Jin Air: Crashing Back Down to Earth or Reaching New Heights?

Off the back of their disappointing IEM San Jose performance where they exited the tournament against a Counter Logic Gaming squad fielding two new starters, Jin Air entered the 2016 season on a low note. Expected to field rookie top laner Kim “Sohwan” Jun-yeong in place of the steadfast veteran Yeon “TrAce” Chang-dong, along with losing star jungler Lee “Chaser” Sang-hyun to Longzhu Gaming, Jin Air’s hopes for 2016 were more in the vein of rebuilding rather than contending.

To be honest, it would be inappropriate to call ourselves a strong team just because we won one match against SKT. The truth is we ARE a weak team, so I would be very thankful if the other teams could let their guard down and stuff. – TrAce after defeating SK Telecom T1

Despite preseason predictions almost unanimously placing Jin Air on the bottom half of the rankings, they currently stand at 5-2 in sets and 11-5 in individual games. Situated in second place only below the ROX Tigers, most viewers are still of the belief that Jin Air will come crashing down to earth in due time. After 2013 and 2014 produced lukewarm at best results for the Jin Air organization, the 2015 season was spent bouncing around in the “are they good or are they bad” section of Korea alongside CJ Entus and Najin e-mFire. The 5.5 Cinderhulk patch ruined their hot Spring start and they failed to recover until late Summer where they narrowly missed the World Championship. It’s understandable for the Korean audience to be wary of hopping on the Jin Air plane. Jin Air’s performance in Week 6 of Champions Spring 2016 will determine whether they are contenders or pretenders.

With one of the top mid laners from Korea in Lee “GBM” Chang-seok moving to North America – being replaced by his promising backup Lee “Kuzan” Seong-hyeok – and Park “Winged” Tae-jin filling in the jungle role, the team dynamic was expected to shift dramatically to a more aggressive style of play. With a starting roster consisting of Sohwan, Winged, and Kuzan, it was to be assumed of Jin Air to lose their even-tempered style, something witnessed in their disappointing IEM San Jose appearance. After a 2-0 loss to Longzhu Gaming in Week 1, rookie top laner Sohwan was indefinitely replaced by TrAce. Jin Air immediately bounced back with a surprising upset against an SK Telecom T1 squad that fielded their own rookie mid laner Lee “Scout” Ye-chan in game one. Despite starting mid laner Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok entering the set in game two, Jin Air sealed the victory off the back of an inventive Graves top lane pick from TrAce.


Jin Air proceeded to pick off four of their next five sets against lesser teams Afreeca, e-mFire, CJ Entus, and SBENU, dropping a lone set to Samsung in an extremely close contest carried by top laner Lee “CuVee” Seong-jin’s Lissandra. They enter this week fresh from the Lunar New Year break primed to face off against perennial contender KT Rolster, and the best team in the world, ROX Tigers.

Jin Air’s strengths and keys to victory have been anchored between their two solo lanes, TrAce and Kuzan. The former has seen a resurgence in play that makes one wonder why he was seemingly hamstrung on a narrow select of champs during 2015 and the latter has shown in short time to being one of the top mid laners in Korea.

TrAce has already picked up unique wins on seven different champs this split, matching the number that he hit last split including playoffs. The first adopter of top lane Graves, this split TrAce has been able to show off just how expansive his champion pool is and why, in the past, he was considered one of the most innovative players the game has ever seen. He has the third highest CS differential at 10 minutes (+6.7), the highest damage share (25.8%), and the second highest kill participation (68.8%) of all top laners in Korea. He’s doing all of this while operating on only the fifth highest gold share (22.0%). TrAce is the most efficient top laner in Korea and while his leading voice in game does cause some issues as it pertains to team passivity, he’s having a stand out season thus far and is one of the top performing players in the world.


Most people tagged the mid lane as an area of question for Jin Air entering the year, but Kuzan has surpassed all expectations in his second split. He only played nine matches total last year – going 5-4 in the Summer split – but displayed a good amount of talent. This year he has been a star on this roster, one of the top performing mid laners in Korea. Exhibiting a wealth of variety in his champ pool, Kuzan is arguably the best laner in the region. While he has, more often than not, been given favorable lane match ups, he pushes advantages and punishes mistakes in lane. He has the highest CS differential at 10 minutes (+6.3), third highest damage share (31.8%), and he operates on only 23.9% gold share, good for ninth of all mid laners in Korea. He has shown extreme efficiency and superb lane control that helps steer Jin Air into the mid game. Not all is positive for Kuzan. His mid and late game team fighting still shows visible flaws such as target prioritization and a general lack of cohesion with his team during five on five fights, seemingly a Jin Air standard at this point. Regardless, TrAce and Kuzan form a powerful one-two punch that no team can ignore.

Jin Air’s new jungler Winged has brought an insatiable aggression to the team’s early game. He has performed well above expectation and is a key factor to his solo laners success, gaining first blood in eight of their 16 games, second of all junglers. His style of farming at an incredibly efficient rate – second highest in CS differential at 10 minutes (+3.9) and CS per minute (4.8) – while laying down early pressure in the mid-top half of the map has been a keynote of this team.

All the team members understand that our macro play is rather slow. We discuss the possibility of playing an explosive style but I think the players are taking a consistent/stable approach to the matches due to the importance of the tournament. We recognize that this is an issue and we will try and work towards becoming a team that can deliver an explosive performance. – Head Coach Han Sang-yong on Jin Air’s macro play

There are a few similarities between the Jin Air of 2015 and the Jin Air of 2016 and most of those similarities come in their meandering mid game play which leads to them squandering early leads and crawling their way into the late game. They are the least bloodied team in Korea, averaging the lowest amount of combined kills per minute in their games, and they also take the longest to finish their games, average 43 minutes per contest. Both of these stats are well below and above the next available team so outside of the early game play from the trio mentioned above, this team still has a tendency to lose their head in the mid-late game.


Jin Air’s lackluster bot lane has been another source of needing improvement. While support Choi “Chei” Sun-ho has improved in almost every aspect of his game, refining an engage style of play in his repertoire, AD Carry Na “Pilot” Wu-hyung has seemingly regressed to an unfortunate point where it’s highly questionable if he’ll ever live up to the hype he generated one year ago. Playing excessively scared with a lack of confidence has led to an inability to properly carry out his duties as the marksman for Jin Air. He’s shelling out the second lowest amount of damage (23.7%), has the lowest CS per minute (8.5), and does the lowest damage per minute (390) of all marksmen in Korea. Pilot has had an incredibly weak split and he’ll need to regain his confidence if Jin Air is to remain a contender in the top half of the field. While he hasn’t been a hindrance that is losing Jin Air games thus far, he’ll need to pick his play up if they are to contend with the likes of the ROX Tigers.

