The hottest match of the 2019 LCK Spring Split is on its way. On Friday (KST), SK Telecom T1 will challenge Griffin, who is so far undefeated this season. Griffin is currently at the top of the league with a 10-0 record, losing only one set to SANDBOX Gaming. Their set difference is at +19. As for SKT, they’ve been starting to crank their gears up. Although they lost to DAMWON Gaming, they shut out Gen.G Esports and Kingzone DragonX afterward.
Ever since their debut in the LCK, Griffin has been extremely strong. Their record for the regular season in the LCK is at 23-5. Coming into the 2019 spring season, Griffin has been dominating the league as if to make up for not being able to reach Worlds last year. The team’s synergy under their motto, “Five as one”, could be said to be the ideal way of playing the game.
On the other hand, SKT has been coming off a big flop from the previous year. Their performance hasn't exactly been the SKT that global fans are familiar with. After failing to reach Worlds last year, they rebuilt the whole team. They re-signed the team’s (and the game’s) most iconic player, Faker, to a 3-year deal, and signed prominent players of the league like Khan, Clid, Teddy, and Mata to play alongside him.
Here are some key points to keep in mind that might make the match even more interesting.
Match History3-1 (+5) in Griffin's Favor
It may not be valuable data since the two teams haven’t played against each other very many times - and SKT has a completely different roster - but since some people may be curious, let’s have a look.
Jan 31st, 2019 LCK Spring Split: 2-0 GRF Win
August 4th, 2018 LCK Summer Split: 2-0 GRF Win
June 22nd, 2018 LCK Summer Split: 2-0 GRF Win
November 29th, 2017 KeSPA Cup: 2-1 SKT Win
The two teams’ first clash was back in 2017 at the KeSPA Cup quarterfinals. SKT was able to move on to the next round after a close 2-1 victory. The lengthy 63-minute Game 2 went in Griffin’s favor. It was
The first game this season was another 2-0 victory for Griffin. SKT had prepared a non-marksman bot lane for Teddy, having him play Cassiopeia and Viktor in the two games, but Griffin didn’t have much trouble countering the strategy. However, at that point of the season, it hadn’t been very long since the new SKT ‘Dream Team’ had been formed. Their synergy wasn’t as established as Griffin’s, who had been playing more than two whole seasons together.
Sword vs KhanAll-rounder top vs Aggressive carry top
The two top laners are known to be quite close friends, but on this day they have to have a bloody fight. They have a similar style; prominent on both tanks and carry champions, but Khan is a bit more aggressive and fierce when given a carry champion. As much as he enjoys playing aggressively, his performance on champions like Jayce and Fiora is exceptional. The lane push against Kingzone in Round 1 was one of the top highlights of the season.
"I believe I'm the best 'tank' top laner in the LCK. The only other top laner that's better than me on non-tanks is Khan.” - GRF Sword
Sword is more of a team player, willing to make sacrifices to help his teammates. He mostly played Sion and Urgot this season. However, this does not mean he’s not capable of playing carry champions. Like his friend, Sword’s Jayce is also very strong. In the recent meta, the Jayce pick has been very popular; it might be interesting to see which team will take Jayce.
Tarzan vs ClidCompletely different styles; who will win?
Tarzan is a jungler that prioritizes growth. Since Griffin’s lanes seldom fall behind, Tarzan uses that advantage to its fullest and finds the most efficient path. His most common champion is Nocturne, who has an extremely steep strength upturn when he hits level 6. His next most-picked was Aatrox, a champion that can dance around taking all the aggro if scaled well. Besides his most picked champions, he also played unique jungle champs like Skarner and Evelynn.
On the other hand, Clid’s pick was mainly Lee Sin. Wherever Clid moves around the map, SKT’s game gets easier. His sharp and aggressive ganks help out the team’s lanes. While Tarzan takes full advantage of the lanes that are ahead, Clid looks after the lanes that SKT plans to scale. Through Clid’s ganks, SKT stacked small benefits to snowball into a lead. Because of this, some people evaluate Clid as the player carrying out the most important role in SKT.
