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SKT has won its last five international tournaments, retiring the “EU Vacation” meme and other observations from the MSI playoffs

SKT has won five international League of Legends tournaments in a row
After winning the Mid-Season Invitational, SK Telecom T1 (SKT) has won five international League of Legends tournaments in a row. Photo courtesy of Riot Games.

SK Telecom T1 (SKT) continues to prove itself as the best League of Legends team in the world at every opportunity possible.

SKT defeated Flash Wolves 3-0 in the semifinals and G2 3-1 in the finals to win the Mid-Season Invitational on Sunday. SKT is simply unmatched in professional League of Legends. The win at MSI followed SKT’s League Champions Korea title, and SKT has now won the last five international tournaments in which it has participated.

The streak started with the 2015 League of Legends World Championship, in which SKT defeated the KOO Tigers in the finals. SKT won IEM Katowice in March 2016, last year’s MSI in Shanghai and worlds in North America. SKT’s last loss in international competition came against EDward Gaming in the finals of MSI in 2015.

It hasn’t mattered who played for SKT or what “super team” rosters were formed in attempt to take down the Korean giants. With Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok and coach Kim “kkOma” Jung-gyun leading the way, SKT continues to prove no team in the League of Legends world can be a match.

Here are some other observations from the final weekend of MSI.

The end of a meme

G2 has been the butt of many vacation jokes ever since the team made the decision to take time off and not prepare for last year’s MSI, where the team finished in fifth place with a 2-8 record. G2 then qualified for worlds and placed last in its group, solidifying the “EU goes on vacation at international events” meme for an entire year.

Even the start of this year’s MSI was tenuous for the European power. G2 had the same record as North America’s Team SoloMid in the group stage (4-6) and barely made the playoffs, where it stared down China’s Team WE, a team that managed to take a game off of SKT in groups and finish in second place.

Finally, G2 showed what European fans wanted to see on an international stage. G2 took out WE with a 3-1 win to advance to the finals. In the midst of doubt, G2 pulled out a strong showing while pictures of WE having fun at the beach of Rio de Janeiro started circulating on Twitter. The European Vacation meme soon became a Chinese Vacation meme, telling the story of a complacent Chinese team that perhaps could have spent some more time preparing against its European opponents.

When G2 got to the final, it even took a game from SKT, which isn’t an easy feat — especially for a Western team. I think it’s time to retire the “EU Vacation” meme once and for all. At least until worlds, perhaps.

Korean Kryptonite no longer

Korea has a respect-hate relationship when it comes to the Flash Wolves. On multiple occasions, the Flash Wolves dealt surprising defeats to SKT in international tournaments. This year’s MSI group stage was no exception, as SKT and Flash Wolves traded one win each before facing off in a best-of-five match in the semifinals.

There was fair amount of hype before the game, though Flash Wolves had a losing record of 4-6 and had to play a tiebreaker against TSM to reach the semifinals in the first place. If there was a chance for them to upstage the best in the world, that was the perfect time.

But the results were crushing for Flash Wolves fans. Game 1 actually featured a brief lead by the Taiwanese representatives, but SKT easily wrestled back control for the win, with Games 2 and 3 telling a story of one-sided domination in the face the high expectations and hype.

With the 3-0 victory, SKT re-took the all-time series lead against the Flash Wolves, winning five games and losing four.

G2 writes a new legend 

With the finals match between G2 and SKT set, it was almost a bygone conclusion that SKT was poised for a second consecutive MSI championship. The casters, fans, and even the players probably thought at some point that G2 would need to pull off a miracle in order to best the world’s No. 1 team.

Predictably, G2 wasn’t the champion. But in a way they still sort of came out winners.

The biggest was undoubtedly Luka “Perkz” Perković, who served as an impressive challenger to Faker’s throne, no matter how slim his team’s chances actually looked. Perkz doubled down and started making in tongue-in-cheek cocky but confident tweets on social media before G2’s showdown against WE, which all took off.

