A Crossroad for SKT T1
May 24, 2018 by Max Park
SKT T1 is a professional Korean League of Legends (LoL) team that has been known to be the juggernaut in the LoL Champions Korea (LCK). Not only are they the three-time winner of the LoL World Championship, twice winner of Mid-Season Invitational (MSI), and the four-time winner of LCK, but their dominant gameplay during every match is enough to consider them a legendary team. In addition, SKT T1 consists of legendary players such as Faker (Mid), Bang (ADC), and Wolf (Support). Their extraordinary skills and creativity always led SKT T1 to numerous victories. This Spring Split season, however, would be the most difficult season for SKT T1 as they fell into a deep slump.
Slump of the Juggernaut
As the Spring Split of 2018 began, the start was not pleasant for SKT T1. After winning the first match, they experienced five losses in a row, the worst losing streak for SKT T1. There were a few reasons for this disastrous record. First, it was the poor performance of the jungler Blank. A jungler’s main task is to roam around the lines and give vision to the enemy’s jungle so that liners can spot where the enemy jungler is. Then he supports the liners by flanking the enemy liners and obtaining kills. But Blank would stay excessively passive throughout the game and be hesitant to flank the liners. As a result, the enemy jungler took initiative and aggressively flanked SKT T1 liners to obtain kills. SKT T1 would then completely lose the initiative during the early game and lose the team fights at the end of that game. Such a pattern would continue in the next matches and led to SKT T1 experiencing five losses in a row.
But Blank’s poor performance was not the sole reason for SKT T1’s slump. SKT T1’s team strategy also contributed to the overall poor performance of the team. Until now, SKT T1 usually relied on Faker or Bang to carry and win the team fights while other positions (jungle, support, top) supported them. Such a strategy was possible because both players are exceptionally skilled and there weren’t many other players who could match Faker’s or Bang’s skill levels. But as other players’ skill levels improved substantially, they could now put up a good fight against Faker and Bang. Since Faker and Bang could no longer carry the team alone, it was necessary to change the team strategy. But SKT T1 stubbornly relied on Faker and Bang while restricting the tasks of other positions to continue to support Faker and Bang. As other positions were restricted in their plays and Faker and Bang became the focus target, SKT T1 would always have a disadvantage on their hands.
But it was not over for SKT T1. The team substituted a new jungler Blossom. As a rookie, he definitely demonstrated a rookie spirit with his highly aggressive plays instead of solely relying on Faker or Bang. During the early games, Blossom would quickly choose a target and aggressively flank enemy liners to gain an early initiative. As a result, SKT T1 gained initiative in the early game, snowballed the game, and won the team fights at the end to win the game. With Blossom’s rookie spirit, SKT T1 achieved four winning streaks. Although there were minor ups and downs, it seemed that SKT T1 regained most of its original form.
In the end, SKT T1 achieved a record of 9 wins and 9 losses and gained 4th place in the league. They entered the post season play-offs and faced KSV in the Wild Card round. As SKT T1 regained its form, it also turned out that Blank regained his. Unlike the previous games, Blank aggressively flanked enemy liners and made great efforts to take initiative in the early games. As Blank did his part, so did the other players as well. During the last team fight, Bang achieved a triple-kill on his own and Faker dominated both early games and team fights with his great skills and leadership. Eventually, SKT T1 defeated KSV and entered the 2nd round against KT Rolster.
Now the Crossroads
The fortune did not last long enough for SKT T1 as they were defeated by KT Rolster during the 2nd round and were knocked out of the Post Season play-offs. Although this season was a disappointing one for SKT T1, it was also an opportunity for them to look back at their mistakes and old strategies. It seems that SKT T1 has been relying too much on their legendary players such as Faker and Bang while restricting the plays of other positions. Instead of putting the focus on two players, it could be more effective to give more freedom to other players so that they can make plays for themselves. Blossom demonstrated that a rookie jungler is capable of making plays for himself and carry the team at least in the early games. Perhaps it is time for SKT T1 to consider the current trend of LoL and adjust their strategies to allow more freedom to their players.