All in all, Jin Air is likely to remain a mid-top half of the field team as long as the meta permits. With the jungle being a high farm priority position, Winged is in an excellent position to have a large impact and the top lane is in a very diverse state which allows TrAce to continue his MVP warpath. If Pilot picks his game up, Chei keeps steady, and Kuzan continues to develop into a star mid laner then Jin Air very well could make a run at the championship this split. Playing KT Rolster and ROX Tigers this week will be an excellent test to see how Jin Air stacks up to the best in Korea.


The Difference a Jungler Makes: ROX Tigers

Winning their first four sets of Champions Spring 2016 – racking up a match win and loss record of 8-2 – the ROX Tigers appear to be the best team in the world. Coming off a very successful debut season for the roster built almost entirely of cast-off Champions talent, the Tigers only made a single positional roster change during the offseason by replacing retired jungler Lee “Hojin” Ho-jin with former Najin e-mFire backup jungler Yoon “Peanut” Wang-ho.

Widely regarded as one of the most talented prospects in Korea, Peanut’s lack of play on Najin during 2015 was the subject of much debate. While he was incredibly talented, rumors surfaced of him being tough to work with in a team environment – not unheard of from a 17 year old rookie. With the rookie firmly planted on the bench and starting jungler Cho “watch” Jae-geol performing lukewarm at best, much ire was directed at the Najin management. Najin’s roster blew up entirely after the 2015 season, now being rebuilt as a Frankenstein monster of Korean solo queue players and former Champions substitutes.

Yoon “Peanut” Wang-ho

These events allowed Peanut to find a new home with the ROX Tigers and the World Championship runner-up found a strict upgrade in the jungle position. The results have been phenomenal thus far, knocking off a rebuilt CJ Entus roster, two teams predicted to be contending for first place – KT Rolster, Longzhu Gaming – and, most recently, the reigning World Champions in SK Telecom T1.

What has propelled this roster to being the best in the world? Simple math. The subtraction of Hojin and the addition of Peanut.

The attributes Hojin lacked – early game pressure and play making ability – are the exact attributes on which Peanut carries himself individually. Hojin’s presence on the Tigers led to a wholly lackluster early game throughout the entirety of 2015 which would often lead to deficits being accrued. These early deficits would be made up for in different ways throughout the year. In the beginning of year – where the Tigers appeared to be the best team in the world – it was off the back of mid game centered team comps featuring champs like Rumble, Lulu, Viktor, Leblanc, Kog’Maw, and Corki. Grouping together and daring their opposition to fight them in their main power points allowed the Tigers to take hold of the map in the mid game or steam roll their opponent in team fights.

Celebrating after defeating reigning World Champions SK Telecom T1.

The Tigers lulled throughout Summer, having periods where they showcased extreme success and periods where they flopped entirely. One of the main proponents of this was Hojin’s inability to properly adapt to the 5.5 Cinderhulk patch which led to the Tigers searching for a replacement in Kim “Wisdom” Tae-wan. Neither panned out particularly well during Summer and the jungle woes continued up until Worlds where Hojin, surprisingly, played at the highest level in his entire career.

Regardless of his Worlds level of play, the Tigers yearned for more out of their jungle position. Enter Peanut. He’s everything Hojin wasn’t and he’s everything the Tigers need. Peanut has unlocked avenues for success that the Tigers have previously been incapable of exploring.

The new Tigers are quicker on the draw and are now placing their opponents on the back foot rather than play as if they’re inherently two paces behind. They are now more decisive in their early play making and Peanut’s ability to find favorable fights has led the Tigers to having the highest first blood rate in Korea at 90% – 9 out of their 10 matches – of which Peanut has been a contributor in seven of those matches. They have the highest first baron and first dragon rate in Korea, 88% and 74% respectively, and, in accordance with their new-found early game prowess, have the highest gold differential at 15 minutes in Korea with a staggering +2,159 gold. This in contrast to their +408 gold statistic through all of Summer split last year shows not just how dominant they currently are, but how ineffective they were at creating plays in the early game last year in a much weaker Korean region.

Kang “Gorilla” Beom-hyeon

Peanut’s introduction to the team and his ability to snowball his lanes effectively opens up the Tigers to a more varied style of play. Last year, for the most part, the team relied on late game team fighting or mid game map dominance to carry them to victory. For the first part of this year we’ve seen not just their standard poke composition they leaned on in late 2015, but also a split push composition with Twisted Fate. We’ve seen not just the two threat Lulu composition that they patented in early 2015, but also snowball reliant picks like Leblanc returning to their team comps. The better structured early game directed by Peanut brings about far more options for which the Tigers can choose from.

The jungle change has also seemed to have a profound effect on mid laner Lee “Kuro” Seo-haeng’s play. Widely considered to have over-performed at the World Championship, his level of play has only increased with the introduction of a jungler that knows how to facilitate the Tigers in the early game. His laning statistics have improved, he’s doing more with less overall resources, and he has shown a more active role in their early game play. Below is a comparison of his Summer split statistics matched up against his current Spring split statistics.

Champions Summer 2015

  • First Blood Participation : 24.4%
  • Average CS Differential at 10 Minutes : -3.6
  • Average Gold Differential at 10 Minutes : -34.5
  • Average Damage Per Minute : 581
  • Team Damage Percent : 28.6%
  • Team Gold Percent : 25.6%

Champions Spring 2016

  • First Blood Participation : 40%
  • Average CS Differential at 10 Minutes : 0
  • Average Gold Differential at 10 Minutes : +274
  • Average Damage Per Minute : 659
  • Team Damage Percent : 29.9%
  • Team Gold Percent : 25.3%

The difference – while not massive a la KT Rolster AD Carry No “Arrow” Dong-hyeon’s multi-faceted transition with his supports in 2015 – is still very noticeable and Kuro has been one of the top performers of the mid lane in Korea thus far, sparked by the strong early game pressure Peanut brings.

