The spring split of LCK 2018 is starts on the 16th of January (KST).
Although the LCK lost to the LPL in Rift Rivals and the All-Star Event, they proved that they are one of the strongest leagues in the scene by winning MSI and Worlds. Sometimes, the rivalry is stronger within the league - even moreso than at international matches. Taking into account the new meta and the altered rosters of some teams, InvenGlobal’s power ranking on the next spring split is now here.
10th – Kongdoo Monster
Last Season Results: N/A (Qualified from Challengers)
Jungle: Raise / U Jun
Every season, it's quite difficult to tell which team is strong and which is weak. If we had to pick the team that’s the least stable, it would be Kongdoo Monster.
They finished last in 2017’s spring split, and were relegated to challengers after having to play the qualification round three seasons in a row. They were able to qualify and return to the LCK after the summer split, but they were demolished by DAMWON Gaming, a challengers team, at the KeSPA Cup and became the first team to be cut off.
The biggest problem for Kongdoo is that no specific position can be said to be better than those of the other teams. Mid laner Edge and ADC SSol do their share, but their performance is unstable. Furthermore, the upper lanes clearly have limited capabilities. To avoid relegation again, they have to be more strategic and aggressive; the new coach Chun Jung-hee may have quite a weight on his shoulders.
9th – ROX Tigers
Last Season Results: 7th
Jungle: SeongHwan / Mightybear
Mid: Kuzan / Lava
The ROX Tigers will be having a cold spring split just like Kongdoo. Shy, who was keeping the Tigers competitive, has retired, and Mickey also left the LCK; this has left the team in a much weaker position than before. In the current meta, the mechanics of the top laner are very important, yet Lindarang is lacking in both mechanics and macro.
Meanwhile, the bot duo delivered stable performance while Mightybear and Lava started improving from the summer split of 2017. They still have hope with Kuzan; if the synergy with him is good, they could have a shot at getting better results. However, most underdogs of last season maintained their roster or made improvements to their weaknesses. Comparably, the ROX Tigers seem to have lost a major part of their strength.
8th – MVP
Last Season Results: 8th
ADC: MaHa / Pilot
Many will recall MVP as a team that was pretty weak, but had potential. In most matches, they are shaken up in the lane fights early in the game. However, as the match goes on, they are very good at making comebacks through team play. This is probably because they have had the same roster for the last couple of years.
This year, again, the roster is the same. There’s an extra ADC (Pilot) now, but the general structure hasn’t changed much. If this change works in their favor, then MVP may be able to produce even better teamwork and consolidate their unique play style, but on the other hand, it could make them more predictable.
The biggest matter MVP has to cope with is that the support, Max, plays arguably the biggest role in carrying the team forward. Of course, it is a good thing to have a support actively pushing for victory, but this also can mean that the other laners aren’t fully doing their roles. Their team play has proven effective in previous competitions. However, they need to deliver better performance in lane fights this spring.
7th – Jin Air Green Wings
Last Season Results: 6th
Mid: Grace / Justice
Many players have deserted the team, leaving them in a fairly uncertain position. Ikssu, Kuzan, Raise, SnowFlower and coach Lim Hye-sung left the team. However, Grace (formerly known as Yaharong) isn’t doing bad, and UmTi has been making improvements since the summer split. Teddy, who has been carrying the team in bad situations, showed some strong potential in the KeSPA Cup.
Notably, Wraith, who is a veteran in the LCK, has come back to the team, so stronger synergy in the bottom lane can be expected. The wide selection of champions of the top laner SoHwan goes well with the current meta, so the basic skills of the team will most likely be stronger than the underdogs’. One big concern is whether or not Wraith, who didn’t have many chances to play last year, will be able to deliver a good performance.
Additionally, Jin Air still has a critical flaw in their gameplay. Most of Jin Air’s losses were due to macro flaws; they had their edge in lane fights, but as the game goes on, their advantage is gradually overtaken. To get to a higher rank, they need to strengthen their macro.
6th – bbq Olivers
Last Season Results: 9th
Jungle: Trick / Bono
While MVP is weak in lane fights and makes up for that through teamwork, bbq has fairly strong laning, but starts to falter when it comes to macro plays. They finished last along with the Ever8 Winners in the summer split and lost to Kongdoo in the qualification match.
However, bbq managed to stay in the LCK by defeating CJ. They made major changes in their team. The players who have been delivering good performance in the EU have returned; Trick from G2 and IgNar from Misfits. To further strengthen themselves, they signed another coach who can help them make “smart plays”, which was something they were missing as a team.
The two new players were known as the main shotcallers of their previous teams, so it’s a big shift from last year, where they had no shotcaller. Granted they will need time to adapt to the team, but since these two players were at the center of the EU’s amazing performance at MSI and Worlds, expectations are high.
5th – Afreeca Freecs
Last Season Results: 5th
Top: Kiin / Summit
Jungle: Spirit / Mowgli
Mid: Kuro / Ruby
ADC: Kramer / Aiming
Support: TusiN / Jelly
The team with the most depth this spring would be Afreeca Freecs. Head coach Choi “iloveoov” Yeon-sung is known for pushing a high number of scrims during practice, and now they have an environment where they can just scrim with themselves.
Afreeca always maintained their rank in the middle in the LCK. Even with the additional members and increased practice time, it’s not certain that they will achieve a higher rank in the league. They lost to Griffin at the KeSPA Cup quarterfinals; the laners were not performing as well as before. It’s not unusual to be defeated in the KeSPA Cup, but the main question is whether Afreeca made improvements after the competition.
