The 2019 League of Legends World Championship will be held from October 2nd to November 10th 2019, in Berlin, Madrid and Paris. A Korean team has won the highly coveted World Championship since the start of Season 3, until their stranglehold on the title was finally undone by Invictus Gaming last year. After a disappointing 2018 championship run, held at their home soil in Busan, Korea are arguably sending their strongest teams in years to compete for the World Championship; SK Telecom T1Griffin and DamwonGaming. The three representatives for South Korea are determined to return their country to Glory. Among them is SK Telecom T1, who make their re-entry to this year’s World Championship after failing to make the cut last year. How will they fare this time? Let’s dive in and find out!

SK Telecom T1

SK Telecom T1 (also known as T1) qualified for this year’s World Championship as the number one seed. T1 holds the record for the most world titles won in the history of League Of Legends; winning the major honors in 2013, 2015 and 2016. Their victory in 2016 also resulted in them being the first and only team ever to successfully defend the title. However since their last international title, only Head Coach Kkoma (Kim Jeong-gyun) and star midlaner Lee “Faker” Sang-Hyeok remain as part of the organisation. In order to win the World Championship again, T1 assembled what many dubbed ‘a dream team’ bringing in the likes of top laner Kim “Khan” Dong-Ha, rising jungler Kim “Clid” Taemi, ADC [Attack Damage Carry] Park “Teddy” Jin-Seong, and Support Cho “Mata” Se-Hyeong. Former Gen G Jungler Kang “Haru” Min-Seung also joined the squad along with Kim “Crazy” Jae-Hee. Rookie support Lee “Effort” Sang-ho was retained along with Han “Leo” Gyeo-Re with midlaner trainee Kim “Gori” Tae-Woo completing the line-up.

The dream team sailed though the 2019 LCK (League Champions Korea) Spring Season without any major issues, defeating Griffin in the domestic final. They qualified for the Mid-Season Intivational (MSI) where they lost to eventual champions G2-Esports in a 5 game series in the semi final. They had a shaky start in the 2019 LCK Summer Season, narrowly beating JinAirGreen-Wings before going on a 5 game losing streak. The losing streak finally come to an end after they defeated fierce rival KT Rolster 2-0. Shortly after, they departed for Rift Rivals as part of Team Korea where they contributed to Korea finally lifting the Rift Rivals trophy. They then returned for the remainder of LCK Summer 2019 regular season, where they embarked on yet another winning run before getting upset in a surprise loss to HanhwaLife Esports. They secured 4th spot at the end of the Summer Season and in the Play-offs defeated Afreeca FreecsSandBox Gaming, and Damwon Gaming to set up a repeat of the 2019 Spring Finals against Griffin. They defeated Griffin for the second final in a row to secure yet another domestic title.

Head coach Kkoma and midlaner Faker have the experience and know-how of winning the World Championship, as they have won the title 3 times. Kkoma is renowned for his great player management; he knows when to have fun and be strict with his team. Faker is considered the best League of Legends player of all time, and is known to be able play any champions at the highest level possible. Top-laner Khan, Support Mata, and substitute Jungler Haru also have the experience of competing at the World Championship in their previous teams. Notably Haru was part of the Samsung Galaxy squad [renamed as Gen G], who denied T1 their World Championship title in the 2017 World Championship final. As for Mata, he brought his team victory in the World Championship Final in
2014 as part of the now-defunct Samsung White Squad. All these players help bring a wealth of experience to the team. T1 bringing in Clid has also proved to be a good decision as he has been a great asset. He provides an aggressive play style which many Korean junglers lack. He has also formed an amazing partnership with Faker, drawing comparison to the legendary Faker and retired jungler Bengi‘s chemistry back in the old days. Teddy (also known by fans as General Teddy) is a highly rated ADC whose mechanical prowess has lead T1 to victory many times.

However despite all of the experience and talent, T1 do have chinks in their Armour. Khan, when ahead of his opponents, can be a fearsome toplaner with his split pushing skills. However, he is liable to tilting when falling behind and has caused his team to lose due to that reason. Another way that SKT can lose is if Faker is put on a utility champion such as Karma to support his team instead of an aggressive champion pick, the latter is where he performs at his very best. Mata who was once considered the best support in the world had a really poor summer season, where he was eventually replaced in the starting line-up by rookie support Effort. While Effort is expected to help stabilize the team, there are concerns that his inexperience might count against him at the big international stage of the World Championship final. SKT is also fixated on selecting Ezreal for Teddy. While it is a champion that Teddy can play safe with and scale well on, which enables Clid to either power-farm in the jungler or gank for other lanes, it has its con. For example, teams can devise tactics in advance to play around the pick if T1 is insistent on selecting Ezreal. Therefore as a result, this tactic of selecting Ezreal won’t play off in the long run. SKT is also known as a slow and methodical team, playing slowly while waiting for their opponents to make a mistake. But with the current meta favouring a faster play-style, it can backfire on them as previously seen during MSI in their semi final loss to G2 E-Sports.

In this year’s edition of the World Championship, SKT have been placed in what many call ‘the Group of Death’, alongside FnaticRoyal Never Give Up [RNG] and one more team from the Play-in stages. Last year, Fnatic had a strong run at the world championship before losing to Champion Invictus Gaming in the Finals. Fnatic have continued their good run this year in the domestic league and given G2 E-Sports a run for their money. RNG like always is considered a major contender for the title with the team coming close to a win on a few occasions. With talented ADC Jian “Uzi” Zihao in their line-up, they are expected to be aiming for the number 1 spot.

In my opinion, despite SKT being placed in the Group of Death, I feel they can finish as the top team in their group. With the team traditionally being strong in the best of five series, I expect them to reach the finals. They hold the record of winning 3 out of 4 finals they have played in the World Championship so the odds are in favor of them. If Khan is able to keep his cool and prevent his lane from collapsing, a big weakness of T1 will be removed. If T1 can adapt to a fast play-style when required, fans can be hopeful of T1 regaining back their throne. Only one question now remains. As teams are only allowed to bring one substitute with them, will it be Haru or Effort who will be chosen? In the event, Effort doesn’t get selected, Mata will have to stop committing errors as that was what got him replaced by Effort during the summer season. And Mata at his best will be a fearsome duo with Teddy in the bottom lane! Overall, I am putting my bet on T1 having a successful season and reaching the pinnacle of League of Legends again!

Chances of winning the World Championship
SKT: 80%