This team has had 22 consecutive wins. No, it's not the Golden State Warriors and it's not the Cleveland Indians. This is about Griffin, a team that was only just promoted to the LCK this summer split. Although their winning streak started from the lower level league, Challengers Korea, their performance in the LCK so far has been quite extraordinary. The team’s streak was recently ended by KT (their only loss in 2018), but they’re still at the top of the standings with a 6-1 (+8) record.
▣ From the Challengers Korea Relegation match to the top of the LCK
Only last year, this team lost all their matches in the second round of the 2017 Challengers Korea Spring Split and was nearly relegated. In the following round 1 of the summer split, they went 3-4 and didn’t leave a very strong impression. However, after Kim “cvMax” Dae-ho joined the team as head coach, Griffin began to rise. The team that was nearly relegated finished 3rd in the regular season and 4th in the playoffs.
In the KeSPA Cup tournament that followed, they defeated Afreeca Freecs and eventually lost to SKT T1 in the quarterfinals after a close full-set match. Commenting on Griffin’s performance against SKT, Lee “CloudTemplar” Hyun-woo said “I think we’ll be seeing Griffin more often from now on.”
The 2018 Challengers Korea Spring Split was a season dominated by Griffin. They started off with 10 consecutive wins without losing a single game. Although they lost a set to Team BattleComics, they continued their streak in matches, and ended the split undefeated. After the split, they defeated Kongdoo Monster and MVP to get promoted to the LCK.
As mentioned before, they're standing proudly in 1st place with a 6-1 record. Although some disparaged their record by saying their early matchups were against weak teams, their victory against Kingzone leaves little room to argue against their prowess.
▣ Acquisition of a Great Head Coach? – Kim “cvMax” Dae-ho
- The ultimate goal: making plays without calls.
Griffin’s history thus far can be divided into two eras: before and after cvMax. Their results became drastically better after cvMax was named as head coach. He often answers questions on his team starting with: “I can’t tell you in detail because we need to hide our tactics…” but he still offers small hints about the secret to Griffin’s strength.
In an earlier interview, cvMax said “What our team is aiming for is having one big brain that has the capacity of five brains controlling all five champions. Like one person playing an RTS game, controlling all five champions. That way, no calls are needed and there’s no need to debate. Our ultimate goal is to make plays without any calls.” This matches up with what Song “Lehends” Si-woo said about the team motto being “Five as one” in an interview after defeating Kingzone.
▲ Griffin’s shotcalling. Compared to other teams, they’re very quiet and calm during fights.
Another rule that cvMax considers to be important is ‘no risk – low return’. They aim to gain advantages in small ways that have no risks. In the current meta, if a team gains a slight advantage and rolls the snowball in the early game, it’s nearly impossible to turn the game around later. If it is possible to gain small leads without risking anything, it could be the best tactic ever. Playing according to this plan, Griffin lanes safely and doesn’t risk making unnecessary plays. Naturally, warding up the jungle is more convenient for the team and also allows them to take initiative in the game.
▣ Griffin of Teamfights, “Five as one”
Of course, even if the head coach is the best ever, it is the players who play the game. If the players aren’t able to carry out what the head coach has in mind, all the tactics in the world would mean nothing. The most impressive part of Griffin this season is their unbelievable teamfights. These amazing teamfights are the best proof and execution of the team’s “five as one” mantra; it really does seem like all the champions were being micro-controlled by one person.
Park “Viper” Do-hyeon and Son “Lehends” Si-woo joined the team before the spring split in order to provide a synergy boost with Choi “Sword” Sung-won, Lee “Tarzan” Seung-yong, and Shin “Rather” Hyeong-seop, all of whom played together for a while. With the addition of rookie Jeong “Chovy” Ji-hoon, the teamwork and synergy they have is at a matchless level. They came back from many losing games through some extraordinary teamfights and earned themselves the nickname: “Griffin of teamfights.”
▲ Griffin of teamfights.
Among them, there are players that stick out more than the others. ADC Viper is called ‘the next Faker’ by some fans, due to his exceptional mechanics and wide range of champions. In the 2018 LCK Summer Split, he played traditional marksman ADC champions only twice, and one of those two times was as mid lane Kai’Sa (Game 1 against SKT). Many say that his Vladimir is even better than the mid laners.
The performance of the rookie Chovy is also very impressive. Chovy is the youngest player in the LCK along with KT’s Son “Ucal” Dong-hyeon. Although he hasn’t used a whole lot of different champions in the matches, his performance with Zoe and Irelia has been remarkable. During the team’s winning streak in the LCK, Chovy’s Zoe was undefeated, and in the 7 games he played as Zoe or Irelia, he died only twice (31/2/37). In the loss against KT, he recorded 4 deaths on both Irelia and Zoe, but from what he's shown, he's one of the strongest players in the LoL scene.
The other players are nothing to scoff at either. Sword delivered good performance against Khan in the match against Kingzone; mid laner Rather and support Lehends are very well-balanced players; and Jungler Tarzan was praised by cvMax as the best at everything that’s needed in LoL.
▣ “Our goal is to win Worlds 2018.”
- Boys be ambitious!
Most teams that are promoted to the LCK don’t perform well at first and often have to play in the relegation match again after the season. Currently, only MVP and bbq Olivers (former ESC Ever) have been able to avoid that fate. Of course, it may be a difficult to rightly compare Griffin’s situation to past teams’. One thing that few have noted is that unlike most teams in the past, Griffin is at the same starting point as the other teams when it comes to adjusting to the new meta.
While there were many fans who argued that Griffin’s win streak is due solely to their easy matchups early on, almost all of them were silenced after the team’s performance against Kingzone.The remaining matches in Round 1 for Griffin are against Afreeca Freecs, and Gen.G Esports. With one more win, they’ll be tied with MVP and will have the most victories as a promoted team. However, they won’t be satisfied with just that. Head coach cvMax said that their goal is to become the 2018 LCK Summer Split champions and go on to win Worlds 2018; given their performance and determination so far, that goal may not be too far off.
Although their winning streak ended at 22 (including the 6 in the LCK), it's just a small step back in their forward sprint. They say that there's a lot more to learn from losses than from victories, so perhaps Griffin will be even more determined and developed in the upcoming matches.