For the first time since the team’s inception, SKT T1 has not made it to the LCK playoffs. This comes after one of SKT’s worst season to date, as they would finish seventh in the league. Their last game of the season came at the hands of Kingzone DragonX at a 0-2 loss, a scoreline they were all too familiar with.
For such a storied team as SKT T1, this may be rock bottom for one of the most legendary teams in League of Legends. Their history of dominance throughout the years, from the LCK to international events, has been known by most casual esports fans and enthusiasts alike. Yes, the LCK is the most competitive league in the game, but SKT T1 has always been at the top. That’s how it’s always been. However, this year was completely different.
We should flash back to the 2017 LCK Summer Season. SKT T1 was coming off of an underwhelming regular split, where they would place fourth in the standings. In the playoffs, they would manage to get to the LCK Summer Finals by sweeping both Afreeca Freecs and eventual World Champions, Samsung Galaxy. However, they would end up losing to Longzhu Gaming, 3-1. This was a disappointing end to SKT’s season, but would only serve as fuel for the team at Worlds 2017.
At Worlds, SKT would exercise the same strength they’ve shown for the past five years. They would breeze through the group stage, only losing once to AHQ e-Sports Club. However, during the quarterfinals and semifinals, they would encounter some surprising resistance. Misfits Gaming, a budding European team, would take them the full five games. They would also go five games against an Uzi-lead Royal Never Give Up, but would come out victorious. However, SKT would eventually lose to their regional brothers in Samsung Galaxy via a sweep.
Many people thought that SKT would come back with a vengeance, especially with how their Worlds run ended last season. However, the team would field a curious assortment of players who did not seem to be up to the organization’s standard. They would replace a pair of world class players in Huni and Peanut with Thal and Blank, two players with little to no success at the LCK level. Due to this, SKT T1 would suffer another lackluster regular season performance. The team would finish fourth again in the standings, going 9-9 behind KT Rolster, Afreeca Freecs and Kingzone DragonX.
The perennial World Champions would make the playoffs, but would fail to reach the Finals this time. Unfortunately, they would fall to their longtime rivals, KT Rolster, in the second round by a score of 3-1. Although many fans were worried, they had all the confidence that SKT T1 would bounce back and return in the Summer revitalized and ready to take the LCK crown again.
Boy, were they wrong.
This past Summer Split was the worst season in the history of the organization. The team would again field a lineup of Thal, Blank, Faker, Bang and Wolf. However, this was not enough to push the envelope for SKT T1 this year. With the emergence of rookie powerhouse Griffin, and multiple teams like KT Rolster, Kingzone DragonX, Gen. G and Afreeca Freecs pushing for the playoffs, SKT could not find any room to fit at the top.
The season went by at a grueling pace for the former juggernaut. SKT only had winning records against three teams, all who were scraping the bottom of the regular season ladder. They would even bench Faker for six games, who at one point was considered the best League of Legends player of all time. They would replace him with Pirean, who had spent his whole career as an import in North America. Although SKT would find a little bit of success with Pirean in the lineup, it was too little too late. The team would finish with a lowly 8-10 record, placing them in seventh place in the standings.
The road to rock bottom was complete for the best team to ever compete in League of Legends. But where do they go from here?
The dream of Worlds isn’t dead for SKT T1 yet. Because they were able to finish fourth last split, they have just enough championship points to get them into the LCK’s Regional Gauntlet. There they will face off against other top teams to decide the last Korean representative to go to Worlds. However, the teams they will meet are some of the toughest competition they have played thus far. It would take a miracle and a half for SKT to make it to Worlds, but nothing would surprise us at this point.
After this season, whether they make it to Worlds or not, it is clear that something must change. The team that everyone once hailed as the best in the world is now floundering, and that is not acceptable for an organization of this caliber. Will SKT T1 ever take back their spot as kings of the world? Or has the rest of the LCK ushered in a new era and a new monarchy? Time will only tell.
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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.