SK Telecom T1 – Analysis of the Million Dollar Baby

Started from the bottom, now they’re here

SK Telecom Team 1 is the recent OGN Summer champion and strong favorite for winning Worlds Championship next Friday at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.  Korea’s SKT T1 has been dominant force, climbing through group stage and defeating the quarterfinalist seeded teams, Taiwan’s Gamania Bears and Korea’s Najin Black Sword.  SKT T1 has already eliminated 2 of 4 quarterfinal seeded teams, and looks to take out the remaining seed, China’s Royal Club.  Let’s visit some of the history and how SKT T1 made it to Worlds.

SK Telecom Team 1 (at the time, SKT T2) was formed in late 2012 as a sister team to the original SKT T1.  SKT T2 qualified into the OGN Spring and performed modestly, losing in the quarterfinal round against the winner of OGN Spring, MVP Ozone (now branded as Samsung Galaxy Ozone).  Between OGN Spring and OGN Summer, SK Telecom had dropped the original SKT T1 (reformed as Eat Sleep Game), and SKT T2 was renumbered to SK Telecom Team1.

SK Telecom 1 finished OGN Summer group stage without dropping a single game, and made it to the grand finals only losing a single game against MVP Ozone.  The finals were an incredible 5 game series against KT Rolster Bullets, with one of the most exciting series to watch (this series alone is worth the $8 subscription to OGN Summer).

SKT T1 won OGN Summer in first place, yet because of the point system Korea used to determine who goes to World Championship and in what position, SKT T1 did not have enough circuit points to secure a guaranteed position.  In fact, because SKT T1 won OGN Summer, Korean teams Najin Black Sword (1st) and MVP Ozone (2nd) had clinched the seeds into Worlds.  SKT T1 defeated KT Bullets (3:1) just 1 week after the incredible OGN Summer finals.  With the 3rd seed in hand, SK Telecom 1 was off to Worlds!

SKT T1 Under the Microscope

This next section is going through the analysis of the 15 SK Telecom T1 games played in the World Championship Series.  This is a small sample size not taking into account any OGN games.

SK Telecom has a unique cast of superstars in all lanes, and it is quite difficult to find a weak link within the team.  SKT T1, within the Worlds Tournament, has favored compositions that excel at isolating a single target and bursting it down, traditionally in a dive setting.  The team also focuses an enormous amount of resources towards vision control and vision denial, with solo lane players and jungler taking pink wards throughout the early to mid game.

SKTvNJSWardLine How the Line of Skirmish plays out
This vision control allows for safe farming as well as setting up picks against unprepared opponents.

Examining picks and bans, SKT T1 has excellent research reporting on opponents, tailoring bans towards scouted teams.  In general, SKT T1 tends to ban out Shen (6 bans) and Fizz (5 bans) most often.  Additionally, in the Best of Series, SKT T1 bans reactionary, adjusting picks/bans and accounting for previous games played.  Many professional teams come in with a very specific pick/ban that has been prepared before, and do not deviate from the plan, SKT learns from each individual match.  This adaptability is an intangible advantage could earn SKT T1 $1,000,000USD (which is roughly 1Trillion South Korean Won).

 

Now lets venture into the individual players:

Impact (Jung Eon-yeong) is the top lane player for SKT T1.  Impact has played the most diverse pool of champions for SKT T1 in the 15 game post-season (8 different champions).  From split push time bombs (Jax and Singed) to the disruptive teamfight champions (Shen and Renekton) even to the more unorthodox top laners (Elise and Jarvan IV), Impact has no pigeon-holed play-style to counter against.  This works well to be versatile to both lane opponent(s) as well as team compositions.  Against the heavy team fight play-style of Royal Club, I expect Renekton to be a highly contested pick/ban, or a possible Jax ban against Impact.

