With the LoL Champions Korea Summer 2016 standings in constant flux, and both newer LCK teams MVP and ESC Ever able to take series from top contenders, Week 8 was a pivotal week in the playoff race.
MVP’s winless week sent the Afreeca Freecs into the fifth place spot prior to Week 9, and while the ROX Tigers, SK Telecom T1, Samsung Galaxy and KT Rolster look like shoo-ins for first through fourth, the LCK gauntlet-style playoffs ensure that the fourth and fifth-place spots are as undesirable as possible. Last split, Samsung watched as the Afreeca Freecs snuck into playoffs, and they're determined to secure their spot for summer. Meanwhile, the Freecs, MVP, the Jin Air Green Wings and ESC Ever are all nipping at the heels of presumed LCK playoff challengers like KT Rolster and Samsung.
Accompanying the fight for a spot in summer playoffs is the graceless fall of the Jin Air Green Wings who are now on an unfortunate seven-series losing streak. Jin Air’s last win this split was their Week 4 upset of SKT. Their Week 5 loss to MVP kicked off this string of losses, which has accompanied their tumble from second to seventh — now only one series ahead of eighth-place ESC Ever.
Yet the star of this week’s League of Legends matches in Korea cast a shadow over all of these arguably more interesting narratives as only the most divisive character in League of Legends can.
Week 8 of LCK Summer 2016 belonged to Teemo: the Swift Scout.
Captain Teemo on Duty
LCK summer 2016’s first accidental Teemo pick came from CJ Entus’ AD carry Ha “Kkramer” Jong-hun in their second game against Longzhu Gaming on Thursday. Confusion followed, with a new draft that appeared similar to the first, but saw CJ Entus locking in the Viktor instead — which Longzhu had hovered over in the first draft after CJ locked in Teemo but before it was remade. The draft was again remade, this time with the Teemo firmly locked in for Park “Shy” Sang-myeon who had the unfortunate honor of taking the yordle to the Rift against Koo “Expession” Bon-taek’s Gnar. While this isn’t a particularly bad laning matchup on paper, Teemo’s inability to group and teamfight is a severe handicap outside of the occasional solo queue match.
“Although it looks like it was a mistake we played with the mentality of, ‘Let’s treat it like a pick that was specifically prepared by our opposition,’” Longzhu’s jungler Lee “Crash” Dong-woo said in his MVP broadcast interview. “I played with the mindset of ditching Expession.” Crash’s attention turned to Kim “Frozen” Tae-il in the mid lane — who did end up playing Viktor when all was said and done — and controlling early dragons. Unsurprisingly, Longzhu won the match, sweeping CJ 2-0.
CJ’s Viktor pick in the first remade draft caused community backlash against the team, who posted to their facebook page, apologizing for the Teemo pick again, but reiterating that they did not intend to steal Viktor away from Longzhu. The entire Champion Select video was subsequently released.
Korea’s second accidental Teemo was far less contentious by community standards, but it cost KT a possible three-point sweep over the Jin Air Green Wings — invaluable to their fight for a spot in the LCK Summer 2016 playoffs. Teemo was once again locked into a Gnar top lane matchup, this time by KT’s Song “Fly” Yong-jun. With KT’s penchant for pulling out weird champion picks, top laner Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho’s deep champion pool, and the recent accidental pick by CJ, KT’s Teemo pick was initially viewed as an intentional Gnar counter from Ssumday during Champion Select.
“We were supposed to take Tahm Kench, but there was a mistake while typing and Teemo was picked,” Ssumday told Inven after the match. “It’s an occasional mistake like back when people banned a lot of Annie but banned Anivia by mistake. I saw Shy playing Teemo yesterday and thought about what I would do if I was in that situation. What happened happened, so I tried to be as optimistic as I could in approaching the game instead of saying stuff about it to Fly.”
It’s a credit to both KT and Ssumday that they made the pick work as well as they did, attempting to set up a split push with Ssumday’s Teemo to make up for Teemo’s poor teamfighting and inherent squishiness. Additionally, Jin Air fans can take solace in the fact that, while their team may be struggling, they can still overcome an accidental Teemo pick for a game win.
“There is no limit to my champion pool,” Ssumday told Inven. “I think he’s a pretty decent pick if you use him well. Maybe he might be used strategically if the opportunity presents itself in the future?”