Lee “Kuro” Seo-haeng

The question now is if the Tigers will maintain their form through the end of the Spring split, something they were incapable of doing last year. Top laner Song “Smeb” Kyung-ho has shown an incredibly variety of champions to choose from and has been a stand out performer on the Tigers since their inception. Kuro has shown a good champion pool throughout his career and he looks like he’s only improving with superior teammates forming around him. AD Carry Kim “Pray” Jong-in has been trending upwards since he returned from a hiatus in the Summer of 2014, regaining a good part of his form from his world class 2013 performances, and has recently improved on the Kalista pick he struggled with in 2015. Kang “Gorilla” Beom-hyeon was the best support in the world during 2015 and it doesn’t appear like he’ll be stopping anytime soon given his dominant play.

The main force that caused the Tigers to flounder in 2015 was replaced with Peanut. It’s now up to the newcomer to show he too can weather multiple metas and transition properly so that the Tigers can sustain their success through the rest of the year. It’s far too early to tell if this is going to be the Tigers world championship year, but it’s not too early to say they’re the best in the world right now and that they’re almost assuredly going to be contenders come October.



Statistics – http://oracleselixir.com/

Pictures – https://twitter.com/nublarsehttps://twitter.com/DarjeelingBlis

From Challenger Failings to IEM Cologne: ESC Ever

The Korean amateur scene is downright abysmal, regularly failing to produce notable teams from the secondary leagues into the Champions professional league. These failings to produce potent professional teams out of amateur teams extends as far back to when NLB was created in 2012. Lack of endemic sponsors and the stranglehold Champions organizations – and now foreign organizations – have on obtaining rising talent stifle the amateur scene that many people believe to be a gold mine of future stars. Korean Challenger this year has been the punchline to many jokes due to the lack of organizational success rising from it.

The number one team in the Korean Challenger league this past split, Dark Wolves, was thoroughly abused by a Najin e-mFire B squad that fielded third string marksman Seo “Sol” Jin-sol in the top lane and the 100 year-old bot lane of Lee “Zefa” Jae-min and Jang “Cain” Nu-ri. Korean Challenger was – for lack of a better term – a complete joke.


ESC Ever recently bucked the trend of failure that teams such as the aforementioned Dark Wolves, along with other staples like MKZ, Prime Clan, and Xenics helped create by winning the 2015 LoL KeSPA Cup, an offseason offline tournament that was attended by every Champions roster. This ESC Ever roster came out of nowhere due to the lack of attention zoned in on the Korean Challenger scene and they ran through Samsung Galaxy, Rebels Anarchy, SK Telecom T1, and CJ Entus – only dropping a single match to Rebels Anarchy – en route to a first place finish.

Now, ESC Ever – via the KeSPA Cup victory – reserved their spot at an international event for the first time in their very short history. Attending IEM Cologne alongside European powerhouses Fnatic and H2K Gaming, Chinese team fighting gods Qiao Gu, and North American sides Team Dignitas and Cloud 9, most fans have one large question coming into this event.

Who the hell is ESC Ever?


Ever started as little more than a pick up challenger team with zero success and a large rotation of players through the year. Finishing in fifth-eighth place in the first Spring series of Korean Challenger and placing ninth-16th in the second Spring series, Ever wasn’t even on the radar entering the Summer season of Korean Challenger. Taking home second place in Summer, they obtained the chance to promote into Champions. Initially having some hopes due to drawing SBENU Sonicboom – Champions Summer basement-dweller – for that chance, their hopes would be dashed by the revealing of up and coming star jungler Sung “Flawless” Yeon-jun.

Due to that 3-1 result to SBENU, this team will not be competing in Champions Spring 2016. Just prior to the 2015 LoL KeSPA Cup they found a title sponsor in ESC, otherwise known as esportsconnected. Through ESC the middling challenger side gained a source of money, a gaming house, and a live-in coach. They bootcamped for the event and committed to a starting five that they felt would bring them success.

Athena: After we were knocked out of the Promotions Tournament, we were all spending some free time. When we heard that the KeSPA Cup was being held, we lived together for 2 weeks. I think that it started going well for us since then.

Ares: I usually do most of the shotcalling, but whenever someone sees an angle or opportunity, we split the orders. I think we play Bard very well, so I think it’s our “always win” card. We were thinking about what to practice in case Bard got banned. I think the games played out well today.

The team’s first opponent at the tournament, Samsung Galaxy, had struggled to find its place in Champions. In this first set, ESC Ever displayed multiple attributes rarely seen from challenger league teams. Swift, but patient, team-wide decision making, coordinated dives, and smart side lane manipulation were all present in the first two matches against Samsung. Typically on the challenger level you see impatience and muddied decision making born from inexperience, but that was not the case here. This was an obviously practiced team.


Samsung Galaxy was made to look like a pickup challenger lineup rather than the Champions league veteran they were. ESC Ever forced disorganization out of Samsung and then unmercifully punished it. Off the back of phenomenal Bard play from support Kim “Key” Han-gi – of which he has become known for – ESC Ever rolled through to the next round with relative ease.

While Rebels Anarchy posed much stronger resistance in the second round – even taking the first match of the set in a close contest – the same attributes ESC Ever displayed in the first round rang true. Organized play on their end with exceptional engages from Key forced Anarchy, a squad that routinely struggled through the season in team wide aspects, to make mistakes.


Against SK Telecom T1, ESC Ever was fortunate enough to play against rookie mid laner Lee “Scout” Ye-chan in the first game rather than usual starter Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok. Faker entered into the second match and SK Telecom T1 did something they rarely ever do: fail to close out a lead. The composition from the world champs crumbled late due to an oversight where they lacked tower pushing potential and subsequently gave away the second, and final, match of the set. ESC Ever committed one of the strangest upsets in the history of the game by taking down the recent world champions 2-0 and moving into the finals.

In the finals, ESC Ever would be matched up against a roster riding their own miracle juice – CJ Entus. Here top laner Kim “Crazy” Jae-hee put on a clinic, outclassing the once unmatched CJ Entus top laner Park “Shy” Sang-myeon. While each individual game was fairly competitive, the difference in each win for ESC Ever stemmed from the match up in the top lane.

Head Coach Kim Ga-ram: When we first started, our goal was to win just one game. As we played through the matches, we started to develop a greed for something more. The players put in a lot of effort as well. At the Quarterfinals and Semifinals, we thought that we could really do something. I am very happy.

Where Crazy handily won lane in both favorable and losing match ups – and individually created plays across the map via Teleport – Shy recorded an abysmal 3-17-5 KDA and was murdered in lane against the hyper aggressive up and comer across three matches. We very well may have seen the birth of the next great top laner to come out of Korea in Crazy. He performed phenomenally on tanks, traditional carries, and mages all throughout the tournament. While he has lapses in judgment similar to what former SK Telecom T1 top laner Jang “Marin” Gyeong-Hwan displayed early on in his career, his individual talent is undeniable.


