The second half of the summer season begins in both China and Korea this coming week. Korea features two headlining matchups, with SK Telecom T1 taking on both ROX Tigers and KT Rolster in the first week. Returning from their Demacia Cup appearances, Royal Never Give Up take on Snake in the first week of the second half of the LPL.
LCK: SK Telecom T1 vs. ROX Tigers
It seems almost sacrilege to give another rivalry the headlining spot over the famous "Telecom War" between SKT and KT that spans several esports titles. This is especially egregious since KT Rolster is currently in sole possession of first place with a 7-2 series record and 15-7 game record.
Yet, the closer rivalry of the past year and a half has been between the Tigers and SKT. The Tigers were the only team in the world to come anywhere close to taking out SKT last year, and were favored in the LCK Spring 2016 finals where the two teams met again, only to have SKT come out on top.
The first round robin meeting between these two teams featured inexplicably poor drafts from the Tigers, who deviated from their trademark early game aggression and ran scaling AOE compositions with Swain and Vladimir.
Of all teams in Korea, the Tigers still seem the most likely candidate to take out SKT as Korea's reigning champion. Hopefully, this series will feature stronger drafting from the Tigers, and another close matchup between Korea's top two teams of the past year. SKT has struggled as of late to create early jungle pressure with either Bae "bengi" Seong-woong or Kang "Blank" Sun-gu, making mid laner Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok's punishable by opponents. While Han "Peanut" Wang-ho hasn't been the same early game tour-de-force he was in spring, look for him to try to take advantage of SKT from the jungle.
LPL: Royal Never Give Up vs. Snake Esports
The other possible highlight match of the week is EDward Gaming vs. Team WE, but with EDG looking increasingly unstoppable and WE falling into something of a rut, RNG vs Snake is much more likely to entertain. Royal Never Give Up themselves are splintering more with a bottom lane focus and a lack of macro game execution, making them somewhat predictable, which might actually give Snake a chance here.
Snake, of course, struggle with their own predictability, but they've lately appeared more unified than Royal, especially around Lê "SofM" Quang Duy, who likes to ask questions second, invade first. The team's dependable ability to reinforce his attempts has gotten them more than their fair share of wins.
Since SofM joined Snake, many have wondered whether they could scratch EDward Gaming or Royal Never Give Up with Liu "MLXG" Shiyu and Ming "clearlove" Kai holding the positions of reigning prince and king of the LPL jungle. This is the first chance to take a look. With Snake's weaker bottom lane and SofM's preference for top and mid, RNG might be able to critically de-stabilize them without changing a thing.
Honorable Mention: SK Telecom T1 vs. KT Rolster
KT Rolster are in first place and SKT are struggling once more. This is the perfect time for KT to make another attempt at evening up an increasingly lopsided rivalry in favor of SKT. While KT's drafts are often used to cover up weaknesses on their team — primarily the lack of another carry outside of top laner Kim "Ssumday" Chan-ho — this meta is perfect for KT's specific brand of creativity.