SKT T1 2019 Team Preview: Superteam?

SKT LCK Faker Effort

After failing to qualify for Worlds for the first time since 2014, SKT T1 has built the League of Legends superteam to end all superteams. The only two starters that survived the SKT purge were Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok and Lee “Effort” Sang-ho. Now, SKT T1 offers a stacked ten-man lineup that is easily the best team in the world, at least on paper. In practice, there are concerns about whether or not SKT T1 can allocate resources in such a way that all lanes thrive. It will be obvious a few weeks into the LCK spring split whether or not this is the supergroup we expect or if all the concerns were well founded.

The Players

Top Lane

Kim “Khan” Dong-ha

Khan is the best top laner in the world. If he gets off-tank duty, this guy is amazing. While his stats are good but not great, he has some special qualities to him. If he would stop playing Dr. Mundo, Khan would be dominating right now. Every single time he has the chance to outskill his opponent, he does. Khan’s summer split was not great for two reasons: 1) his team got obliterated towards the end of the split, and 2) the meta did not allow for a top laner to solo carry the game at a professional level. Khan participated for less than 60% of his team’s kills but did 27.6% of his team’s damage.

Khan is almost always up over his opponent in gold and XP at 15 minutes. On the other hand, it is clear that if the meta shifts towards more of a “tank meta,” Khan has shown that he will drop off. The good news is that he will drop off into an average top lane player if that happens. I have high hopes for Khan. Watching him play is awe-inspiring, and he can be a great player. It is way too early to tell how Khan will fit into the team. Hopefully putting Khan into a top-tier team will result in more success.

Jungle

Kim “Clid” Tae-min

Another problem area for SKT T1, Clid hopes to start with a fresh perspective after coming in from the LPL’s JD Gaming. Clid is a streaky player; when he comes off a win he is clearly much better and is a lot less prone to mistakes. But there are a few problem areas. His damage isn’t as great as it could be, posting only 14.6% of his team’s damage while playing some very damage-heavy junglers like Camille, Lee Sin, and Graves. For champions he has played four or more times, Clid has not gotten any less than a 3.0 KDA. His champion pool is a bit suspicious, however – a majority of his primary champions are currently “out of meta” and his performance drops off heavily when it comes to other champions like Xin Zhao and Taliyah.

When the game gets messy, Clid starts to shine. More often than not, SKT T1 as well as the rest of the LCK like to play a bit more methodical and that can lead to situations where Clid can be picked off multiple times. Mechanically, there is zero question whether or not Clid can keep up with the rest of SKT T1, but I do expect major growing pains coming into the spring split. Once those growing pains have subsided, Clid could become one of the best junglers in the LCK. If he does not, Kang “Haru” Min-seung could easily be subbed in and not be a liability.

Kang “Haru” Min-seung

After a rollercoaster season and a rare mid-season roster and organization change, Haru had a rough year. His first split as a starter for a top-tier LCK team did not go well. Haru had poor numbers, getting a KDA of less than one for three separate champions and only finding success on Sejuani  – but only due to a stat-padding game against MVP where he went 2/0/8. This was a common theme for Haru, who played well once every few games but faltered heavily in the majority of the games.

Summer split was the exact opposite for Haru. He played out of his mind for a majority of the split, with those stat-padding games becoming the norm. He nearly doubled his average KDA of 2.0 to a solid 3.8 in the summer split and proved to be dominant on champions like Camille and Gragas. He flashed some skill at Worlds, but it was ultimately undone by his poor performance against Royal Never Give Up and Cloud9. In a majority of his games in the summer split he was up CS and XP, but his average damage per minute of 244.4 is a bit concerning (but not worthy of a red flag… yet).

There is a high level of skepticism with Haru, and that is most likely the driving reason for him starting the year on the bench. His performance in the summer split does show a very high upside, but his performance in spring and in the last two games of Worlds give cause for concern. As far as a substitute player goes, Haru should play his role well in case Clid falls apart. SKT T1 is better with Haru on board assuming he never repeats his spring split.

Mid Lane

Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok

People are starting to question Faker’s mortality after SKT T1’s last year. And he is eager to prove why he is still the god. Faker is in a tough spot because he is playing champions that you cannot easily outplay on. Mages like Azir and LeBlanc are fairly weak right now with respect to the meta and do not have the same utility or damage as the current meta champions. During the KeSPA Cup, Faker did all he could against DAMWON Gaming after averaging a +9 CS differential at 15 min and an average damage per minute of 411.2 which contributed to 26.6% of SKT T1’s damage in a 2-1 loss. In the LCK summer split, Faker played 19 different champions in 34 games. At one point, he played Poppy middle against BBQ Olivers and won. On average, Faker was 17.9 CS and 255 gold ahead at 15 min. His Damage per minute was 453.4 which contributed to 26.5% of his team’s damage.

