T1 have now strung 16 straight wins in 2022 LCK Spring with an overall game record of 32-6 (84.2% win rate). No team in the LCK is remotely close to T1, with Gen.G in second with a 13-3 series record (26-11 game record, a 70.3% win rate). Only two other teams — DRX and DWG — have a game or series winning percentage above 50%; more than half the league is below a 50% win rate. That disparity is almost entirely due to T1’s absolute vice grip on the LCK.
What is most surprising though, in looking deeper into T1, is how they are managing to win games in multiple ways. They can get ahead in lanes and make comebacks quite easily from behind.
Points of pressure
Starting with the early game, T1 has two main points of pressure that they will frequently use to get ahead: jungler Moon "Oner" Hyeon-joon and ADC Lee "Gumayusi" Min-hyeong. Oner has proven himself to be among the best early-game junglers in 2022, with an average gold differential at 15 of +409, which is third among all major-region junglers (excluding LPL, where stats are not as readily available). Even though this would be expected playing a lot of early-impact junglers like Xin Zhao, Lee Sin, and Viego, Oner is managing to get onto the map and secure kills early.
But perhaps even more important to T1’s early game than Oner is Gumayusi, who is among the best AD Carries in the world. WIth incredible mechanics and perhaps the best understanding of Aphelios in the world (90.9% win rate on Aphelios in 11 games), he has the highest CSD and second-highest gold differential (again, not including LPL) among all bot laners. That incredible prowess is a big part of the reason why T1 has the highest first tower take rate of any team in the world (84.2%).
A great example of this early-game prowess can be found in T1’s match against Hanwha Life Esports a few weeks ago. Early in that game, T1 had surrendered the first two kills (one to a top lane gank, the other to a failed bot lane dive) and were slightly behind. However, Gumayusi managed to win a 1v2 after that failed dive, reclaiming a counter kill on HLE support Han "Baut" Jin-sol. But Gumayusi also managed to use that kill to build a large CS lead and item advantage. This allowed him and support Ryu "Keria" Min-seok to win a 2v2 skirmish (with Oner pathing smartly down to clean up a straggling Jo "Cheoni" Seung-mo for the kill). By the 12-minute mark, Gumayusi had a 26 CS lead, had taken four tower plates, a 2/0/1 scoreline, a 1,700 gold lead, and a 250 gold bounty all resulting from him managing to win a 1v2.
T1, as a team, managed to claim the game’s first dragon at 12 minutes, Gumayusi took the first turret two minutes later, and the team was rolling. After a lost fight bot lane (due to odd-numbers collapsing and Akali being an ADC’s worst nightmare), T1 were still able to secure the second dragon, move Gumayusi to mid lane, take the mid tower, and never lost control of the game from there. Gumayusi, for his part, finished the game 4/1/5 with the most gold of anyone in the game.
However, although T1 certainly can win their lanes handily, that’s not the only way they can win. In fact, although T1 is one of the best early-game teams in the world, they still have some holes in their early games. Of teams in the LCK, LEC, and LCS, T1's 1,279 GD@15 is fourth-best. In a meta that started off as prioritizing stacking dragons heavily, due to the prominence of enchanter top laners, T1 are middle-of-the-pack in terms of average number of dragons taken at 15 minutes (0.71) which is tied with TSM and below SK Gaming. Yet they’re still managing to win games even without getting advantages early. How is this done?
T1’s exceptional teamfight is the answer and it was evident in their Game 2 win over KT. The fight likely needs no introduction but, to set the stage, it’s 27 minutes into the game, T1 are down about 2.5k gold but they do have dragons stacking in their favor. KT make a fantastic play to catch out Faker on the sidelane, which allows them to pressure Baron and bait T1 into a 4v5 fight. T1 oblige and KT manage to take down Oner. At this point, T1 are 3v5 with no jungler, so KT should have an easy time securing this dragon. But even if T1 did want to fight the 3v5, KT top laner Rascal has Mega Gnar coming, Cuzz has his ult, and both carries have their flashes. There is no reason that KT should not be able to take complete control over the game.
Yet T1 play the fight exceptionally. Zeus, Gumayusi, and Keria all retreat down a corridor together, seemingly trapping themselves on the wrong side of the map. They manage to dodge all the skillshots and buy just enough time for Faker (who has Teleport) to respawn. He teleports behind KT while their team is split between chasing Gumayusi and Zeus, but some great zoning tools (Jinx Chompers and Thresh Flay) buy time. Gumayusi manages to output enough damage that Zeus can execute Cuzz before he can use Rek’Sai ult, Keria and Gumayusi 2v1 Life (who sort of frustration flashes to CC them without his team being anywhere near them) and now T1 actually gain a number advantage as KT’s mid laner had to base and was walking to try and pincer T1. Gumayusi and Faker manage to secure these two kills and turn what should have been a disaster into a whole new game.
The gold is now nearly even, T1 have the numbers advantage, and they were even able to secure Baron on top of this. Yes, KT did kind of throw this fight by not having VicLa immediately teleport in or just stay and eat the Honeyfruit so he could be in the rest of the fight the whole way, but even still it took all of T1’s tricks to win this fight and eventually the game.
Fights like these are what make T1 such a deadly team to face. Even when the circumstances are completely stacked against them, when a team thinks they don’t need to apply every last ounce of pressure, T1 can find an opening to turn the entire game around. This is something we haven’t seen from many other teams in the world, and it’s why they should be the heavy favorites at MSI (assuming they do, in fact make it).
T1 are an exceptional team for all the most terrifying reasons. They have strong laners who can win early, one of the best junglers and bot sides in the world. Even from behind, they can win fights they have no business winning, thanks to their incredible individual talent. Faker, the best player of all time, seems to be having a career renaissance, and now the team he’s been a part of his whole career has had a winning streak that surpassed that of even his greatest team: 2015 SKT. Both Faker and T1 are cemented in the hallows of professional League of Legends. But their start to 2022 may be the greatest masterpiece for both.
Diamond TFT Player & esports watcher.