SK Telecom T1 has so far won only one series out of six in the first three weeks of LCK Summer 2019.
As a result, they’ve fallen to ninth place in the standings — out of ten — and are a far cry from their last season position as LCK Spring Champions. The team was so shaken up in their last series against Griffin that legendary mid-laner Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok was benched in game two while substitute Kim “Gori” Tae-woo took his place.
It was only two months ago that SKT swept Kingzone Dragon X in the semifinals and Griffin in the finals before heading to the Mid-Season Invitational.
The only series SKT has won so far is against Jin Air Greenwings (JAG), the last place team in the league. And even then, SKT had to fight for the victory as JAG took a game off them. They then lost to Afreeca Freecs (AFs), Kingzone Dragon X (KZ), Sandbox Gaming (SB), Damwon Gaming (DWG) and Griffin (GRF).
If there’s one thing to takeaway from SKT’s last few losses, it’s that the way opponents draft against them speak volumes more than their own.
In AFs two victories against SKT, they went from Sona and Galio in the bot lane in game one, to Varus and Nautilus in game three. AFs mid-laner Son “Ucal” Woo-hyeon played Sylas, Taliyah and Yasuo respectively in the three-game series, demonstrating how practiced AFs is on different team compositions and playstyles, from Sona’s scaling, sustain and teamfighting to getting Yasuo ahead with wombo-combos.
In the subsequent series that SKT lost, KZ pulled out Kled top, while SB sent Jax into the jungle. DWG also went back to Karthus jungle and flexed Jayce to the mid lane. In a meta where flexible team compositions allow for both team fighting and split pushing, SKT’s drafts in comparison look one-dimensional.
Despite Sejuani being the second most played jungler in LCK Summer, SKT has not prioritized this strong pick until their recent match against Griffin.
Even on blue side, they have been banning her, possibly because Kim “Clid” Tae-min and Kang “Haru” Min-seung are better-known for their carry playstyle. It is also unclear why SKT’s overall team compositions tend to lean too much into the early or late game with no insurance.
Against SB for example, SKT put together Jayce, Jarvan and Taliyah but were unable to find early game advantages. In fact, first blood was only achieved 23 minutes in.
As the game dragged to late, SB’s team composition with Ryze and Ezreal scaled up and SKT simply could not out damage them. Similarly, in the deciding game three against AFs, Elise and Jayce were picked together with the sole purpose of getting top lane ahead.
Unfortunately, when the lane was frozen near the enemy’s turret, the Elise was on the opposite side of the map. AFs took advantage of Jayce’s dangerous position and shut down SKT’s win condition.
Where does SKT go from here?
Even though SKT have gotten ahead at times, there have been too many instances where one team member gets caught out.
Teleport plays by Kim “Khan” Dong-ha are mistimed, positioning as a team has not been tight, and Cho “Mata” Se-hyeong can be seen sacrificing his life to face-check Baron often when the team is on the backfoot.
For the first time this year, the team seems more lost than ever in this dynamic meta where every role can be flexed and leveraged on for victory — for example, Pyke as ADC, Pyke as support, Pyke in top lane.
The average LCK Summer game time is 32:54. SKT’s average game duration is 35:39. Their by-the-book playstyle with limited risk coupled with superstar players who have their own preferences is obvious. They are carrying a five-game losing streak on their backs as they face an equally struggling KT Rolster this Thursday.
If there’s anything SKT can takeaway from Griffin’s evolution, it’s to leverage on their coach Lee “Zefa” Jae-min who showed much innovation when he was with the Afreeca Freecs last season. The new 9.12 patch could also bring a gust of fresh air as they gear up for Rift Rivals next month.