The team dynamic on ESC Ever is reminiscent of Worlds finalist Tigers. Mid laner Kang “Athena” Ha-woon garners little pressure in lane, preferring to scale, making plays around the map and in team fights rather than focus the lane. Top laner Crazy shows overzealousness which at times hindered ESC Ever’s performance during the tournament, but his distinct style draws an immense amount of pressure to wherever he’s at on the map and he brings a hard carry aspect a la Tigers top laner Smeb. The bottom lane of Lee “Loken” Dong-wook and Key contributes strong laning and brings an engage element to their champ picks that is somewhat ignored elsewhere on the team – Bard, Alistar, and Kalista being notable consistent picks for the duo.

ESC Ever may not be the next great Korean roster – more likely to be just a flash in the pan – however they bucked the trend set by past amateur Korean participants and shocked the world with the KeSPA Cup win. The amateur Korean team displayed organization foreign to most amateur teams while still retaining special individual talents. They defeated some of the best that Korea had to offer and rightfully earned their place at IEM Cologne. How ESC Ever performs at IEM Cologne is anyone’s guess, but at the very least, this team is one of the best stories of the year and are extremely exciting to watch.

Duke: The Upgrade SK Telecom T1 Wants

Somewhat of a silent, joking figure in the OnGameNet booth, Lee “Duke” Ho-seong holds a presence in Korean league that very few top laners ever have. From the start of Champions Summer 2014 and to the end of Champions Spring 2015, he was arguably the most dominant top laner in the region filled with exceptional talents. Yet still he flies under the radar. Typically lacking in flash and his teams performing in disappointing fashion, Duke has been one of the most quiet top performers in the world over the past year. With the departure of team captain Jang “Marin” Gyeong-Hwan, SK Telecom T1 needed a replacement to the fan favorite top laner. Who they’ve found is the man who kicks ass and chews gum in the booth. Someone who will be an upgrade to the now-famous former captain.


A former Protoss player for the SK Telecom T1 Starcraft 2 team under the name “Klaus”, Duke – then known as “Leopard” – got his first break in professional League of Legends with the KT Rolster Bullets. Joining up with the roster in late 2013, he found his first competitive experience against Najin White Shield in the third place match of PANDORA.TV Champions Winter 2013 subbing in for Choi “inSec” In-seok. There he showcased well rounded tank play while going toe to toe with Shield’s star top laner Baek “Save” Young-jin. With Lee “Kakao” Byung-kwan’s transfer to the KT Arrows and Insec moving back to the jungle, Leopard would fill the shoes as the starting top laner from that tournament onward.

As was the meta during early-mid 2014, Leopard was a prominent Shyvana and Renekton player. At the IEM Season VIII World Championship, where the KT Bullets went undefeated, he displayed standout performances all throughout the tournament on a host of champions and built a bit of a name for himself in the international community. Returning back to Korea for HOT6IX Champions Spring 2014, he would find himself yet again matched up against Save and Najin White Shield during the quarterfinals. This time, off the heels of an abnormally poor game four from Leopard, Shield would reverse sweep the Bullets on their way to a finals appearance.

After the season, Leopard would be the centerpiece of the most lopsided trade in League history. KT Rolster agreed to send Leopard to Najin e-mFire in exchange for mid laner Kim “Nagne” Sang-moon and top laner Ju “Limit” Min-Gyu. Nagne never panned out as expected, and Limit was on a LSPL roster within seven months.


Duke – changing his name from Leopard – became one of the main strengths on a revamped Najin Black Sword roster and had arguably the most impressive split of any top laner in Korea. As the meta in Summer shifted away from Shyvana and Renekton only in Spring, this allowed Duke to pick up champs such as Lulu, Jax, and Gragas proving he had more depth. Through Najin Black Sword’s run in both HOT6IX Champions Summer 2014 and ITENJOY NLB Summer 2014, he would outperform such names as Kim “Rock” Hui-chan, Limit, Lee “Flame” Ho-jong, Save, and Marin on their way to an NLB finals appearance. Unfortunately, this was the most successful team he ever performed on and it was short lived as the exodus, sister team dissolution, and the introduction of the HUYA Tigers that would break apart the budding Sword roster.

Sticking with Najin e-mFire through the exodus, he continued his mean streak well into 2015. Despite Najin under-performing as a team, only winning 14 matches in total during the Spring season of Champions, Duke was the best performing top laner in the region yet again.

Duke was the MVP in 10 of those 14 victories, laying claim to the regular season league MVP award. He had some of the best Gnar play in the world, picking that champion up with ease once it became available in competitive play, and shown bright on Rumble, Maokai, and Lissandra, again showing more and more depth to his play.


Of the “Big Four” top laners in Korea, he received the lowest gold share and received the least allied attention in game. Despite being perceived as a carry top laner, and having the performances to back the perception up, he worked fairly independently from the rest of the team while resources were funneled more to the mid and marksman roles. This in combination with jungler Cho “watch” Jae-geol and his inability to properly pressure the top half of the map, instead attempting to keep the mid lane from being too shaky, led to more than a few uneven performances from the star top.

Transitioning into Summer, Najin continued to wallow in the middle of the pack, never breaking into the top three of Korea. While Duke’s play was still quite strong until the very end of the season, he didn’t develop as a player in the Summer. With global teleport play out of the top lane growing steadily in importance as the season wore on both Smeb and Marin – primary shot callers on their respective teams – saw a boon in their individual performances. The flaw of Duke, not being a particularly vocal player and surely not a primary shot caller, was one obvious pain of his during Summer. Distinct faults in teamwork – not uncommon with Najin in general – led to disjointed team fighting throughout the season. His one versus one laning was left almost unquestioned, yet it wasn’t enough to keep up with how the meta shaped through Summer.

Now, with the absence of Marin, this does pose a fair concern. Who will be stepping up as a primary shot caller on SK Telecom T1? With what the public knows via in game mic listen-ins, Lee “Wolf” Jae-wan and Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok were fairly vocal players on SK Telecom T1 during the past year. Assumptions would point to Wolf taking up the mantle as a primary voice in game as the support or jungle typically employ that role. We shall see how SK Telecom T1 develops with another starter picking up the role, but I would wager that Marin’s loss will not have a severe impact.


