A Decade of Faker: Ranking the ten years of the T1 mid laner's career

Source: LoL Esports

Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok is acknowledged as the greatest League of Legends player of all time — no player comes close to his dominance and longevity. But when was Faker at his greatest? He’s had highs and lows, good teammates and dead weight — which year was the “Faker” of Faker’s career? 


The end of the 2022 League of Legends World Championship not only signified the fifth finals run for the T1 mid laner. It represented his tenth year of professional play — a full decade of excellence. Any year of his career is something other players could only dream of. For Faker, though, there’s no doubt he’s had some years he’s more proud of than others. Inven Global presents a ranking and analysis of every year of Faker’s career. 

10. 2018

Notable Accomplishments: 2018 Asian Games (2nd), LCK Spring 2018 (4th), LCK Summer 2018 (7th), LCK Regional Finals 2018 (4th)

It goes to show how diamond-encrusted Faker’s career is — the fact that a year making back-to-back top-four finishes in one of the strongest regions in the world could be the worst he’s ever experienced. By all accounts, though, this is the worst set of games Faker has played. He didn’t win a single event — not even that year’s Asian Games. While his teammates certainly did not make it easy for him — it was probably the worst set of T1 lineups in history — he degraded from the excellence of previous years, and was even overshadowed individually by the mid lane talents on teams such as KT Rolster, Gen.G, and Kingzone DragonX. 


Notable Accomplishments: LCK Spring 2020 (1st), LCK Summer 2020 (5th), LCK Regional — Finals 2020 (2nd)

Source: LCK

2020 was a year Faker was still finding his footing as a more supportive player. He definitely was not the best player in the world, Korea, or even his own team. While the team had a strong start to the year, they fell off of a cliff going into summer and weren't even able to qualify for Worlds. Not much individual greatness, and not much team success.


Notable Accomplishments: LCK Regional Finals 2021 (1st), LCK Summer 2021 (2nd), 2021 World Championship (3rd-4th), LCK Spring 2021 (4th)

Source: LCK

Probably the most boring year of the man’s career. He wasn’t climbing his way to the top, basking in glory from the throne, or even poetically falling from greatness. He was just…there. He was still really good — making it to the semifinals of Worlds and the finals of LCK are both incredible — but no one was really expecting anything incredible from Faker this year. As one writer (and prominent Faker fan) noted, three mid laners in his region alone were with him in the race to be the best. Paired with his lack of team success, it is clear this is one of the worst years of his career. 

7. 2019

Notable Accomplishments: LCK Spring 2019 (1st), LCK Summer 2019 (1st), 2019 World Championship (3rd-4th), Mid-Season Invitational 2019 (3rd-4th)

2019 was a new era not only for Faker, but for all of the LCK. After the shocking meltdown at Worlds 2018, the Korean Hype Train had finally run out of steam, and teams from Europe and China were outclassing those found in the LCK. Though T1 again found quite a bit of success at home (though not nearly as dominant as in other years), their international results left a lot to be desired. They placed lower than an LCS team — that says it all.


For Faker, it was one of the first years he was in a more supportive role — though not to the same level of success that he’d find later on. While still a top player, there were many key moments in games he committed serious blunders, something you would rarely see at his peak. Instead of “WHAT WAS THAT”, it was “What was that…” 

6. 2014

Notable Accomplishments: Champions Winter 2013-2014 (1st), All-Star Paris 2014 (1st), Korea Regional Finals 2014 (3rd)

2014 is definitely one of the most underrated years in Faker’s career. Carrying the momentum from 2013, the original SKT T1 lineup put together one of League’s greatest tournament runs — sweeping OGN Winter 2013-2014 with a level of perfection few teams have been able to replicate. However, Lee "PoohManDu" Jeong-hyeon temporarily retiring afterwards brought the team into crisis, as the team dropped out of the next OGN season in the quarterfinals. Though they had a dominating win at All-Star Paris 2014 (the precursor to MSI), Korean League was so ahead of the rest of the world at that point that a roster of Seoul high schoolers probably could have won.  


The rest of the year sucked. Faker once again lost in the quarterfinals of OGN Summer 2014, and failed to qualify for Worlds. However, rewatching the games — especially those in the latter half of the year — Faker was still on top of the world in 2014. His teammates, however, dragged him down as much as possible. Jeong "Impact" Eon-young was no longer a world-class top laner, Bae "Bengi" Seong-woong’s Smiting blunders made Hong "Pyosik" Chang-hyeon look like the Prince of Thieves, and the Hundred Acre Lane was regularly torched by the Samsung teams. Still, the team managed to win NLB and almost qualify for Worlds. How? Faker was still the best mid laner in the world. Those not regularly watching simply never got to see it. 

