There are three weeks left in both the LPL and LCK regular season, as Korean and Chinese teams look to make their final pushes for a playoff berth. This week features heated matchups between teams in both regions looking to clinch coveted playoff berths.
LCK: Samsung Galaxy vs. SK Telecom T1
Last split saw Samsung Galaxy outdone by a last-minute surge from the Afreeca Freecs as they missed a playoff berth by a narrow margin. Returning to LoL Champions Korea with newly-acquired AD carry Park "Ruler" Jae-hyuk, Samsung initially took LCK Summer 2016 by storm, sweeping their first three series against the ROX Tigers, Afreeca Freecs, and MVP.
Then Samsung met SK Telecom T1. In a clash between two undefeated teams, SKT managed to dispatch Samsung 2-0 with relative ease.
Since then, Samsung weathered a rough patch while experimenting with AD carry-turned-support Jo "CoreJJ" Yong-in, which fractured the team's synergy. They've returned to starting Kwon "Wraith" Ji-min exclusively, which has elevated Samsung's overall team play and coordination — especially evident in jungler Kang "Ambition" Chan-yong's decision-making from the jungle. Ambition and Wraith are a formidable pair and could cause problems for SKT's jungle-support duo, regardless of whether SKT decides to start veteran Bae "bengi" Seong-woong or Kang "Blank" Sun-gu.
Despite their recent loss to the Tigers last week, Samsung are still a strong team, and one that SKT won't take lightly as they're looking to clinch their own playoff spot. Mid laner Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok has been on a tear lately, and although I spent most of this section talking about Samsung, make no mistake that SKT is the favored team in this one.
LPL: Royal Never Give Up vs. Team WE
The bigger they are, the harder they fall. Both Royal Never Give Up and Team WE have performed to a lower level than expectations have dictated. Royal Never Give Up fixated on a predictable bottom lane formula, and have only recently started to branch out. While comical at times, Jian "Uzi" Zihao's Ashe play represents a new Royal, but a new Royal might take too long to develop.
Team WE support Yoon "Zero" Kyungsup has increasingly seemed like less of a factor as WE meander through slow games. A team that was innovative and cautious around the map at the start of the split now stagnates and goes back to their Baron control crutch. Xiang "Condi" Renjie has less-than-perfect jungle control, and his smites aren't what they used to be, but he has been performing incredibly well in team fights.
The last time Royal and WE played against one another, Royal swept WE 3-0 in Demacia Cup's quarterfinals. This disappointing result undermines their last 2-1 regular season encounter and the 3-2 series that Royal barely snuck away with in the spring playoffs. A regular season rematch could end in another sweep, or WE could shake off their sluggishness and give us a show.
Honorable Mention: KT Rolster vs. MVP
Like the Tigers, SKT, and Samsung, KT Rolster have bounced between first and fourth over the past few weeks, thanks to a tight first place race along with a surprising three-series loss streak prior to their 2-1 victory over the Jin Air Green Wings last week. Both the Afreeca Freecs and MVP could be eyeing the final two playoff spots, and KT will be looking to knock MVP out as an adversary, already the winner of their first series this split — a heartbreaking Week 1 loss for MVP.
MVP are looking for their own way into playoffs, setting their sights on the Freecs, who currently hold fifth place. With Samsung and the Tigers looming in Weeks 10 and 11, this is a match that MVP needs to take.