The New Kings: Why Longzhu Deserves to be Considered the Favorite at Worlds

Every year we return to worlds it seems we do so with the same question in mind, “Who’s going to get second?”

It is almost a given for many in the community that the proven veterans of SKT will overcome any obstacles they may have had previously to win it all. For years this has been the case and no one, regardless of regular season performance has ever been capable of knocking this Korean juggernaut off the Worlds stage. This year however, is different, and the circumstances as we head into this year’s World Championship are something that even the likes of SKT have never faced.

A New Narrative

For the first time ever, SKT will head into Worlds having been defeated in the summer playoffs by a team at the tournament, Longzhu. Although SKT did not win last year’s Summer LCK playoff either, nor did the team that defeated them, KT. In fact, KT would go on to lose to the ROX Tigers and fail to qualify for last year’s Worlds altogether. Therefore, the top Korean squad ROX had taken the crown without ever actually beating the true champions in many people’s eyes.

That is what is different coming into this year: The top seeded Longzhu gaming did not only become champions of Korea, but they did so by dethroning SKT themselves. It was the first time ever that SKT had been defeated in an LCK final and could mark a turning point in the league scene.

Longzhu would not let the stage get to them and would meticulously pick apart SKT from their weak points, notably the top-lane. They stayed true to what brought them to the dance and played wonderfully around the top side of the map. Additionally, unlike many foes in the past, they have both a mid and bot-lane fully capable of matching up with SKT. What ROX always lacked was a true mid-lane threat that could be asked to deal with Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok. Different from teams in the past, Longzhu has a player capable of this task in the form of Gwak “BDD” Bo-seong. Couple this with their stable bot-lane acquired from the aforementioned ROX Tigers and you start to create a recipe for success. With the other lanes holding steady it leaves the main weakness of SKT open and vulnerable.

Source: Riot Games Flickr

 

The Top Lane Nightmare

For a majority of the summer split, SKT’s top-lane situation has been in shambles. Halfway through the summer season they would remove Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon in favor of a safer option in Ui “Untara” Jin-Park. This would hold until the finals where Untara would be decimated by the likes of Longzhu. Coming into this year’s Worlds it wasn’t even certain who would be starting or who would be brought to the event. They would eventually decide on Huni and opt into a riskier path by taking a jungle sub instead of Untara. This is where the most important factor for victory exists inside Longzhu, the top-lane and their superstar Kim “Khan” Dong-ha.

Khan has shown over the course of this last split that he is capable of dismantling any play style you throw at him and will take every advantage the opposition surrenders, no matter how small. The key for Longzhu in the Summer finals will remain the same at Worlds, lane pressure and ganking.

The Luck of the Draw

We have already seen the head to head of both Korean teams but the reason Longzhu should be favored goes even deeper than that. With the group draw now cemented we can see that the number one seed earned them a much easier group than SKT. Unlike SKT, they managed to avoid a Chinese team in their group and even drew the GPL seed as one of their pool two draws. Their path to escape the group stage will not only be filled with lesser teams, it will also enable them to hide strategies while simultaneously see SKT reveal theirs.

As we head into Worlds one thing is clear, Longzhu poses a threat that no other team has ever displayed to SKT. They have proven themselves capable of defeating them not only in a best of five series but on a big stage. Although SKT is the greatest organization in League of Legends history it cannot override the facts. This year things are different – Longzhu has torn down every obstacle in their way and has earned their right to head into Wuhan for the group stage as the favorite to win the 2017 World Championship.