As of the 19th of November, Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok is now officially on the free agent market. However, his future as an SKT T1 midlaner may be at risk.
It is 6:20 AM on the 19th of November in Seoul, South Korea
Per Riot's official contract database, Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok is now a free agent
Let the games begin pic.twitter.com/qtNur6xTlE
— The Esports Writer 🇰🇷 (@FionnOnFire) November 18, 2018
This year, SKT T1 would suffer their worst season in the team’s history. The perennial World Champions would first place fourth in the 2018 Spring Split and would bounce out of the playoffs in the second round to KT Rolster. In the 2018 Summer Split, they would end off with an even worse record and a seventh-place finish. Afterward, they would exit the Korean Regional Finals early against Gen.G, marking the first time the organization would miss the World Championships.
The former Korean powerhouse would undergo several roster problems throughout the year. After losing stars Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon and Han “Peanut” Wang-ho, SKT would pick up some underwhelming talent for the 2018 campaign. They would bring in Park “Untara” Ui-jin and perpetual substitute SKT jungler Kang “Blank” Sun-gu to start. As a result, the lack of firepower across the lineup would harm SKT immensely. Faker would force himself to create more hero plays to keep his team in many games. As a result, his performances would worsen as well.
Now, SKT has multiple contracts ending on their roster. However, they must focus all their attention on the biggest issue at hand. Keeping Faker on the team must be their top priority, and so providing him with ample support will be key. There is a huge possibility that Faker re-signs to SKT, and all this hype was for nothing. However, there is also a big possibility Faker decides to test free agency. If he does, which team will have the best chance at signing the greatest League of Legends talent the world has ever seen?
Staying with SKT seems like the most likely scenario for Faker, at this point in his career. His legacy as SKT’s franchise player and the face of the LCK will probably continue if SKT can bring enough incentives to the table. Additionally, I do not think one bad season amongst the several championship-winning seasons could be enough to drive Faker away from his first home. Additionally, there have been rumors of the team contacting top laner Kim “Khan” Dong-ha, as well as former Flash Wolves jungler, Kim “Moojin” Moo-Jin.
The team has also been linked to talented jungler, Han “Peanut” Wang-ho. Peanut would be making a return to the franchise after spending 2017 on the roster. There are also a multitude of Korean free agents that SKT could pick up, that could turn them into contenders once again. 2018 was supposed to be Faker’s revenge season, to rise up from his loss at Worlds against Samsung Galaxy. If Faker stays with SKT, maybe this time, we’ll witness a revenge tour of epic proportions.
With the departure of jungler Kang “Ambition” Chan-yong and mid laner Lee “Crown” Min-ho, Gen.G is searching for a new source of motivation and firepower. It seems like Gen.G is looking for a clean slate, even letting go of veteran support Jo “CoreJJ” Yong-in. As a result, Faker and Gen.G actually look like a great match; two parties that are looking for a fresh start. Gen.G also has a consistent top lane in Lee “CuVee” Seong-jin and a strong ADC in Park “Ruler” Jae-hyuk, two things that SKT would lack in 2018.
A core of CuVee, Ruler, and Faker could be interesting to watch for 2019. Additionally, they are a proven, veteran trio of players that could entice some free agents to join the team. Faker also gets to stay in Korea and compete for the LCK title once more. Also, the two former Korean juggernauts will now face their greatest challenge in the new Chinese dynasty built by Royal Never Give Up and Invictus Gaming.
After Worlds, many people think that Team Liquid could use a carry mid laner to compliment Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng. It is true, the resident superstar ADC has had to shoulder most of the weight on his shoulder for the team. Additionally, with Korean top laner Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong becoming a North American resident next year, this means that Liquid has an extra import slot to use. Obviously, Faker would be an immense upgrade to current Eugene “Pobelter” Park and would thrust Team Liquid into Worlds contention once again.
The only problem we could see with this addition is how Faker will adjust to the American lifestyle. The training, food and general demeanor of esports players are quite different, not to mention the language barrier. It may take some time for Faker to adjust to Team Liquid, but I expect that if Steve gets a chance to sign the best League of Legends player of all time, he will give him a blank check.
What are your thoughts on Faker’s free agency? Let us know what you think in the comments below! If you want more League of Legends coverage, check us out here!
Born and raised in Toronto. Sometimes a writer. Sometimes a creative director. Sometimes bored. Catch me with hundreds of unplayed games in my Steam library.