League of Legends Worlds have been going on for most of the last month, though the final took place over the weekend at Staples Center in Los Angeles. And so it ends, with Korea once again on top. In fact, Korean teams (as a whole) completely dominated this year’s Worlds (and every one since 2013) with a combined record of 43-19. Over the course of the last 4-5 years, after Korea first entered the tournament, the country has a win rate over 70%.
So it was no surprise that all three qualifying teams made it to the semifinals and eventually were the two teams in the Finals, and what a Finals it was. This was the first championship to go the full 5 games.
It started out with Game 1 going over 50 minutes long and was a tension packed, back and forth nail biter. SK Telecom T1 (SKT) started off strong and looked dominant through the mid game, but Samsung Galaxy (SSG) stayed patient through the late game. This stalled things out a bit and people were wondering if SKT would be able to close out the game. But in the end, SKT’s methodical play and macro game ended up giving them the win.
SKT led 1-0
Game 2 played out much differently than the first. This was a complete and thorough stomping by SKT. A big part of that result was due to the fact that Faker played Ryze for the first time competitively. This was a champion that he played consistently in SKT’s run to the Finals in 2015. With Faker back on a comfortable champion he was able to be more proactive in Game 2, which led to ganks, more kills, winning lanes, and eventually it snowballed in SKT’s favor. The game ended just after the 30 minute mark.
SKT led 2-0
At this point it looked like SKT was going to rout and sweep SSG and make the Finals relatively uneventful. The effects from how easily they won was seen on the faces of SSG right after the loss. They had distraught looks, were slow to leave heading backstage, and heads hung low.
The start of Game 3 seemed like it was going to make the sweep a reality. SKT dominated the early & mid game again, not giving up a death until the 25 and a half minute mark. All signs were pointing to them ending this game early, much like Game 2. But then they got cocky. Around the 30 minute mark, SKT tried to go for Baron with only 3 members. SSG, with the use of ults and teleports, was able to spot the situation and make a move. All five members committed to the Baron pit, attacked the damage dealers and after taking out three from SKT, they were able to turn it around and secure the Baron buff. This started the turn around and after a lot more fighting, Baron plays, and intense clashes, SSG was able to close it out in the second longest Finals game to date at 71+ minutes.
SKT led 2-1
The momentum that SSG got in Game 3 carried over into Game 4, but it still wasn’t easy. SKT again controlled the early game and the laning phase. But just like last time, SSG turned the tides by winning a team fight over the Baron buff around the 32 minute mark. Through some methodical play they were able to pick off Faker a couple of times, push the lanes and take down all three inhibitors. And despite some mistakes and punished plays by SKT, SSG looked more in control this game than any other in the series. They were able to take down the Nexus in just about 46 minutes.
Series tied, 2-2
Finally, after a year’s worth of seasonal play, challenger’s playoff brackets, end of the year gauntlets, and four weeks of Worlds competition, it all came down to one game. After four games, the two teams had been on stage for approximately 5 hours.
After subbing in Blank into Game 4, Game 5 saw the return of jungler Bengi into SKT’s lineup. And like every other game, SKT ruled the early laning phase, this time with help from some early ganks by Bengi. All in all, the game was very tight. SSG even had a gold lead throughout the mid game, but (like a broken record) SKT’s methodical, slow paced style proved to win out again. They were patient, constantly controlled the vision in SSG’s half of the jungle, and were able to exercise their macro game leading into the later minutes.
Putting those pieces in place set up a situation where after a few picks, and some mid lane team fights, SKT was able to finally take a Baron uncontested. This led to an Elder Drake. The reigning champions used this momentum to split push down mid and top lane, and were able to get some pressure. But true to form, SKT was very disciplined in knowing how far to push and when to back off.
At this point, you could tell that SKT was just wearing down SSG the way a river slowly whittles down a rock in it’s path.
After a long stall by SSG, SKT pressed again for a second Baron, began to push down the top lane, grabbed a second Elder Drake, and after buying & healing up, all five members of SKT ran down mid lane and took down their final Nexus for the season.
SKT wins 3-2
Esports and competitive League of Legends is still in its infancy. But even in that short time, SK Telecom T1 has proven its dominance over the game. This year alone showed that they have what it takes to be champions. They were not very good at the start of the season, fought their way back in the second half to make it into Worlds, and by their own admission still weren’t playing that well.
But when it was showtime, they stepped up.
After winning three championships in the span of four years, SKT can (and most likely will) be considered the game’s first dynasty. Lee “Faker” Sang Hyeok is already a legend in his own time, but if he continues down this path, he will be immortal.
With all of that said, Esports as a whole is expected to grow by leaps and bounds over the next few years. Pieces are already being put in place to make the scene feel more like the world’s traditional sports. It’s inevitable that there will be challengers to the throne, and more superstars for fans to cheer on. What remains to be seen is how big it will get. Can it get to the level of say the NFL and the Super Bowl?
What do you think, will Esports become a mainstay in professional level competitive entertainment? What would you like to see happen for the sport? Who are some teams or players that you’re excited about? Let us know in the comments below, or on Google+, Twitter, or Facebook.