How Duke compares to Marin is another fair question that many people have. Marin’s performances during the year truly only improved whenever SK Telecom T1 identified his strengths – converting leads into wins – and weaknesses – map awareness gaffes and playing with a deficit. This happened about midway through Spring and SK Telecom T1 took off on their way to winning the season of Champions. Duke is a stronger top laner in one versus one laning and he is more versatile in being able to play both a more reserved, supportive role or being able to take a game over and hard carry when given the resources.

During the Summer 2015 regular season Marin was placed in 9 losing lane match ups while Duke faced 18 losing lane match ups. Despite that large difference, Duke was still one of only four starting top laners with a positive CS differential at 10 minutes. He faced a losing match up in nearly half of Najin’s games by way of their pick and ban priority, yet statistically you’d think otherwise. Throughout the year both Duke and Marin traded blows over 11 matches. While Najin only won three matches – SK Telecom T1 being the superior team by a wide margin – Duke fared well against Marin individually in a variety of match ups, both top laners taking favorable, neutral, and losing match ups across the board. His champion pool is without a doubt larger than Marin’s which is a nice plus as it gives more options in champ select.

Whereas Marin’s play was improved upon by SK Telecom T1 working on getting him ahead – identifying team strengths and weaknesses – Duke was noticeably hampered by Najin’s ineptitude when it came to preparation and in game strategy. Much as I stated Duke’s individual play was disjointed, this is very true for Najin as a whole. They never found out where they needed to focus both in champ select and in game so that they could consistently succeed.

People should have full confidence in Duke being an upgrade over Marin. He is a more well rounded player – with higher peaks and not as steep valleys – and SK Telecom T1 will properly work with the him so that they play to his strengths. The poor play Duke displayed at the end of Summer will not happen on a team that knows how to utilize him and has successful players in the proper positions, another knock against Najin. Unlike the now-defunct Najin, SK Telecom T1 will draw the best out of Duke and the best out of Duke is the unquestioned king of top lane. The world champions only got stronger with this move and the results will speak for it come next Spring.

The Result of IEM San Jose


With the fourth international tournament of the year coming to a close, Europe has claimed their first tournament victory of the year off the back of a dominating performance from Origen. Entering the tournament in arguably the best shape of any attendee, only replacing mid laner Enrique “xPeke” Cedeño Martinez with former Unicorns of Love member Tristan “PowerofEvil” Schrage, the European side stormed through North American squads Team SoloMid and Counter Logic Gaming en route to a finals victory. While it appears that Origen is in great form entering the 2016 season, the other attendees at the IEM event all have their fair share of questions in the midst of a rapid-fire offseason.

LGD Gaming entered this tournament as favorites by many. With reputation to regain after their horrendous World Championship showing, surely they would  show up to this event in pre-Worlds form, right?

Unfortunately that was not the correct assessment as the team continued their downward spiral from top of the world to where they are now.

After a crushing defeat in game one, mostly centered on extremely poor team decision making in the late game, LGD subbed in Choi “Acorn” Cheon-ju for Lee “Flame” Ho-jong hoping for a new spark. The spark they were looking for ended up hurting them as Acorn delivered a pathetic performance on Olaf that led to their demise. Despite solid performances from both Wei “GodV” Zhen and Gu “Imp” Seung-bin, the team couldn’t bring it all together in either match and as such they dropped out of the tournament to a Team SoloMid roster fielding four brand new players on days worth of practice. This set was a new low for LGD and the sinking of their ship is finished.


With a steep drop off like no team has ever experienced, it’s very tough to imagine this roster sticking together come next Spring. Under-performances from various players at different times along with a complete lack of strategy both in the pick and ban phase and in game, the team looks nigh unfixable. Now we must see what scrap can be hauled out of the ocean from various Chinese and Korean teams as many players on this roster are still top performers. Where certain players from LGD land will definitely be one of the top developments during the offseason as there’s little doubt in the individual talent teeming through the roster. Until then, we can wait patiently for their break up and pour one out for the former LPL Champions.

The European squad that placed second and fourth respectively in Spring and Summer EU LCS, Unicorns of Love, entered this tournament with a new-look roster. Finding new players in the jungle, mid lane, and marksman roles, they would fall two games to none to a Counter Logic Gaming squad that fielded two new players of their own. With a meandering play style followed up with solo queue-esque plays from new jungler Berk “Gilius” Demir, the Unicorns looked in abysmal form, to be expected as the team only had a handful of days for practice.


While the lack of practice can be an explanation for their poor synergy together, the individual mistakes made from new marksman Pierre “Steeelback” Medjaldi and the horrid positioning from long-time support Zdravets “Hylissang” Iliev Galabov cannot be overlooked. Top laner Kiss “Vizicsasci” Tamás had a solid showing individually, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the weak play elsewhere on the map. Time was obviously needed for this roster to ever perform to a decent standard so the substandard showing wasn’t incredibly surprising, however the individual misplays from multiple members signaled that more may be wrong here. Obvious downgrades in the jungle and mid lane positions may be worse than people thought and the upgrade at the marksman role may not be as great. Luckily the team has two months to get back into the swing of things and at the end of the day it was just two games. With the triple position swap they lost quite a lot and it doesn’t appear that they’ve gained very much. Gilius in particular really must refine his play. It appeared like he lost his cool during the second match against Counter Logic Gaming, making extremely poor decisions on Lee Sin which cost them the match.

In the semi-finals, the Jin Air Green Wings squared off against Counter Logic Gaming. In a fairly close set, Jin Air dropped two games to none as CLG proceeded to the finals. Jin Air, much like many teams in the tournament, entered in with multiple roster changes and a complete shift in the team dynamic. With rookie top laner Kim “Sohwan” Jun-Yeong, sub jungler Park “Winged” Tae-jin, and brand new starter Lee “Kuzan” Seong-hyeok, the formerly passive styled Jin Air team shifted into a more decisive, aggressive roster. This decisiveness and aggressiveness both played in and against their favor on multiple occasions during the set, with both very positive and very negative teleports from Sohwan.


