After a disastrous exit from the 2020 Mid-Season Cup that saw only one team get out of the group stage, the LCK and its teams will be looking to regain international glory at the World Championship. To qualify, teams have to start winning off the bat in the LCK Summer Split. It’s set to be one of the most interesting seasons in the history of the league, and there’s a myriad of stories to unpack.
From a completely reformed playstyle to the dark horse of the league, here are five things to look out for in Week 1.
1. A more aggressive LCK
The LCK built up a reputation for some of the most disciplined, macro-based play that League of Legends has ever seen. It’s what led them to win five world championships in a row between Season 3 and Season 7. After the Tracker’s Knife changes that made the game far less reliant on vision, the LCK has adapted to become an aggressive -- some would say too aggressive -- league. T1, for instance, held massive early gold leads over FunPlus Phoenix and Damwon Gaming.
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It’s expected that the LCK has fully adapted to a more aggressive style of play, and expect that to be reflected in lots of action. Teams will also be looking to show themselves off as the LCK will be franchised next season, and every team is vying for a spot.
2. A Tale of Two AD Carries: Deft faces off against Ruler
Deft will be seeking revenge against Ruler in LCK Summer’s opening week. (Picture: Riot Games)
The first week features some exciting matchups right off the bat. Gen. G faces off against DragonX in a rematch of the MSC 2020 Group Stage, where Gen. G claimed victory over their opponents and beat them again in the tiebreaker. After that, DragonX lost to JD Gaming in the second tiebreaker, and they were out of the tournament.
All eyes are on the bottom lane as two of the best Korean AD Carries, Kim “Deft” Hyuk-kyu for DragonX and Park “Ruler” Jae-hyuk for Gen. G, will face off against each other. DragonX looks to find revenge over the team that started the losses that threw them out of the MSC, while Gen. G will seek a strong start to their split before facing KT Rolster.
3. A rematch of the Spring Semifinals
Faker looks to return to his former international glory, and the first step is to show domestic dominance. (Picture: Riot Games)
Before they fight Gen. G, DragonX will play T1 on the opening day of Summer Split. For T1’s star player Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok, his first experience falling out of a tournament in the group stage -- like DragonX -- continues to be a source of questions and criticism. Faker and DragonX previously fought in the Spring Semifinals in a close series that ended in T1’s favour, and the team went on to win the Spring Split Championship. The rematch of these two top LCK teams will answer the critics of the current state of Korean League of Legends.
4. The team to watch out for; APK Prince
Described as the team that played most like the LPL, APK Prince ended up with a poor 7th place finish during the Spring Split. There’s no doubt that the guidance of Flawless, who spent three years in the Chinese League of Legends scene, heavily contributed to this playstyle. The team seemed to come together in the last few weeks, beating out DragonX and securing T1 their second-place finish. We already saw at the Mid-Season Cup how effectively this LPL style could defeat LCK teams, and with that as a template, APK is looking to make a statement with their playstyle, explosive energy, and sheer enthusiasm.
5. Smeb’s return from retirement
Many have already sounded the death knell for the LCK ever since it was unable to make the semi-finals of the 2018 World Championship. For the league that had won five world championships in a row, this was unacceptable and they fared far better in the next year. Every LCK team finished first in their group at the 2019 World Championship, but none would make the final as T1 lost to G2 in a four-game semifinal series.
But the name Smeb will remain in the minds of many as he makes his return to the LCK. Song “Smeb” Kyung-ho returns to KT Rolster, the team he went to the 2018 World Championship with. Smeb was one of League of Legends’ biggest players, being featured heavily for his time on the GE Tigers and Rox Tigers in 2015 and 2016. He was the runner-up of the Season 5 World Championship and was evaluated to be the best player in the world coming into the Season 6 edition of Worlds Top 20.
His most recent international performance was at the 2018 World Championship, where he was integral to avoiding elimination against Invictus Gaming in game 3 of the quarterfinals. Piloting Irelia, he made the daring play of creating a small window of victory by abandoning the open nexus under assault from Kang “TheShy” Seung-lok’s Fiora and teleporting to assault the enemy’s base in return.
Though KT Rolster would eventually lose the series to Invictus Gaming, 2-3, many remember his monstrous performances. His return to the LCK is one of the strongest sources of attention, with many wondering how he’ll do after half a year in retirement. He’ll show whether he’s still the dominant presence he once was or if he’s faltered in his first game against Team Dynamics.
The 2020 LCK Summer Split begins on June 17 at 17:00 KST. You can watch it on YouTube, Twitch, or on the official League of Legends esports website.