Faker will always be the best, there is nothing else to say. His stats show that even on a struggling team, he can still outperform every other mid laner 1v1. Ideally, with a brand new supporting cast, Faker’s skill can flourish and clean up when the game goes later. As the meta changes, Faker will get stronger and turret plating will keep his lane opponent stuck in lane for longer. Faker will be the best mid laner this year.

ADC

Park “Teddy” Jin-seong

Teddy is a very exciting player on a very scary-looking team. While still unproven, Teddy has everything to gain and nothing to lose. His performance at the KeSPA cup was uninspiring, but the sheer hype of this roster is going to carry through into the spring split. Teddy was the lone player on Jin Air Green Wings who looked like a professional League of Legends player. However, Teddy really only looked good on off-meta picks like Vladimir, Mordekaiser, and swain, posing a 3.6, 3.8, and 6.0 KDA on those champions respectively during the summer split. On ADCs that we will actually be seeing come next season, it looks rough. Teddy has shown that he is competent on Ezreal with a 4.0 KDA despite a 40% win rate, but on Lucian, he has a 14.3% win rate and a 2.5 KDA. It gets worse: in two games with Kaisa, Teddy averaged a 0.6 KDA going 1/5/2 in total.

Teddy shows upside and potential. There is much room to improve, but Teddy has not given any reason to fully believe in him. I can understand the reason for poor statistics due to his team finishing last year’s summer split with a 4-14 record. Going off numbers alone, do not expect Teddy to be carrying SKT T1 for the first few weeks of the spring split.

Support

Cho “Mata” Se-hyeong

What can I say? If you can get a guy like Mata… you get him without a second thought. He plays every style so well. He can play anything you need and is easily one of the best players in the world. The only champion he did not perform exceptionally on is Braum – in his three games on him, he only had a 33% win rate and a 2.1 KDA. The rest of the champions he played in the summer split he excelled on with every single champion having a 50% win rate or higher and not dropping below a 3.2 KDA. He had a 67% kill participation over the LCK summer split and 2018 world championship. Enough said.

Mata is one of the best players in his role. The versatility, the skill, and his ability to shot call are all marketable qualities that you would want in your support player. Luckily, SKT T1 now has that! There is literally zero sign of us seeing anything less of greatness. The stage is set for Mata to win the World Championship! Anything less is a disappointment.

Lee “Effort” Sang-ho

Normally I would throw the ADC and support together, but Effort deserves his own section for his role in holding everything together. Effort is much better on playmaking champions. On six games on Pyke, Effort was able to mount a 66% win rate and a 4.4 KDA. With Shen and Rakan, he posted higher win rates and a much higher KDA. In four games with Shen, Effort posted a 6.2 KDA, and in three games as Rakan, he earned a 4.8 KDA. Mostly Effort was stuck on Protect-the-ADC champions such as Braum or Tahm Kench who kept on getting steamrolled. In 15 games on Tahm Kench, Effort could only manage a 40% win rate and a 1.9 KDA. Whereas with Braum, he could only muster a disastrous 28.6% win rate and a 2.7 KDA in seven games.

I have plenty of sympathy for Effort; he was playing with an ADC who overstayed his welcome in the LCK and suffered. At every turn where Effort was required to prove himself, he did tenfold. I do question Kim “kkOma” Jeong-gyun’s decision to constantly put Effort on champions where he cannot thrive individually but he does have to play the meta. His punishment is going to be to compete against the world-renowned Cho “Mata” Se-hyeong.

Fears

There are several fears to bring up. First off, I do not know how SKT T1 will decide to split the resources and who will get what. I also fear that this current meta is harsh on people like Faker to carry on and it puts more pressure on the junglers to step up. If Teddy does not work, SKT could be put in a bad spot due to its importance.

Expectations

The expectations for this roster is to win everything. However, the LCK is strong this year and teams like Griffin and Gen.G can challenge SKT T1. After their dominance in the KeSPA cup, Griffin is still the best team. There are a few concerns with Teddy and Clid’s performance but there is a solution to Clid. Anything other than second would be a disappointment. We are most likely going to see Griffin vs. SKT T1 finals.

Second place in the spring split and potentially first place in the summer split. No way in hell they miss Worlds.