The final week of the first half of the season is upon us and the climactic end to the beginning round-robin will end with a bang.
SK Telecom T1, who sit at 7-0 and are aiming for a perfect match record to secure their spot at the 2015 World Championships, will meet their decade-long rivals, KT Rolster (5-2), in a return of the highly anticipated Telecom Wars that have been waged over various games over the past 10 years.
Spring was a walkover for the Telecom Wars, as KT were near the bottom of the standings for a majority of the season. As Rolster got better with the addition of Fixer in the spring's second round-robin, they were able to give SKT a much tougher test in their return match for the season. After getting discarded 2-0 in their first meeting, KT took a game off the eventual champions before falling in a close 2-1 match. With KT's momentum continuing into the current season, this match could either get KT Rolster back in the hunt for the first seed, or it could help SKT widen their lead.
SKT are going for perfection, but KT Rolster would like nothing more than to give Faker and company their first blemish on the season.
The Champions Hierarchy
1. SK Telecom T1: 7-0 (14-2)
Faker's team is still perfect at 7-0, and he's putting together one of the greatest individual seasons in League of Legends' history. While the solo carrying performances have gone down through the seasons due to fundamental in-game changes, Faker has been integral to SKT's success. When Faker plays, he outputs 35 percent of his team's damage output, and he's accumulated a stat-line of 68/18/59 in his 11 games this split. If last season was considered a slump, then this season is where Faker solidifies the fact that he's the greatest to ever play the game.
2. NaJin e-mFire: 5-2 (11-6)
The only Korean organization to send a team to Worlds in three straight years, NaJin is peaking at the perfect time to make it a fourth trip to the game's biggest tournament. Since their embarrassing opening day loss to Anarchy, the highest-powered offense in the league has gone off to take five of their last six matches to rocket them into a tie for second place. Duke, Ggoong, and Ohq are the strongest triple carry threat in Korea and the offensive trio has been on their A-games for the past few weeks. The tandem of Ggoong in the mid lane and Ohq as the starting AD Carry have already combined for a staggering 150 kills in only 16 games.
3. KOO Tigers: 5-3 (12-8)
With the Cinderhulk meta transitioning out and a greater variety coming at the jungler and top lane positions, the KOO Tigers have found themselves right back at the top of the standings. Smeb's been the star of the team this season, picking up half of KOO's MVP awards and becoming the first top laner to perform a Pentakill in Champions. In a quieter performance, Kuro has also stepped up his game after a disappointing end to last season. He currently sits in first place when it comes to kills in the entire league. Smeb's making plays, their jungle tandem of Hojin and Wisdom are getting champions they're comfortable with, and Kuro is looking like he's taking the next step in his evolution as a mid laner.
They're still lagging behind a few teams in the standings, but KOO are getting back to the same form that rampaged through the first half of last split.
4. KT Rolster: 5-2 (11-6)
A bottom feeder last season, KT Rolster are 5-2 through seven matches and go into their final week of the first round-robin with key matches against SK Telecom T1 and NaJin e-mFire. Ssumday's gone from a benchwarmer and inexperienced rookie plucked from the amateur scene to the ace of the team in the top lane. With the top lane evolving into a state where it allows for a diversity of champions, Ssumday's been able to play countless champions this season to great success. He's already played Yasuo, Riven, Irelia, and Ryze in the top lane, so you'd have to expect that Ssumday's debut with Ekko isn't too far away.
5. Jin Air Green Wings: 5-2 (11-5)
It was a weird week for Jin Air. Their biggest criticism thus far was that they could beat the weakest teams in the league, but got outclassed when facing the higher echelon teams. This problem seemed to get an answer with their commanding 2-0 win over CJ to start off the week.
Jin Air now end their first half of the regular season with two difficult tests: first matching up against NaJin and then ending against the currently undefeated 7-0 SK Telecom T1. If they can get through the week with a positive map record, we'll know for sure that the Green Wings are the real deal.
6. CJ Entus: 4-3 (9-9)
It seemed inevitable, and it finally happened this week. After playing with fire for weeks on end, CJ Entus got burned with their lackadaisical style of playing Bo3s. Their normal lose-the-first-game, come-back-to-win-the-second, and then stomp-the-third-to-take-the-match didn't work against the likes of Jin Air and NaJin. They have now lost their past three matches to put their match record at 4-3. To make matters worse, due to their inability of sweeping the majority of their victories, their map record is an even 9-9, putting them on the outside looking in for one of the five playoff spots.
When you think CJ Entus are good, they're not. When you think they're awful, they prove that the veterans still have gas in the tank. Right now CJ Entus are looking to be fading out of the top five.
7. Anarchy: 2-6 (8-13)
We now enter the "Despair Four" of Champions. With the first half of the season coming to a close, we now have a pretty clear idea of which teams will have a chance to make noise when it comes to the playoffs. SBENU, Longzhu, Samsung, and our No. 7 team, Anarchy, don't look like they have any shot at the playoffs this deep into the season. Unless a miracle happens and two of the top teams have an epic meltdown to end the season — and really, that could be any squad not named SKT in the Top 6 — these four teams will be battling to not land in one of the two relegation spots.
Anarchy are a good, fun team to watch, and Mickey is in the thick of the regular season MVP race, but this will most likely be the end of Anarchy, relegation or not. If they can't find a sponsor, the team will be picked apart, their bottom lane probably going back to their lucrative online streaming, Lira and Ikksu signed to new teams, and everyone across the world trying to see where Mickey wants to play. There is still time to find a sponsor and end the season on a high note, and while this could be the only time we see Anarchy in Champions, they're putting on a good fight as an amateur team against the superpowers of Korean eSports.
