For many, Park “Summit” Woo-tae’s poor performance against 100 Thieves was a surprise. Cloud9’s insistence on forcing Renekton in the draft looked a bit dire, and the first two games’ results can largely be attributed to Summit’s lack of impact on the map with Renekton. 1/13/0 across two games is a hell of a statistic. His game 3 Tryndamere pick was a lot better, but Summit didn’t have the same impact he had across the regular season. Was it too early to give Summit the regular season MVP title?
Well, his current best-of-5 woes are by no means a new obstacle for Summit. Across his many years of pro play, Summit has always been a coinflip player. He would either win the game for his team by destroying the lane, or int hard enough to lose the entire game. Is there a way to make Summit a more consistent player, or has North America finally caught onto Summit’s greatest weakness?
The Sandbox days
Summit flirted with pro play for a while before getting a permanent starting spot on an LCK team. He got the chance to play on Afreeca Freecs’ (now Kwangdong Freecs) 2017 KeSPa Cup team before being benched in favor of LCK top lane legend Kim “Kiin” Gi-in. Then, after an entire year on the sidelines as AF's substitute top laner, Summit was given a chance by SANDBOX Gaming (now Liiv SANDBOX).
Across many different iterations of the SANDBOX roster, Summit was the one player LSB held on to from their original LCK starting roster. He had his fair share of ups and downs across his three-year tenure with LSB, but Summit playing at peak performance was nothing short of spectacular.
Simply put, Summit is a relentless player. He’s not afraid to take 1v2s and 1v3s if he thinks it’ll benefit the team. His ability to dive into the enemy backline and keep their carries from playing the game is nearly unrivaled.
No matter what champion Summit plays, his goal is to carry. And, aside from some fringe cases like the (thankfully) brief Soraka top lane meta and a few games on tanks here and there, Summit hasn’t faltered in his determination to carry games. That’s just Summit’s playstyle, and he sticks to it through thick and thin.
But, when Summit’s lane doesn’t work out, it’s not pretty.
In Summit’s final set as an LCK player, he got completely shut out of the game by Hanwha Life Esports in games 3 and 4 of their set in the 2021 LCK Regional Finals. Summit consistently out-CSed Park “Morgan” Gi-Tae, but it didn’t matter due to Summit being obliterated repeatedly by strong rotations from the rest of Hanwha Life Esports.
HLE went out of their way to make Summit’s life a living hell in the later half of this set, with this 0/9/6 Jayce game being immediately followed by a 0/6/2 Kennen game. It was brutal to watch one of the LCK’s best top laners get obliterated in such a fashion with everything on the line. But it was very telling as to just how much Summit’s performance dictates the success of the teams he’s on.
In fact, Liiv Sandbox’s success early in the Summer 2021 Split can be directly linked to Summit’s stats. In their victories, Summit’s kill participation and KDA were exceptionally high. In their losses, Summit got focused down and had little to no impact on the map. Liiv SANDBOX’s success hinged on Summit’s performance, and he failed to deliver when it mattered most.
History repeats itself
The situation for C9 in playoffs is eerily similar to Liiv SANDBOX’s tragic downturn in 2021. 100T have found the same solution to Summit that many LCK teams employed to shut down Summit before his exit from the LCK: Don’t let Summit play the game. We got a taste of 100T’s ability to implement this strategy at the tail end of the Spring Split, and it wasn’t a good game for Summit.
100T’s top lane collapse is eerily similar to what happened to Summit during his 0/9 Jayce game from last year. Summit’s fantastic performance through most of the split has blinded many to the reality that he’s still the exact same player he was last year. It’s taken a bit longer for North American teams to catch on, but the path toward consistently dismantling C9 have been well paved by 100T.
If C9 want to make the most of their last chance through playoffs, Summit will have to evolve.
Finding a solution to a permanent problem
Summit has an unshakeable identity as a top laner that’s itching to take trades and find leads through winning lane. It’d be unreasonable to try and pitch C9’s path to victory as being “Summit should just pick tanks and play passive”. That just doesn’t fit him as a player, and there’s no point in having such a strong player on the roster if his greatest strengths aren’t being properly utilized.
So, how does one go about preserving that aggressive playstyle while eliminating its weaknesses?
In a lot of ways, C9 have tried to accomplish just that over the course of the split. Summit has leaned heavily toward ranged champions, assumedly for Summit to be able to take the sort of aggressive trades he wants to with a drastically reduced risk of being caught out of position. 100T banned Summit’s three go-to champions in the first ban phase for game 1 of their set, followed by an additional two that Summit could have leaned toward even after Renekton was locked in.
Out of the 15 bans 100T had over the course of their brief three-game set, 12 of them were sent toward champions that could have been flexed between top and mid, with a focus mainly toward Summit’s champion pool. Gnar and Jayce were permabanned, with the rest of the bans being a mix of Kennen, Camille, Lucian, and Aatrox depending on what 100T wanted to deny.
Summit is going to have to dig deep if C9 want to go for something like an R5 counter pick. What’s the point in picking Summit’s champion so late in the draft if he doesn’t have many counter pick options in his pool? Is there anything worth picking for Summit early on that is safe like Gnar and Jayce? C9’s early game being so top lane reliant creates a lot of issues.
Is there hope?
If getting Kim “Berserker” Min-cheol a strong ADC and getting Robert “Blaber” Huang a strong jungler didn’t create a winning draft for C9, then it’s hard to think of a win condition for this team that doesn’t make some changes around drafting for Summit. As long as his champion pool and lane gets targeted in this manner, C9’s overall strength will be drastically reduced.
Playoffs have been a big wake-up call for C9. The strategy they’ve been using to sweep the LCS in the regular season won’t work forever. If we don’t see big changes from this team, they’re going to very quickly be overshadowed by the likes of 100T or Team Liquid. Hopefully, C9 can find a way to take control of the top lane before their chances of winning playoffs have been completely eliminated.
Carver is an esports journalist and analyst who specializes in Eastern League of Legends.