Quest's Musings Vol.6: How one team silently became the LCK kings

Week 7 of LCK Summer shook up the standings. The middle-of-the-pack teams continued to play each day, while NS RedForce proved all doubters wrong by rising to the very top.


In this week’s Quest’s Musings, I’ll be sharing my thoughts on the rise of NS RedForce, as well as my thoughts on some of the insider talk by the LCK team staff.

NS RedForce are the new kings of the LCK... for now


NS RedForce knocked down Gen.G off the top of the ladder and claimed their spot as the number one team in the LCK. Yet, some still doubt this team. When I shared my post-match interview with Kim “Gori” Tae-woo on Twitter, one comment said, “If you go to Worlds, LCK is doomed.”  That interview took place on July 12; Gori currently sits at the top of the Player of the Game (PoG) standings with 900 points.


Based on my observation of the NS RedForce games, they still have a lot to work on. From disappointing drafts (Renekton/Nidalee) to a lot of early game mistakes (solo kills that could’ve been very much avoided), this team isn’t without flaws. However, they know how to play to their strengths. They excel at teamfighting because Lee “Rich” Jae-won has so much teamfighting experience from his incredible career in Heroes of the Storm. Add to that Han “Peanut” Wang-ho’s smart macro decisions, the upgrade in the mid lane this split with Gori, and a solid bot lane of Deokdam-Kellin, and you get the current NS RedForce that looks progressively better with each match.

However, the current rendition of the team still doesn’t have any tangible experience in best-of-5’s. As they look to solidify themselves in the playoffs and secure a ticket to Worlds, they’ll need to become smarter in drafts and work on their early game. One similarity that NS shares with DWG KIA is that they’re both from Challengers Korea. DWG became world champions last year, so here’s to another Challengers Korea team finding success not just in the LCK, but on the international stage as well.

LCK’s lack of “smart” players

Various staff working with LCK teams (who wished to remain anonymous) recently shared with Inven that “there’s a huge scarcity of smart players, to the point where offers are starting to go out to retired LCK pros.” 


TLDR: In the LCK, most of the players are mechanically great, but this generation of players is not playing smart. A surprising number of players aren’t even analyzing patch notes and are being spoon-fed knowledge. Since LCK prioritized mechanically gifted players 2-3 years ago, it now has a pool of players who play on intuition rather than analysis. 


In light of this revelation, flawed gameplay that almost regularly occurred like a pattern suddenly made sense to me. Whether that’s in drafting a team composition that lacked themes, always trying to figure out what’s good in the meta right now rather than what’s next, and questionable macro decisions in certain matches [e.g. prioritizing Rift Herald over Dragon, certain Rift Herald teamfights that take place even after the turret plates have fallen, random mid lane teamfights, etc] all started to click.


To my knowledge, the prime method of scouting in the LCK is through contacting young amateur players that look promising in solo queue. This is not the players’ fault. Rookie players will naturally lean towards mechanics rather than game knowledge, due to the fact that a majority of them will only have solo queue experience. If the players are being lazy and ‘piggybacking’ off the coaches to do the jobs for them, then the job isn’t being done right. Rather than just spoon feeding the players patch notes analysis, teach the players how to analyze, so that the players can bring their own ideas to the table. Teach them the methods, not the recipes.

Image source: OGN

The reason why LCK teams like ROX Tigers were so successful was because five players, plus coaches, were brainstorming about the game together. Such a system enabled ROX Tigers to pull out the famous Miss Fortune support against SK Telecom T1 at the 2016 Worlds semifinals. Ultimately, the players are the ones playing the game, so while I wholeheartedly agree with the fact that this generation of players lack the analytical skills, it feels as if they’re just shifting the blame.

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