Kuzan and Sohwan are new to the starting roster, and they both have quite a lot to learn solely through play time. Their main issues appeared to be the inability to play the map correctly against a split push heavy style that CLG brought to the table and just general individual misplays during team fights, most notably from Kuzan.  A disappointing result,  but not entirely shocking as the team was lacking jungler Lee “Chaser” Sang-hyun, their best player, and have a completely different team identity that they’ll need to figure out with Sohwan and Kuzan. Former starting top laner Trace surely wasn’t breaking out Riven and trying to force aggressive teleport flanks during his time with the team. Seeing support Choi “Chei” Sun-ho show off some impressive engage play was a nice takeaway from this minute tournament as that’s a role he has struggled in. Ironing out these issues and potentially finding a more talented jungler should lead to Jin Air rising a bit in 2016. Time and experience should do wonders for certain players on the team as the raw talent is quite apparent. They’ll face some stiffer competition within Korea with multiple teams who were beneath them growing in talent, SBENU and Incredible Miracle standing out.

On the other side of the bracket, Team SoloMid fell to the previously mentioned Origen, two games to none, after taking two games off LGD Gaming. The first set TSM played against LGD showed expected shakiness from what is, aside from constant of mid laner Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg, an entirely new roster. Sporting former Gravity top laner Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell, former SK Gaming jungler Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen, former CLG marksman Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng, and former H2K support Raymond “kaSing” Ka-Sing Tsang, Team SoloMid is looking to be the team to beat in North America by going out and acquiring high value targets across both North America and Europe. In the set against LGD, TSM won off of the mistakes of LGD rather than their own great team play. With Hauntzer stepping up individually and outperforming both Flame and Acorn, TSM advanced past the skidding Chinese side.


Much like Jin Air, this is not just a roster with multiple changes at individual positions, but a roster with an entirely different team dynamic from what it was previously. Transitioning from a purely mid lane focused team that was incredibly dependent on Bjergsen to a roster that has multiple carry threats will take time and practice to adjust. In this tournament, TSM took less focus off of the mid lane in lieu of a more top-ADC focused style, sticking Bjergsen on Orianna twice, Anivia once, and Lulu once. Apart from a few individual missteps from Hauntzer and a face plant from Doublelift, most of TSM’s mistakes this tournament stemmed from a complete lack of practice together. Disorganized play across the map led to sloppy games on TSM’s end filled with macro mistakes, picking very poor fights at inopportune times. At the end of the day, this team does not want for individual talent as they’ve acquired star players at every position off of other teams. However, that may be the downfall to TSM in that it’s a team filled with stars and leaders. When everyone’s a leader, who will step above everyone else? Will those who don’t take a leading role fall into a following role? These are concerning questions which could ultimately hold the individually stellar roster back.

Meeting up in the finals, Counter Logic Gaming and Origen squared off in what would be an incredibly decisive sweep for the European monster. Fielding superior talent at every position and dealing with a very “plug and play” roster swap in the mid lane, versus the significant changes CLG underwent, Origen rolled through the North American squad with varied carry performances across the board. It was quite expected to see Origen show up in solid form coming off their impressive World Championship run and the addition of PowerofEvil looks to improve on that, bolstering their lineup to being the best in Europe by a solid margin. CLG, conversely, surprised many with their tourney run. With a massive team dynamic shift from being incredibly ADC focused to now being top lane focused, along with two new members, not much was expected. Very little was assumed of marksman Trevor “Stixxay” Hayes and the bar was set fairly high for mid laner Choi “HuHi” Jae-hyun. While the former exceeded expectations set by most, the latter floundered through his seven matches. Stixxay wasn’t playing flawlessly, having some questionable Ashe arrows and farming side lanes when he shouldn’t have been, but he improved remarkably over the course of the tournament with an ultimately well-played finals against Origen. He knew his limits and CLG took measures to ease him into the position for success rather than forcing him to fill the shoes left by Doublelift.


Huhi, on the other hand, showed some weak performances throughout. Playing some off-kilter mid lane picks such as Kindred and Ekko, he showed some good diversity, but wasn’t wholly effective in lane or in team fights. He will need to improve significantly if CLG are to continue on with their domestic success cemented in their last split. CLG entered this tournament with a very clear plan, getting Darshan “Darshan” Upadhyaya, formerly known as Zionspartan, ahead each and every game. When that plan failed things crumbled around the team. It will be interesting to see how this roster progresses and evolves through the offseason and into 2016. Stixxay seems to be the future for CLG, but I can’t say the same for Huhi.

Team Dynamism, Gold Distribution, and Team SoloMid

How teams work and how they could potentially work is one of my favorite topics to discuss as it pertains to team building. The ability to figure out a team identity, the strengths and weaknesses among the roster, and how to play around it all is one of the most interesting and important things as it can very well determine what kind of team compositions you can run or how your pick and ban priority will play out. There have been countless teams that have struggled with the basics of finding a team identity or identifying their individual strengths and weaknesses.

With the offseason in full swing, I feel it’s appropriate to talk about these two topics; How they affected certain teams during the past year and how they look to affect certain teams going into 2016.

With the recent acquisition of Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng by Team SoloMid, there has been a good amount of talk regarding gold distribution within that team and how the dynamic may shift away from the extremely mid centered style they had grown accustomed to. They had shown quite a lot of success with an international tournament victory at IEM Katowice earlier in the year and a quarterfinals finish at Season 4 Worlds.

Doublelift joining Team SoloMid is arguably the biggest roster move North America has seen in years. The personality and talent that comes with Doublelift and him leaving one North American giant for their rival is a story dripping in drama. Stepping outside of the drama, Naser “Empyre” Al-Naqi discussed the move here in a more in-depth and analytic manner. 

Team SoloMid is an interesting team this offseason due to dropping four of their five members and having the opportunity to build around the consensus best mid in North America, someone who has shown remarkable versatility through his time on the team. Where they decide to go with the remaining three roster spots is unknown, but they started their rebuilding effort by going out and obtaining Doublelift, a marksman who has for the most part required quite a lot of resources to function at an optimal capacity through his career.

Given the strengths and identities of both mid laner Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg and Doublelift, both of which led the NA LCS at their position in gold share, one would hazard a guess that Team SoloMid will likely be a more mid-bot lane focused roster next split when previously they were very much a pure mid lane focused roster. The shake up and more dependability in the bot lane should give Team SoloMid more options to choose from in the pick and ban phase of the game along with opening up more strategies in general.

Stepping to the Korean league, Champions contained some of the more unique stories in regards to team dynamism and gold distribution. Najin e-mFire, being one of the most heinous offenders of the “three hard-carry strategy”, drew the ire of many analysts and fans with their completely disappointing performance through the 2015 season. Eschewing the now-KOO Tigers mid laner Lee “KurO” Seo-Haeng in favor of the organizational veteran Yu “Ggoong” Byeong-jun, Najin sank their ship before it even sailed by disrupting the delicate balance past Najin rosters had displayed, as talked about here by Emily “Emily Rand” Rand.

