‘A slump is an opportunity. A downfall is a turning point.’
SKT T1 was a 9th place team in 2019 LCK Summer. That was during the early half of the season. It’s a team that’s been dubbed the ‘Dream Team’ when they started this season. Khan, Faker, and Mata, were players who’ve reached the top at their roles. Teddy has shown that he’s a diamond in the rough during his 2 year tenure with Jin Air Greenwings. Clid proved that he could be one of the best junglers in the LPL. From having fans say ‘It’s just SKT’ to disappointing fans at MSI and a 5 match loss streak in the summer, they almost broke their own record in having the worst loss streak in the team’s history.
Was it all because of a lack of vacation and negative feedback from their MSI performance? They were looking very shaky at the start of the Summer season. It almost looked like the end for the ‘Dream Team’. As the frustrating performance continued, they suddenly just flipped a switch and started to win games. They went on not 1, not 2, but on a 9 match winning streak. They were just like the main character in a comic book. Despite looking shaky during their wildcard match against Afreeca, they’ve put on such a dominant performance in the following rounds that made fans reminisce about the ever-dominant SKT of the past.
Two finals in 2019, and SKT held both championship trophies high up in the air. Everyone played superbly, but Clid was in the middle of it all. To some, a 5 match loss streak may not mean much. But to SKT, a team that’s had a disappointing year in 2018, to making the ‘Dream Team’ in 2019, a 5 match loss streak was unacceptable.
Clid said that the loss streak was an opportunity. After finishing 2 seasons in the LCK and heading into the 2019 LoL World Championships as LCK’s #1 seed, Clid now looks to prove himself in the grandest stage of them all.
He looked confident in himself. LCK didn’t fare well against LPL in international tournaments for a while, so the league itself was desperate for an aggressive jungle talent. Clid was the first jungler on SKT to start in almost all the games since Bengi. He’s even become a champion in his first LCK season. He’s a player who became a ‘Royal Roader’.
*Note: Royal roader is a term Korean fans use for players that have won the championship in their rookie year.
“I may have debuted a long time ago, but a lot of people didn’t know who I am, and I was also a fresh face in the LCK. But I was lucky enough to become a champion in Spring. It was my first win, so more than anything, I was just really happy. I didn’t have the luxury to think about being a ‘Royal Roader’. I just wanted to win.”
“In terms of being confident in my play… I’m actually always confident. I worked hard, and believed in myself. I think I was like that until my first international tournament.”
“All I can say about international tournaments are that… they were very disappointing. I may have done well in the LCK, but not all games went the way I expected them to go. I also didn’t win MSI, so personally, that’s what I’m disappointed about the most. It was my first international tournament… if I had another chance, I could definitely win it. I was very disappointed, and very angry.”
Even against Griffin, a team that looked impenetrable, SKT didn’t lose a single set and beat them 3-0 in the Spring finals and headed into MSI as the proud representative for LCK. Many LCK fans speculated that SKT will bring home the trophy, since it was their first time in a while to go to an international event. They suffered a devastating loss to G2 in the semifinals, and their in-game performance during that series was subpar at best. After that, they beat Jin Air 2-1 in a very shaky fashion, and after that, the 5 game losing streak followed. They were in 9th place, and at that point, being champions in Spring didn’t matter, as Worlds was on the line in the Summer split.
“The slump in the beginning of the Summer season… it was a combination of many different reasons. The loss at MSI definitely had a negative impact. Something felt really off during the start of the Summer season. A lot of things were unstable during practice as well. That’s when I lost confidence, and I think my teammates felt the same way.”
“If I was to pick out the biggest reason about the slump, we had a lot of doubts about each other. We each had a lot of things we wanted, thought very differently from one another, and ultimately was reflective in our in-game comms.”
So was there anything that was hard for him personally?
“If I were to talk about the things that were hard for me, they’re just going to sound like excuses. Even so, the truth is, we didn’t have a lot of time to practice after MSI, and had contractual obligations to fulfill like commercials and what not, but the biggest thing was how I felt down after losing. All this doesn’t matter if we won. I just want to win.”
5 match loss streak. When everyone was just about saying how other teams are catching up in skill, SKT beat KT 2-0 and rode the momentum to a 9 match win streak. In sports, a slump can either destroy a team over a long period of time, or make them bounce back fast, better than ever. For SKT, it was the latter. Clid picked his coach, KkOma for being the biggest reason why the slump was so short.
“After I returned to Korea, KkOma was the first coach I’ve met face to face. I have much faith in him. I think that ever since he joined us in talking about our draft, we were able to overcome our slump so quickly.”
“I remember a lot of the things he said to us during our losing streak. He helped me think positive thoughts, and told me that even if the results turn out badly, he’ll take all the responsibility for it, so give it my very best until the very end. That’s why I tried my best, and never gave up until the end.”
“My teammates and I thought that we can’t lose anymore. We were going through difficult times because of the losing streak, and despite everyone else except for Teddy and I being older, we showed them that we’re putting in our share of the work. The rest of the team also worked hard, and somehow worked out in the end.”
The regular season finally came to an end. From starting with a 5 match loss streak to losing the last match of the season, they were barely able to grasp their ticket into the wildcard match. Clid shared what was on his mind when he defeated Afreeca in the wildcard match, to defeating SANDBOX, and DAMWON in playoffs, to defeating Griffin in the grand finals.
