The League of Legends World Championship 2017 has come and gone. With it, we have seen perhaps the biggest upset in League of Legends history. SKT—the poster children for Korean LoL and three time World Champions—have been dethroned by their rivals Samsung Galaxy. For SKT fans this series was heart-breaking as their heroes fell in a best-of-five series 3-0 to Samsung Galaxy.
No one expected to see this. Even after two solid victories from Samsung there was still faith in SKT. They have been inches from death many times before, in this tournament alone, but always they have managed to cling to life and claw their way back into it. They gave a valiant effort in Game 3, but in the end their dreams of continuing their dynasty were foiled. Having had a few days to get over the shock, I now feel ready to give a run-down of just why and how these legends were overthrown.
One could argue that since last year, Samsung has been training with the specific intention of defeating SKT. Having defeated them at the last hurdle in 2016 to secure their third World title, Samsung may have been confident that SKT could reach the finals for a fourth time in 2017. They also would have been confident in their own ability to do so.
Therefore, this team was presented with the task of finding a weakness in SKT’s classic strategies. This, for anyone who knows SKT well, is not as easy as it sounds. There is a reason a team is considered (rightly) to be the best in world, and it is not for rolling out the exact same strategy every game. Likewise, the best player in the world, SKT Faker, has not acquired this title by only mastering a handful of champions and playstyles. This team is highly adaptable. Their safest, most comfortable territory is a slow early game, scaling to the stage where they can team fight and use their superior coordination to overwhelm their opponent. We saw this numerous times this year; even when SKT was down significantly in gold, they reached the late game and their opponent didn’t have a chance.
So, how do you defeat a team that can adapt to such an extent and has such legendary team fighting skills? It seems that in this event, Samsung simply decided to beat SKT at their own game.
Game 1 was a resounding victory for Samsung Galaxy. The game began very slowly, with no kills even by the 20-minutes mark. However, Samsung Galaxy was steadily building a lead both in gold and objectives, and they did not grow overconfident with this lead. They were as patient and slowly stripped away turrets and closed the noose around their enemy’s base. However, SKT Peanut made what looked like a questionable attempt at a Baron steal that actually ended in SKT taking the Baron due to bad focusing from Samsung Galaxy.
This could have been a terrible mistake from Samsung Galaxy by not just focusing on killing the Baron quickly instead of killing Peanut when he jumped into the pit. However, luckily for Samsung Galaxy, their old rivals saw red and in a rare moment of rashness the World Champions proceeded to throw this advantage. Peanut fell shortly after the Baron and the ensuing fight was a 4vs5 in Samsung Galaxy’s favor. After a great flank from Samsung Galaxy CuVee on AD Kennen of all things, they picked up four kills for themselves. Three Mountain Drakes for Samsung contributed hugely to their push on objectives and from this point it was a simply matter of closing out the game.
Game 2 began much more promisingly for SKT, as they opted for some early aggression on Samsung Galaxy. They picked up a good First Blood on Samsung Galaxy Crown, a Drake, and Peanut pulled of a perfect Explosive Cask to secure a kill onto CuVee. Both kills were even funneled onto Faker, which in most cases would be a very scary prospect for an opposing team. Unfortunately, on the Ryze, he didn’t have quite the same impact in the earlier stages of the game even with this lead.
It’s worth mentioning the Yasuo pick from Huni, which has previously been a huge boon for SKT this year by being a massive threat in top lane. While this was a rather risky pick, especially with an enemy Malzahar, he did manage to pick up the first tower kill for his team. He was actually doing very well, and if it hadn’t been for Samsung pulling off one of the most ridiculous Wombo Combos of Worlds 2017, this game may have been his for the taking. Following their second Mountain Drake of the game, SKT engaged onto Samsung, and it looked like they would most likely win the fight. However, Samsung Galaxy Ambition swooped in out of nowhere with a three-man Jarvan ultimate and was followed up by a three-man root from Ruler’s Xayah into a three-man knock up from the Flag-and-Drag on Ambition. The rest was cleaned up with the ultimate from CuVee on Gnar. This was honestly an exquisite piece of play- perfect chain CC onto no less than three members of SKT’s team making the fight an Ace for Samsung Galaxy with only one answering kill from SKT. From this point Samsung Galaxy easily took Baron and the game.
Game 3 looked much better for SKT during they early game; they were leading 5 by kills and were ahead in Drakes and Towers. SKT chose to run Leona with Fervor to increase lane priority and get Bang ahead on Tristana. Additionally, they put Faker on Karma in the mid lane to bring some more team fight sustained and peel for Bang. With Huni on a comfort pick of Trundle and already ahead in gold, this looked like the perfect game to facilitate Bang’s growth into an unstoppable hyper carry.
Samsung Galaxy did manage to take a few kills in return and were by no means out of the game until SKT took a crucial team fight and Baron. At this point the gold lead on SKT was substantial and represented a significant obstacle for Samsung Galaxy to overcome. At this stage, Bang was 4-0 and absolutely huge on Tristana. However, SKT was caught out of position and CuVee was able to devour Bang on Cho’Gath, which led to a free Baron and a few of SKT’s structures. Samsung overstayed their welcome and did concede a few kills back to SKT. Even with the lead they had, including four regular Drakes and an Elder Drake, SKT could not finish off Samsung Galaxy in the final team fight and the League of Legends World Championship 2017 title went to Samsung Galaxy.
SKT has fallen, but what does this mean for the LoL competitive scene? Despite this being a considerable blow to SKT, this will by no means be the end of the team. It may, however, be the beginning of a new era. Is it Samsung Galaxy’s turn to begin a dynasty or could this be a chance for a lesser known team to make it in the wake of SKT’s failure? Whatever the case, Korean teams have time and time again proven their worth on the LoL professional stage, and if teams from other regions want to hold the Summoner’s Cup, they will have to raise their game.
I still question the decision to put the fate of the final match in Bang’s hands. Relegating Faker to the position of a utility mid lane instead of allowing him to shine on a high-burst mage in Game 3 was nothing short of madness. Even though Bang had all the tools he needed, he was unable to carry his team to victory! Huni has been outstanding this season, as has Faker, which made this call extremely questionable.
That being said, SKT as a whole is still legendary with all of their accomplishments. The unbeatable giant has been slain and we’ll have to see what changes take place during the off-season. Will SKT manage to regain their former glory and take back the title? We will have to wait until Season 8 to find out.
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