The Bummers of Summer — Looking at the top five biggest team falloffs in League of Legends

Source: LoL Esports

On Mar. 20, T1 made history by becoming the first LCK team to have an 18-0 record in the regular season. Though several of their opponents having to play with incomplete rosters because of COVID-19 complications made the run easier, and their loss to Royal Never Give Up at the 2022 Mid Season Invitational was disappointing, it is still an incredible accomplishment, and one of the most exciting storylines of the year. No doubt they will remain the best team  in Korea, right?


There is. There always is. Whether because of internal struggles, meta changes, or a team miraculously finding out a way to beat them — the mighty fall every year. A king in spring can quickly become a bummer in summer. Here are five of the most notable teams that did great in spring, only to meltdown by Worlds.


5. Origen - 2019

Source: LoL Esports

Origen has had one of the most unusual runs of any organization in the LEC and EU LCS. It’s either trash or triumph — nothing in between. After going from facing Fnatic in the finals to facing Misfits and Giants Gaming in back to back relegation tournaments, Origen looked destined to fall from competitive relevancy forever. 


Matters changed, though, when Origen was first announced for the LEC. The team was back, and signed a roster of well-blooded stars. With solid pieces including Barney "Alphari" Morris and Alfonso "Mithy" Aguirre Rodríguez, as well as the talented rookie Patrik "Patrik" Jírů, Origen had the pieces to return to the top. Though their start was slow, the team developed a well-refined style that was effective against most of the competition. 


The experience of the roster was beneficial too, as they became one of the most consistent and refined times in the league. By playoffs they were ranked as the best team in Europe behind G2 Esports. Though G2 was too strong for them to handle, it was a promising start. In the team’s first split, they had made the LEC Spring Finals. In the Summer Split, the team still seemed to have it together. They didn’t look great in their first few weeks, but were facing a very difficult schedule. Most fans were expecting them to turn it on and rack up wins at any moment.


They never did.


It wasn’t as though they were awful, but they just five players that had no consistent sense of how to work together. The losses kept piling up, and they slipped out of contention near the very end — placing eight overall for the split. Though they put up a decent fight against Splyce the LEC 2019 Regional Finals — especially with Nikolay "Zanzarah" Akatov having to sub in as a jungler — they eventually lost 2-3 in the first round of the event.  

4. Cloud9 - 2020

Source: Cloud9

Even now — almost two years later — Cloud9’s 2020 performance doesn’t make sense. The NA giant had been placing well enough to qualify for Worlds every year since their inception. Cloud9 fans were skeptical, to say the least, when the team announced they would be replacing long-time AD carry Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi for Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen. Adding Philippe "Vulcan" Laflamme and promoting Robert "Blaber" Huang didn’t quell of the fans’ fears either. While the roster was talented, there was the question of if this brand-new roster could meet the standard of past C9 teams.


At LCS 2020 Spring, they succeeded them. Every player proved they were worth their salt, and the lineup had an effective and consistent play style that everyone on the team understood well. The roster exceeded even the original LCS winning Cloud9 teams, going 17-1 throughout the regular season — still a league record. Their playoff run was also dominant, with them going 9-1 throughout to win their first LCS championship in six years. NA fans were excited at the prospect of this new team competing on the world stage. 

They didn’t get the chance. Because of COVID-19, MSI 2020 was cancelled — leaving Cloud9 without the opportunity to condition against international teams. When the Summer Split started up, the start of the regular season looked like more standard days at the office, with Cloud9 easily winning their games in clean fashion. 9-0 up, the idea of this lineup competing internationally was just as exciting. 


Then…a switch. They didn’t sink into oblivion, but the team was suddenly not the force they once were. They didn’t lose a player or suffer any known internal strife. They couldn’t even claim to be burnt out from MSI — they were just…worse. Losses began to accumulate. The lethal style they perfected in spring had dulled — teams either had figured out how to counter it, or simply gotten polished enough to stand up to it. By the end of the regular season, the team was 13-5 — still very strong, but not strong enough to be considered “the most dominant team in LCS history.”

The bad momentum carried into playoffs — with Cloud9 losing to FlyQuest 1-3. They had a strong 3-0 showing against Evil Geniuses, but soon fell to TSM 1-3. The team that went 30-6 in both regular seasons went 5-6 in playoff games, and like the snap of a finger was out of Worlds. Perhaps NA’s best international hope never got to even try.

3. CJ Entus Blaze - 2013

Source: OnGameNet

Perhaps the first great seasonal fall was from one Korea’s original great organizations. The team that became known as CJ Entus Blaze was about to get better. Replacing star top laner Bok "Reapered" Han-gyu with Lee "Flame" Ho-jong, Blaze began playing at OGN The Champions Spring 2013 in a way that no one had seen before. Their solo lanes were both the best in the world, they had an elite jungler, and one of the strongest bottom lanes — lethal in the 2v1. 


