League of Legends 2017 World Championship Finals: Redemption
Broadcast begins Saturday, November 4th at 3 AM EST on http://www.twitch.tv/riotgames
Read below to preview the action and predict who’s going to win
By: Matt Samuelson
Last year, SK Telecom T1 won the 2016 World Championship, defeating Samsung Galaxy in a close 5 game series to win their second consecutive World Championship. I remember watching the postgame ceremony, watching SKT walk out of the booth with joy and an overwhelming sense of utter relief after the series. Samsung was crushed, and their mid laner Crown stayed on the stage in his chair long after the match was over, looking lost in his own thoughts about the match.
This year, we find the same two teams going toe-to-toe, the first finals rematch in the young tournaments history. Not only are the same organizations going against each other, but 10 out of the 12 players were in the finals last year. And everyone involved has only one thing on their mind: redemption.
On the surface, this may seem simple. Samsung lost last year, they’re back for revenge right? For me, it’s so much more than that. First off I want to start with Crown, the star of Samsung last year whose Viktor and Ryze were feared by even the likes of Faker on the rift. This year though, it’s a different Crown. In the spring, Crown dominated the LCK. In the summer, Crown struggled. He went from winning lane phases to needing jungle help to get through this phase of the game. This forced Samsung to swap back to Ambition in the jungle, as Haru’s aggressive, invading style worked when Crown was winning lane.
However, when he was losing, they needed the old veteran Ambition to play smart and guide the team to victory. At World’s, Crown hasn’t been winning lane. But, he’s redefined himself as a player. Crown has been extremely successful on the likes of Taliyah, Malzahar, and Galio. These champions are great at impacting the map and playing around the rest of the team. For Crown, this finals isn’t about dominating lane against Faker. He was able to match Faker last year, but isn’t in top form this year. This year, it’s about playing around his team and being dominant on the supporting picks that Crown has found great success on throughout the tournament.
For Samsung’s bot lane, this is their chance to prove that they’re one of the best in the world. Last year, the finals were one of the closest series of League of Legends I’ve ever watched. Samsung’s ability to stall out the game and make the late game against SKT was anything but impressive, and they almost won the series doing just this. The only piece missing for them was Ruler. Ruler was the young rookie last year whose risky positioning cost him at times. And, as an ADC you can’t afford to get caught in the late game against top teams like SKT. This year, Rule has looked fantastic. His Tristana and the way that Samsung plays around it has been impeccable, and this year Ruler gets to prove he’s one of the best against the struggling Bang.
CoreJJ on the other hand gets to prove that he truly belongs with the best. CoreJJ was formerly an ADC, and came to North America to find the starting role he couldn’t find in Korea. When he left Dignitas, he joined Samsung as a support and quickly found playing time thanks to his ability to roam in the early game and play the map in the later parts of the game. No one talks about CoreJJ when they talk about Samsung, but he’s quietly become one of the most consistent supports in the world. This is his chance to make sure he becomes a household name as one of the best supports in Korea.
Coming into this tournament, everyone was talking about Longzhu Gaming’s top laner Khan. However, as CuVee likes to do, he shut up the fans and showed that he’s the best top laner in this tournament. Korea has always been known for their fantastic top laners. But, for some reason when people think of Korea they don’t always add CuVee to the mix. They talk about Smeb, Khan, Huni, or the likes of Ssumday and Duke in the past. CuVee has always been able to show up against these big names when it matters, and this World’s has been nothing different. For the finals, CuVee is looking to prove he is not only the best top laner in the tournament or his region, but the best top laner in the world.
My favorite redemption story is Ambition. If you would’ve told anyone 5 years ago that the legendary mid laner would be a back to back World finalist in the jungle, they would’ve laughed in your face. But, Ambition has done just that. But, this wasn’t his only redemption story. Just this year in the Spring, Ambition didn’t see much play in the jungle. Samsung was starting and finding lots of success with Haru. So, Ambition did what any other gamer would think to do: he got married. Over the summer, Ambition became a husband, and this change in his life is just what the old crafty veteran needed. For the second World’s straight, Ambition has found the magic and is moving around the map better than any other jungler in the tournament. The ultimate completion for Ambition’s redemption story and the honeymoon he needs would be hoisting up the Summoner’s Cup.
SK Telecom T1
The ultimate dynasty in League of Legends has no reason to redeem themselves, correct? I think differently. I want to start with Bang. This man was a top 2 ADC in the world last year. This year, he’s far from that. Bang and Wolf have struggled in lane and struggled to have a major impact on the game. It’s mostly been Faker’s heroics and Huni’s split pushing that has granted SKT victories. In the final match, Bang and Wolf have one last chance to prove that they’re still one of the best bot lanes in the world. And, they’re going to need to step up if SKT wants to win their 3rd championship in a row.
For Blank and Peanut, they have a lot to prove. Last year, Blank was subbed out by Bengi who ended up being the hero and the MVP in SKT’s victory. This year, Blank has been subbing in for Peanut when he gets in trouble and he’s been the hero SKT has needed. But, in the semifinals against Royal Never Give Up, Blank started and Peanut saved him and the team. This was the confidence boost that Peanut needed. I’ll be interested to see who SKT starts and who ends up coming in as the savior. Sitting backstage with the coach and formulating a plan for the next game is something that’s incredibly valuable and something that SKT has taken advantage of for the past 3 years. Both junglers are looking to prove that they can beat Ambition and lead their team to victory.
Huni going to SKT was the surprise move of the offseason. The top lane star emerged on Fnatic 2 years ago, dominating the top lane in Europe and making it to the semifinals in his first year of professional play. After a year in North America on Immortals, he was picked up by SKT. He’s been performing pretty well this tournament, but many didn’t think he should be on the roster. Untara is SKT’s other top laner, and he’s been a much more consistent performer that fits the strategy of SKT better. That being said, Kkoma went with Huni and his forward play has been one of the few bright spots on SKT throughout the tournament. Huni is looking to redeem his poor play in the summer, and prove that he belongs to play in Korea with the best top laners in the world.
Last but certainly not least: Faker. Watching Faker this tournament has been like watching Kobe Bryant when he was on some of the worse Lakers teams. The worse the Lakers were, the more Kobe tried to take over the game. Faker has done exactly the same, and despite his team’s struggles he’s been an absolute monster in the mid lane. He carried harder on Galio than anyone I’ve ever watched, and that’s a tank that doesn’t take a lot of skill to execute. Faker consistently pushes the envelope with every champion he so beautifully masters. He’s the best League of Legends athlete of all time, and the unkillable demon king is in my mind the most dominant Esports Athlete in this decade.
In my view, Faker has nothing to redeem. But, SKT certainly does and it’s on Faker’s play to get them another championship. Faker doesn’t need any more credentials to cement himself as the best of all time, but every win just adds to his incredible legacy that started when he solo killed Ambition in the mid lane in his first professional match 5 years ago.
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Matt Samuelson is the co-founder of the Miami University Varsity Esports Program and has been a student analyst and substitute for the university’s League of Legends team for the past 2 years. You can follow him on Twitter @Cubbyxx