When you say the words SK Telecom T1, the first thought is obvious — Faker. The Prince of SK Telecom T1. The best player, so far, in the history of League of Legends. The man who is 12-0 on LeBlanc after almost two years of competitive play. A mid-laner who can be killed three times in the first 10 minutes of a game and still turn it around to be the scariest threat in the late-game.
Alright, moving past Faker, what about the team as a whole?
World champions. Explosive carries. Exciting, fast play. Individual superstars. Monsters in lane. Dominant. Perfection. Beautiful games to watch.
Now take the words SK Telecom T1 and add a big capital S at the end of it. What memories come to mind when people think about the history of the other SK Telecom T1 team, the one without Faker, SK Telecom T1 S?
Boring. Plodding. Slow. Ziggs. More Ziggs. Defense. Some more ZIggs. Defense! Ziggs! More defense. And then throw in some more adjectives for boring and slow, another Ziggs for good measure, and I think we got the general idea of the SKT T1 S legacy.
It's not easy living in your more successful brother's shadow. For SKT T1 S, a team that was shortly formed after SKT T1 lifted the Summoner's Cup in Los Angeles, the expectations were impossible to live up to. Not only were they the new sister team to the undisputed best team in the world, but they were coming into the biggest, most history rich eSport organization in all of Korea.
The formula used to build S were the same blueprints that led Faker's SKT T1 K to being the strongest and one of the most beloved teams in the world.
First, and most importantly, they needed to sign a highly sought after solo queue prospect to build around. That prospect being Marin, a top lane prodigy who was no stranger to occupying various accounts atop the Korean Challenger ladder. The Faker of this new S lineup, Marin looked to have all the tools that made Faker a can't miss player to build around:
- Solo queue colossus
- Exciting roaming style that showcased his potential to carry as an ace
- A young, impressionable rookie that could be coached up by Kkoma and the rest of the SKT organization
To fill the roster around Marin, they picked up the former NaJin Shield bottom lane of Bang and Wolf. Bang, like Marin, was lighting up the Korean ladder, hovering around the second and third spot behind S' crown jewel before signing with the SKT organization. His partner, Wolf, was a nomadic support, moving to the upstart Chuunam Techno University team and revitalizing his career after a forgettable end to his tenure with Shield.
In the jungle role remained the only remaining member of the original SK Telecom T1 team, even before Faker, H0R0. He was a sturdy jungler there to guide the new team in the right direction and aide Marin's transition from the amateur circuit to the world of professionals.
Rounding out the roster was Easyhoon, the most known of the five players on the new team. A player more known for his controlling, zoning mages and utility champions, he was on the cusp of breaking out as a new star at his position before Faker arrived on the scene and destroyed Easyhoon in their first match against each other. Less of a carry and more of a support-type player in the mid lane, the theory was that most of the gold would be circulated towards their high impact, roaming monster of a top-laner who would become the Faker of the Top Lane.
That didn't happen, of course. It wasn't necessarily that Marin was a complete bust — obviously not as he's now on the lone SKT as their starter — but all the blueprints were thrown out the window when they took the Rift. The idea of S at the start was that they were going to rely on the playmaking abilities of Marin and have him be the virtuoso, carrying games through his unstoppable laning phase and ability to stack up kills through smart, crisp roams across the map.
Through their year together as a team, that was never the case.
From when SKT T1 S started against CJ Blaze to kickoff the Champions Korea Winter 2013-14 season to their series loss against the KT Rolster Arrows in the semifinals of Champions Korea Summer 2013, Marin was never truly utilized as the carry he was hyped up to be. Sure, he played some games on his solo queue signature champion Rumble, but most of his time on S was spent playing a heavy dose of Renekton and Shyvanna, being the late-game tank that went along with the rest of the ideals of the squad.
In the history of teams in Korea, a lot of them have an identity they left behind.
NaJin Sword were a group of players who rallied behind their brash captain Maknoon, diving towers endlessly and never letting the bloodshed end.
