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ROX Tigers win first LCK title in incredible 5-game series

Smeb’s Baron steal clinched it for the Tigers.

Riot Games

After finishing with the best regular season record in three of the last four LCK splits, the ROX Tigers have finally won their first LCK title. Korea’s long-time bridesmaid took down KT Rolster in the LCK Finals Saturday, winning the series 3-2.

That one loss was the Tigers’ first loss in a game since July 9. The team had already clinched a spot at Worlds due to Championship Points, but now secure the region’s No. 1 spot at the tournament with the Summer title. The Tigers’ win also clinches a spot for SK Telecom T1, who becomes the first defending Worlds champion to qualify for the tournament the following year.

The Tigers are now 20-14 all-time against KT Rolster. Each team won all of their games on blue side, and both teams relied heavily on roaming champions, especially in the mid lane.

A stolen Baron in Game 5 by Smeb after Score’s smite brought it down to 2 hp was a crucial turning point for the ROX Tigers, clinching the victory and the title.

The Tigers strolled to a victory in Game 1, drafting an excellent composition that gave KT very little wiggle room. With Ashe’s Enchanted Crystal Arrow, Taliyah’s Weaver’s Wall and Seismic Shove and Trundle’s Pillar of Ice, the team had reliable ways to get picks (especially since the players playing them seemingly never missed a skillshot), and with Gangplank, Rek’Sai, Taliyah and Ashe, the global pressure was way too much for KT to deal with.

Things were made worse by the fact that Smeb, playing Gangplank, solo-killed Ssumday, playing Ekko, at six minutes. That was the one lane matchup KT Rolster had a push advantage in, and losing it early allowed ROX Tigers to assert itself around the map and take the easy win. The game finished 18-3 in 28 minutes, with an excellent 4/1/12 MVP performance from Kuro’s Taliyah.

Game 2 was a different story. The teams switched sides, and the pick and ban strategies changed as a result. Game 1 picks Gangplank and Aurelion Sol were both banned, which allowed KT Rolster to pick Gragas and the ROX Tigers to pick Jhin. KT also picked away Kuro’s successful Taliyah.

With Gragas and Taliyah, KT was in a much better position to dictate fights in this game. At the beginning, it looked like it might be a battle of Fly’s Taliyah vs. PraY’s Jhin — both had five kills by 20 minutes and were doing a boatload of damage. But Ssumday’s Ekko was able to jump on Jhin and stop him in team fights, while Taliyah brought Cleanse and was able to get out of lockdown situations. Couple that with an Ezreal pick for Arrow instead of a more conventional Sivir or Ashe, and KT had a team that was much more difficult for ROX to catch.

It was an excellent game for Score, who helped set the pace of the game for KT Rolster and dominated the objective game. KT took all three dragons in the game and all nine towers, and Score finished the game 0/1/16 in the 22-10, 39-minute win. Fly finished 8/1/10 for another excellent Taliyah game in this series.

Game 3 was back to form for ROX Tigers despite some early game errors in execution. Taliyah and Jhin were banned in this one, and ROX picked favorable laning matchups (Rumble, Malzahar, Sivir) against KT Rolster’s late-game scaling (Gangplank, Vladimir, Ezreal). ROX knew it had to snowball the early game to survive late, and while the CC chains weren’t always on point, the combination of Rumble, Malzahar and Alistar provided consistent target lockdown and area-of-effect damage in skirmishes.

This time, it was KT Rolster who ended the game without any turrets taken. While Ssumday had a nice outplay in the top lane for First Blood and Fly picked up a few kills, a dominant performance from Kuro (5/0/10 on Malzahar) led to a 16-6, 33 minute win.

Game 4 was another impressive showing by KT Rolster, although the Tigers did make it interesting towards the end. Arrow picked up five early kills on Sivir as KT was able to roam around the map and press its advantage with Rek’Sai, Ekko, Lissandra and Bard.

Down 14-5 at 27 minutes, the Tigers won a surprise 4-0 team fight and used that brief advantage to take Baron. But KT cleaned up with four kills, and a triple kill for Arrow in the Tigers’ base sealed it. KT won the game 26-12 in 37 minutes, with a final scoreline of 11/1/9 for Arrow’s Sivir.

Game 5 was a perfect end to the fantastic series, with a back-and-forth game that saw both teams hold the title within their grasp. KT started the game with First Blood for Fly’s Aurelion Sol, and won a number of favorable trades to stay in the game against ROX’s strong scaling composition.

But Smeb’s Baron steal, where he took the objective with two health left with Gangplank’s ultimate, turned the game on its head, allowing the Tigers to siege KT’s base and build up the game’s first significant advantage. The Tigers finished the game out 13-11 in 41 minutes, winning it all.