5. 2022

Notable Accomplishments: LCK Spring 2022 (1st), 2022 World Championship (2nd), Mid-Season Invitational 2022 (2nd), LCK Summer 2022 (2nd)

Source: Colin Young-Wolff

It’s sad to think about how much better this year could’ve been for Faker. A handful of well-placed victories — five to be exact — could’ve made it the most successful year in history. While still maintaining an elite level of play (though several mid laners at home and afar could stand toe-to-toe with him), he guided T1’s group of talented rascals to unprecedented success in the modern era. An all-time great LCK season to start the year, followed by a finals run at MSI (only one game off from the trophy). 


The team slowed down a bit in the summer, but they were still clearly one of the best teams in the world, and fully showed that in North America during the end of the year’s international competition. Though T1 didn’t win the Summoner’s Cup in the end, it can not be overemphasized how close they were to attaining it. After this year, it’s clear he still has the talent and drive to win again. He didn’t get the fourth, but he showed the world he is still coming for it. 

4. 2017

Notable Accomplishments: Mid-Season Invitational 2017 (1st), LCK Spring 2017 (1st), 2017 World Championship (2nd), LCK Summer 2017 (2nd)

Source: LoL Esports

On the surface, 2017 looks great: though not perfect, it was another solid wheelbarrow of trophies. However, the heartbreaking ending to the year was so significant in Faker’s career, the rest of his accomplishments are overshadowed. It was the year that Faker cried, and the year that god died. 


Though the T1 juggernaut had no speedbumps through the beginning portion of the year — winning competitions domestically and internationally — the team’s cohesion and understanding of the meta began to drop off near the end of the year. Though Worlds 2017 was a special tournament for Faker in many ways, with the three-time champion having one of the greatest carry jobs ever (the winds of Galio have never been so strong), a lot of people forget all of that. What’s most remembered is him getting swept in the finals — his face buried in his hands in anguish.


What’s most disappointing about this loss was the turning point it represented in his career. He was still great — elite, even. But it wasn’t the same Faker. It wasn’t the Unkillable Demon King. Since that loss in Beijing, Faker’s been trying to return to his former status. He still has time, but we haven’t seen it yet. 

3. 2013

Notable Accomplishments: Season 3 World Championship (1st), Champions Spring 2013  (1st), Season 3 Regional Finals - South Korea (1st), Champions Spring 2013 (3rd)

One of the early icons of Korean League is a man known as Yoon "MaKNooN" Ha-woon — an eccentric top lane juggernaut, and the first OGN Champions MVP. During OGN Champions Summer 2013 — only a few months into Faker’s career — William "Chobra" Cho asked MaKNooN about his thoughts on Faker. Keep in mind, the T1 mid laner hadn’t even won a competition at this point. He was only a few dozen games into his career. At that point, MaKNoon dubbed Faker the “Lionel Messi of League of Legends.”


That’s how good he was. Without even winning a competition, everything from his lane dominance to his ever-bloodthirsty but intelligent plays had Yongsan e-Sports Stadium fans shrieking in admiration. Had he not won OGN Summer 2013, Season 3 Worlds, and pulled off the greatest play in the game’s history, it still would be considered an all-time great debut year. The fact he accomplished all of that and even more — there was no perfect coronation. 

2. 2016

Notable Accomplishments: 2016 World Championship (1st), Mid-Season Invitational 2016 (1st), LCK Spring 2016 (1st), IEM Season X - World Championship (1st), LCK Summer 2016 (3rd)

Source: LoL Esports

2016 was almost an absolutely perfect year. Two domestic finals, a win in the spring, and three international victories throughout. The team was a well-honed weapon — the only major change being the switch from Jang "MaRin" Gyeong-hwan to the equally lethal Lee "Duke" Ho-seong. Faker was in peak form, with barely anyone able to find a consistent answer to him. The only complaint about this year is narrative-wise, it was a little dry. It didn’t have as exciting of a storyline as 2013, 2015, or even 2022. Faker wasn’t finding his footing as a player, he wasn’t climbing back to the top, and he wasn’t reinventing himself. It was an established champion having a year-long victory lap. Still, though, it doesn’t always have to be an anime-like story — greatness can stand on its own. 

1. 2015

Notable Accomplishments: 2015 World Championship (1st), LCK Spring 2015 (1st), LCK Summer 2015 (1st), Mid-Season Invitational 2015 (2nd)

Here it is: the greatest year of Faker's career. While his other World Championship years are in contention for the best, 2015 has too much going for it. Regarding his dominance, his play was fantastic. He was far and away the best member of his team, and was no doubt the best player in the world throughout the majority of the year. He was wildly successful throughout 2015 — his only loss throughout the year was falling one game short to EDward Gaming in the finals of MSI 2015 (one of the most iconic and pivotal losses of his career as well). And the team he led was simply transcendent — a Worlds team many consider to still be the greatest to ever compete in the tournament. 


Perhaps what makes this year so special is the meaning that it brings to Faker’s career. It’s arguably the season he solidified himself as the greatest player of all time. After his Season 3 win, there was the question of if he could maintain the momentum, or if he’d fall by the wayside like previous champions. At the same time, other players had legitimate chances of catching up to him. But they didn’t. After the soul-crushing loss at MSI, he took control of his legacy and etched it in place forever. 

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