The First Step Towards Glory: Longzhu Gaming Wound SK Telecom T1

After finishing first in the regular season, Longzhu Gaming unseated SK Telecom T1 as the kings of the League of Legends Champions Korea with a 3-1 victory in the Finals. As the confetti fell on Korea’s number one seed, it was clear a new favourite to win Worlds had been crowned. 

For years, SK Telecom T1 has been synonymous with success in League of Legends. The winners of an unprecedented three World Championships (including the last two), SKT has set the gold standard not only for the LCK but for all competing regions to aspire to.

For most of this season, SKT had looked the part of a reigning World Champion, cruising through the LCK Spring Split and dominating KT Rolster 3-0 in the Spring Finals.

The reigning World Champions would continue to prove their mettle by capturing the title at the Mid-Season Invitational but, echoing last season’s form, they would struggle through the Summer campaign.

By virtue of a reverse sweep of KT in the Summer playoffs, SKT was gifted a spot in the Summer Finals against Longzhu Gaming.

Unfortunately for SKT fans, their playoff magic would run dry as Longzhu proved to be the superior outfit in their 3-1 victory.

This situation is not an unfamiliar one for SKT, as they found themselves in an eerily similar position leading up to last year’s World Championships.

After struggling in the regular season of the 2016 Summer Split, SKT would fall to KT Rolster in the LCK Playoffs to finish in third place.

Fortunately, they would still qualify for Worlds based upon points, the ticket that opened the door for another run to their third World Championship.

Source: Riot Games Flickr

Longzhu Gaming has peaked at the right time. After failing to live up to expectations last season, a roster overhaul grounded their new lineup, with the former ROX Tigers bot lane duo of support Kang “GorillA” Beom-hyeon and Kim “PraY” Jong-in joining the ranks.

While Pray and GorillA have been exceptional, the rise of mid laner Kwak “BDD” Bo-seong and top laner Kim “Khan” Dong-ha has pushed Longzhu over the edge to become a true, world-class line-up.

BDD has been a dominant force in the LCK, earning the highest number of MVP points and accruing a godlike 11.3 KDA during the regular season.

Khan has garnered a reputation as a true carry out of the top lane, drawing multiple bans and daring opponents to leave his feared Jayce pick open. Khan’s reputation has soared as the Summer Split has progressed, culminating in Khan earning the distinction as the LCK Summer Playoffs MVP.

With their convincing victory over SKT, it would be hard to deny that Longzhu has overtaken the reigning champions as the new favourites to win this year’s World Championship.

Longzhu boasts a roster that fails to demonstrate any easily exploitable weakness, allowing the newly-crowned LCK Champions to best their opponents on the rift through a number of different strategies and players.

As the Koreans settle into their place amongst the royalty of League of Legends, many fans will be excited at the prospect of a new champion. Much like the ROX Tigers, Longzhu is filled with likeable personalities and should quickly become fan favourites as Worlds approaches.

And yet SK Telecom T1 waits patiently in the wings, not to be ruled out. If Longzhu should fall victim to the same fate as ROX before them, SKT will gladly make another run towards their fourth World Championship.