More than that, they understood the game better than anyone else. Innovating the slow push, Blaze’s strategy centered on stalling to the late-game, and farming up Flame. Their late-game decision-making was excellent, and Flame was one of the most mechanically talented players in the world. Every match the strategy ran like clockwork, and Blaze’s wins began to stack up — a historic 13-0. Ambition was considered perhaps the best mid laner in the world, Flame the best player, and Blaze the best team. 

The fun ended in that tournament’s finals. Their streak ended, and a losing one began. By shutting Flame down by equipping the team with several duelists, MVP Ozone found a strategy perfect for countering Blaze, and ended up sweeping them in the finals. The sorrow didn’t end in summer. Other teams used this opening as well, and as it turned out, Blaze were quite one-dimensional. Through Flame did his best to carry, and the other members had flashes of their original brilliance, the team was lost. They were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs at OGN The Champions Summer 2013, and quickly lost in NLB Summer 2013 as well. The nail in the coffin came at the Korea Regional Finals 2013, where the KT Rolster Bullets quickly defeated them 3-0.

2. Kingzone DragonX - 2018

Source: LCK

There is a lot of heartbreak that comes with being a fan of Kim "PraY" Jong-in and Kang "GorillA" Beom-hyun. No other duo has been as legendary and disappointing at the same time. After years of domestic success with the HUYA/GE/KOO/ROX Tigers (sponsors need to be more loyal and Longzhu Gaming, the only thing fans wanted was a big international win. They had won several LCK titles, but always faltered when Worlds came around. After a disappointing showing at Worlds 2017, and with both players getting older, the prospects of them winning looked slimmer and slimmer.

The duo looked refreshed in 2018. Playing with Kingzone DragonX, they once again had a team poised for the Summoner’s Cup. The entire lineup was filled with talented players that knew how to service the team’s needs, with PraY and Gorilla as polished as ever. The team went 16-2 — tying for the best record the duo earned with any team. With a strong win in playoffs, the squad could earn some experience at the Mid Season Invitational, and polish up more before their next shot at Worlds.


It had the opposite effect. Though they looked like one of the best teams throughout every stage of the tournament — their finals match against Royal Never Give Up was embarrassing. Jian "Uzi" Zi-Hao and Shi "Ming" Sen-Ming outclassed PraY and Gorilla in every way, with the match ending a one-sided 3-1. Rather than improve from the conditioning of the tournament, the bot lane — and therefore Kingzone Dragon X — never looked the same.


They failed to gain some revenge at Rift Rivals, with bad performances in their group and in the finals. Though the team had a solid record though the Summer Season, their bot lane was no longer the elite one-two punch everyone loved. They weren’t even a standard bot lane, they were bad. Seeded into the second round of playoffs, KZ fell easily to Afreeca Freecs 1-3. Suddenly, the team was up against the wall in its prospects of even competing at Worlds. Their last chance was to win the Korean Regional Finals — doable, considering they were seeded in the finals. PraY and Gorilla were broken, however. Not only did the team fall 0-3 to Gen.G — shredding their ticket to Worlds — KZ’s bot lane went 4-24 throughout the series. Neither player would make an impact in competition again.

1. SKT T1 K - 2014

Source: LoL Esports

In spite of T1’s success, I’m sure Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok knows he can’t become complacent. He witnessed a similar record-setting team turn to ash early on in his career. There are many differences between both the teams and their paths to success, but the biggest downward spiral for a League of Legends team was 2014’s SK Telecom T1 K. Looking at their record, the year was pretty decent: they made playoffs in every tournament, won All-Star 2014 Paris, and barely lost out on qualifying for Worlds. That’s a testament to how insane T1 were that year. 


Coming into 2014, Faker and SK Telecom T1 were the talk of the world. They had just come off of wins at OGN The Champions Summer 2013 and the Season 3 World Championship. Faker and the boys were household names. Could they keep it up? When started playing games at OGN The Champions Winter 2013-2014, it looked like a “no”. They wouldn’t keep up — they’d accelerate into light-speed. SKT T1 K went on an unprecedented streak — going 14-0 the entire tournament. SKT was simply that good. Not only were they winning every game — every game they were in control. 


When Lee "PoohManDu" Jeong-hyeon stepped down as their Support because of health concerns, no one was worried. Faker was still Faker, the rest of the team was awesome, and they signed one of the most promising young Supports — Kwon "Wraith" Ji-min (otherwise known as Casper, or even MoonBear if you’re an OG). While it initially looked fine, the move marked the end of the original SKT T1 dynasty. Wraith wasn’t holding the rest of the team back — Faker’s teammates were falling all around him. Even when PoohManDu returned, every player looked like a poor-imitation of their former selves. 

While the team itself could still perform well against most teams in Korea, it was a Titanic-like sinking compared to their former glory. Faker did his absolute best to carry them back to Worlds — winning Korea’s B-league in the NLB for Regional qualification points. It was all for naught, though, as SKT T1 K lost to NaJin White Shield in the Korea Regional Finals 1-3 — ending their chances at Worlds. For Faker’s sake, let’s hope this time is different.






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