Rookies always give the fresh breath of air that the league needs. Their presence are the turning gears of the league, and their untapped potential is what makes the fans stay hopeful for the future. In that regard, the LCK Challengers League [LCK CL] that kicked off for the first time this season, is the fresh breath of air that the Korean LoL esports scene needed.
After the LCK became franchised, LCK CL is the second tier league of the LCK that replaced Challengers Korea. It became mandatory for the 10 organizations in the LCK to field a secondary roster for this league. It’s undoubtedly a huge positive change. For pro teams, this league is an efficient way to manage and nurture the players that will ensure the future of their organizations, and is also a great way for the players themselves to get competitive experience under their belt.
The 2021 LCK CL Spring split opened on January 18 of this year and concluded on April 9. To get straight to the point, this split was a success; the progress and the results of this split showcased the promising future of the rookies that will eventually end up playing in what many consider to be the best league in the world, the LCK.
Players were at the center of it all. With so many unique players individually bringing something different to the players, the way they synergized to compete brought a different set of appeal from the LCK. The most notable characteristic about the LCK CL was the rawness of the rookies that reflected upon almost every match during the split.
Banded by the ambition to climb to the top, these rookies were relentless. Rather than looking for a reason to skirmish, they fought to find that reason. Rather than relying on macro, they fought to either capitalize their lead or come back from behind. Naturally, the viewing experience became even more fun. In this process, macro mistakes were happening more frequently, but the players did not back down and gave it their all.
In the LCK CL, viewers are able to watch the full growth process of a rising star. Kim “Berserker” Min-cheol, is the prime example of this split. As a former trainee at T1 Academy, Berserker had zero competitive experience until this split, but the potential that he’s shown this split definitely has many people hopeful for his future.
On the caster’s desk were Go “Ggoggo” Soo-jin, Kang “GorillA” Beom-hyun, Jeong “NoFe” No-chul, and Lee Dong-jin. They deserve much praise for not only properly delivering the right information on the draft and the gameplay, but their interaction with the viewers in chat also elevated the viewing experience.
There are definitely things that need to be improved. The call up/send down system is a prime example. Currently, the league rules state that teams are only allowed to call up/send down players when they register their rosters; during the split, this means before the first round robin, the second round robin, and right before the playoffs. When compared to traditional sports leagues, this current system is restrictive.
When players get injured, or are faced with any other unfortunate scenarios, this system restricts teams to utilize players from their CL roster. For example, during the 2021 LCK Spring split, the mid laner for Fredit BRION, Kim “Lava” Tae-hoon was unable to compete due to an injury. However, because they did not have a substitute mid laner registered, Lee “Chieftain” Jae-yub, the second jungler listed for the team, had to sub in for Lava. Despite having a mid laner in their CL roster, Cho “Roamer” Woo-jin, the team was forced to have a jungler sub in the mid lane, so this system definitely needs to be revamped.
Overall, the first split of the LCK CL was a success. The overall level of interest was far greater than its predecessor, LoL Challengers Korea, and it was paired with improved operation that put the league on its right track. The peak viewership of the 2020 LoL Challengers Korea was at around 6,000 - 7,000 viewers, while the 2021 LCK CL Spring split had a total average viewership of around 21,000 viewers [statistics provided via KeSPA].
The development of young prospects was successful, and was proven with results. There were three players that were called up from their respective CL roster; kt Rolster’s bot laner, Oh “Noah” Hyeon-taek, is a prime example of this, due to his impressive performance throughout the second round robin of the 2021 LCK Spring. There’s still more work to be done, but many are hopeful for the future of LCK CL.
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