The 2021 LCK Spring Split begins tomorrow with the clash between Gen.G and kt Rolster. It's the first season of franchising for the LCK and there have been several changes to the league’s set-up. The teams, too, have gone through a makeover.
SeolHaeOne Prince is no longer part of the LCK while Fredit BRION took its place. Besides that, the rosters have been shifted around, and the teams are similar only in name. Here's a preview of the LCK spring season to see what you're getting into.
The team that changed the most over the winter was DRX. Not only did head coach Kim “cvMax” Dae-ho got a five-month suspension, but their main carry players all left the team too. Jeong “Chovy” Ji-hoon and Kim “Deft” Hyuk-kyu joined HLE, Ryu “Keria” Min-seok went to T1, and Choi "Doran" Hyeon-joon left for kt Rolster. The only remaining starting member is Hong "Pyosik" Chang-hyeon, who was a rookie last year. They will be debuting two rookies alongside Yoon "SOLCA" Jeong-min and Hwang "Kingen" Seong-hoon, who were also never the starting members.
The only reliable player on the team would be Pyosik, as he is the most experienced player on the team. Their results would be based on how much the new rookies would perform.
Rookie players that have no experience in the LCK with some seasoned players that don't have high expectations. It's still winter for BRO. Most fans predict BRO to end up in last place. During the stove league, the team looked for players that could be the future of the team, and to nurture the prospects, they signed Choi "Edgar" Woo-beom as the head coach, who famously turned Samsung Galaxy from a last-place prospect to world champions in three years.
Edgar says that before immediate results and moving up in the standings, his goal is to change the evaluations towards the players. If they can survive through the winter, flowers will blossom when the prospects reach their potentials.
The sandstorm of 2019 was nowhere to be seen in 2020. Liiv SANDBOX is looking to make a drastic turn heading into the new year. Although Jakob "YamatoCannon" Mebdi went back to Europe, Liiv SANDBOX appointed DAMWON Gaming founder Kim “Micro” Mok-kyong as their head coach and also signed Lee “Effort” Sang-ho from T1. Also, another newly-signed member, Kim "Croco" Dong-beom, showed great performances during the KeSPA Cup brought high expectations towards the team as well.
It all comes down to if Park "Summit" Woo-tae could return to his prime to set up a solid pillar for the team. After all, Summit’s performances were the eye of the sandstorm in 2019.
Gen.G kept their starting roster as most of them had multi-year contracts. They will go again with Kim "Rascal" Kwang-hee, Kim "Clid" Tae-min, Gwak "Bdd" Bo-seong, and Park "Ruler" Jae-hyuk. Kim "Life" Jeong-min also extended his contract with the team. The starting members will head into the second year together which means better teamwork. They are also the only team with the same starting roster going into the new season.
Insiders say that Gen.G's scrims are quite good. They might be the only team that can actually challenge the heavy favorites of DK. Gen.G's results in 2020 may not have been optimal, but they will have a good chance again this year.
Afreeca Freecs changed much during the stove league as they signed Bae "Bang" Jun-sik and Son "Lehends" Si-woo to their bot lane. Lee "Spirit" Da-yoon stepped down from pro play to become a coach. However, their results during the KeSPA Cup weren’t that good and were the only team in the tournament to finish winless.
There's still hope for the team, being chock full of experienced players. Coaches Han “Rigby” Earl and Nam “LirA” Tae-yoo led Clutch Gaming to Worlds in 2019. If they could blend these colorful players into one, they will become a completely different team. AF was the gatekeeper of the "West" in 2020. They'll need to prove that they could do more.
As one of the biggest esports organizations in the world, T1’s rich legacy of countless championship victories across multiple esports titles has raised the bar for expectations. Nothing less than first place is enough, and when T1 failed to qualify for Worlds in 2020, they really spent their resources to acquire some of the best names in the competitive League of Legends scene. Their acquisition of Keria, who was considered to be one of the best supports in 2020 (in his very first competitive year!), and Yang “Daeny” Dae-in and Lee “Zefa” Tae-min, the former coaching staff for world champions DWG, will look to elevate T1 by many levels in their 2021 season.
