In the pro match, the top lane is for tank champions who do not usually get a spotlight during the early and mid game, but things are changing after the rise of Rumble and AD Kennen. Even among pro players who place emphasis on the balance of durability and damage, DPS champions are starting to show up in more matches nowadays. It has become quite common that someone who picks a tank champion gets annihilated right at the start of the laning phase.
The 2017 LoL Champions Korea Spring Split Finals between SKT T1 and KT Rolster draws near, with the top lane being a main point of focus. At this stage, fans are expecting some very sophisticated top laning from Junhyung “Profit” Kim and Seunghoon “Huni” Heo of SKT T1 and their opponent Kyungho “Smeb” Song.
We have predicted how the top laning phase will progress in the finals, based on their past ban-pick style and the way they play as top laners.
SKT T1 - Tank oriented + Rumble
SKT T1 is a team that emphasizes balance more than any other teams. With the exception of a few select cases, they have picked a tank champion in the top lane for most of their matches. In this Spring Split, even though Huni and Profit have shown in the past that they are capable of using DPS champions, the team still picked a tank.
As everyone may already know, Huni’s career has shown him dominating in the EU LCS and NA LCS with DPS champions. However, the first champion he picked right after joining SKT T1 was one almost synonymous with the tank category, Maokai. Since then, he has frequently used tank champions, having picked them 18 times during this Split.
Profit picked tank champions 6 times out of 9 matches in this Split as well, and only one of those 9 matches was played with Rumble.
The similarity between these two players is that when picking a DPS champion, they have most often gone with Rumble. Huni picked Rumble 7 times out of 15 matches where he picked DPS champions. Profit also picked Rumble for the rest of the 3 matches in the Split, indicating how much SKT T1 loves Rumble.
Although it’s not too apparent, tank champions and Rumble share a common feature due to their endgame-oriented playstyle. Of course, there are a couple of things to consider such as the capability of each top laner or the weaknesses and strengths of champions, but tank champions and Rumble nonetheless share difficulty when it comes to engaging in the early and middle phases of the game.
It is obvious that tank champions find it difficult to win against each other during the laning phase. It sometimes becomes a nightmare when they encounter DPS champions. Rumble is also a type of champion that may fall behind when he faces continuous ganking and roaming, making it difficult to fully engage during the laning phase in pro matches. Once they are properly geared-up however, tank champions and Rumble are great at initiating and contributing to teamfights.
The reason why Rumble and tank champions are probable choices for SKT T1 is because these champions work well with the strategies that the team seems to be using in this Split. SKT T1 had a few instances where they run a somewhat safe laning phase in the beginning; they’ve used this mostly against aggressive teams. After some time, each laner is geared up pretty well, at which point the team bursts forward with massive firepower, claiming victory in the end. And this is where tank champions and Rumble shine the most.
KT Rolster - Damage focused + Tank champions from time to time
KT Rolster has shown some powerful laning phases and split pushing in this Spring Split. The team prepares to snowball by oppressing the opponent in the early laning phase, and then split pushes to slowly claim victory. The strategy is quite similar to that of Samsung Galaxy White. Smeb plays a crucial part in this split pushing strategy.
For this reason, KT Rolster allowed Smeb to be aggressive with his pick and playstyle quite a number of times. This becomes evident when you compare how many times he’s picked DPS champions to how many times he’s picked tank champions; 29 times out of 48 matches and 10 times respectively. Smeb also picked Rumble as his DPS champion, but also used Camille and Kennen, champions that are capable of split pushing. He also chose Jayce 4 times for his split push capability and general strength.
There is one champion Smeb used that really enhanced KT Rolster’s strength in the last two postseason matches: AD Kennen. This champion leads the current top lane meta, and specializes in KT Rolster’s recent style of split pushing. The win rate of Smeb’s Kennen is 3 wins and 1 loss in the regular season and postseason together.
Smeb doesn’t always pick DPS champions however. He has also shown capability in using tank champions, having played Maokai and then Nautilus and Shen after Maokai was nerfed. However, DPS champions still seem more suitable for Smeb and the strengths of KT Rolster.
Jeonggyun “kkOma” Kim, Changjong Oh, and Jeseung Jung are all great coaches when it comes to ban-pick strategy. Therefore it is difficult to predict how they will proceed with the strategy. The probability of ban cards being used on top lane champions would be minimal considering the current trend of ban-picks, but what will happen if one or two cards are actually used?
It’s likely that Huni and Profit will take Rumble, quickly followed by a ban on Kennen by SKT T1, in order to get rid of Smeb’s main champion. KT Rolster would then have two alternatives; either pick a tank champion and hold out for the endgame, or counter Rumble with an unthinkable champion. It is possible that KT Rolster would go for the latter option considering their characteristics.
One of the champions that could come up to counter Rumble is Fizz. The meta of tank items with Trinity Force for Fizz is viral nowadays, and Huni and Gunmo “ADD” Kang have picked this champion in the LoL Championship. Even though Smeb did not use Fizz in any recent solo-ranked games, it is still a possible pick. The champion has a strong laning phase, can split push well, and is great in teamfights; these features are all strengths that KT Rolster excels at using.
On the other hand, SKT T1 would pick a tank champion if KT Rolster bans Rumble. The team picked Fizz in the match against MVP when the opponent team banned Rumble. In the other matches, Huni and Profit picked tank champions such as Gragas, Shen, or Nautilus.
It is probable that they will pick a tank champion because the team has a strong focus on balanced composition. However, the team would still need an alternative to go against the formidable strength Smed delivers through DPS champions. The current meta is not like the one in the past where tank champions could withstand a few early-game beatings.
The best possible path for SKT T1 to take after the ban card on Rumble would be the after-pick. The team can prepare a counter champion after the opponent team picks first, otherwise they will be inevitably overtaken by KT Rolster’s strategy.
The meta of each lane changes as the time goes. The top lane, which is the holy ground of one-on-one duels, responds more sensitively to meta changes compared to other positions. As fans debate and anticipate what the pros will bring to the finals, it seems that at this time, victory lies in the hands of the coaches.