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Flash Wolves vs. SKT MSI preview: 3 keys to an upset

After years of success against Korean opponents, Flash Wolves finally have a Best-of-5 against SKT!

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The 2017 Mid-Season Invitational continues Friday, with the first semifinal match between Flash Wolves and SK Telecom T1. While SKT will surely come into the match as heavy favorites, Flash Wolves shouldn’t be counted out quite yet. After all, they beat SKT once already this tournament and have done so more than a few times in the past. However, this will be the first time the two teams meet in a Best-of-5 series.

While it may seem easy to say that the series format will give SK Telecom T1 the advantage, Flash Wolves will certainly be looking to prove themselves in the series format.

So, here are three keys to Flash Wolves taking down SKT and advancing to the MSI Finals:

Don’t let Peanut play Lee Sin

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This may seem obvious. But if you take a closer look, there are a few keys to success against SKT in the draft phase that some teams haven’t quite figured out. The first is: under no circumstance should jungler Wang-ho “Peanut” Han be allowed to play Lee Sin.

There are a few reasons this is the case, but let’s start with the easy ones. First of all, he went 15/2/5 on Lee Sin against the GIGABYTE Marines. That fact alone should be reason enough for him to never play that champion again. If Flash Wolves need a little more convincing, how about his 11.0 KDA with champion overall, or the two games he went 9/1? The point is, Peanut is really good at Lee Sin, and that goes deeper than just the kills he racks up on the champion.

When Peanut gets to play Lee Sin, he has a level of comfort that he can’t quite seem to get on any other champion. He is sure of himself and his jungle route in a way that takes him from one of the best in the world to the undisputed king of the jungle.

In every Lee Sin game he has played at MSI, Peanut has taken over the game completely forcing the enemy team to submit completely to his play style allowing SKT to dominate the pace; the worst possible thing if the Flash Wolves are looking to make it out of this series.

Pick into an advantage

There are two other important things Flash Wolves did in the draft phase of their victory over SKT in the Mid-Season Invitational group stage that helped them win.

The first of these — other than Peanut not playing Lee Sin — is they picked a heavy advantage in one lane by allowing top laner Lihong “MMD” Yu to pick Fizz as a counter to Seung-hoon “Huni” Heo’s Rumble. This allowed for a solid early top gank that gave Flash Wolves first blood as well as an unanswerable split push as the two teams reached the mid-game.

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A solo lane counter has been something SKT has shown a bit of weakness to at this tournament. In their loss against second-place group stage finisher Team WE, Sang-hyeok “Faker” Lee fell victim to the Lucian mid, which proved a less-than-favorable matchup against his Orianna.

The focus on the solo lane will also help mask one of the Flash Wolves’ most glaring weaknesses against SKT: the bottom lane. Flash Wolves have to put Lu “Betty” Yuhung on utility AD Carries like Varus, Ashe or Jhin. The truth is, the Flash Wolves bottom lane doesn’t have a lot of hope of beating SKT in the 2v2. Instead they can use Betty’s strength on AD Carries with strong CC to create a solid pick composition that can leverage the advantages they pick into for their solo lanes.

Play with patience

None of these things will matter if Flash Wolves get overly aggressive and make mistakes, particularly early. SKT’s biggest advantage at MSI so far has been the, mostly, outstanding play of Peanut. The SKT jungler has some of the best ganks in the world and can punish lanes for even the slightest over-extensions. Flash Wolves should capitalize on that by giving Peanut no room to work with just as they did in their victory during the Group Stage.

With nowhere to gank, Peanut has to rely strictly on his jungle pathing and won’t be able to enter the mid-game with a significant lead. This should also help to minimize solo kills, while maximizing the advantages Hung “Karsa” Hau-Hsuan can create in whatever solo lane has the counter pick.

The final piece of the Flash Wolves’ victory puzzle will be how patient they can be in the mid-game. SK Telecom T1 has always been known for their lack of mistakes, but this roster isn’t quite flawless. In the Group Stage Flash Wolves were more than happy to keep gold even until around the 23rd minute when they were able to start creating picks and taking an advantage.

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Thanks to Ashe Arrows and Syndra stuns, Flash Wolves were able to catch SKT out of position constantly throughout the game despite never having a massive gold lead. Just about every member of SKT was guilty of a few positioning errors and Flash Wolves were able to catch them every time. Taking advantage of these small mistakes without overplaying them will likely be the most important thing Flash Wolves can do against SKT.

This is no easy task, however, as the Flash Wolves will have to maintain nearly perfect execution and positioning throughout the entire five game series to take advantage of SKT’s minor positioning mistakes.

But that shouldn’t surprise anyone. After all, perfect execution is always what it comes down to when you want to beat SK Telecom T1.