The fifth week of the first round of the Champions Korea Summer season starts this week, which means that Ekko, the flexible AP assassin, will be unlocked, allowing Korea's finest to experiment with the Boy Who Shattered Time. After seeing play in the top lane, jungle, and mid lane throughout the various major regions, the question will be where the fleet-footed time traveler finds his place in the vast Korean meta.
With only a few games left for each team before the first half of the season concludes, teams are jostling for position to make a run for the postseason. SK Telecom T1 and CJ Entus, the undisputed Top 2 teams in the region, can breathe easy and shift their minds on winning the whole tournament and grabbing an automatic spot to Worlds. For the other eight teams in the league, the playoffs are everything. With the World Championships right around the corner, making the postseason is the one chance every team in the league has to help them get closer to capturing one of the three Korean seeds to the biggest tournament of the year.
Here is how the hierarchy for the playoffs breaks down heading into the fifth week of the season.
The Champions Hierarchy
1. SK Telecom T1: 6-0 (12-2)
Their deceleration of a flawless season is officially finished, as the reigning champions surprisingly dropped two maps to a pair of bottom feeders in Anarchy and Samsung Galaxy. Still, the dream of a perfect match record is alive, as SK Telecom T1 took care of business last week to the tune of a 2-1 win over Anarchy and a sweep of, at the time the other undefeated team in the league, CJ Entus. Faker's played 10 different champions in the past 13 games, including two on Irelia and one on Master Yi. With the addition of Ekko, the pick/ban phase has officially become even tougher for SKT's opponents.
2. CJ Entus: 4-1 (8-5)
CJ Entus' story stays the same this week. They're adept in beating every other team in the league — usually dropping the first map in the process — and can't beat SK Telecom T1 when everything is on the line. CJ's overall match record puts them in a lone spot for second place, but they have the same amount of map losses as NaJin and Jin Air while playing one less match. By now, we know the CJ Special of losing match one, adapting and winning a close second map, and then blowing out their opponent in the final set. CJ Entus are playing with a fire that could come back to burn them.
3. NaJin e-mFire: 4-2 (9-5)
What is this? NaJin is actually playing up to their potential? The paper champions of Korea are turning into a real, functional squad?
Although they don't have the toughest week of competition, they swept through their two matches to raise their ranking to an overall 4-2 match record on the season. Ggoong, a player who appeared to be nearing the end of his tenure as a starter, has gone on another one of his slump-to-elite phases, racking up kills and returning to form as one of the league's most dangerous carry threats.
When Duke, Ggoong, and Ohq are all on the same page, and Ggoong isn't slumping or Ohq isn't mindlessly dying, NaJin are one of the few true triple carry threat teams in the world. With Watch finding his niche on new champions and becoming one of the forefront jungle Gragas players in Korea, and Pure forming an even stronger partnership with Ohq, NaJin's prospects for a run for the title look bright. There is still time for everything to come falling down like a house of cards, it being NaJin and all, but the combustible elements are keeping in check for the league's possible most talented squad.
4. KT Rolster: 4-2 (9-6)
A solidified Top 3 team for the first three weeks of the season, KT's wheels have come off a bit heading into the main stretch of the season. It started with their loss to second placed CJ Entus, losing a close contest where it came down to a Baron steal from Ambition to put Rolster away. Last week, it was another rocky outing as they were defeated 2-0 by the then-struggling KOO Tigers and pulling out a close 2-1 win over Anarchy to keep their record in the upper echelon of the standings. KT have an easy week coming up, only one game on the schedule against the winless SBENU. That will be a warm up for their final week of the first round where we will see how good KT truly is when they face off versus SK Telecom T1 and NaJin e-mFire.
5. KOO Tigers: 3-3 (8-8)
Right when you thought they were dead, the Tigers have clawed their way back into the conversation as a possible Top 4 team in Korea. The season started out shaky, as the new addition of Wisdom in the jungle did little to change KOO's woes on the Rift. The team looked lifeless since getting swept by SKT in the Spring Grand Finals, as they rolled over in their first few games and fell to the bottom of the table alongside the other relegation candidates. The past week saw a sort of resurgence for last season's runners-up, as they took two matches off a pair of playoff contenders in KT Rolster and Jin Air. One of the biggest reasons for the change in form has been the newcomer Wisdom, shaking off a weak start to his KOO career and performing to preseason expectations against KT's Score and Jin Air's Chaser.
6. Jin Air Green Wings: 4-2 (9-5)
Last season, Jin Air were the Robin Hoods of Korea. They took games from the rich, powerful teams at the top of the standings, and then evened the playing field by losing sets to the weaker teams. This season it's been the exact opposite, Jin Air beating the four consensus bottom teams in the league, but getting decimated when put up against one of the non-bottom feeders. Chaser has emerged as the league's premiere jungler with the exodus of the former elites at the position, yet Jin Air are still trying to find the right balance at the other positions, constantly switching out their AD Carry and mid positions.
Jin Air's record looks good and would currently put them into the playoffs. We'll have to see if that record looks as clean when they face CJ, NaJin and SKT T1 in the next two weeks to finish off the first half of the campaign.