Teemo had a 100 percent win rate in Champions prior to this week thanks to Kang “Ambition” Chan-yong, who played the yordle in Azubu Blaze’s Group B set against GSG’s Lee “Easyhoon” Ji-hoon in Champions Winter 2012-13. After this week, Teemo’s Champions win rate has now dropped to 33 percent, despite Ssumday’s best efforts against Jin Air.
The Race for Playoffs
Moving past the accidental Teemo picks from CJ and KT, the LCK Summer 2016 playoff race continued to take shape this past week.
The big winners from LCK Summer 2016 Week 8 were the ROX Tigers, who swept both of their series against likely playoff contenders KT Rolster and Samsung Galaxy to take sole possession of first place. As always, their closest adversary in the standings is SKT, who only played one match this week against MVP for a 2-0 victory. KT missed their opportunity for a 2-0 sweep of the Jin Air Green Wings thanks to the aforementioned accidental Teemo, which makes them unlikely to wrest first or second place from either the Tigers or SKT. Fortunately for KT, it would take a spectacular losing streak combined with unlikely winning streaks for them to drop out of playoff contention completely. They currently sit in fourth place with an 8-5 series record and five total points, a full six points above both the Afreeca Freecs and MVP who sit in fifth and sixth place respectively.
It’s this fifth-place spot that’s comparatively up in the air — as opposed to places first through fourth — with the falling Jin Air Green Wings, plucky MVP and last split’s Cinderella of Afreeca all vying for the final playoff spot. Despite close losses, it’s difficult to see Jin Air pulling through due to their continued refusal to fight and no one player stepping up to push them past the obvious ceiling of their slow-paced style. Both MVP and Afreeca have higher highs and, more importantly, are willing to fight over objectives. MVP is especially interesting as they have all of the tools to make their own Freecs-like Cinderella run thanks to mid laner An "Ian" Jun-hyeong stepping up alongside Kim "Beyond" Kyu-seok's impressive jungle performances.
Series to Watch
ROX Tigers vs. KT Rolster
Don’t let the 2-0 fool you, this series was surprisingly close, and an interesting battle of meta picks. KT relied on Malzahar for Fly in both games, while the Tigers flexed Tahm Kench into the support and top lane for GorillA and Smeb respectively in both of their wins.
This series also marked the return of the aggressive Han “Peanut” Wang-ho in the jungle whose play has been somewhat muted when compared to last season. Along with the return of GorillA, who was also having a lackluster split thus far, Peanut’s increased proactivity shown against KT can only be a good thing for the Tigers moving forward.
Samsung Galaxy vs. ROX Tigers
This is another 2-0 for the Tigers, but shows off a Samsung willing to try out new things instead of wholly relying on the tried and true. While the Hecarim pick didn’t work out for Ambition in this series a bit of tweaking and improved communication is all Samsung needs for it to be successful in the future and speaks well of their continued growth as a team. In Game 2, Samsung made a crucial draft mistake, allowing Nidalee through for Peanut, who proceeded to put on an impressive 5/1/3 MVP performance.
The star of this series was GorillA who again had a strong set, this time on Taric. Considering his Taric play earlier on in the split, GorillA has come a long way and improved immensely on the champion — adding another anti-Vladimir weapon to the Tigers’ arsenal.
Jin Air Green Wings vs. KT Rolster (if you really want to see Teemo)
If you’re going to watch any of Teemo’s games from this past week, make it Ssumday’s impressive effort against the Jin Air Green Wings. Despite the accidental lock-in, KT almost plays well enough to make this pick appear somewhat legitimate.
Player of the Week
ROX Tigers’ Kang “GorillA” Beom-hyun
The Tigers got off to a relatively slow start to this split, with a loss to Samsung in Week 1, dropping a game to MVP in Week 2, and a dismal Week 3 performance against SKT where the team insisted on scaling AoE compositions around both Vladimir and Swain. While mid laner Lee “KurO” Seo-haeng was cited as a weakness due to his inability to play Azir, GorillA also was lackluster in the Tigers’ summer start, especially when compared to his decisive and phenomenal Alistar play in the previous split.
This past week saw the return of proactive, responsive GorillA who dazzled audiences with much-improved Taric play and showed off exactly why Tahm Kench is such a dangerous flex pick for the Tigers. The Tigers are first and foremost a team, but it’s always fantastic to see their individual players step up, and GorillA shone in both of the Tigers’ games this past week.
Thanks to @bnununu for his translation work, which can be found here.
Emily Rand is a staff writer for theScore esports. You can follow her on Twitter.