Impact’s Most Played Champions:

Renekton (5 Games), Shen (3 Games, 2 loss),  Jax (2 Games)

 

Bengi (Bae Seong-ung) is the jungler for SKT T1 and has an extremely aggressive playstyle.  Bengi prefers champions with mobility and displacement, as well as those who can hop over walls and have a high mechanical skill cap.   One distinct characteristic of Bengi is that he tends to keep the vision advantage over opponents, through numerous pink wards, early oracles (if fed), and several normal wards.  Bengi will forgo buying big team fight items to help win the vision war, which allows more safety to lanes, a greater opportunity for picks (especially on supports), and the ability to coordinate objective fight positioning with anticipation.  If there are to be any contested picks or bans sent towards Bengi, it will be to Lee Sin or Aatrox (depending on how comfortable Royal feels about playing against a relatively new champion).

Bengi’s Most Played Champions:

Lee Sin (9 Games, 1 loss), Aatrox (2 games, 1 loss), Jarvan IV (2 games, 1 loss)

 

Faker (Lee Sang-hyeok) is the famed mid lane player for SKT T1 and is the face of the team.  Known for flashy plays and a cocky attitude, Faker has captured the attention of everyone at the World Championship Series.  Faker is one of the best mid laners in the world, with high mechanics, large champion pool, and excellent decision making.  Faker can also change his tempo, going from a hyper aggressive killing machine to a farm centric carry.  As far as mid lane bans are concerned, I expect 2 or 3 of these mid lane champions to be banned by either SKT or Royal – Zed, Ahri, Fizz, Orianna, Kassadin, and Gragas being a highly contested pick (possibly 2nd or 3rd pick blue side).  Also, don’t be surprised by a Syndra pick.

Faker’s Most Played Champions

Ahri (6 games, 2 loss), Orianna (3 games), Gragas (2 games, 1 loss)

 

Piglet (Chae Gwang-jin) and PoohManDu (Lee Jeong-hyeon) are the bottom lane combo known as the hundred acre bot lane.  This bot lane plays a very aggressively and aims to become a major threat in the around the 15-20 minute mark.  Piglet has incredible positioning and rarely gets caught out alone.  Pooh is the support who also prides himself on vision control and heavy zone control.  In lane, Pooh helps create picks into trades, often coordinating with Bengi to secure first blood in bottom lane around the 4-5 minute mark.  Piglet and Pooh are an exceptional bottom lane combo, but I am unsure how they will fare against the 2v2 if Royal secures Annie.  Piglet has played a good Corki in the past, but I don’t expect any bans to be thrown out at AD carry, and a possible support ban on Thresh or Zyra (with a possible Annie ban from SKT post game 1).

Piglet’s Most Played Champions:

Ezreal (6 games, 1 loss) Corki (3 games), Vayne (3 games, 1 loss)

 

PoohManDu’s Most Played Champions:

Zyra (8 games, 2 loss), Thresh (2 games), Sona (2 games)

How I predict the games will unfold

Game 1:

SKT T1 has been reluctant to initiate a fast push strategy, yet works well against 2v1 lanes for farm denial.  I am curious to see if SKT will start game 1 with a 2v2 bottom lane just to gauge the skill potential of Royal Club.  Likewise, I expect an Annie support early on, just to see if and how SKT has to deal with it.  I think this game will start off very slowly, and that the game will be decided around the 25 minute mark (with a team fight that will snowball the winner) but will be pretty even up until that point.  I give Royal the highest chance of taking a game off of SKT in this game.

Over the series:

I also expect that SKT will favor some sort of a split push composition with at least 2 heavy disengage ultimates.  SKT can play for lane dominance and snowball the game later in the series once the SKT T1 players feel confident and have “figured out” the opponents (expect this on game 2/3).  I also expect that as the games continue in the series, the more aggressive SKT will play.  This purpose serves to demoralize Royal Club and have those emotions carry onto the next game.  SKT does not seem to go on tilt, however they do play over confidently after a dominant performance.

I expect all of the games to be a war of wards, where Royal will have to quickly adapt to the strategies of vision and zone control after the 15 minute mark or the games will be handed over to SKT T1.  If anything, this is where I expect the victories of SKT to come from.  Having dominant vision which will help secure objectives and reveal the picks and major team fights which Royal is known for.

My prediction:

SK Telecom Team 1      3-1     (losing game 1)

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by Jeremiah Nyman, on October 3, 2013

Jeremiah is a League of Legends analyst with a background in Video Game Research. His focus is primarily analyzing the professional League of Legends scene in Korea and North America through statistical analysis.