If it wasn’t already cemented in League of Legends eSports lore, it certainly will be now – SK Telecom T1 have won their third World Championship, heralding the Korean squad as the greatest dynasty ever to step foot onto summoners rift. SKT secured their 2016 title after a nail biting 3-2 victory over fellow LCK squad Samsung Galaxy, paying homage to their American hosts by channeling their inner Team Dignitas to take the series to a thrilling five game finale.
Excusing a few minor hiccups, SK Telecom T1 had looked so convincing throughout Worlds, easily topping Group B with a 5-1 record, dropping just a single game at the hands of their Taiwanese kryptonite, Flash Wolves. The quarterfinal draw against Royal Never Give Up was predicted to be a tough bout, yet Faker and co. swept past the Chinese mavericks. SKT’s semi-final saw host to the featured spectacle of the competition vs tournament favourites, ROX Tigers – a matchup that could have easily served as the World Championship final.
The dramatic ROX Tigers series highlighted a small number of chinks in the SKT armour, and under the spotlights of the Staples Centre stage, just for a moment, you’d have been forgiven for thinking NA had made it to the finals after all:
The first two games corresponded seamlessly to the SK Telecom T1 script: The first game is close, the second game is less close… everyone was expecting SKT to annihilate Samsung Galaxy in a decisive third game to retain their crown. Game 2 had been a complete stomp in favour of Kim “KkOma” Jung-gyun’s well-trained force – SKT never eased off the pressure, ending the game with an impressive 20-3 kill score – a humiliation for Samsung.
Indeed, 30 minutes into potentially the last game of the tournament, SSG were once again on the back foot. SKT had built up a commanding lead, comfortably cruising towards victory. It was at this moment, that SKT’s veteran jungler Bae “Bengi” Seong-ung decided to give the fans more of a spectacle – channeling the spirit of North American fan favourites, Team Dignitas to completely throw a cemented victory at Baron with a dubious call, allowing Samsung to launch a comeback.
Game 3 went on to become the longest game of the 2016 League of Legends World Championship, easily clearing 70 minutes as momentum swayed back and forth between the two Korean squads. Painful mistakes were made on both sides of the map as Samsung struggled to capitalise on the gift handed to them by their fellow LCK competitors. After treating the Los Angeles crowd to Korea’s best impression of a ‘clown fiesta’, Samsung Jungler Kang “Ambition” Chan-yong, stole away the Elder Dragon as SKT were finally overwhelmed in their base, conceding what had looked like a straight-forward 3-0 final victory.
In response to caster Trevor “Quickshot” Henry’s rallying cries, the Staples Centre started to believe that a reverse sweep might be possible, particularly after Samsung Galaxy secured a commanding victory in Game 4. For the first time in the series, SKT looked nervous as they stared down the barrel of a crushing final defeat.
Game 5 was a return to normality as SKT, perhaps anti-climatically, slowly choked Samsung out of the game following a series of critical errors from SSG AD carry, Park “Ruler” Jae-hyuk as the game entered its fractured later stages.
In every sense, SK Telecom T1 were fantastic value for their World Championship victory – earning their third title after a series of high octane League of Legends, generously treating the North American crowd to a five game series.