Najin White Shield and Najin Black Sword both had their own identities through the years. Shield trended more to the top-mid focus and allowed the bot lane to fend for themselves while Sword much preferred the top-ADC focus with a more self-sufficient mid laner. During the Fall 2014 offseason multiple changes occurred to the Korean league which outlawed sister teams, forcing Najin to create one single team from their two solid sister teams. Where Najin used to have cohesive units that understood their identity with both Shield and Sword, the 2015 Najin roster lacked this entirely.

They brought the two side lane carries from Sword, Lee “Duke” Ho-seong and Oh “Ohq” Gyu-min, and stirred them together with the mid laner from Shield, Ggoong. This led to a three-headed monster of carries, yet one stood out in a bad way compared to the other two. Ggoong held his “carry” status, not by virtue of taking over games and dominating his opponents like his side lanes did, but by not being proficient enough in a utility and self-sufficiency game to earn the “versatile” title. He was a carry because it was the only role he could ever possibly fill given his stringent champ pool. The three-headed monster turned into a nightmare as the team dynamic in-game fell apart almost immediately. Ggoong required the priority, both in-game and in champ select, that his side lanes should have received. He received the priority and resources just to perform at an adequate level which in turn left one of his side lanes, who were more apt to carry a game, in a position where they weren’t able to impact the game in a way they otherwise could. This also had a very negative impact on jungler Cho “watch” Jae-geol as he took the largest hit of any player on the team.

Watch turned into the poorest jungler in Korea, having the lowest gold share of any starting jungler, having the second worst cs differential at ten minutes of any jungler, and having the worst cs per minute of any jungler. He was having to operate on the lowest amount of farm possible and the result led to him having the highest death share of any jungler in Korea and the third most total deaths of any jungler. The three-headed monster strategy led to Najin disappointingly not making Worlds and not placing top four once during the year.

Another disappointing story during the year is that of the Jin Air Green Wings. Brimming with talent in every position, the Korean side finished in a mediocre fourth place during Spring and sixth place during Summer. How could a team that I just described as “brimming with talent in every position” finish in such disappointing placements? The team very obviously had meta issues, failing to transition properly throughout the season, and appeared to have management issues with the head-scratching roster swaps in the bottom lane. Most of all they were lacking entirely in a team dynamic sense.

While nearly every player on the team is regarded in a positive light, no player on the team had the style of play to take a game over. They lacked play makers and a primary carry whom they could funnel gold to and ask to carry. Yeon “TrAce” Chang-dong, veteran top laner for Jin Air, received the absolute lowest amount of gold of any top laner in region. Trace was often hung out to dry on the top half of the map while other, more meta adept teams would attempt to swarm him over and over again. This became increasingly problematic during the Summer split when the top lane importance grew tenfold.

In the mid lane Lee “GBM” Chang-seok received a minute amount of resources, fourth least of all starting mid laners, and his slower, surgical play style resulted in an inability to truly take over a game in a way that other mid laners like Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok or Shin “Coco” Jin-yeong could consistently do. Despite being regarded as an incredible talent of the mid lane, he lacked the “carry” factor certain other mid laners had. GBM was the consistent DPS all game long, yet he was never the one to force a game winning play.

With both solo lanes receiving extremely little gold or having a secondary carry style of play, Jin Air would often look to their bottom lane as the resource funnel. Kang “Cpt Jack” Hyung-woo and Na “Pilot” Woo-hyung both sat in the top five of their position in gold share, Cpt Jack sitting at the top of Korea. Unfortunately, despite being on the receiving end of the resource funnel on Jin Air, both Cpt Jack and Pilot had styles of play more in line with their mid laner GBM. Both marksmen had impeccable positioning and great mechanical skill, yet were met with the misfortune of an anti-ADC meta and thus had their “carry impact” lessened. Both marksmen were also often placed on Utility or Poke style champs like Sivir or Corki.

Whereas Najin was suffering from their chosen team dynamic of three hard carry players, Jin Air suffered by not having a single hard carry player. Both teams failed to make Worlds and were widely regarded as talented, yet under-performing teams all throughout the year. Their under-performance during the year was widely driven by the lack of a successful team dynamic.

While the two teams detailed above languished in mediocrity for the majority of the season, SK Telecom T1 rose above everyone else, claiming the Season 5 World Championship. Where the two teams above failed to find a successful team dynamic, SK Telecom successfully shuffled multiple substitutes and were among the first teams to transition comfortably to the top lane heavy meta near the end of Spring.

Consolidating the two SK Telecom rosters of 2014 for the 2015 season, they were initially expected to be a very top-mid focused roster. When you have two hard carry style solo laners in both Faker and top laner Jang “MaRin” Gyeong-hwan it was a very accurate assumption during the first parts of Spring. However, as the season wore on SK Telecom trended far more to a strictly top lane centered team and Faker made an incredible transition to being one of the most self-sufficient players in the entire world. Whereas they started the year splitting the most resources on the team, midway through Spring everything started floating directly into Marin’s hands.

By the time Summer started the transition had been complete within the team. Faker and marksman Bae “Bang” Jun-sik both took the absolute lowest amounts of gold that any starter in their positions took within Korea; Faker taking 25.3% of his team’s gold while Bang took a minute 23.9%. In the top lane, Marin took a whopping 23.8% of the team’s gold, second most in the world only to Gambit Gaming’s Lucas “Cabochard” Simon-Meslet, and would often be given extremely high priority in the pick and ban phase to ensure he was in a comfortable match up. The two carries on SK Telecom not named Marin operated on nearly the lowest amount of gold possible so that their top laner could have his weaknesses shored up, yet both still retained incredible performances throughout the Summer split.

By shoring up the weaknesses and playing to the strengths of Marin, his inability to operate effectively from behind and his low game sense being glaring faults, SK Telecom easily rode through second half of the season on their way to the World Championship where they bested Korean side KOO Tigers in the finals, 3-1. With this very clear and easily defined team dynamic, SK Telecom went 53-7 in individual matches during the Summer split and at the World Championship.

While it helps that they had the best, most versatile player in the world sitting in the mid lane, they went into each game with their own game plan and executed it to near perfection. They had the right people in the right carry positions and they had the right people in the right background positions. Whereas teams such as Najin e-mFire and Jin Air struggled with the basics in their team dynamics, SK Telecom figured theirs out and as such were rewarded in spades.

