It certainly feels strange to be discussing the beginning of the playoffs in a world where G2 Esports have already qualified for MSI. With a new format this year for big events, twice as many teams from each region get a shot at making it to the biggest of stages. While this may seem like a relief to most, it’s also added pressure.
T1 found themselves some spots on the All-LCK First Team for the Spring split. Not in one role, not in two roles, but all five roles. It’s no wonder given their unrelenting performance over the course of the Spring split, having only dropped a single series on their way to the playoffs. This means that in their last three splits, T1 have gone 17-1, 15-3, and 18-0. This has all been with an unchanged roster throughout. They have only dropped four regular season series of the 54 that they played. It’s no surprise that last year’s Spring champions, MSI runners-up, Summer runners-up, and Worlds runners-up are clear favourites to take another Spring split trophy in the upcoming playoff bracket.
Ryu “Keria” Min-seok is the first Support player to ever win an LCK split MVP. His champion pool, calculated approach to the laning phase, and sheer mechanical prowess are unheard of for a Support player. Choi “Zeus” Woo-je, considered the best Top Laner in the world, has become so feared on mechanical champions that he drew Yone bans in a meta dominated by Aatrox, Fiora, Ornn, and Renekton. Side lanes like these are always appreciated, especially when the player many consider to be the greatest of all time - Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok - resides in your Mid Lane. This team cannot be stopped.
Gen.G have certainly been a surprise, mainly due to the fact that this team has remained so prevalent after filling the empty chasm that Park “Ruler” Jae-hyuk left behind. Jeong “Chovy” Ji-hoon, Gen.G’s Mid Laner, had a shaky Worlds performance after breaking his curse and making it past the quarter-finals. However, overall it wasn’t that bad up until the final moments. Once the regular season kicked in and the pressure was off, “Chovy” quietly went back to dominating for the most part. As for Kim “Peyz” Su-hwan, well this Bot Lane has simply been a delight. To step into “Ruler”’s shoes and make a name for yourself as an up-and-coming ADC is an incredibly impressive feat. Sporting a 6 KDA over the course of the split in his first outing, this player is no stranger to having a big game.
Despite Gen.G’s impressive performance during the split, I expect our next team to be the second team heading to MSI. KT Rolster were not a team I thought I would be able to rely on coming into this split. They’ve not only proved me wrong, but they’ve matched series victories with Gen.G, and are only sitting in third because they’ve conceded more individual games. Gwak “Bdd” Bo-seong and his band of merry men have put up a consistent performance, and seem to be building momentum as they stride towards the playoffs, having won their last six series. Not only are they consistent, they appear to shine against strong teams, as they have beaten Gen.G in both series that the teams played against one another. Former Gen.G support, Son “Lehends” Si-woo had an impressive second series against his former team. Their capacity to grind out series that go the distance gives me hope that this will be a good year for “Bdd”, and we might see this team join T1 at MSI.
Liiv SANDBOX (LSB) did impress me towards the beginning of the split, but they showed when they faced Gen.G and KT Rolster that they are simply outclassed against the top three teams. Conceding to both KT Rolster and T1 0-2 is not a good sign, and it’s unclear if the team is going to make it far in the bracket. Unless Lee “Envyy” Myeong-joon and Kim “Willer” Jeong-hyeon can come together to make magic happen on the bottom side of the map, I think this team can be happy with playoffs spots, given their restructure at the beginning of the split.
Dplus KIA are still the winners in my heart. Kim “Canyon” Geon-bu is perhaps, at his peak, one of the most skilled Junglers the game has ever seen. I really believe that if this team can come together in the upcoming best-of series, they can go all the way. Unlike with LSB and Hanwha Life Esports, this team’s structure and talent should be enough to challenge the top. It might just depend on whether all their players still have the will to make it happen.
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World champion Kim "ZEKA" Geon-woo has stumbled in the back end of this split. After getting off to such a strong start, he seems to be struggling as some of his more signature champions have slipped out of the meta. This team seems cursed to rely on the fortitude of only one player at any given time. Park “Viper” Do-hyeon, who went missing for their first few series, has suddenly awoken with a vengeance, and is a dominant factor in them making playoffs this split. Unfortunately, I think each of the other teams that reside in the bracket with them are a more complete product. And while I can’t completely count out Hwang “Kingen” Seong-hoon and “Zeka” after their run through Worlds last year, I wouldn’t bet on them either.