SK Telekom T1 became the first Korean team to qualify for the League of Legends World Championship yesterday, successfully completing a reverse sweep against rivals KT in the LCK semi-finals.
SKT’s season has been a crazy ride for the defending world champions. After signing Seung “Huni” Hoon Heo earlier this year, SKT’s dominance seemed assured. But a string of losses in the middle of this split recalled shades of season 4, when a once-dominant SKT lineup couldn’t keep up their level of quality over the season. While SKT began righting the ship, their aura of indomitability was lost, and the machines seemed capable of bleeding.
And that’s where KT Rolster come in, a promising “super-team” that has had an incredibly strong season, taking 2nd place behind surprise first-contenders Longzhu Gaming on tie-breakers. KT jumped out to a commanding lead in the first two games of the series, with superstar support Cho “Mata” Se-hyeong making some phenomenal plays on Thresh to lead KT to quick, landslide victories in both games. SKT was up against the wall, and they made a drastic move.
Subbing in Kang “Blank” Sun-gu in Game 3, combined with a slight altering of their champion select draft strategy, SKT planted their feet in the ground to push back against KT. The momentum shift of Game 3, combined with Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok’s incredible Corki play, propelled SKT to the wins they needed to secure their appearance in the LCK finals, as well as Riot’s World Championship later this year.
SKT are no strangers to reverse-sweeping KT, either. Four years ago, SKT reverse-swept KT Bullets after being down 0-2, qualifying for worlds and beginning the Faker-led dynasty of SKT. Game 5 of that series, a blind-pick match, as was tradition for OGN at the time, gave birth to one of the most famous League of Legends highlights of all-time.
SKT joins Flash Wolves, Kaos Latin Gamers, Fenerbahce, and Team Solomid as the teams that have already secured a spot at worlds. KT’s shot at an appearance at worlds isn’t completely dashed, however, as the LCK regional playoffs will take place in a few weeks. KT will have a shot at the affectionately-named gauntlet for a chance to earn their place in China this September.