“From the wildcard match to the finals, game 3 against Afreeca was the most memorable. It was a do or die situation, and I played a champion that I didn’t practice too much on. I was very lucky, and also very relieved.”
“I think that because I came all the way from the wildcard match, I wasn’t too nervous during the finals. I was a little bit nervous before I sat down in my chair, but all my nerves went away when I started to prepare for the match. I’m also not the type to get nervous.”
“I wish I could tell you something more memorable, but I’m not good at multitasking. I heavily focus on just one thing. There were a lot of things I needed to think about during the finals, and the match itself was very hectic, so I can’t remember too much of the details, other than the fact that I felt very happy after becoming the champ (laughter).”
“Griffin prepared a lot of weird picks during the Spring finals, so that was my biggest concern. Everything went the way we expected it to go, and I think lady luck played her part in our victory. My teammates helped me a lot, so I was lucky to be named MVP as well.”
What did Clid think about Tarzan? They’re the two junglers that pretty much represent LCK. When he was asked this question, he was unexpectedly shy to answer.
“I feel very awkward to hear those things. These are the things that people have subjective opinions about. Some people may have a different opinion about the issue… but it’s a compliment, so I feel good about it.”
“I try to start fights while taking risks. I like making high risk-high return plays. However, Tarzan prefers to make plays that are safer, but still make a great impact in the game. It’s just a different playstyle.”
10 incredible players have gathered in the 2019 SKT T1 squad. There were moments where all the players shined in their roles, but a lot of attention were on the mid-jungle synergy. Some old SKT fans even compare the current mid-jungle duo to the legendary Faker-Bengi duo of the past.
“I actually have a lot to say about this. I’ve actually heard about this talk. Our current team have little experience in the international stages. It’s just MSI and Rift Rivals. I don’t think Faker and I are on the level of the legendary duo just yet. We’re working hard to become even better. With much practice and stage time together, we’re slowly honing our synergy into perfection.”
“When I watched SKT games before I joined the team, it seemed like Faker didn’t like losing minions in lane. As a jungler, I realized that it might also be an issue for me, but after sharing countless opinions about it, we were able to resolve it.”
“To talk about the team more, even during the finals, we won games by snowballing the upper lanes. Bot lane was pretty much on an island, but they did well on their own. The rest of the team plays around me. If I tell them I want to farm, they let me, and if I tell them I want to gank, they let me, so they’re very considerate when it comes to my jungle pathing and gank routes.”
“People give us so much praise in our upper half of the team, but I think that because our games are focused on the top half, they’re the ones receiving the spotlight. That spotlight is well deserved because Khan and Faker do such an amazing job. Even during this finals, I focused on top and mid because bot lane do well on their own. Teddy, during practice and on stage, is incredibly good at the number one thing to remember as a marksman; to not die and deal damage. He deserves all the praise and hype, and I personally think he’s the best of the best.”
“Effort is really good at relaying important information in teamfights and macro, and Mata is very talkative right from the start of the laning phase. They both help out greatly in their own way. Also, during feedback, it’s as if Mata is another coach. He’s very knowledgeable about the game. Whether it’s analysis on the player of the enemy or on objective control, he gives us a lot of advice on it, so he plays a very important role in the team.”
In big matches, he said that KkOma and Faker’s vast pool of experience and decisiveness is notable.
“In best-of-5s or in important matches, KkOma and Faker’s experience plays a valuable role. They’re very decisive. The feedback in where and how we should shift our direction is very clear. They talk about a certain situation in-game in a manner where all the players understand it very clearly. I personally think these traits are very important. You can only learn how to do such things through experience, so not everyone is capable of doing so.”
They’ve had a very busy year. Only the World Championship is left for their 2019 tenure. They’re taking a quick breather before they really start to prepare for the big one. They’ve caught up in the hours of sleep that they missed, and they didn’t want to play any other games, so they only played Teamfight Tactics a few times. When he was directly asked how confident he was in winning Worlds, he replied,
“I’ve won both Spring and Summer, but I didn’t have a trophy from an international event. I believe even the fans are eager to see us win an international tournament. Worlds is the tournament which marks the end of the year. If I was a fan, I would’ve also been frustrated with the loss streak at the beginning of Summer, but we overcame all our obstacles and won, so I hope to put on a good performance and go all the way to the finals.”
“I personally think that compared to last time, LCK has a higher chance of winning Worlds, and even though we’re part of the same league, my priority is on my team’s performance."
“I don’t want to think about what to do after winning the tournament. It would all just be in my head until it actually happens, so it’s pointless to think about those things. I remember Rookie saying that he won’t think about the champion skins or anything useless like that in an interview, and I wholeheartedly agree with him. Nothing has yet to start, and no one knows what’s going to happen.”
Clid now looks to prove himself once again. If LCK and MSI are small early skirmishes, then Worlds is the big teamfight. He definitely must be excited to perform in his first Worlds appearance, but was curious about how he felt about failure at Worlds. After all, people are afraid to make mistakes and repeating them.
“No, I’m not worried. I just want to become better. I’m repeating myself at this point, but I was very disappointed about MSI. The only things I want are good memories about Worlds this year, so I want to put on the best performance that I could give. It’s a chance to show and prove that my team’s the top dog. We want to keep getting better, and we will get better.”
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