Hopefully Team SoloMid are able to identify the strengths and weaknesses of their roster like SK Telecom accomplished so they may put the right people in the right roles during their rebuilding period. With two pieces already in place, one of which with the capability of filling the versatile role in Team SoloMid like what Faker filled in SK Telecom, Team SoloMid have a very solid foundation to build upon. Now they must make the right choices to fill in the background of the roster; The supportive players that will help facilitate the set carries.


For translated interviews – http://barontimer.tumblr.com/

For stats on every league – http://oracleselixir.com/

More stats and profiles – http://lol.esportspedia.com/

The Other Incredible Miracle of KOO: Lee “KurO” Seo-haeng

The deafened crowd in Brussels sat in near silence. The KOO Tigers, Korea’s second seed at Worlds, had just finished their kill of the incapacitated number one European seed, Fnatic. Sparse applause followed, the Tigers waved to the crowd, and they ventured off to prepare for the finals against their Korean comrade in SK Telecom T1. Following the set there was wide-spread acclaim for the performances of top laner Song “Smeb” Kyung-ho and marksman Kim “PraY” Jong-in, along with the general praise that star support Kang “GorillA” Beom-hyeon typically garners. What went unnoticed was the play of mid laner Lee “KurO” Seo-haeng, who bested a mid laner many considered far superior. Written off as another “over-performance”, KurO continued to do his job, being the anchor of his team in the mid lane. Entering the set against Fnatic he would be squaring off against Fabian “Febiven” Diepstraten, the rookie European mid lane prodigy. Nearly every analyst and commentator agreed on two things entering this set: Smeb would outclass Fnatic top laner Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon and Febiven would stand far above Kuro. Only one of those held true as Smeb put on a monumental performance, showing every single flaw of the rookie Fnatic top laner. In the mid lane Kuro did what he has done for three years now, standing toe to toe with a player most would consider superior.

One of three members on KOO who previously participated in the Incredible Miracle organization, Kuro held a standing with his team, Incredible Miracle 2, in a way Smeb did not. Whereas Smeb was more of a punching bag and a slight joke in Champions prior to leaving the ill-fated KeSPA organization, Kuro was one of the very lone bright spots for the bottom of the barrel team. All throughout his time with Incredible Miracle 2 Kuro was regarded as a player that was good, but not great enough to carry the pieces placed around him. Performing well through the assassin heavy meta in Season 3, he led Incredible Miracle to their greatest finish in League history with an NLB runner-up placing. From there he played on Incredible Miracle teams marred with a complete lack of talent until he would find a bigger and better opportunity.

Najin Black Sword underwent reconstructive surgery between the Spring 2014 and Summer 2014 seasons of Champions. Replacing four of their previous starting members with four up and coming players, including Kuro, Najin Black Sword suddenly had a renewed future. After SK Telecom S and Lee “EasyHoon” Ji-hoon stole a game five victory away from Sword in Champions Summer Quarterfinals, Kuro would once again help bring his team to the NLB finals. There he would meet his assumed opponent for the Season 5 World Championship finals: Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok. In what was the fifth ever meeting between the two, they dueled it out in the mid lane multiple times with Faker always coming out the victor. In a deceptively close sweep, SK Telecom T1 K would take the NLB crown. The massive exodus of talent and coaches that followed the Summer split brought us the formation of the now-KOO Tigers.

While everyone is talking about Smeb for his ascension during the year to the top of carry mountain, the other solo laner on the team has garnered extremely little attention or praise. Kuro’s style is not in the same vein as most other mid laners and as such he has received the brunt of fan criticism on the team. From a fan perspective, the prime example for mid lane and the player every mid laner should be modeled after is Faker. Lane dominant, snowball heavy game play that can single-handedly take over and win a game. The one vs nine mentality is pervasive in the mid lane role, carry oriented players being championed while secondary role players get discarded. Kuro is very much in the latter segment of mid lane. He brings stability, self-sufficiency, and versatility to the mid lane in lieu of lane dominance and hard carry potential. He wins game not by mechanically out playing his opponent, but by playing smarter than them; By filling the exact role his team needs and executing it to a high level. He has been the rock for KOO, the glue to every team composition coach Jeong “NoFe” No-chul has come up with.

In the Fnatic match up, Kuro adopted the mid lane teleport for all three matches while his lane opponent, Febiven, adopted more combative summoner spells in the first and third games. Despite bringing non-combative summoner spells, and playing weak laning champs, Kuro maintained an even-keeled lane against the more lane driven Fnatic mid. Once out of lane play began Kuro’s decisions to give up the lane for the late game paid off, making key teleports around the map. KOO’s map play and teleport usage swiftly gashed the neck of the European giant and the Brussels crowd fell into silence. Showing the ability of knowing what and how much to give up, sacrificing his personal laning performance and playing for the team has been one of Kuro’s greatest positives. It all shown through during the semifinals.

On October 31st, Kuro will presumably be squaring off against someone who he is personally 2-14 all time against, Faker. With the Season 5 World Championship final matches, Kuro will have faced Faker more times than any mid laner not named Heo “PawN” Won-seok and thus far he has historically shown disastrous results. While he has been able to stand toe to toe with nearly every other mid laner throughout his career, Faker is very much the white whale to Kuro’s career. Sporting a 1.96 total KDA against Faker, well below his 4.60 career KDA, very little has ever gone right in this match up for the Incredible Miracle alumnus. In fact, one of the plays that garnered Kuro a lot of attention was whenever he almost solo-killed Faker in NLB finals.

Kuro showed more success against Faker during the 2015 season, particularly at the beginning of the year when KOO were widely regarded as the best team in the world. The then-GE Tigers won a best of three set against SK Telecom with Kuro outperforming Faker for the first time in his career. Since then however, the Tigers have gone 0-9 against SK Telecom and Kuro’s performances, both against Faker and Easyhoon, have left a lot to be desired. Faker has broken out Irelia and Master Yi, style counter picks, and stomped versus the KOO Tigers during the Summer split. Many predict another stomp in the finals with the largest gap in talent sitting tall in the mid lane. If KOO are going to even make it a set, Kuro’s going to have to reverse his history with Faker and continue his “over-performance” for this tournament. The match up between the two teams has been incredibly one-sided since February and if KOO are to pull off the near impossible in the finals they will need an incredible miracle. No one expected them to get this far, yet here they are.