Chovy vs FakerPost Faker vs Living Legend of the Rift
No explanation is needed for Faker. He is known as the most dominant player in the history of League of Legends with various nicknames that recognize him as the greatest of all time. Although some people are saying Faker isn’t as strong as before, his performance on the Rift is still outstanding, landing skillshot after skillshot. We may witness Faker’s signature pick, Zed again on the Rift since he was recently buffed.
“Zed’s viable now and if the circumstances let us, he might get picked.” - SKT Faker
While Faker is still active as a player, many players have been called ‘post Faker’. In the current state, Chovy could be said to be the most worthy of that name among those players. His performance in official matches is essentially a series of highlight reels. At one point in this season, he accumulated a KDA of over 100. With more matches, it isn’t as high now, but there’s still no one that matches his record around the world.
Viper vs TeddyAny DPS champion vs ADCs are more convenient
Viper started to be known for his proficiency in non-marksmen bot lane champion picks like Vladimir or Yasuo. He even played two games on Teemo last summer and won both of those games. He’s good at mages - probably the best mage player among the bot laners - but his performance on marksmen champions is not any less than his mages.
After his move from Jin Air Green Wings, Teddy has been filling in Bang’s vacancy very well. As the record holder for most CS in one game (1456, vs SKT, 2018-01-20), he is the CS per minute leader in the LCK at 10.79. Teddy also played a few mages in the bot lane, but he disclosed that he wasn’t as comfortable on mages than he is on marksmen.
In the current meta, it is not definite whether mages are better than marksmen in the bot lane or vice-versa, but it is an interesting point to keep an eye on in the picks & bans.
Lehends vs MataThe key to ‘five as one’ vs The seasoned veteran
Few active players have been a part of the LCK for as long as Mata. Through his experience, he leads the team’s macro. Although he was criticized a lot in Round 1 of this season for his performance, he received an MVP award against Gen.G in Round 2 with his outstanding performance on Alistar. Mata had some regrets in the previous match against Griffin because of his mistake; he is eager to play again to make up for it. Mata expressed some concern, but he was still not too worried about the match.
“We’ve played two games in Round 2, and since Griffin saw those matches, they have a slight advantage. But if we prepare well, we can win.” - SKT Mata
“Five as one” is considered the team motto for Griffin. The team aims for making plays without any shotcalls; they want to have everybody think the same thing through repeated practice and communication. Of course, it may be impossible to play without any shotcalls -- Lehends is the most important player that leads the team to think together.
Recent matchesRising SKT vs Griffin being Griffin
As all “new” teams usually do, SKT had trouble bringing up their performance early in the season. The synergy between the players hasn’t been very great. Although they’re currently ranked at 3rd place - which is not bad at all - their performance wasn’t as dominant as the fans had hoped when their 2019 roster was first announced.
However, their performance has been on the rise; now that more than half of the season has been played, SKT is beginning to live up to expectations. In their most recent game against Kingzone DragonX, they had a massive victory, ending the game in 28 minutes with a kill score of 18-0. Although they lost to DAMWON Gaming in the first game of Round 2, their recent performance had been top-notch.
Griffin has been simply dominating the whole season; their recent five matches were all wins and there weren’t any obstacles that got in their way. The only road bump Griffin will be facing is the two-week gap after their match against KT Rolster on the 22nd of February. Normally there would be a dip in strength after such a long time away from the stage, but as most League of Legends fans expected, Griffin should be Griffin. Their performance has been steadfast throughout the whole season.
After the end of Round 1, SKT head coach kkOma promised the fans a better performance by saying, “I promise we will prepare better than we did in the first round and display a performance befitting SKT in the second round.” Just as he promised, SKT’s performance in recent games has improved. Griffin’s head coach cvMax also had expressed how he felt about facing SKT, "If we ever meet SKT T1 when they are at their peak, it would be a very difficult game for us to win."
We don’t know if SKT is quite at their peak, but it is a match many fans are looking forward to. SKT, who dominated the league for most of their existence, will take on the dominating Griffin as a challenger on Friday.