KT Bullets were the prototypical thinking man's team. While some people think objective-based play for a team almost always means boring or slow, the Bullets killed that stereotype. They weren't an all-star team individually, but their swift rotations and superior mind games around objectives, especially Baron, gave them the upper hand against more mechanically talented teams.
CJ Entus Blaze were a team built around two solo lane carries: Flame in the top lane and Ambition in the mid lane. Those two players were the main carries of their team, split pushing and reaching a crescendo with their gold that they could cash it in for the necessary power to slaughter their enemies.
SKT T1 K were the antithesis of the Bullets. Mechanically gifted players at every position. They would sometimes make small mistakes on the map, but were able to cover them up through every player's ability to make a big play or secure a kill when needed.
The KT Arrows were quite simply crazy. The ultimate boom or bust team. If KaKAO and company could get out to an early lead, the game was over. You're dead. There was no way you would come back against their aggression snowball. If they didn't get off to a quick start or stumbled out of the games, they weren't able to stabilize and lost to teams much weaker than them individually.
SKT T1 S? S were boring. Defense was the their first, second, and third option to playing. Again, as the KT Bullets showed us only a few months before S formed, smart play that isn't all about big carries and lots of kills can be exciting. Thing is, S weren't the Bullets — they were a slow, lumbering brick wall that took each step in small, meticulous intervals.
The center piece to S' sloth-like legacy is Ziggs, the explosive zoning mage that fit right into Easyhoon's wheelhouse. Ziggs' strong wave clear and ability to stretch games out 10 to 20 minutes longer than their expiration date made him SKT T1 S' poster boy. When people think about SKT T1 S in five years from now, it won't be their semifinal run or stellar fundamentals, but the maniacal Hexplosives Expert laughing continuously as he lays down minefields in front of his base's doorstep and clears clumped up minion waves with his Mega Inferno Bomb.
Ziggs' first cameo appearance with SKT T1 S came on Christmas Eve in 2013, an online NLB match between S and the KT Arrows. The Arrows' first ban of the game was Ziggs, pushing Easyhoon to step out of his comfort zone and pick Kassadin. The champion and player didn't mix, Easyhoon had little influence in the game, and the Arrows came out on top.
|SKT T1 S' History with Ziggs|
|Picked Against (Won)||0|
|Picked Against (Lost)||1|
|Not Picked or Banned (Won)||0|
|Not Picked or Banned (Lost)||3|
These stats are taken from the point when the KT Arrows banned Ziggs SKT T1 S on Christmas Eve, showing how dangerous the champion became from that point to the end of S' run as a team.
The champion was banned more than half of the time against Easyhoon's team, usually forcing him to pick one of his other staple champions such as Orianna or Lulu. When he was picked, SKT T1 S were almost unbeatable for the first few months. Even in a game where S were down in kills and gold, they were able to hang in and grind out victories against teams they weren't expected to beat.
Possibly the most famous of these Ziggs victories was their win against NaJin Black Sword in the Champions Korea Summer 2014 quarterfinals, going to a fifth game Blind Pick match where Sword weren't able to take Ziggs away from Easyhoon. This turned out to be what SKT T1 S needed to prevail into the semifinals, losing 19-11 on kills but ultimately winning a 59-minute war of attrition.
In an ironic twist of fate, SKT T1 S' final game as a team actually came in the one game where the opposing team chose Ziggs against them. Samsung White, who had already beaten Easyhoon's Ziggs in the previous game, were up 2-0 in the 3rd Place Match and only needed one more win to secure their crucial circuit points. On blue side, SKT T1 S neither banned or picked the champion they became most tightly connected to, opting to have Easyhoon play his Orianna instead. Pawn responded by picking up the champion and went 0/0/11 in a quick — at least for a Ziggs game — 34 minute victory for White, sweeping S and ending their 2014 season.
With the announcement that organizations would no longer be allowed sister teams, the squads of K and S were disbanded, leaving only a lone, united SKT T1 team. SKT T1 K actually experienced a worst final season than their looked down upon brothers S, falling in the quarterfinals in Champions compared to S' 2-3 loss to the eventual tournament winners KT Arrows in the semis.
