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What you need to know to watch the LCK playoffs

If you’ve been out of the loop all split, it’s time to catch up.

The LCK 2017 Summer Split just ended last week and the final results weren’t much of a surprise. At least, not to those that had been watching for the whole split. If you haven’t watched a Korean team play League of Legends since the Mid-Season Invitational, and the first name on your mind when you think of LCK mid laners is Faker, you have a lot of catching up to do.

The good news is all that catching up will pay off, since we are about to head into the most interesting and exciting LCK playoffs ever.

Longzhu are the best team in the world

I know, it’s still a little surprising to see, but the best team in the world, and certainly in Korea, is Longzhu Gaming. Though we won’t see them for a few weeks due to a bye to the finals from a first-place regular season finish, Longzhu will be an ever-present force in these playoffs. With every strong performance by another team, expect the casters to relate it back to Longzhu and for the overarching question to remain whether or not any team can match up to them.

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So, how exactly did Longzhu get so good? The answer is all about their mid laner, 18-year-old Kwak “Bdd” Bo-seong, who is the best player in the world, by a long shot.

Don’t believe me? Let’s take a quick look at some of his stats from the Summer Split. Across 44 games, he has a KDA of 11, which is four points higher than the next closest person. Bo-seong averages just one death a game and still manages to have a 70 percent kill participation for the split as a whole.

Numbers like this are almost unbelievable, particularly when playing in the best mid lane region in the world. But the strengths of Bo-seong go way beyond just the numbers. So far, he has dominated almost every lane he has played and has better team fight vision and awareness than anyone in the LCK. With a player like that lining up alongside the legendary former ROX Tiger’s bottom lane of Kim “Pray” Jong-in and Kang “Gorilla” Beom-hyeon, the success of Longzhu should start to make a little more sense.

The LCK meta isn’t the same as the rest of the world

Korea never did the whole “tank thing” this summer. While the rest of the world was trying to figure out how to get past Cinderhulk junglers and around Cho’Gath tops, the LCK countered them before they could even pop up, shifting in Patch 7.13 towards a split push meta that looked towards champions like Jax, Gnar and Jayce as the answer to the tanks. This forced other teams to either counter with damage that could stop the split push or champions that could farm safely against the high harass of their opponents, leading to champions like Rumble, Shen and Jarvan gaining popularity as well. that’s not to say that the LCK doesn’t have anything to do with tanks, just that there is a little more aggression going on there than in other leagues around the world at the moment.

Another significant difference is the way that the league’s best teams have been handling vision over the past couple of patches. The LCK is working off of something that closely resembles the Samsung Galaxy White season 4 vision strategy. Instead of the North American strategy, which is something like warding as much of the map as they can so they know where the enemy is, LCK teams place vision wards in a high concentration around a set of two nearby objectives, or one particular quadrant of the jungle. Next, they eliminate all enemy vision in the area, then use a single control ward to keep track of Baron.

This eliminates superfluous wards, since it still allows them to know as much as they need to about enemy positions, while maximizing the possible information in areas that they decide to teamfight. The warding style requires incredibly efficient management of resources, but can lead to the team with a lead preventing the opposing team from even attempting fights, or trying to protect their own towers outside of base.

SK Telecom T1 aren’t quite the team you remember

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Remember just a few short months ago when SK Telecom T1 was stomping through the Mid-Season Invitational and we once again assumed that they had created an unstoppable super roster? Well, that seems like a lifetime ago now. There isn’t a lot to understand here other than to give context for why the casters are going to seem down on SKT in most of the games they play.

While they may have succeeded last week in keeping kt Rolster out of first place, SKT didn’t look good doing it and it certainly wasn’t a return to form for the world champions. Since the Rift Rivals break back in July, SK Telecom have simply looked behind, like they couldn’t quite compete or keep up with the top teams in the league anymore. They got into habits of taking bad fights in the early game and never managing to regain their place in the game, simply losing to the enemy team’s sieges without putting up much of a fight.

None of this is to say that SKT won’t come out in playoffs ready to win and looking like the old SK Telecom. It’s been four years since the team has struggled like this, but it would be irresponsible to count out the world champions so early, especially with some of the most talented players in the world on the team. But if they don’t manage to turn their performance around, they might not even make it to worlds to defend their crown.

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