Except for Jin Air Greenwings upsetting SK Telecom with and without substitutes, the first week of League Champions Korea was quiet. All series were 2–0 affairs with mostly expected outcomes. But Week 2 provided exciting three-game series and signs that Korea is stronger than ever. The ROX Tigers are powerful, Samsung looks like a potential dark horse, SBENU is in shambles, and Longzhu has a ways to go after reviewing Week 2 of LCK.
The Tiger in the Jungle
ROX Tigers — formerly known as Koo Tigers, GE Tigers, and Huya Tigers — are the only undefeated team in Korea. Yoon “Peanut” Wang-ho brought an unprecedented level of early aggression for the Tigers. Sometimes it results in him walking into fights he shouldn’t, but overall he’s set the pace for ROX with his ganks. In their 7 games, Rox Tigers average a gold lead of 2,702, the highest in Korea. That is largely thanks to Peanut and the Tiger’s play around him.
The Tigers clashed with KT Rolster in an epic series Wednesday, with both sides team-fighting at the highest level of League of Legends this season. The Tigers controlled KT in Game 1, using their globals to out-rotate KT before getting frisky with risky skirmishes. Game 2 was a gargantuan battle, with Kim “ssumday” Chan-ho destroying team fights with Gnar. Rox held an impressive defense from behind, almost taking the game back were it not for a teleport flank from KT. For the final game, Rox played a clean poke game, soundly defeating KT in under 30 minutes. Remarkable, considering how close the prior game was.
The ROX Tigers crushed the newly formed Longzhu on Day 4. As it stands, ROX is the team to beat in Korea, and its upcoming match against SK Telecom on Wednesday is going to be one to see.
When Samsung lost Lee “Fury” Jin-yong, Samsung was supposed to be a lower-tier team in Korea. With Kang “Ambition” Chan-yong leading the squad from the jungle, Lee “CuVee” Seong-jin and Lee “Crown” Min-ho’s mechanical improvements — and more than serviceable AD carries Lee “Stitch” Seung-ju and Jo “Core JJ” Yong-in joining the team — Samsung is actually good.
Samsung had a strong showing in Week 2 against Longzhu and SKT. Initially, Samsung looked to be easily swept by Longzhu, but in the second game of the series it turtled against Longzhu, trading towers and even inhibitors for dragons. When it held out thanks to CuVee’s Poppy play, Samsung was able to achieve Aspect of the Dragon and defeat Longzhu. The final game of the set was simple clean up for Samsung as Longzhu fell into disarray
Samsung asserted its new strength with a good start to Game 1 against SKT. Crown solo-killed Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok’s Gangplank, CuVee outdueled Lee “Duke” Ho-seong’s Tahm Kench with a well timed Fiora Riposte, and Samsung had all the early pressure. SKT retaliated with a pick onto Crown, and the resulting skirmish allowed SKT to push through one nexus tower from the middle inner tower. Samsung didn’t have any further chances, and Bengi’s control over Ambition in Game 2 sealed its defeat.
Still, the week showed Samsung should not to be disregarded. With Jin Air Greenwings having consistency issues, if Samsung continues to play this well, the playoffs are attainable.
After a strong showing at the KeSPA Cup in 2015, SBENU seemed to be a possible middle-of-the-pack team. That’s been dashed with an abysmal Week 2 showing. SBENU lost 2–1 to both e-mFire and CJ Entus in underwhelming fashion. To have close series, let alone lose, to two rosters that are in rebuilding phases is troublesome.
One of SBENU’s problems is its improper play of compositions. In Game 1 against CJ Entus, it drafted a poke composition and then proceeded to skirmish with it. SBENU won the match by simply beating CJ in said skirmishes. In the second game its composition didn’t make sense: A Gnar top, Nidalee jungle, Kindred mid, Kalista ADC and Morgana support. There’s poke paired with champions that want to team fight, no siege setup, and weak engage. The incoherent composition was handedly defeated. The third game was in SBENU’s hands with early turret kills, but an overextension by Lee “SoaR” Gang-py allowed CJ to take the Baron and comeback.
SBENU’s decision making is questionable at best (and awful at worst). In the first game against e-mFire, top laner SoaR was pushing down an inhibitor tower when SBENU called for him to teleport to an unnecessary dragon fight. Rather than simply taking the base of an overextended e-mFire, SBENU opted into fighting. They did win the fight, but the decision was not correct. Following that game, SBENU inexplicably switched the positions of its Corki and Ezreal picks, sending Corki into the bot lane and Ezreal mid after just winning with Corki mid. The lack of wave control in mid allowed e-mFire to pressure the mid lane and set SBENU’s poke comp behind with a teleport play. It led to a long third game where e-mFire came out on top, with both sides playing poorly.
SBENU is in shambles, which is disappointing given the hype around Sung “Flawless” Yeon-jun. To be fair, Flawless has played well, but SBENU woefully lack in their macro play and drafts.
Longzhu has a Long Way to Go
Between failing to close the series against Samsung and getting destroyed by the ROX Tigers with Lee “Flame” Ho-jong playing instead of Koo “Expession” Bon-taek, Longzhu hasn’t reached its potential.
There was a visible decline in Longzhu’s coordination over the week. It was clean in the first match against Samsung, but as the series went on, Longzhu’s team-fighting and split push fell apart, and it hardly put up a fight in Game 3. Such a devastating loss prompted the decision to play Flame against the Tigers’ Song “Smeb’ Kyung-ho, but that didn’t help matters as Longzhu lost fights despite having numbers advantages. At times, members would split up too early in a fight, allowing the Tigers to re-engage for successful turnarounds, most notably in Game 2 when Smeb and Lee “KurO” Seo-haeng wrecked a 2v3 after Lee “Chaser” Sang-hyun separated to chase down another kill.
One concerning trend is Kim “Pure” Jin-sun playing a majority of games with Bard. He has a larger champion pool, evidenced on his time with Najin e-mFire last year when he played eight champions in summer. One of those was Alistar, which was wildly successful. Alistar is the best support right now, and Pure not playing it is perplexing. Perhaps the coaching staff is forcing Longzhu to play more difficult compositions to stress improving communication? One can only speculate, but there’s no questioning Pure’s play has been underwhelming.
Longzhu has a strong roster on paper, but it’s going to take time for it to match expectations. Without massive improvements to coordination and mental fortitude, Longzhu’s spring season is going to end no later than the first round of the playoffs.