7. Longzhu IM: 2-3 (5-8)
This season was supposed to be different for Longzhu IM. They got a new sponsor, tinkered with the team to bring in new players, and they crushed their way through the qualifiers. So far after five games, they're improved from last season, but are at the same spot: above Samsung and out of the playoffs. IgNar's been a good addition at the support role and will only improve with more time in the booth, and Frozen continues to be one of the best players on a struggling team in Champions history. They're only a few wins away from putting themselves back into the talk of living up to their preseason potential, but a weak end to the first round would put them at a severe disadvantage heading into the second half.
8. Samsung Galaxy: 1-5 (5-10)
Let's get this straight: Samsung are a good team. They can take games off any team in the league, are much improved from last season, and are on their way into becoming a playoff team. The postseason doesn't look to be in the cards for Samsung this season unless they go on a tear in the second half, but the rebuilding process is almost over for Galaxy fans. Crown is a massive upgrade from Bliss and Ace at the mid lane position from last season, and the team now has the option of playing either Luna or Wraith, two capable supports, alongside their ace player Fury in the bot-lane.
Don't worry, Samsung. Your time is coming soon enough, and when you finally get over the hump from difficult team to play against to a team taking matches off everyone, the rest of the league will need to watch out for a new top team.
9. Anarchy: 1-5 (6-11)
Anarchy are a weird bunch. They finally added a coach in Hachani, the former KT Arrows support who is technically the reigning champion of the summer season. Mickey is one of the flashiest and most technically sound players in the league, putting on a show whenever given the chance or not camped into oblivion. Anarchy can, like Samsung, put up a good fight with any of the best teams in the league, but there is a big difference between Anarchy and Samsung. While Samsung are a squad most likely to keep together and build upon their small victories into becoming a playoff team, Anarchy feel like a one-and-done squad. They're still, at their core, an amateur team with a lot of nice pieces that other teams will be converging on when the season is over.
Mickey's future is bright, but don't expect it to thrive on Anarchy. Expect the bigger teams from Korea and China to be calling in the offseason for the talents of the mid lane carry extraordinaire.
10. SBENU Sonicboom: 0-6 (1-12)
SBENU's season, for all intents and purposes, is over when you're talking about playoffs. They're 0-6 with a -11 map score and would need the greatest comeback in League of Legends history to make a playoff spot this season. They picked up their first win of the season over Longzhu, giving them a chance to smile during their harsh early days filled with countless losses. Sonicboom can put on a good performance from time to time, and Nuclear is an AD Carry that will make it in professionally through SBENU or another premiere team. With a match against Anarchy on the horizon, it'll be Sonicboom's best shot at breaking their ongoing losing streak.
The All-Champions Team (Week 4)
Top: Smeb (KOO Tigers)
It was a good week to be Smeb. Not only did the KOO Tigers grab two important victories, Smeb was also allowed to play his signature Riven for the third time this season. His undefeated streak with his favorite champion this Summer lengthened, capping it off with the first Pentakill of the campaign to close out the game in style.
Jungle: Bengi (SK Telecom T1)
Old man Bengi keeps getting it done for SKT, the fourth week of the season turning out to be his best. He ended the week with the most kills out of any jungler (12) and the most assists (43), helping Faker and the rest of SKT T1 keep perfect on the season.
Mid: Ggoong (NaJin e-mFire)
Ggoong's stats speak for himself this week: 24 kills, 1 death, and 20 assists. Faker's wins were flashier and the former world champion ended up with the most kills out of any mid, but Ggoong's assassin ways get him the top spot this week. A true assassin when he's on his game, Ggoong knows how to rack up a massive amount of kills and get out of harm's way before going down himself.
AD Carry: Roar (Longzhu IM)
It was a good week for Roar, amassing a 9 KDA in Longzhu's three games games played. If Longzhu has any chance of breaking into the postseason and ending their drought of being a bottom two team, Roar along with Frozen will need to lead them there in the carry department.
Support: Wolf (SK Telecom T1)
You never know what you're going to get with Wolf. At times he can be the best support in the world, making insane plays, keeping his teammates safe, and wrecking opposing bottom lanes with Bang. On other occasions, he's the exact opposite, making lackadaisical roams, getting caught out in the jungle, and being a major detriment to his team. Week four was Good Wolf showing up, SKT going through another set of matches undefeated, and SKT's support finishing with a 5/8/52 scoreline.
Match of the Week
KOO Tigers vs. Jin Air Green Wings
It was a match that could have ended KOO's season and propelled Jin Air's. Instead, Jin Air fell back into the back and didn't get a marquee win over a top team, and the Tigers got their groove back by throwing themselves back into the playoff picture with a 2-1 win. The series was book-ended by Tiger wins, Kuro being the hero in the first map by going 7/0/'4 on Cassiopeia, and Smeb's Riven taking the glory in the climactic game with a 7/2/4 performance on the acrobatic fighter.
Until next week, Champions!
Tyler "Fionn" Erzberger is a staff writer for The Score eSports who covers the North American LCS and Korea's Champions.