You are playing Support. Everything is going as it should. Your ADC is up in farm, your lane is pushing and minions are getting chip damage off the turret. You even make an effort to leave lane and ward the enemy’s jungle. Five minutes into the match Ivern ganks mid. Together with Jayce they burst Cassiopeia for First Blood and burn both your mid laner’s summoner spells (SS). “That’s alright, it’s just one death,” you tell yourself.
One minute later your mid laner dies again. Ivern came back to exploit the no-SS immobile mage. You reason, “Cass can still catch up in CS.”
Another two minutes pass. Cassiopeia dies again from yet another Ivern gank because her Flash is still down. Meanwhile your early-game impactful jungler, Lee Sin, is farming Krugs. You notice he has 16 more CS than Ivern. “That’s something at least,” you whisper.
By the 13-minute mark, everyone on the enemy team except the ADC collapses mid. You are there to help, except Cassiopeia refused to flash early to safety. She dies again for the fourth time in a row.
Are you tilted yet?
SKT T1 Faker in game 1 vs. G2, MSI2017 Finals (Photo credit: https://youtu.be/LAhxDrtiKIg)
This could have been anyone’s ranked game, except it really was SKT T1’s first in the Mid-season Invitational (MSI) 2017 finals against G2. Despite the 0-4 start SKT went on to win game 1 and the series, clinching their second MSI title in a row.
Last year the community welcomed SKT’s MSI win. Everyone was reminded of 2015 when SKT painfully lost to EDG 2-3 in the finals. Faker’s undefeated LeBlanc was shut down in game 5 with a counter-pick Morgana. We knew Faker would be back next year, seizing the only title SKT had yet to win, the story of redemption, fulfilled.
SKT winning MSI2017 (Photo credit: LoL Esports)
But there is no redemption when a team wins MSI twice in a row, Worlds three times over and six LCK titles. The fable quickly morphed into ‘SKT wins everything and it is boring’.
Maybe SKT wins often because they kept the best League of Legends player on their roster all these years. What started with building a team around adeptness, SKT now builds a team of adeptness. Led by a coach who forgoes his personal life for the team year after year, Huni and Peanut’s flair rounded off with a natural ‘Korean buff’, SKT’s skill level is unquestioned.
Talent however is the lowest denominator. Every professional LoL team signs Challengers players off the solo queue ladder. What sets the best of the best apart from the best, is attitude.
As Huni shared, “Korean LoL teams are way more professional, and as a result players are more motivated to win.” (See our interview with SKT: SKT T1 Exclusive Interview: Faker’s Plants, and SKT’s Favorite Coffee Flavors)
SKT T1 Huni (Photo credit: LoL Esports)
Beyond hard work, less vacation days or not having a girlfriend, consider this: ‘Lucian Top’ Huni debuted this year going on a tank rampage—and has not stopped. With Galio and Shen part of his most played champions at MSI, Huni has silenced critics. The expected play-carry-carry-top style which is not a good fit for SKT, has been professionally buried.
Along the same narrative, former carry jungler of the ROX Tigers, Peanut revised his combat status to a more tamed role. Making his first appearance on Ivern during Groups drafting for a ‘Protect the ADC’ team composition, casters and viewers were surprised it was not Blank playing the supportive part.
SKT statistics (Credit: LoL Esports)
With pressure loaded on the hypercarry, Bang who also plays utility ADs added, “I have plenty experience playing League of Legends and playing in tournaments so I don’t feel pressure in any given condition.”
These players prove that their champion pool is all the champions in League, which gives SKT a set advantage over other teams that possess such limitations.
Even then, attitude is fruitless without team synergy and strategy. Like cakes in an oven, the key ingredient that pushes SKT to rise, is adaptation—in terms of integrating new players, adjusting to each patch, the meta, playing different types of team compositions, drafting tightly, playing against various teams domestically and abroad, and making crucial in-game decisions.
Last year SKT took some time get accustomed with the MSI meta, dropping games to Royal Never Give Up, CLG and the Flash Wolves (FW) twice. This year due to the changes in format, they did not need to play until after Play-ins. SKT acknowledged that this was helpful. “We could watch other teams play, so we had a better idea of the MSI meta and I think it gave us composure,” shared coach Choi “cCarter” Byoung-hoon.
SKT vs Flash Wolves, semifinals game 1: Team Gold Advantage graph (Credit: http://matchhistory.na.leagueoflegends.com)
Yet SKT found themselves on the back foot. Down by as much as 2.9k gold game 1 of the semifinals against the so-called ‘Korean-killers’ FW and turning it around in a matter of 2-minutes with a 1.3k gold lead, you can’t help but wonder how did they do that? How does SKT so often find opportunities to reverse the gold lead when other teams do not? How do they manipulate the waves in their favour and somehow be at the right place on the map at the right time? How is it that teams can find early kills but SKT finds cross-map objectives in return?
Almost scripted, interviews with SKT members echo, ‘I could have played better’ or ‘I am not satisfied with my performance even though we won’ or ‘my condition was not good, I need to make less mistakes’. It is clear that while SKT constantly adapts when playing against others, they are also simultaneously playing against themselves; the best of the best, getting better and better.
SKT backstage listening to coach KkOma (Photo credit: LoL Esports)
So keep your eyes peeled. Watch SKT T1. In LoL Esports there will be an organisation like no other, a legacy like no other, greatness like no other. Do not take it for granted that they win. Greatness is not perfection.
They are not stuck at the top of Everest in the blistering cold looking down at other teams making their way to the top. Instead they choose to ascend a new mountain each time they play on the never-ending path to excellence—and it is fun watching them try.