Baron, waited a bit, activated, kicked out Peanut’s Elise from the pit to stop him from smiting. The spider died on his way out, while bengi also got out of there. Then, Bang flashed in, while the now quite tanky Poppy went for ROX’s throat. In the end, ROX got the Baron, but SKT took down 4 of their players. SKT actually increased their lead by 300 gold with that play.
Then, SKT started slowly choking out their opponents over the next 8 minutes or so. They managed to get one more Cloud Dragon and 3 Towers. It was time to make a play, and what a play it was. Faker and bengi went to do Baron with three SKT players, Bang, Wolf, and Duke showing Mid to draw their opponents attention. Using the movement speed from their 3 Cloud Drakes, the 3 pazzis came over to help SKT’s Mid and Jungler secure the Baron and quickly got out of there as a unit, without fighting.
After that, SKT kept increasing their lead and waited for the next Baron to respawn. After it did, they didn’t waste any time, taking it and following it up with Elder Dragon atop their 3 Cloud and 1 Infernal Dragon. The only thing left to do after that was to take ROX Tigers Nexus, which they did very methodically, using their comp’s strengths while not allowing ROX to use theirs.
In this game, the stylistic difference between SK Telecom T1 and ROX Tigers was clear as day. While ROX prefered winning early game and playing very aggressively, SKT were much more reserved, waiting for their opponents to make the slightest mistake they could punish, while having all the tools they need to annihilate them in their superb team fighting comp.
This best of 5 series was one of, if not THE GREATEST, matches in the history of Competitive League of Legends. One missed skillshot at a crucial time could have spelled defeat for either team. Both ROX Tigers and SK Telecom T1 deserve to be the World Champions after this match. Unless something completely unexpected and amazing happens, there is no real way that the official Worlds 2016 Final will come anywhere near close enough to the awesomeness that was this match. Even though you now know what happened, we implore you to watch this. You won’t regret it.