I wanted to quickly sketch my thoughts on Friday’s semifinal between SK Telecom T1 and ROX Tigers. It’s a rivalry I’ve followed since it started, and one I hope to see a Tigers victory for. That said, let me set my own feelings aside.
This should be a close series. SKT has shown that it still knows how to snowball off of opponents mistakes: when it gets ahead, it’s unrelenting. While the Tigers’ have shown that it’s mid and late game team fighting are world class, even from a deficit, SKT can still outplay ROX in team fights if it has a gold lead. The Tigers like to scrap a lot when they get behind, and I think SKT is only going to benefit off of that. So if SKT gets an early lead, which is entirely plausible, ROX will have a hard time.
Where ROX take the lead for me is its coordination, particularly from the jungle. Peanut is mechanically superior to Bengi, and has better synergy with his laners than Blank. SKT hasn’t been punished for it’s lack of mid-jungle synergy between Blank and Faker by the teams its faced at worlds. Faker’s constant overextending should be punished, unless Bengi is in, but then there’s the possibility of Peanut winning the skirmish through outplay.
Kuro has a lot on his shoulders for this match, but this is honestly his time to shine. Azir isn’t in the meta, there’s not a lot of assassins for Faker to do Faker things on, and some of Kuro’s best picks, Viktor, Varus, and Ryze, are good picks. I think Faker will have something prepared for Kuro, but Kuro could actually impact the games this time.
The biggest thing going for the Tigers is Smeb. In the spring 2016 final, the meta for top was simply tanks. He played Nautilus in two of the games, Poppy in one, and then when he played Ekko, the closest thing to a carry top at the time, the Tigers were able to win that game. Having the best player on your team confined to a role that wasn’t able to carry played a big part in what caused ROX to lose then, and it’s something people forget since we tunnel on Kuro and Peanut choking. With picks like Jayce, Kennen, Rumble, Gnar, and Ekko in the meta, Smeb can finally be the extra carry force for ROX. I know Duke is good, but his inconsistent synergy with his team in comparison to Smeb’s is what will leave him outperformed, even if Duke gets advantages in the laning phase.
The duo lane is going to be interesting. Ezreal should be a massive contested pick. Both Pray and Bang are monsters on the champion, and Bang becomes this final boss whenever he plays a mobile ADC. My memory isn’t so good as to which of the duo lanes is better in the 2v2: I think GorillA is better than Wolf, but Bang is better than Pray. Again though, it comes down to how the rest of the team influences the lane. I think the Tigers will snowball from the top lane down better than SKT, but then the Tigers need to out micro the likes of Bang and Faker. They can do it, but it’s going to be close.
It’s a battle of teamwork vs individual play. Yes, SKT is coordinated, but the ROX Tigers’ coordination, particularly in flanks and cc chaining, is superior. But one can’t sleep on Faker, the greatest of all time, and Bang, one of the most high-level consistent ADCs for the past two years. I think that SKT’s shakiness against RNG in some of the games is telling when we look at how dominant the ROX Tiger’s were in comparison against EDG, minus game three when they were clearly trying to style.
Either way, I’m happy that I get to witness this historic rivalry in person.