Perkz’s demeanor also caught the eye of SKT’s bot laner Bae “Bang” Jun-sik, who showed his support for his opponent in the finals, leading to perhaps one of the most precious moments on League of Legends Twitter ever:

Perkz, the “King of the mid lane” was playing against the “God of League,” an image that was taken advantage of multiple times to hype up the final. The unthinkable happened in Game 1 as Perkz killed Faker without any jungle intervention, taking First Blood in a square 1-on-1 showdown. Faker then died four times in a row to continued ganks and mid lane pressure, putting him at the score line of 0-4-0, a previously unfathomable outcome. In the words of Sam “Kobe” Hartman-Kenzler, God was feeding.

But Game 1 would end in SKT’s victory, even though Faker was on the back foot. The rest of SKT showed G2 and the world why they were indeed the best team, keeping the gold difference at a manageable amount until they took the lead and drove the game home. Faker ended the game with a score line of 3-4-7, not dying after his fourth, and still able to play well enough to put his team ahead.

G2 actually won Game 2 before SKT closed it out by winning the next two. The series was entertaining and had a great storyline, but most of all, it embodied hope. The hope that with enough hard work and dedication, the Koreans could be toppled — or, at the very least, will have to fight for every single victory from a Western team rather than victory being a bygone conclusion with the only question being “Just how bad will it get?”

Legend meets legend, and Bang fanboys out

When the news hit that Brazilian football legend Ronaldo would hang medals on the necks of the MSI champions, the internet went nuts. This included Korea where, just like everywhere, Ronaldo remains a household name.

To put this in perspective, I, a 24 year old Korean, have spent hours during World Cup years talking about Brazil and the legend that was Ronaldo. Every child obsessed with football — and in 2002 that meant everyone — knew who he was, what he was, and what he represented. The untouchable, undisputed, unfaltering best in Brazil.

So when the camera caught Bang, a 21 year-old, awkwardly holding out his hand twice to shake the massive hand of Ronaldo, and then hurriedly covering his face with both of his hands, I knew exactly what was going through his mind. Ironically, he was showing the response of what it would feel like to shake the hand of Faker if you are fan of League of Legends, but that human moment of Bang being unable to control his emotions was probably one of the best moments of the tournament.

This also put into perspective the calm and collected Faker, who slowly took off his glasses and received his medal and handshake while Bang was barely keeping himself together next to him. It was truly a moment when two legends in different fields came face to face, and though Faker is no physical specimen, he still commanded the air of a champion with confidence.

Fan jumps the railing, hugs SKT members

Brazil continued to be a collection of memorable moments as the stream caught a random SKT fan suddenly pop out from the side and embrace the entire SKT roster in turn before being hurriedly ushered off of the stage. It was genuinely a cute moment as the players were bewildered as to what was happening, but they hugged the fan all the same.

The security implications were anything but. The viewers can joke and remember the moment fondly since no one got hurt, but the fact that a random fan could rush the stage with no visible interruption before freely being in physical contact with players draws out some disturbing possibilities. That situation could have very easily been a moment of tragedy instead of a moment of jest.

Both Reddit and Inven heavily criticized Riot Games for the lack of security around the players, and the event lead of MSI 2017 did apologize on a Reddit thread for the outcome, as well as explaining that the fan endured a 12-foot drop in order to do what he did. Indeed one cannot reasonably assume that someone would risk potentially hurting themselves to rush the stage, but that still didn’t explain the lack of personnel between the railings and the players. Every measure needs to be taken into account in order to preserve the health of players, and this harmless event should act as a wake-up call for Riot.

Thank you Brazil

One cannot express enough times how great the Brazilian crowd was. From the play-in to groups to eliminations, the Brazilian crowd schooled all other regions on how you spectate and enjoy a sporting event. Cheers and noise were made on every stage regardless of who was playing, as support was given even to the least known team, a sure sign of appreciation from the fans.

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