Coming into the Final of World Championship 2016, some people thought that there was no way that the match could live up to the awesomeness that was the Semifinal between ROX Tigers and SK Telecom T1. In reality, this turned out to come true; however, the gap in quality wasn’t very big, the Final came close to the same excitement in the end, even if it was looking to be a stomp in the beginning.
With Ashe banned by Samsung and MF by SKT, there were no Bottom Lane shenanigans to be seen in Game 1 of Worlds Finals. SSG ran Caitlyn Zyra, while SKT had Jhin Karma. Lee “Crown” Min-ho got his Viktor, Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok pulled out his trusty Orianna. Kang “Ambition” Chan-yong played Lee Sin against Bae “bengi” Seong-ung’s Olaf, and Lee “CuVee” Seong-jin went with Poppy against Lee “Duke” Ho-Seong’s Trundle.
In the early and mid game, SSG tried to unsuccessfully catch out bengi in their own jungle, however, the veteran managed to get away somehow. Then, bengi invaded Lee Sin’s redbuff and killed him, but Crown was the first mid laner to move to assist, killing him in turn. Then, Crown proved that the Unkillable Demon King is no more by soloing Faker.The fighting continued in the Bottom lane after that. Whatever play SSG made, it seemed that SKT always managed to find a way to come out on top. At around 28 minutes, SKT decided to go for the Infernal Drake, but Ambition managed to steal it. Five minutes later, the two-time World Champions managed to sneak a Baron Nashor.
While the game lasted a fair amount of time with SKT having the advantage in gold for most of it, it never degenerated into a clown fiesta in terms of kills. The teams used pressure to get themselves drakes, Nashors, and turrets, just like they were supposed to. Methodical League of Legends is the best League of Legends.
In the first game of the series, SSG banked on winning lanes and snowballing, hopefully avoiding the quagmire that is the late game when you’re against SKT, one of the best in the world at playing long games.
After Game 1, where comps couldn’t have been any more conventional if you tried, both SKT and SSG switched it up a little bit. In Bans, SK Telecom targeted CuVee and Ambition by banning Jayce, Olaf, and Elise, while SSG dropped the mandatory Nidalee ban, took Syndra away from Faker, and denied Bae “Bang” Jun-sik’s Ashe. SKT picked themselves Gnar, Lee Sin, Ryze, Jhina, and Nami against Samsung’s Kennen, Kindred, Cassiopeia, Caitlyn, and Karma. It seems as if the challengers felt the need to upset the status quo and decided, that the best way to do that was bringing in Kindred.
The first blood was shed in the river towards the Bottom side of the map, where bengi got caught with his pants down by SSG. Even though Faker and his minions were close, they couldn’t save their poor mascot. Samsung intended to transition that kill into a dive onto the Bot Lane of SKT, however, Faker wasn’t about to have any of it. He went on the offensive, popped his Ult, flashed forwards and got a kill on Jo “CoreJJ” Yong-in’s Karma with the help of his ADC and Lee “Wolf” Jae-wan. Then, SKT moved as three to the Top Lane, CuVee fell to the Demon King.
The next piece of action on the map started a couple of minutes later. SSG threw their whole team into a dive on the Bottom Lane. While Bang and Wolf did die under their turret, Duke took out Ambition’s Kindred on Gnar, even though the Marksman Jungler still had Ult, and Faker came in as well, rooting and killing Crown. All those resources spent for a 2 for 2 was a big loss for Samsung. The challengers continued to have a bad time of it after Duke and bengi dove CuVee in the Top Lane. at around the same time, with Wolf away from the lane for a second, Park “Ruler” Jae-hyuk decided to try and solo kill Jhin, even flashing forwards to make sure he can’t get away. Unfortunately, Wolf was close by and Ruler died 1v2.
This pattern continued for some time. SKT managed to get a decent kill lead, however, they failed to translate it into objectives. With a couple of drakes, SSG actually only trailed by around 2k gold, which, while bad, wasn’t insurmountable yet. Even though SKT didn’t get objectives from the start, they were bound to start, provided the kills kept coming. That is precisely what happened. Using their gold lead to pressure, SKT got themselves a Baron and went on a tear through the Summoner’s Rift, picking up numerous towers and even diving Samsung past their inhib turrets. Needless to say, SKT was way too far ahead to lose the match.