8. Samsung Galaxy: 2-6 (7-12)
Samsung continue to be the team that can give the upper echelon teams a run for their money, but not coordinated or deep enough strategically to get the job done in a Bo3. Their playoff hopes were doused with their loss to Anarchy this past week, and they'll now look to the rest of the season to try and do their best to dodge one of the relegation spots they occupied last season. Cuuve and Eve are much improved from last season, and Crown is a gigantic upgrade to last split's mid tandem of Ace and Bliss in only his rookie season.
Galaxy's future is bright if they can keep their team members together heading into 2016. Samsung are unlikely to have a chance to defend their world title this Worlds, but a 2016 appearance isn't out of the question if their young players can continue their rapid development.
9. Longzhu IM: 2-5 (5-12)
The polar opposite of Samsung's hope, Incredible Miracle might be the winners of the team in the greatest amounts of despair this season. SBENU might be heading towards a historically bad season without a single match win, but this was their rookie season. They weren't expected to do well, and it was obvious they'd have trouble grabbing wins against teams who are simply better and more experienced.
Longzhu were supposed to be good. Their players looked strong on paper. They had a great mixture of young talent, experienced players, and a foundation of an organization that's been in League of Legends for almost four years. This was the season where Longzhu IM, with their shiny new sponsor, team name, and roster, would break out from the doldrums and enter the Korean scene as a contender.
None of that has happened. IgNar, their rookie, shows promise, and Frozen is still one an above average mid laner, but the rest of the team is flat. Tusin's move to the jungle hasn't worked in the slightest, and Apple's inconsistent as they come in the top lane. For the umpteenth season in a row, Incredible Miracle showed promise heading into a season and are probably going to end up as one of the worst teams in the league.
10. SBENU Sonicboom: 0-8 (1-16)
To make things short — SBENU are having a bad, terrible, ridiculously horrific season. Catch is 18/67/59 in only 17 games, and that doesn't even include all the smite battles he's lost to other junglers in the league. If he can keep up his amazingly bad pace, it might go down as one of the single worst performances in Champions history. And even worse for SBENU, unlike their other positions where they have a sub, Catch is the only jungler on the team.
Everything is going poorly for SBENU. They are getting beat up a lot. There is no hope. None of their players outside of occasionally Sasin and Nuclear look like they have futures in Champions.
And somehow they still took a game off Longzhu IM.
Good job, Incredible Miracle.
The All-Champions Team (Week 5)
Top: Ssumday (KT Rolster)
The ace of KT Rolster, Ssumday tied Faker this week at 700 MVP points after another dominating performance in Rolster's 2-0 victory over the hapless Sonicboom. 13/2/17 in that series, he now goes up against Faker in a battle of aces to see which of the two will have an edge in the MVP race going into the second half of the season.
Jungle: Hojin (KOO Tigers)
Hojin is splitting time with new KOO recruit Wisdom, and so far it's been good for both of them. The meta is getting safer for Hojin, the KOO jungler going 10/3/30 on the week and getting his team back into a playoff spot. Instead of one of KOO's junglers falling off to the pressure of having to compete for a spot, both players have stepped up their games to try and get the starting job.
Mid: Kuro (KOO Tigers)
The only word for Kuro's past week performance is monstrous. He isn't the flashy or playmaking solo carry like Faker is, but Kuro's strength comes with controlling his team and working with what his team sets up for him. Kuro didn't let anything get by him in week five, ending 33/7/38 in only four games of work.
AD Carry: Cpt Jack (Jin Air Green Wings)
Pilot appeared to be the new starting AD Carry for the Jin Air Green Wings, and then CptJack came back and said he wasn't done being a factor just yet. Jack's come back this season with a purpose, racking up kills, making huge plays for the Green Wings, and taking on more of an ace role when he is put in the lineup. In his two games this week against his former CJ Entus comrades, he went 13/4/16.
Support: Gorilla (KOO Tigers)
3/8/76 in four games for Gorilla in Week 5. He is the heart and soul of the team, always picking up new champions and being able to change the tune of the team with whatever champion he picks up. Even when KOO were in their hellish slump and were fading as one of the top teams in the league, Gorilla's been a solid pillar for the Tigers to lean on.
Match of the Week
NaJin e-mFire vs. CJ Entus
A team predicted to take on the world, and a team that was expected to get beaten down by the world. NaJin were a team coming into their series with CJ Entus wanting to make a statement, fighting back from their loss to Anarchy by taking four of their past five series. CJ were a team many thought would fail with their older roster that got bolstered with the Cinderhulk meta, but they kept on, fighting SK Telecom T1 to a climactic fifth map in the Spring semifinals that would have sent them to the Grand Finals against the GE (now KOO) Tigers.
CJ Entus got off to a good start unexpectedly, bucking their trend of dropping the first map in a Bo3 and winning instead. NaJin, a team that have wilted under pressure before, didn't fall against CJ, roaring back to take the next two games in impressive fashion to push them into a playoff spot. With the loss, CJ were sent outside of the playoffs, their map score from their constant 2-1 wins coming back to bite them.
Although CJ lost, it was the best they'd looked in weeks, and they played better than they did against some of the weakest teams in the league. NaJin are a legit contender for the title, and CJ Entus, like versus SKT, were able to give them trouble until the bitter end.
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.