While I watched fewer League of Legends Championship Korea games this season than any others, T1 consistently kept my attention throughout spring 2022 thanks to the historical accomplishment of an undefeated split.
What really stands out, though, is when I watch T1, I see the traces of legendary teams of past seasons. Much like All Might’s “One For All” quirk in the famous shonen manga “My Hero Academia,” the current T1 roster utilizes all the strengths of the LCK teams who came before them to defeat their opponents.
SK Telecom T1 (2014-2015)
It is natural that the spring 2022 T1 roster learned much from the successes of their forefathers. After all, Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok has been playing under the T1 banner since 2012.
Additionally, much of what defines a super team was solidified by season 5 SKT. Their core strength rested on the immense individual strength of their laners. Jang “MaRin” Gyeong-hwan, Bae “Bang” Joon-shik, Lee “Wolf” Jae-hwan and Faker were all phenomenal players who defied traditional counter-matchups to provide lane priority for Bae “Bengi” Sung-woong.
SKT utilized their lane priorities to gain complete vision control over the river while clearing any enemy wards placed on their side of the map. After this set-up, the notorious cobra-twist began. The top and bot lanes of SKT could then take aggressive trades since the enemy team couldn’t reliably locate Bengi. With superior individual skill, the SKT laners would often come out victorious in these trades and use it to force opposing laners to reset or cede control over neutral objectives.
This simple, yet terrifying strategy put the enemy jungler in a Catch 22-esque situation. By doing nothing, their laners would slowly lose the game. However, rashly attempting to gank with no knowledge of Bengi’s location would create the chance to ruin the game on the spot. Eventually, these small deficits would accumulate to the point where SKT reached an insurmountable lead.
One can see something very similar happening almost eight years later through T1’s early game. Lee “Gumayusi” Min-hyung and Ryu “Keria” Min-seok have already established themselves as the best bot lane duo in the LCK, but Choi “Zeus” Woo-je has also seen consistent improvement throughout the season in his laning phase.
This strength is visible during moments like the seven and a half minute mark in T1’s first spring 2022 game against DRX. At 7:28, Faker’s ward on the enemy Raptor camp spots Hong “Pyosik” Chang-hyeon moving to the bottom side of the map. DRX, however, do not get the same luxury of spotting Moon “Oner” Hyeon-joon, who sets up an ambush in the bot lane.
DRX’s bot lane beings to walk into the lane thanks to Keria’s prior mind game of immediately running up the river after T1’s bot lane has established priority. With the game time nearing the Rift Herald spawn, DRX’s bot lane likely assumed Keria was roaming to the top side to help secure the objective. But knowing Pyosik’s location, T1 jumped on the DRX bot lane and forced Cho “Beryl” Gun-hee to burn his flash and reset.
Damwon Gaming (2019-2020)
With Beryl being forced to reset after the gank, Keria recognized that Beryl could easily run to the top side to secure control around the Rift Herald. And since Beryl could get there first in every possible situation, Keria understood he had to make a play in the bot lane as a response.
The moment he unlocked Depth Charge, Keria successfully killed Kim “Deft” Hyuk-gyu. Of course, the play was suboptimal with Keria dying under the tower. In an ideal situation, Oner would have also understood that Rift Herald would go to DRX and stay a little longer to finish the job. Regardless of the result, these attempts imply the ability for members of the T1 spring 2022 roster to bend the game state to an advantageous situation.
That ability is reminiscent of Damwon Gaming. The 2019-2020 roster had many remarkable traits, but one of the most memorable was their shrewd understanding of the Rift Herald sequences. They simultaneously understood the Rift Herald’s value and that it was possible to punish teams that overinvested players on one side of the map to secure the objective.
So, by slow stacking the bot wave and threatening a dive, Damwon denied gold and experience from the enemy bot laner, who was forced to retreat while their lane partner helped across the map. The resulting deficit was often so severe that the gold earned through Rift Herald was not enough to shore up the losses.
Samsung Galaxy (2016-2017)
The LCK’s dominance across the League of Legends world has resulted in many teams incorporating core tactics of the region into their repertoire. One of LCK’s historical tactics that falls into this category revolves around utilizing side lane priorities to create a numbers advantage in the mid lane.
While many teams became proficient at it, no one mastered the skill like Samsung Galaxy. With neither of their side laners preferring powerful split pushers, SSG instead entirely focused on putting themselves in situations where they could excel in teamfights.
In order to accomplish this, SSG mastered the craft of 1-4-0 or 0-4-1 deployment. By temporarily abandoning one side lane, SSG used their numbers advantage to earn mid lane priority, which allowed the other side laner to push their lane in completely without the threat of being collapsed on.
Afterward, the freed side laner would join the rest of the team in the mid lane to get priority once more. And that moment was the critical time for this deployment, since any type of fight in the mid lane would often result in Samsung’s victory. If the enemy team didn’t provide the window of initiation, then Samsung would send the side laner that grouped in the first phase to the abandoned lane to pick up the farm.
In the same example game, this exact strategy is employed by T1 around 17:35 when Faker groups with the rest of the T1 roster instead of heading to the top side to answer DRX’s push.
With Zeus picking up the bot wave and making the lane neutral, T1 immediately heads to the mid lane and looks to engage in a fight. With Hwang “Kingen” Seong-hoon still seen in the top lane, Keria expends Flash to engage onto the DRX members. With Beryl and Pyosik killed, DRX has to watch Faker return to the top lane and pick up most of the minions while T1 puts most of the map under their control.
In many ways, this spring 2022 game between T1 and DRX was like watching the history of LCK unfold. T1 utilize many past innovations while pushing the formula forward through immaculate mind games and mechanical prowess. With China’s League of Legends Pro League possessing formidable teams like Victory Five, the clash between the eastern titans will surely be a sight to behold in the upcoming Mid Season Invitational.
About the Author
League of Legends and Overwatch coach and tactician. I will never stop talking about movies and literature.