The 2016-17 offseason was a busy time for Korean League of Legends teams, with a flurry of roster moves. The team with the most offseason attention was KT Rolster, runners-up in 2016 LCK Summer who just barely missed out on Worlds.
KT signed four superstars to fill out its roster, bringing in Smeb from ROX Tigers and former LCK stars PawN, Deft and Mata back from China. But KT wasn’t the only contender with big signings: SKT brought in young stars Huni and Peanut to bolster its world championship lineup, and six of the ten teams have at least two new starters (with three boasting entirely new starting fives).
Below, my take on the pecking order in the LCK before the games start Tuesday. For an alternative view, check out Austen Goslin’s power rankings.
- SK Telecom T1
Lineup (bolded are new): Huni, Peanut, Faker, Bang, Wolf
Look, I know the LCK has undergone a lot of roster changes, and I certainly know about KT Rolster’s new star-studded roster, but you’re not going to find me betting against SKT -- certainly not while Faker is on the roster. This roster may take a little bit of time to get its groove together with promising newcomers in the top lane and at jungler, but I trust SKT to come through by the end of the season.
2. KT Rolster
Lineup (bolded are new): Smeb, Score, PawN, Deft, Mata
It’s not possible to accurately describe just how good this roster looks like on paper, so I won’t even try. I will say that even with my faith in SKT, putting this team at number two in anything feels disrespectful.
3. Samsung Galaxy
Lineup (bolded are new): CuVee, Ambition, Crown, Ruler, CoreJJ
Samsung gets to enter this season flying under the radar even after returning the starting lineup that finished as Worlds runners-up just a few months ago.
4. Afreeca Freecs
Lineup (bolded are new): Marin, Spirit, Kuro, Kramer, TusiN
Looking at each of the individual pieces, I really, really like this roster. Bringing MaRin back automatically changes the equation in the top lane, Spirit had an excellent year with Fnatic in Europe, and you bring in Kuro after a strong stint with the ROX Tigers. However, it’s unclear how all these different parts will actually function together, and I think there’s a clear separation between the top three teams and everybody else.
5. Longzhu Gaming
Lineup (bolded are new): Expression, Crash, BDD, PraY, GorillA
This looks like a much more capable version of Longzhu than last year’s, with an exciting mid lane prospect in Bdd and a proven bottom lane combination in PraY and GorillA.
6. ROX Tigers
Lineup (bolded are new): Shy, SeongHwan, Micky, Sangyoon, Key
Hey, it’s basically Afreeca 2.0! Mark down ROX as the team most likely to beat SKT, then.
7. Kongdoo Monster
Lineup (bolded are new): Roach, Punch, Edge SSol, GuGer
Kongdoo had a decent offseason, winning promotion back to the LCK, finishing second (to the ROX Tigers) in the KeSPA Cup and finishing second at IEM Gyeonggi. I expect this team to finish outside of the relegation zone.
Lineup (bolded are new): ADD, Beyond, Ian, MaHa, Max
I usually have more faith in teams that have kept their lineups together because of how valuable team synergy is, but the LCK has just gotten so much better over the past few months. I see MVP as a step ahead of the bottom two teams, but not much more than that.
9-10. bbq Olivers, Jin Air Green Wings
bbq Olivers lineup (bolded are new): Crazy, Bless, Tempt, Ghost, Totoro
Jin Air lineup (bolded are new): SoHwan, Umti, Kuzan, Teddy, Snowflower
I don’t have much faith in either of these teams, so they get grouped together down here. However, I have a lot of faith in the new bbq Olivers logo (formerly known as ESC Ever), so that’s why that’s there.