That’s how many consecutive series T1 had won in LCK play. Throughout the spring split and playoffs, it looked like there was no team capable of touching T1’s level of play. Though they faltered a bit at MSI, there was no reason to believe that they wouldn’t continue dominating the LCK in summer.
While another undefeated split may have been a bit unrealistic to expect of T1, it was still quite shocking to see T1 drop their fifth series of summer to Kwangdong Freecs of all teams.
While T1 were dominating, KDF were an unremarkable group last split. They finished with an 8-10 record (19-22 in games), good enough for them to sneak into the playoffs as a fifth seed. There, they were unceremoniously bounced by T1 in the semifinals by means of a clean sweep.
KDF didn’t come out of the gates in summer red hot either. Entering their series with juggernaut T1, KDF was 1-3 (2-7 in games), sitting outside the playoffs. So how on earth did they manage to take down T1?
Well, a team like T1 only loses to a team like Kwangdong Freecs if they make some massive mistakes, and that was the case for T1.
After dusting KDF to win the first game of the series, T1 made a risky draft decision in Game 2. They selected Kalista blind and allowed KDF to pick an extremely good poke comp that included Seraphine/Senna bot lane and Swain mid. While T1 had some engage tools with Wukong, Azir, and Gwen, KDF had all the tools to kite back and control their spacing in every fight.
With their incredible scaling on their side, Kwangdong Freecs needed only sit back and wait for T1 to make mistakes on their engages. And that they did, around the 30-minute mark when T1, who had built a narrow gold lead, tried to force the issue at dragon.
T1 mid laner Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok was looking for a flank on Azir, but Seraphine and Senna were doing too good a job at keeping their distance and whittling down KDF’s frontline. By the time Faker found a good flank angle, the fight was already over.
But, while Game 2’s defeat can be attributed to merely a bad comp, which is correctable if T1 regrouped for the deciding game, that was not the case for Game 3.
With a more traditional front-to-back comp, with Jinx and Gangplank as strong scaling DPS options, it looked like they should be able to beat KDF so long as they survived Gnar, Wukong, and Ornn’s initial engage (which they had Tahm Kench and Lissandra ult to help mitigate).
T1 got the early gold advantage, which should have set them up to properly pull together and build a snowball to take them into the mid game. But the problem was simply poor execution.
On multiple occasions, T1 simply misplayed the engages from KDF, not flashing abilities quickly enough, not waiting for KDF to use their key cooldowns, or simply trying to engage too aggressively on a team with a superior first burst. Even though T1 could have been in a position to win teamfights with the scaling on their side, League of Legends is still ultimately a game of execution.
Nowhere was that better exemplified in the game-ending fight. Before it even began, T1 support Ryu "Keria" Min-seok was picked off (another common occurrence in that game). Despite being at a numbers disadvantage and not having one of their biggest safety abilities for their carries (Devour), T1 jungler Mun "Oner" Hyeon-jun and top laner Choi "Zeus" Woo-je got too close as KDF were baiting them towards Baron.
Even worse, they both had vision of Gnar and Wukong, but kept walking closer, allowing for an easy engage. This arrogance resulted in Zeus being killed and eventually the rest of the team being run down and killed.
Despite T1’s advantages in Game 3, arrogance prevented them from playing patiently into the strength of their comp. These were uncharacteristic errors that ended T1’s historic win streak in the LCK. The good news is that a team like T1 is not likely to make the same mistakes again. Another win streak could be on the way.
Diamond TFT Player & esports watcher.