The new SK Telecom T1 was a mixture of the two squads, the S bot-lane duo becoming the starters for the makeshift core, and K's jungler Bengi took over the lead role as jungler with S' H0R0 leaving to see if he could join a Western team. The other roles were more muddled. Marin and Impact split time in the top lane, and while Faker was considered the better option to Easyhoon, the latter decided to stay on the team instead of transferring to another Korean or Chinese team.
Although Marin would eventually win the starting job from the veteran Impact, the former world champion moving over to Team Impulse in America, he's continued his stretch as more of a shield than an attacking force. Outside of his signature carry Rumble, the four other champions he's played most in professional play are all big front-line tanks, putting him in a utility role for most of their games. While not the role he was expected to fill when he came into the league, he's become one of the best tank players in the world, currently sitting at a remarkable 13-1 record in his career with Maokai.
The player that has grown the most and has changed his role since the end of S and grown in 2015 is Bang, the AD Carry. When he played on S, most of their compositions had him playing on hyper carries that forced him to wait until the extreme late-game to really pierce through the enemy with S' stalling tactics. This didn't really fit in with Bang, a player who has shown in solo queue that he is able to play mid-game spiking champions and not have to wait until the 50 minute mark to start doing damage.
Instead of immobile late-game demons like Kog'maw (3-5) and Twitch (5-5) which he struggled on during the course of S, Bang's greatest skill is his ability to micro, dodging skill-shots and playing on a champion that can make plays through dashes or darting in.
|Bang — The Mobile Marksmen Ace|
Mobility. Dodging. Swerving. Dashing in. This is what makes Bang great. The only true hyper carry in his list of best champions would be Kalista, a newer champion that was seemingly created for Bang with how mobile she is. Every auto attack is a new place for Bang to dash to, always on the move and ready to move through a plethora of the opponent's skills if need be.
Bang did well on SKT T1 S but nowhere near the level he is playing now, given more opportunities to play strong mid-game champions like Corki and Lucian. His ability to be forceful in the first twenty minutes of the game has even allowed Faker, the best carry on the planet, to slide into more supportive roles like Lulu to speed up and enhance Bang's ability to evade the enemy team and knock them down one by one.
The Aegis, the massive, daunting shield of SKT T1 S, is still there in the current SKT T1, but it's allowed Bang to free himself from the 40 minute timer and be a more free thinking, forward carry that is able to become a playmaker from the laning phase on.
This was never more apparent than their recent fourth map in the semifinals against CJ Entus. Faker was playing Lulu, Bang was on one his mobile marksmen with Lucian, and the entire game was the SKT T1 AD carry putting on one of the most ridiculous displays of agility and micro intensive plays in professional League history. SKT were down in gold, objectives and were one good CJ push away from losing the game and series, but Bang would not let his team lose.
The game went to the 70 minute mark — a SKT T1 S specialty — and with Marin's shielding of the team and Bang's heroic efforts by dodging hooks, spells, and even bombs from his old friend Ziggs, SKT T1 were able to win that game to force a Blind Pick fifth map. With the other team not able to ban Kalista, Bang was able to his new signature hopping champion and continued his perfect streak with the Vengeful Spear.
When SKT T1 were at their peak, Faker's carry partner was Piglet. While Piglet and Bang are similar in ways, I'd say Piglet is a force of nature. An overwhelming presence that devours and overwhelms you when he plays a champion like Vayne. Bang is quick, dodging in and out, flanking you when the time is right to put on right movements to jab at you while you fail to connect with any of your skills. Piglet will knock you out with one powerful blow, ending it in one fell swoop. Bang will make you think he's jabbing back-and-forth with you, but you soon realize he's hit all 10 of his shots and you've hit zero.
Marin, Wolf, and long-lost-S-brother Bengi are there to be the towers to protect T1's Crown Prince and let him freely carry the game, but there is now a new, advanced carry that's emerged from the remnants of the old Aegis of S: Bang.
Tyler "Fionn" Erzberger is a staff writer for The Score eSports. You can follow him on Twitter.