Still, Kiin, who had been delivering good performance in the Ever8 Winners, and coach Lim Hye-sung, who played a major role in getting Jin Air to the middle of the ranking, joined the team. The Afreeca Freecs seem to be having more ups than downs currently in the preseason. Will they be able to breach the wall of the playoff wild card match?
4th – SKT T1
Last Season Results: 4th at regular season / 2nd at playoffs
Top: Untara / Thal
Jungle: Blank / Blossom
Support: Wolf / Effort
One championship, Second place in the LCK, MSI champions, and Worlds runner-up; the results for SKT T1 were pretty good last year. Based on their record, it may seem strange for them to be ranked 4th here, but despite their accomplishments SKT’s 2017 was a extremely trying time for the team.
Until the spring split and MSI, SKT seemed to be invincible, only to experience a downfall during the summer split. The bottom lane with Bang and Wolf had an especially difficult time performing on par. The sixth man system that they were proud of wasn’t producing the right synergy they needed, and Faker had to continuously carry the team for more than half of the feats at Worlds.
The biggest problem for SKT T1 is that the current meta does not match their team’s play style. Last year, SKT had many games that they came back from unfavorable situations through macro.
However, the current meta doesn’t allow the team to endure all the damage until the late game, and SKT showed unstable performance at the top, mid lane and jungle during the KeSPA Cup. The whole game may blow up before they even present their late game performance. Nevertheless, Bang has been spotted recovering his performance through solo queue. This could bring change to SKT's playstyle, as they will no longer have to depend on their late-game prowess but rather, construct a more agressive early-game composition.
Even though the team is struggling, they’re still no pushover. SKT has sprung up from the ashes before, and the addition of Effort, Thal, and Blossom to the team may just be the spark they need to regain their fire. Nothing is certain yet.
3rd – kt Rolster
Last Season Results: 2nd at regular season / 3rd at playoffs
Jungle: Score / Rush
Mid: PawN / Ucal
When kt’s roster was revealed in 2016, they became a favorite, the “super team” that could break the stronghold of SKT. Looking back at last year, kt always lost to SKT or Samsung at the most important games, and failed to reach Worlds.
There are clear reasons for their losses; even with the best players, if the teamwork isn’t good, victory is far off. kt Rolster was a team that showed spectacular performance early in the game, but started to crumble later for reasons only God knows. After the tank meta became the main meta, they became weaker than Longzhu in early fights and weren’t good enough to compete with Samsung or SKT in late game macro.
However, while the other three teams went to Worlds, kt got the chance to hone their blade. Although the head coach resigned, the players stayed and used their past year of experience together to fully develop their teamwork. Ucal and Rush were also added to the team, providing additional flexibility. The improvements they’ve made may have forged them into the “super team” that fans were originally hoping for.
Regardless, this spring split is an important event for kt. The meta isn’t bad for them and the players are performing well with the momentum from winning the KeSPA Cup. If they can just manage to get their engine started, they will be able to aim for 1st place. To accomplish this feat, the coaches: ZanDarke, AnimalDax, and SONSTAR need to do their best as well, since many say that the coaches aren’t doing that well.
2nd – KSV
Last Season Results: 3rd at regular season / 4th at playoffs
Jungle: Ambition / Haru
Samsung Galaxy, who finally grabbed hold of the Summoner’s Cup at their second chance at Worlds, was rebranded to KSV. Although their name has changed, their roster is exactly the same. It’s a good thing that they have maintained their members, but that means their weaknesses still persist.
Despite the fact that their mid laner Crown said that his own performance wasn’t satisfying, the last World Championship with the tank and Ardent Censer meta was advantageous for KSV, which had a strong bottom duo, solid top lane, and a jungler with good macro.
However, the present situation is not as favorable for KSV. In the current meta, having an aggressive upper lane is important. Top class top laner CuVee is good at everything, but with Ambition, who is stronger with macro than with aggressive plays, the current meta isn’t that advantageous. They do have Haru, who is aggressive in the early game, but up to the end of last year, he wasn’t able to solve his problem with late game shotcalling and macro.
The situation may be somewhat similar to Korean archery. Domestic competitions will be fiercer than international competitions. There are more aggressive teams than KSV in the LCK, so their main focus is to strengthen their weaknesses; when Ambition starts, the early game is weak and when Haru starts, the late game is weak. Along with that, Crown has to bring is gameplay prowess back up again.
1st – King-Zone DragonX
Last Season Results: 1st at regular season / 1st in playoffs
Top: Khan / Rascal
Jungle: Peanut / Cuzz
Last year, Longzhu Gaming won the summer split even while dealing with issues like the delayed payment of wages. They have now rebranded to King-Zone. Although their results at the last Worlds weren’t entirely satisfying, they did well enough considering that many of their players don’t have that much experience.
This spring may smile upon them as well. Peanut joined the team, PraY-GorillA renewed their contracts, and Bdd is continuing to develop. Furthermore, the new meta is very promising to Kingzone, who has an outstanding upper lane.
Their biggest potential obstacle is the sophomore slump. Many rookies who delivered spectacular performance aren’t able to deliver the same in the next year. This is mainly because the opposing teams analyze the games that those players played in, from top to bottom. If the weaknesses of Khan, Cuzz, Bdd etc. are revealed through the data from previous matches, Kingzone may become vulnerable.
However, Kingzone is still one of the favorites of this season. If they can utilize the “Happy LoL” synergy that they displayed in their prime, there won’t be a single team able to withstand the storm they will call forth.
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