A TL;DR guide to the LCK Summer Playoffs: Teams' strengths and key players


All LCK Summer Playoffs teams were locked in on June 20. DAMWON Gaming, DRX, Gen.G, and T1 locked the top four spots, and Afreeca Freecs took the wildcard seed with a 2:1 win over kt Rolster.


As the playoffs begin one week from now on June 26, Inven Global takes a bite-sized look at the five competitors, their definitive playstyles, and the key players carrying them to victory.


Afreeca FreecsGatekeepers of the LCK



This split, AF has been considered the gatekeepers of the LCK, due to their dominance over the teams in “the East” (the bottom five teams) but their helplessness against the teams in “the West” (the top four teams of the LCK). This is evident in the statistical trend of the team, as they managed to set a new league record by defeating SeolHaeOne Prince in 16:50 minutes, with a kill score of 16-2. However, when they played against the top teams, they just crumbled every single time.


Key player: Spirit



Jungle champions that build either the Cinderhulk or the Runic Echoes enchantment are dominating the current LCK meta. The champion pool that opts to build these two jungle items are either tank or AP junglers, and they tend to not have too much early lane influence. Smart jungle pathing is essential, and Spirit is a player that is very clever with his routes. As Afreeca’s mid laner Fly continues to have inconsistent performance, it’ll be Spirit’s job to properly nurture him and the rest of AF's laners to get his team ahead.


T1Playoffs T1 is a whole new team from regular split T1



Despite being the reigning LCK champions, T1 has not shown the same dominance in the Summer Split. Much of that lies on the legendary mid laner Faker, who has not been living up to his “Unkillable Demon King” nickname. He hasn’t been ranked as one of the best mid laners in the region — let alone the world — for some time now, which led to his eventual benching for the much hyped rookie Clozer. 


The coming of Clozer then unlocked a massive win streak against the bottom teams before it came to an abrupt end, as T1 fell 0:2 to DAMWON Gaming. And as the final regular season match against DRX approaches, Clozer needs to prove that he can go head to head with the best in the league. 


Key player: Canna



The top laner for T1, Canna, is a rookie that debuted for the team back in Spring. His record for the most solo kills in regular split not only reflects his supreme individual prowess, but the snowball from these solo kills also generates mid-game advantages for T1. Much of their wins came from getting Canna ahead, and whether he’s on split pushing duty or being that teamfight beast that the team needs him to be, a large part of T1’s success this split is credited to this young top laner.


Gen.GThe redemption arc



After getting swept 0:3 by T1 in the Spring Split finals, Gen.G came back stronger than ever in the Summer Split. While they did fall to T1 (again) in round 1, they overcame their flaws to take a clean 2:0 in the round 2 rematch. Much of their wins come from getting a stable early lead, and with diversity in their drafts, they are a very versatile team that can adjust to any playstyle they want.


Key player: Bdd



The mid laner for Gen.G, Bdd, sits at the top of the Player of the Game (POG) standings. And for a good reason. 


Not only does Bdd have an incredibly wide champion pool, but his staple picks like Azir are that much deadlier. From hyper-carry champions like Azir and Ekko to supportive picks such as Karma that enhance the carry potential of the team’s bot laner Ruler, Bdd deservedly leads the POG standings. Historically speaking, however, he is used to choking hard in big matches and these coming playoffs will be a test to whether Bdd has overcome this flaw of his.


DRXTalent overwhelming



DRX is a team that loves to brawl. They pursue skirmishes and teamfights at all points of the game, and even if they fall behind early, they somehow find a way to overcome their deficit through raw mechanical skills. 


While they found success by just steamrolling through their opponents, this victory pattern is being held back by their questionable drafts (AP Shyvana?) and forced skirmishes. On June 16, after DRX’s narrow victory over the last place team, SeolHaeOne Prince, Deft said he feels “like the direction of our practice has gone in the wrong direction,” adding that the team’s draft tier lists also need reorganizing.


Key player: cvMax



As the head coach who once transformed a bottom tier Challengers Korea team to World Championship caliber, there’s no question that cvMax has a very innovative approach to the game. Something that he values a lot are his players’ solo queue ranks, as he recently made a bet with his players to hit a certain LP by a certain date (around the 1000LP mark). There’s no question that the players’ individual performance is critical to the team’s success. However, cvMax is known to be very stubborn with his drafts, and the responsibility falls on his shoulders to provide the players with the right tools.


DAMWON GamingScrim DWG < Stage DWG



During the 2019 LoL World Championship, DAMWONG was feared as this unbeatable team in scrims. However, their dominance in practice did not transition into their stage time, and until the Summer Split, many thought that there are two different versions of this roster: “Scrim DWG” and “Stage DWG”. 


This all changed when they took off their training wheels and started to transition their scrim success onto their stage matches. Not only did all five players of the team step up on an individual level (Nuguri isn’t even getting caught out anymore!), but the pace with which they snowball the game is something that no other LCK team has been able to match. While many consider their bot lane as the weak point, BeryL has roamed very effectively (especially on Pantheon) to influence the upper lanes early, with Ghost playing his role safely in his absence. 


Key player: ShowMaker



In an interview from July 15, DWG head coach Zefa named ShowMaker his most improved player. He explained that while he believes ShowMaker, Canyon, and BeryL all improved a lot, the growth of DWG’s mid laner is something much needed for the team. Not only did ShowMaker hit rank 1 and 2 on the KR solo queue ladder, but he’s also able to carry on the likes of Syndra and Kassadin, which are champions with lots of clear weaknesses in competitive play. 



Riot Korea recently announced that due to heightened government measures against the COVID-19 pandemic, the LCK will be switching to online once again. With the tickets to the 2020 LoL World Championships are on the line for these teams, it'll be curious to see whether playing from familiar environments will impact these teams' performance.

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