Out of the four spots in League of Legends World Championship Semifinal, three are taken up by South Korean teams, while the last is occupied by Europe. While most people don’t find it surprising that Korea is once again on top, many people were just about ready to give up on Europe forever as the Group Stage was getting played out. Fortunately for them, H2K took the expectations of their entire region and agreed to carry them as far as they can. How far will they go? How far will the Korean’s go? Which Korean teams are the strongest? That’s what’s going to be talked about in this article.
Match 1 – SK Telecom T1 vs. ROX Tigers
This Semifinal match is going to be amazing. It should be some of the best League of Legends we’ve ever had the pleasure of watching on the international stage. It is also extremely hard to call in favor of one team or the other.
Going lane by lane, ROX holds a definite advantage in Top Lane and Jungle, with Song “Smeb” Kyung-ho and Han “Peanut” Wang-ho standing above their direct opponents. While SKT’s Lee “Duke” Ho-seong is definitely one of the best at his position in the tournament, Smeb is The best in the world. The gap between Peanut and SKT junglers, Kang “Blank” Sun-gu and Bae “bengi” Seong-ung is smaller. If Peanut can perform to the standard of his matches against EDG in the Quarterfinal, he should be a tough nut to crack for the two-time World Champions.
Mid Lane is where SKT holds their biggest advantage, with Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok relentlessly pressuring his opponents by using his world class mechanics and almost supernatural game sense to take advantage of every single small mistake his opponents make, while also avoiding stepping past his limits. Even in this lane, however, SKT’s victory is not guaranteed.
ROX Tigers’ Lee “kurO” Seo-haeng’s champion pool is seemingly perfectly suited to the Worlds’ meta. He can play everything that’s currently strong, including Aurelion Sol, the power pick, which played a great part in ROX wins in the Quarters. On the other hand, Faker seems to NOT be proficient at that champion, for once. Instead, SKT relies on their ability to deal with Aurelion Sol, frequently leaving it open and not picking it. The outcome of the series might hugely depend on how this champion is dealt with. It is an easy champion, which has a very easy time of pushing out the lane and roaming to the side lanes, with his opponent lagging behind due to inferior mobility.
If SKT bans it every game, kurO will have to default to his other champions, like Viktor, Ryze, Vladimir, or Ryze. Faker should be able to deal with these, however, it will open up more options for Peanut. To be honest, between ROX’s Mid and Jungle, there aren’t enough bans to deal with both players, without even considering the problem of Smeb. It will be extremely interesting to see how SKT tackles this problem. If only Faker surprised everyone by pulling out Aurelion Sol himself… That would rip the series wide open.
As for the Bot Lanes, they are more or less equal in strength, however, the meta seems to be favoring Bot Lane Parties all day, every day. That’s where ROX could get an advantage with their seemingly superior Jungle and possible Aurelion Sol in Mid Lane.
The final difference between the two teams is in how they win their games. ROX Tigers is like an aggressive beast, constantly picking small fights to get small advantages for themselves. SKT’s approach is different. They are like the white-haired sensei with the crazy moustache, who defends from your annoying attempts to attack him until you make a mistake. Then, they punish you and take advantage by killing Towers, Dragons, and Barons, getting a maximum gold swing out of it.
One more thing should be considered. ROX Tigers seemingly can’t defeat SKT in a best of 5 series. Every time they tried, they lost. This might actually help SKT a lot. In an interview, kurO said that he doesn’t have good memories from his matches against Faker. If SKT can get inside their opponent’s heads and play up their image of the big bad wolf, they stand a much better chance.
All in all, the series should be extremely close, either team could win. While I would love it if SKT got the better of ROX once again and went to the Grand Final, I don’t think that it’s in the cards this time. ROX Tigers 3 – 2 SK Telecom T1 is my prediction, no matter how sad I am about it. Don’t get me wrong, ROX are awesome. It seems that those guys are genuinely having the time of their lives whenever they play on stage.
Match 2 – Samsung Galaxy vs. H2K
Right out of the gate, I have to say that H2K has a chance to win the series against Samsung Galaxy; however, it would take something extraordinary for it to actually happen. Player by player, H2K’s lineup more or less matches or, in Bot Lane’s case, actually outshines Samsung’s. The problem is that the raw skill difference is probably not immense enough to get a considerable lead in the early game.
I might be wrong, but the only scenario, where H2K wins a game against Samsung Galaxy, involves them smashing the Koreans early and finishing the game fast, before late game rolls around. As Christopher “MonteCristo” Mykkles pointed out recently, H2K are very bad once the game gets to the late game, running around like headless chickens, not knowing what to do.
If the Europeans can blitz Samsung, they might win a game. If they can do it three times, they will win the series. BUT. If Samsung gets to the mid/late game in good shape, their superior shotcalling will shine through and H2K will be donezo. Making the problem more difficult, even in lanes where H2K has the advantage, it’s miniscule. The Europeans will have to play out of their minds if they expect to actually achieve their win condition.
Samsung Galaxy 3 – H2K 1