SKT T1's downfall started with Faker's Orianna
Force Peanut into a champion that cannot help the laners
Bang will follow suit when Faker is behind
Flash Wolves should be able to keep the lead into a win
SKT T1 and Flash Wolves will face each other in the first match of MSI 2017 Knockout stage. SKT T1 locked up first place of the group stage with the record of 8-2, and they are often said to be even stronger in a best-of-five series. At a glance, SKT T1 looks like the favorite to win the match.
Flash Wolves, however, often has been the bane of LCK teams; and surely enough, last match between the two ended with Flash Wolves being the winner. For a match that involves SKT T1, the outcome has never been this uncertain.
In fact, SKT T1 showed certain flaws through their two losses during the Group Stage. If Flash Wolves can exploit them throughout the series, Flash Wolves could emerge as the winner even in a Bo5. What weaknesses have SKT T1 have shown throughout the group stage, and how can Flash Wolves exploit the said weaknesses to defeat SKT T1?
Throughout MSI 2017, Several players have commented on how to defeat SKT T1. Before their match against SKT T1, TSM's Bjergsen commented that "If a team has a good early game and can snowball cleanly, they can beat SKT."
When Flash Wolves defeated SKT T1, FW's SwordArt made a similar comment. He said, "SKT T1 plays very conservatively with standardized plays, so we played very aggressively to find advantages."
Putting these two comments together, the key to defeating SKT T1 seems to be making aggressive plays in the early game. It's certainly easier said than done, but it looks more possible now than ever, as Faker hasn't been playing as well as he used to be.
In the second match against G2 Esports, Faker's Ahri was behind 20 CS compared to PerkZ's Orianna 8 minutes into the match. Fortunately for SKT T1, Peanut's Olaf ganked the mid lane successfully several times and allowed Faker to make a comeback. However, this wasn't the case against Flash Wolves and Team WE.
During the second match between SKT T1 and Flash Wolves; MMD managed to catch Faker in SKT's jungle, and FW got a chance to destroy SKT's outer mid turret. Faker even wasted Flash as he failed to go over the wall while trying to escape. Afterwards, FW had the control of vision throughout the map, and they were able to win the match with solid macro plays based on their vision control.
A similar case can be found in the second match between SKT T1 and WE where Xiye's Lucian scored consecutive solo kills against Faker. The kills soon led to SKT's outer mid turret being destroyed and WE taking the Rift Herald, giving WE advantage by a large margin. WE cemented the advantage by winning the decisive teamfight around the top lane area and going for Baron after the teamfight. It didn't take long before WE defeated SKT through the Baron buff and solid macro plays.
In both matches that ended in SKT's defeat, Faker's Orianna was seen being outplayed, which led SKT to lose the mid turret earlier than their opponent. Faker's record in MSI 2017 in Orianna is a respectable 3-2. However, we have to keep in mind that those two losses with Orianna also are only losses for SKT T1.
Orianna should be able to lane well enough against any mid lane champions. Not only that, she is also a good pick in the 'Protect the ADC' composition that became more popular recently. However, with Faker performing not as well as before, Orianna's strength of having good laning matchup is diminished, while her weakness due to the lack of dash ability is emphasized.
This is a huge liability for SKT T1. Teams need to have mid lane champions that can be blindpicked. Over the course of the MSI, the teams chose either Orianna and Syndra as those picks, and Orianna was clearly the choice for SKT T1 as they picked her for five times. However, as Faker cannot perform reliably with Orianna, and Syndra is often banned, SKT will have to think of other mid lane champions that can be blindpicked safely.
Unfortunately, Faker's deep champion pool doesn't help here, as the current metagame leaves only a few choices when it comes to mid lane champions. Faker picked 5 different champions (Orianna, Fizz, Ahri, Ekko and Syndra) in the group stage, and only Orianna and Fizz were picked multiple times. While Orianna had been picked five times, she is not an unbeatable pick with two losses; Syndra is often seen banned or first picked by the enemy team; Ahri was also unreliable as she needed Olaf's help to win the lane; and the remaining two are not safe choices as a blind pick.
Another similarity between SKT's two losses were how Peanut picked Graves in those matches. Peanut's record with Graves is a modest 2-2; and in those losses, Peanut couldn't make plays enough to save his team from defeat.
Graves is a carry jungler by all definitions. With enough farming, Graves will become a powerhouse that will terrorize the enemy and carry the game. However, getting there takes time, and Graves' ganking is mediocre at best due to lack of hard CC abilities.
During the losses, Peanut couldn't farm enough before the mid turret fell and SKT's jungle was taken over. This led to Peanut to become less effective as he just didn't have enough time to farm properly. Also, as Graves is not a ganking jungler, it wouldn't have been possible for Peanut to care for Faker effectively.
This is not to say that Graves is a bad choice for Peanut. However, at Faker's current state, it would be better for Peanut to play a champion that can influence the outcome of the mid lane, like how he played Olaf in the second match against G2. In contrast, If Flash Wolves can force Peanut to play a carry jungler, FW should be able to safely focus down Faker and get closer to victory.
When Faker falls behind in a game, Bang, the team's ADC, is also effected. Usually, Bang is the team's most consistent player. However, if a game doesn't go in SKT's favor, his plays become more bold, and sometimes even desperate. To be fair, that's what most ADC playmakers are like - In the face of defeat, those ADCs now have no choice but to make decisive plays while relying on their mechanics to save the day.
Though, for ADCs to be more decisive in a teamfight, they would need to get closer to the enemy and expose themselves more to the enemy. We've seen how Bang's forward positioning was punished in the match against Flash Wolves; and all three deaths of Bang in the match against Team WE happened only because he overextended while trying to score a kill.
In other words: If Faker falls behind, Bang will force himself to move closer to the enemy in a teamfight to make decisive plays; this will lead SKT T1's teamfights to be better described as 'risky', rather than 'flawless' like those usually expected from SKT T1.
If Flash Wolves do manage to get ahead, they will certainly be able to close out the game against SKT. Flash Wolves' macro plays are just as good as the best of LCK, and they rarely waste the chance to end a game. When they get a chance to get Baron in the late game and close out a game with the Baron buff, they will do so; and it will start by zoning out the enemy jungler while they safely take Baron.
In the center of this is FW's jungler Karsa. Karsa was the one who made proactive and decisive plays to cement the team's advantage to a win - whether it's zoning out the enemy jungler from the Baron to allow teammates to hunt safely or catching the enemy DPS during a teamfight. With Karsa at the helm, Flash Wolves can certainly close out a game after taking the lead.
To sum up, in order for Flash Wolves to defeat SKT T1:
1. Assuming Faker doesn't get back in shape before semifinals, force him to play champions without dash abilities such as Orianna.
2. Force Peanut to play junglers with mediocre ganking such as Graves.
3. Go for Faker in the early game to take the initiative, and focus down on Bang in the late game.
4. After taking the lead, don't give SKT a chance to come back through good macro plays.
We've looked at ways to defeat SKT T1 by reviewing the two losses they suffered during the group stage. However, they are only speculcations, as there are more factors going into a match than what we've just discussed. After all, SKT's feedback process is among the best in all competitive sports, and they should be already aware of the weaknesses that we've discussed - if not already working on those weaknesses. Will Flash Wolves find a way to defeat the ever-improving SKT? or will SKT once again prove that they are invincible in a Bo5 series? We'll find out this Friday when MSI 2017 returns.
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