After getting crushed in the dominating Game 2, SSG could have easily given up, especially when SKT’s Trundle, Elise, Orianna, Jhin and Nami kept dominating for the first half of the match against SSG’s Poppy, Lee Sin, Aurelion Sol, Ezreal, and Zyra, however, the underdogs proved themselves to be made of sterner stuff. They managed to win a fight around Baron and used it to take the initiative in the game. Even then, with everyone quickly approaching full builds, they still trailed behind in gold, despite making successful plays to get back into the match.
All in all, this match was almost the longest in Worlds history, only trailing by less than half a minute. In the end, Samsung managed to win, shining a light on their prospects for the championship title. They still had a long way to go, however. While SSG needed to win two games straight, SKT needed only one, there was no margin for error. This match showed that Samsung could compete against the reigning World Champions in late game teamfights, expanding their playbook.
Two champions made SKT have a bad day in game 3, Zyra and Aurelion Sol. Still confident in their ability to deal with the roaming dragon, SKT were NOT about to have to risk dealing with a full build AP Support, Zyra, banning it. With Ashe open, SKT picked that one up, Faker elected to play Orianna, the newly subbed in Blank went with Zac, Duke decided to go for Gnar, and Wolf went with Nami. On the other hand, SKT didn’t try to reinvent the wheel at all. They simply picked up Kennen, Lee Sin, Viktor, Jhin, and Karma.
This game was a seesaw, with one team looking to be going strong, only to be overtaken by their opponents. In the end, SKT’s Zac Orianna wombo combo didn’t work as well as hope, while CuVee’s Kennen, Crown’s Viktor, and Ruler’s Jhin controlled the fights. With some great play, Samsung managed to win the second game in a row, bringing the score to a tie. The Unkillable Demon King and Minions were bleeding, all Samsung had to do was land the Finisher.
After the loss in Game 4, SKT elected to use bengi as their Jungler for the last game of the series. With the whole season on the line, it made sense to use the more experienced player, especially when Blank failed to bring it home in Game 4. Chances were that bengi got the chance to calm down and discuss the team’s options with their coach while the rest of SKT was on the Rift.
Team comp-wise, SSG got themselves Poppy, Olaf, Cassiopeia, Jhin and Tahm Kench against SKT’s Trundle, Lee Sin, Viktor, Ashe, and Braum. Probably the most important picks were in the Mid Lane and the Support position. By taking Viktor away from Crown, SKT put their opposing mid on a champion he’s not supremely comfortable on, while the unusual melee Supports were also quite surprising. Of course, the reason for them getting picked wasn’t that complicated, both SSG and SKT banned Karma and Zyra respectively. Aaaand Tahm Kench is great vs. SKT’s Ashe.
The action in the game started with skirmishes between Faker and Crown. Cassiopeia gained the advantage. Lee Sin, played by bengi, went to the Bottom Lane to gank for Wolf and Bang, they got a kill on CoreJJ’s Tahm Kench. Meanwhile, Faker walked around with barely any life, trying to pick up the wave, which was just pushed out by Crown. Noticing the greed, Ambition came over and dove Faker, yet he still managed to go 1 for 1 on the play. Next, bengi and Wolf came to punish Crown for staying too long.
Following the early game excitement, the game stalled out for a long time. Yes, teams got kills, they got objectives, however, there weren’t any big swings in gold or momentum. Then, Ruler, the rookie ADC from SSG, screwed up, standing way too far up. He got killed and SKT immediately converted their numerical advantage into a Baron, immediately followed by an Elder Dragon. That’s when SKT started trying to close out the match by pressuring several lanes at the same time. At that time, SKT were an item ahead on most of their players, the clock was ticking, they had to close out the game before Samsung caught up in gold and any kind of gold lead stopped to matter.
Eventually, the time for a second Baron Nashor came up, SKT managed to pick it up despite Ruler trying to steal it with Jhin ult. SKT went and took inhibitors, moved to the Elder Dragon, got that as well. The manner in which SK Telecom tried to close out the game was efficient, methodical, cold, Korean. Their didn’t leave any chance to their opponents. SK Telecom T1 won the last match of the series and became the World Champions of 2016. With this title, SKT are definitely the most dominant team in League of Legends history, three time World Champions, the first team to win Worlds two times in a row.