The old gods are dead, long live the Kingslayers

The end of the SKT T1 era

2017 World Championship Finals Stage
Image taken from the LoL Esports Photos flickr Album.

It’s match point in The Bird’s Nest. It’s not even close to being a five game series. The scoreboard reads 2-0, and 34 minutes into game 3, the Nexus is exposed. Cover the nameplates, ask me to guess who’s winning, and I’d bet on SKT. But it’s their Nexus getting destroyed, their hopes of a three-peat being ruthlessly crushed. Even as Samsung Galaxy marches down the mid lane to seal the deal, it’s hard to believe the undisputed best team in the world is seconds away from falling 3-0 on the biggest international stage. Undisputed no more.

As the Nexus went down, the crowd erupted in SSG chants and the victorious players jumped out of their seats to celebrate their newly acquired title of World Champions. A flurry of memories must have crossed their minds. Faker’s first career kill on the now jungler Ambition. The squad’s unlikely qualification to the 2016 World Championship after taking down kt Rolster in a gruelling five game series. Their surprising appearance at the Worlds 2016 finals, and the bitter defeat in game 5 under the hand of SKT.  

However, that was in the past. The only thing on the minds of the Samsung players, and the most important memory they’d ever have as professional gamers, was the one being made right in that moment. The memory of achieving redemption and revenge in the face of SKT. It was like a dream come true, the glory they could not achieve last year was finally theirs. All the hard work, the years of play and preparation paid off. The Summoner’s Cup was in their hands, held high above their heads.

Across from the arena, the SKT booth was a cemetery. No chants, no celebration, only grief. The players sank into their chairs, disappointed in their performance. For the first time, they had lost a World final. And on that day, with his hand gone, his legacy tarnished, and the Summoner’s Cup being raised by someone else, god cried. Few sights have caused me such sorrow, but it was true. The old gods were dead, long live the Kingslayers.

SSG Finals 2017 Big
Image taken from the LoL Esports Photos flickr Album.

SKT was not the unstoppable goliath it once was, and this showed coming into the 2017 World Championship. They were defeated in the LCK 2017 Summer finals by Longzhu, after making it through the whole playoff bracket and barely reverse sweeping kt Rolster in the semifinals. They were shaky in the group stage, their play was lacking and if not for their stellar team play in late game fights, they would have dropped multiple games. Nonetheless, they took the first seed of Group A and advanced to the knockout stage.

The quarter finals were a testament to SKT’s shortcomings and problems. Their first opponent, Misfits Gaming from the EU LCS, traded blow for blow with them. History was one team fight away from being made, and the european newcomers wanted to make a name for themselves by slaying the korean overlords. Yet, the EU squad was inexperienced, and their innovative strategies were not enough to take down the defending World Champions. Still, Misfits made SKT bleed and their next combatant would cut them no slack.

Uzi was waiting in the semifinals, hungry for revenge after always falling short when it most mattered. The featured match up was Uzi versus Faker, and again SKT was one game away from being eliminated. However, whether it was luck or Royal Never Give Up cracking under the pressure, SKT won the series and guaranteed an appearance in their third straight final. Uzi once again would not find the glory he so desperately craved.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the bracket, Samsung was showing their prowess. A second place finish in their group meant they would have to face LCK champion Longzhu Gaming. It seemed like an impossible task, but SSG’s veteran talent was too much to handle for Longzhu’s rookies. Samsung came out swinging and clean swept the series, sealing the dragon’s fate. They had their eyes fixed on the Summoner’s Cup and they weren’t slowing down.

The semifinal match between SSG and Team WE felt like a formality. Samsung had no plans to lose and WE hadn’t shown they had what was necessary to be a finalist. After a rocky game 1, Samsung Galaxy took the next three games and punched their ticket to a rematch against SKT.

The venue was filled to the brim, every seat had a fan eager to watch the epic conclusion of the tournament. Even if no chinese teams made it to the finals, the clash was one for the ages. SKT was weak, wounded, but their history still made them a threat. Samsung was determined and confident, nothing was going to stop them, not even SKT. And indeed, nothing stopped them. Three games was all it took, the glory and the Summoner’s cup was theirs.

Does that mean the SKT legacy has been destroyed? Not even close. SKT’s dynasty cannot be dismantled by a single loss. However, this defeat does mark the end of an era: The era of SKT dominance. Throughout their history, SKT had only won Worlds with Bengi on the roster. While the jungle was not their sole problem this tournament, it’s evidently clear they cannot remain at the top forever without the pristine mid-jungle synergy they used to have. In addition to that, their bot lane had been trailing behind their opponents for far too long. Defeat was inevitable at this point.

Although SKT’s dynasty still stands, a new one is being forged. With their Worlds victory, Samsung begins to construct their legacy, one that in the future may come to challenge SKT’s. The 2018 season will prove if SKT has the ability to rebuild and reinvigorate their roster. Samsung Galaxy will have the opportunity to cement themselves as equals to the behemoth that is SKT. The only thing that is certain is that Faker will return with a vengeance, hopefully stronger than ever, and his enemies will feel his wrath.

Legends may bleed, but they will never die.

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