Zeus and Oner, who are the two newest rookies to join T1’s main roster, already proved that they can style on the best of the best in solo queue, so their potential looks to be unlocked through incredible leadership from Daeny and Zefa.
While T1 has three junglers listed on their main roster, their support role is only filled by one player, Keria. This 18-year-old has already proven that he’s one of the best in his very first competitive year and will look to trek towards the very peak of his role.
After their 2020 season, KT terminated contracts with every single player on the team, with the exception of Son "Ucal" Woo-hyeon. To fill the void that’s been left, they signed Doran and Kang "Blank" Sun-gu, called up rookies, and even signed former Challengers Korea talent, Jang "Zzus" Joon-soo. Their methodical approach to how they utilized their players during KeSPA Cup showed much promise for KT’s future, as they were able to perform on a level far above expectations. According to industry talk, KT is arguably one of the hardest working teams that are preparing for the upcoming Spring split, so their story of growth will definitely be an interesting one.
The former Team Dynamics underwent arguably the most amount of changes during the off-season. Not only did the team rebrand itself but they also rebuilt their roster with a good mix of rookies and veterans. Han "Peanut" Wang-ho, who’s the newest jungler for the team, will look to bring experience into this freshly brewed team, while the whole team continues to build their teamwork for the upcoming season.
The head coach for NS, Bae “sBs” Ji-hun, commented, “Through KeSPA Cup, we now know the things that we need to work on. While our initial goal this split may be to make it to the playoffs this split, we’ll work towards becoming a team that can realistically set our sights beyond just the playoffs.”
While KeSPA Cup results don't necessarily transition into results in the Spring split, it’ll be curious to watch how much they’ll improve.
Hanwha Life Esports
HLE is arguably one of the biggest winners of the off-season. Their acquisition of two of the hottest free agents in the market, Deft and Chovy, has HLE fans hoping that they’ll finally be able to get out of the bottom of the LCK food chain.
Despite the hype behind their roster, however, they did not perform as well as many thought during the KeSPA Cup. While Chovy continued to outperform in the mid-lane, HLE’s opponents were able to simply strategize around HLE’s weaker lanes of inexperienced rookies. Their saving grace comes from Kim "Deft" Hyuk-kyu, a veteran who’s exceptionally known for elevating other players’ performances.
The head coach for the team, Son “Kezman” Dae-young, commented, “While it’s disappointing that the level of influence from the mid lane has diminished a bit, we’re working day and night to fix our flaws, one by one.”
The reason DAMWON was such a dominant team in 2020 is pretty simple: The players improved to the point where the team could to play out the game through any lane they wanted. With strong fundamentals, teamwork, and flawless execution in their in-game macro, DWG was unmatched in 2020. However, the departure of Jang "Nuguri" Ha-gwon had many fans and experts alike predict a small decline in their strengths as a team. While Nuguri’s replacement in Kim "Khan" Dong-ha is still considered to be one of the best in the world, it'll be hard to expect a 27-year-old veteran to perform as he did in his prime.
It still doesn’t change the fact that DK is in a league of their own. Even if Khan may not perform as well as he did in his prime, he remains one of the very best in the world. His playstyle may not be as explosive as it once was, but his veteran status will offer more variance in his role within the team. Khan’s amicable personality will allow him to easily mesh with the team, even outside the game.
Meanwhile, the other players on the team continue to transcend their former selves. Kim "Canyon" Geon-bu, who’s already the undisputed king of the jungle, and as mid-jungle in the current meta are still the most important roles in the game, he continues to perform levels above his opponents. DK may not be as strong as before, but their competition has long way to go before they can catch up to their level.
Striving for perfection to achieve excellence in esports