This article originally written by and used with permission of Alex “RoiDzZ” Rymill.
2017 has not even begun and already we are looking at one of the most exciting pre-season transfer windows to date which, I believe, already has the League of Legends community sitting at the edge of their seats. Korea and the LCK have been the major trendsetters in the League of Legends community, ever since SKT T1 first won the World Championship back in Season 3. Since then, the metagame picks and play styles have basically all originated from the LCK.
Looking for the present, at the moment there is a large migration of Korean players to other regions, as well as a lot of organisations completely dropping their 2016 rosters. Organisations such as CJ Entus, LongZhu Gaming, Afreeca Freecs had all released many players, not to mention that many of the once top teams in Korea have also lost the majority of their rosters. Teams such as the ROX Tigers, KT Rolster and Jhin Air Greenwings look to start the 2017 season having lost a majority of their starting line-ups. One can not pinpoint the exact reason as to this influx of player movement but I believe there are a few contributing factors and one of the biggest has to be SKT’s dominance on the world stage.
From the viewpoint of the Korean players, I am sure it is very frustrating for many of the big names, such as The ROX Tigers, KT Rolster and CJ Entus – who have all been close competitors and really massive names in the Korean League of Legends scene – to do well in many seasons and then to fall to SKT at Worlds. Teams such as LongZhu gaming and Afreeca Freecs spent large quantities of money buying new talent in the 2016 season only for them to lose to an SKT that, it could be said, had a relatively weak lineup and preparation compared to previous years. This might be the reason behind the organisation dropping entire rosters, maybe in the hopes that, with so many free players currently in the market, entire new rosters can be drafted with all new possibilities
Another big reason might be the return of star players from the great Samsung White and Blue era, an era where SKT did not even qualify for worlds. The return of arguably three of the best players to have ever played in Korea: PawN, DanDy and Mata. Along with PawN comes Deft, the former Samsung Blue ADC and teammate to PawN China’s LPL champions EDG. As things stand, it is looking like this could be the return of a truly terrifying team.
The Impact of the Korean Environment
Something that has always interested me is the amazing impact leaving Korea has on top tier players. This for me was most noticeable when looking at the performance of the former Samsung White 2014 players. During the 2014 world championships, we saw one of the most outstanding Worlds performances I think we will ever see with SSW losing only two games, one of which was marked down as a game lost due to a “troll” pick in the mid lane. All of the players struggled against many of the players they dominated against previously and I have simply put this down to the fact that Korean Solo queue is the strongest in the world and the seriousness of the environment there is a major contributing factor to the skill of the players. The super competitive environment and demands from the ORG’s plays a massive role on the players and this, to me, is the major reason why Faker has remained the best player in the world and has refused to leave Korea. Now, with that in mind, let’s think about all the changes to the rosters and the return of all the Korean players, with the focus on the two main Worlds contenders.
KT are the most exciting organization for me to talk about as, with the departure of Hachani, Fly, Ssumday, and Arrow, the roster has been left with only Score who, to me, is arguably the most consistent jungler in the whole of LCK (although there are arguments that Peanut is the best if I look at stats). Score has basically played the exact same role in KT, with somewhat weaker players, and yet never really has a bad game, however, Peanuts flamboyant style has sometimes lead to some very weak performances from him this season. Score has basically been the driving force behind the majority of KT’s wins this season and they obviously have a lot of faith in him.
KT then picked up Smeb and PawN: Smeb who was rated the best player in the world this season seems to be a really good fit as he is basically a better version of KT’s old top laner, Ssumday, so he should be the perfect matchup for Score. PawN who, although plagued with health problems, has been on of the best mid laners in the world and, since his performance on the Worlds stage, should have no trouble matching up to other Korean mid laners however it could be said it might be difficult for Score to adapt to a more demanding mid laner as Fly, the previous mid laner for KT, was not the strongest in his role and didn’t demand a lot of resources. Then again, at the same time, PawN is a very good pressure mid laner so if there is jungle-mid synergy the combination could be deadly. Lastly, we have to look at the new bot lane for KT. While in the process of writing this article it has been announced that the KT organisation has now picked up the former EDG ADC Deft but have not yet announced the new support.
Deft is one of the most successful ADC’s to leave Korea, winning many titles which one of which being MSI (which was the only Best-of-5 final SKT has ever lost). As for who the support will be there seems to be only one real choice: Mata. With is gaming winning performance over ROX Tigers in Royal Never Give Up’s only win at worlds, and a crushing performance against TSM, one could only hope the KT organisation have their sights set strongly on the former world champion. With this star-studded roster, and the KT name at stake, it is already hard to think it could get better but, with the likes of Mata and Madlife still out there, it certainly looks like the KT roster is going to be a serious force to be reckoned with.SKT have dominated the World Championship, winning every single Worlds they have entered and not only being the first team to win Worlds three times but also managing to win two of those years consecutively, and they did this with a very lacklustre line-up. With Blank being a very hot and cold jungler (often being called the poor man’s Peanut) and Bengi announcing his retirement, SKT is sure to look for a top tier jungler and, who else would they get other than the man of the moment himself, Peanut. Peanut, in my opinion, has become one of the best jungler since his movement to ROX and not only in Korea but also the world. Unfortunately, the amazing Smeb-Peanut duo will no longer be a thing but now we have the possibility of the Faker-Peanut due, and that gets me super excited. Not to mention the fact that there is still the possibility of a top laner like Ssumday who could potentially move to SKT, which would match the top-centric play that Peanut already has, however, knowing SKT they may look for an all new talent from KR solo-queue like they have done before. There are also a large number of options out there with players like Trance, expression and isksuu being without confirmed teams so SKT still has a lot of options. As for the SKT fans, they have to keep faith in their organisation as this may be the most daunting year SKT have to face.
As for the remaining free agents, there are still a lot of unanswered questions when it comes to who will end up where with a tonne for really good players (Gorilla, Pray, Hachani, Coco, Mickey and many more) still unsigned and available. The most relevant names for me would be Mata and Dandy, one of which was considered the best player to have ever played league of legends (Season 3 Mata) and who was the brain of the legendary Samsung White of 2014. The DanDy of Season 3, aptly named the “Prince of Thieves”, at the height of career had only one other rival in Kakao – a huge achievement in itself. Wherever these two players end up I’m sure the teams will be super competitive.
In the end, whatever the organisations decide, 2017 is looking to be a massive year for League of Legends and we are all super excited to see what the final rosters when they are locked in.
For more insight on the local and professional scene, and to follow RoiDzZ’s seasonal rank climb, be sure to tune into his Twitch.TV stream: