Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok is called a living legend. But while myths and legends are usually things of the past, Faker’s story is still being written. When and if he’ll win another trophy, whether his nearly unreachable records will ever be broken, and how many more will he establish. All eyes are always on Faker to perform, carrying more scrutiny and harsher criticism than any player if he doesn’t.
Faker himself is adamant that his story is far from over. He behaves with the calm demeanor of someone who’s used to overcoming troubles to get back to the top. In the recent LCK Regional Finals — which came shortly after T1 lost to DWG KIA in the Summer Finals — Faker stood up and showed what he’s made of. Losing a critical match was nothing new for Faker, but the loss was disappointing to the GOAT nonetheless. He had, in his own words, underperformed against DK, after all.
By the time the Regional Finals match against Hanwha Life rolled around, Faker had left the burden of the Summer Finals defeat behind him. He did what he had to do, what his team needed him to. He made risky plays and took the difficult roles that were required of him. A lesser player in his position would’ve been afraid of failing and would’ve made even bigger mistakes, but this was Faker — all the pressure just manifested in superb plays and a Worlds group stage seed clutch.
Rather than thinking about my career, I just wanted to show a good performance,” Faker said. The only way he would get over the Finals loss was to win what was ahead of him.
Faker’s most disappointing moment in the Summer Finals was arguably his Ryze in game 4. When it came to macro and teamfights, Faker overextended and was cut off, which allowed DK to turn the game around. The attempt to lure DK around the dragon by himself, for one, was a glaring moment of misjudgment.
In the Regional Finals against HLE, Faker tried to play the same way. Yes, he was on Kassadin and not Ryze, but he played the same role facing similar stakes. If he had failed, it would’ve been a rerun of the Summer Finals nightmare, but Faker walked the tightrope flawlessly.
Faker chose the same position in T1's match against HLE as well. (Source: LCK)
HLE entered the Regional Finals against T1 hot off a 3-0 sweep against NS RedForce, in which Jeong “Chovy” Ji-hoon’s Azir stole the show. In their match, Faker let Chovy have his Faker and then proceeded to beat him down mercilessly through his Kassadin pick, scaring HLE away from the pick and unlocking it for Faker himself.
Once he got on Azir, Faker’s plays became bolder. He tripped briefly at the start as he gave up two solo kills to Chovy’s Orianna in game 2 — a humiliating outcome in competitive LoL — but instead of closing himself off, Faker began to play even more aggressively and divided his opponents in half with grace.
In game 5, Faker’s Azir faced Chovy’s Orianna once again and this time, Faker took things one step further. Up to and including game 4, Faker had been using a more stable build against Chovy, running Domination (Taste of Blood, Ravenous Hunter) as his secondary rune choice so that he could manage his HP more conveniently.
Faker's rune selections changed in the last game. (Source: LCK)
But with everything on the line at 2-2, Faker went another way. By selecting Inspiration (Perfect Timing, Cosmic Insight), he meant to shovel up his opponents one more time, to make that one more “super toss”. He intended to use Stopwatch minutes earlier so that he could fight earlier too. Faker’s determination turned a 2v5 situation around, preventing Hanwha Life Esports from getting Baron. Faker’s “super toss” contributed massively to T1’s victory in that last game.
If Faker were to be buried by his mistakes in game 2, it would have been difficult for him to make these bold decisions, but all of these mistakes were just lessons on the side of the road for himself to learn as he flew by. Even in the toughest game of the season, the legendary veteran was still evolving through his own mishaps.
“The experience we gained from winning this best-of-5 series is very valuable”, Faker said after the win in yet another reminder that he is a player that’s always hungry to win more, as if he was still a rookie. No wonder all eyes are still on him. There’s no other living legend quite like Faker.