Few things are more infuriating than seeing a good team draft poorly.
KT Rolster has a penchant for creative pocket picks that catch the enemy off-guard and lead to victory. In close series, KT typically wins off of Kim “ssumday” Chan-ho bringing out an off-meta pick. Against ROX Tigers in Week 2 of League Champions Korea, it was monstrous Gnar that brought KT victory in Game 2, mangling the Tigers so much as it participated in 30 of KT’s 32 kills. Facing Longzhu in Week 7, he scraped against Koo “Expession” Bon-taek’s Gangplank and derived early leads. Despite being focused down by Longzhu, ssumday still managed to carry 33 percent of his team’s damage.
KT is capable of clever moves in the draft phase, but none of that was seen in Wednesday morning’s match against Jin Air Green Wings.
What was supposed to be a showdown between two of the LCK’s best teams — featuring two of the best top laners — was instead a surprisingly easy rout. In game 1, KT piled on the AD, drafting Kalista, Graves, Varus and Braum in the first two rotations of the draft. It was clearly a triple-AD siege composition, something that deviated from KT’s usual split push approach.
The retaliation from Jin Air was simple: pick Rammus top for Yeon “TrAce” Chang-dong. Suddenly, KT Rolster was faced with the armor-stacking armadillo with a composition that was mostly AD. It should have struck as oddly familiar, considering KT pulled the same trick against Jin Air in Week 6. Jin Air had put together a AD poke composition with Corki, Graves and Ezreal, and KT demolished it with ssumday debuting Rammus top in the 2016 season. Once ssumday had Thornmail, Jin Air could do nothing.
For KT to be caught off guard by a tactic it employed against the same foe is head-scratching at best and appalling at worst. KT tried to salvage the situation by placing ssumday on Lulu to give the ADs more protection and punish Rammus’ laning phase with her high wave clear, but it only delayed the inevitable. KT didn’t get its siege started early enough, and TrAce was able to farm up to a Thornmail. Once KT Rolster tried to contest a dragon, TrAce withstood the entire team’s assault, giving Lee “Kuzan” Seong-hyeok the opportunity to decimate the backline with his Leblanc.
Following that, Jin Air secured Baron and pushed through KT’s base.
Game 2 looked like it was going to be a return to usual KT form: drafting Nautilus, Draven, Elise, Lulu and Bard, KT had a strong team fighting composition based around defending No “Arrow” Dong-hyeon. ssumday was going to be on a tank and in control of the engages, while Song “Fly” Yong-jun would be able to create pressure in mid with his Lulu for Go “Score” Dong-bin to invade.
Suddenly, ssumday and Fly swapped champions. ssumday was once again on Lulu, while Fly was taking Nautilus into mid, something he had been practicing in solo queue.
That proved a fatal error, as the Fly could not respond to nearby skirmishes as quickly as Kuzan. When the duo lane and Score aggressed onto Jin Air’s red buff, Fly could not keep up, resulting in Score’s death. Had he been on Lulu, the use of Whimsy and Glitterlance could have preoccupied Kuzan and perhaps allowed Score to escape. This isolated incident is not what broke the game for KT though; Fly’s ineptitude for teleport flanks did.
Flanking with Nautilus is a crucial part of his game, as he is tanky enough to absorb an entire team’s damage and his massive crowd control can keep a target in place long enough for a team to follow up. Seeing Jin Air group in mid, KT thought it had an opportunity to collapse on them but underestimated the displacement and disengage from Jin Air. Fly did fine to come in on the back, but the follow up from KT fell apart as Explosive Cask, Headbutt, and Emperor’s Divide split KT up and exposed Arrow to be turned on after Ha “Hachani” Seung-chan inexplicably ran away before the fight concluded.
The execution of the play would have been significantly better had it been ssumday’s Nautilus, not Fly’s, that pursued the engage. Fly’s teleport usage has been inconsistent throughout the season, so placing that pressure solely on him is counterintuitive.
First, KT fell fool to its own maneuver, then it failed to play to the strengths of its players. Where was Jayce for ssumday to bully TrAce’s Gangplank like he did Expessions? Where were the tools for ssumday to engage with and dive the backline? Why shackle a duelist as good as ssumday, who can be focused throughout an entire game and still be relevant, with guard duty?
KT wanted to reinvent the wheel, but there’s a reason the wheel has been a technology for thousands of years: it works fine as is. Perhaps KT will learn its lesson and return to the form we’re used to seeing when it plays Longzhu on Saturday.