(talks about his camera being f'ed, "It's not you, its me, you don't have blue tinted vision" etc.) So…the question I get the most is "What were the biggest takeaways you got from these games from SKT?" So this series can be interpreted in a variety of ways, and unless you're the coach or a player in the SKT camp, it's hard to pin down the exact thought process behind the way they conducted their game plan. If I had to summarize what my interpretation of what they did was, is "diversifying and experimenting as widely as possible" from their world championship run.
They're trying this, that in terms of playstyle and widening their champion pools, seeing what sticks. That's the theme of their run so far in my eyes. And if you're going to try things out, a trial run is really only possible up to the Spylce series. This is speaking realistically here…you can only really do "trial runs" against Splyce. I'm not trying to flame Splyce here, but Splyce had their fair share of struggles through the group stage and they had shown a lot of their strengths already. In light of these factors, realistically speaking, its difficult to do a "trial run" against any other team. I think that at the very least, SKT felt they had enough breathing room against Splyce to do some trial runs of various strats. This is my personal take.
Of course, SKT could have done their absolute best. But I think that if SKT were in a, "explosive necklaces around the neck" situation, backs against the wall, I think they would have run a more…pre-planned and oppressive composition.
So reviewing games 1 through 4…the biggest factors that stood out to me were…In all positions…top, mid, jungle and bot..in soccer terms? I'm actually not that familiar with soccer but it felt like a full pressure comp. I'm actually so unfamiliar with soccer so I'm going to stop with any attempt at drawing analogies right here. (laughs)
So, they tried to be much more aggressive overall, but I think this will be easier to illustrate through the draft. If they could, they wanted to blow through this series with a blitz style 3-0 employing an all-out aggressive style. But, I think not everything worked out as they hoped as I will show through the draft, and not everything worked out as they wanted or planned. That being said, I think they were, as stated earlier, going into this series with a "lets do a trial run of this strat" mentality, and they got the data they wanted out of this series, seeing what doesn't work and what does.
And if I were to take the general response from the results of the above approach, in a piecemeal fashion, I think some of the most frequent responses were as follows;
"Why are they SO good?" and "Khan has to do much better on the int'l stage" or "He IS doing much better" and "Faker is under-performing isnt he?" also there was, "Did they HAVE to use Draven?"
I think I'll address these "loudest" and most frequent responses. First of all, I agree with the general sentiment that Khan is doing well. I think Khan and TheShy are the two Tops performing at the very best level at this tournament. You know in "The Romance of the Three Kingdoms" game, you would consider a 80-80 stat line to be considered "good" but in their case, you'd give them a 98-97 stat line. They're the closest to "perfect" as you'd expect.
They're playing smart as well as carrying hard as well. If I were to draw an analogy to Chinese history, I think they're alike to Han Shin, the kind of general that is all-around the "perfect" general. Of course people might think differently of course, but I think they've had a great showing thus far.
Simply put, they've outdone themselves. I mean, I agree that when Khan first played on the int'l stage, he did not live up to expectations. There's been a variety of int'l tournaments, and if you take those performances against his domestic performance, in the latter he's shown off a lot of masterful plays and carried quite a bit, but when it came to the former he seemed to be contained, or just not able to fully play to his potential. But at this worlds he's been performing quite well. So why? Well I think he's just overcome himself, he's put in the effort and I'm sure even within the team there must have been some kind of training put in place to make sure he's able to overcome whatever hurdle he had to overcome.
And honestly? Maybe there really isn't a point to dragging this out too much. Based on SKT's win over Splyce, I could talk about "How amazing SKT is", and "What they did well" and so forth but it would be…not very meaningful. I'm not flaming Splyce again, I have to stress this, but what happened isn't like SKT has caught any big fish as of yet, to be frank. A lot of people will want some better, more valid results, like winning against a G2 or IG but this isn't that, not yet. But so far, they've performed well. It's fine. We'll see.
"Faker under performing? Is there a reason?" I don't know anything about whether he's sick or if there's a physical reason. I know nothing about anything like that. What I do watch is player expressions, this is something I've come to do more and more over time. Even during games I watch player expressions. And at the very least, Faker's expression at the end of the games was one of dissatisfaction. This is my personal theory but Faker is the kind of player who is very good at objectively judging his own performance. He is very good at evaluating himself; what he's doing wrong and what he's doing well. For example, when Faker super-carries, it comes out in his EXPRESSION. He has this "I AM SATISFIED" written on his face. He knows he did well. A lot of people say this trait is actually adorable. I just think that's a very innocent side of his. But all that said, I agree he WAS not on his best form. Whether it was a physical thing or w/e his expression wasn't that bright at the end. But in the end, it really doesn't matter for now because they WON. One funny thing Coach Kim (kkoma) said, that left an impression, was this…I'm going to paraphrase here…and I have to say that every time I talk to the man I feel like there's a lot to learn from him. Like..kkoma, in official videos or publicity videos he can seem very..funny or comedic but in reality he's a very SERIOUS person. He's actually very serious and about his business. As I've talked with him over the years, I've felt, "Wow this guy is pretty cool."
In a recent interview he's said, "You just have to be better than the opposition." It's a RELATIVE test. If they scored 90, you just have to score 91. If they scored 99, you just have to score 100. If they scored 80, you just have to score 81. Regardless of form or performance on the day of or what have you, you just have to WIN. If you WIN you go on to the next, NEW stage and it's a completely different game. It's not like…if you outperform the other team by a huge margin, they give you an extra win or anything. I mean, to a larger extent, if you're considering fame or reputation or your image then winning in that fashion pleases the fans and so forth but besides that. Obviously, your fans would like, if you're going to win anyway, that you win by a huge margin. So for the people watching, and for me, one might get the idea, "Wow, this wasn't as CRUSHING a win" as one might naturally assume. "Hmm, this might not bode well for their Semis" might be the thought on a lot of people's minds. But I think that we have to consider that this series is a little "special" in that they're throwing things at the wall to see what sticks, and that there MAY have been some under-performing going on, but I think that on the other hand, some players performed above their expectations as well. I think SKT would prefer to have these kinds of problems to work on at this stage of their run than any other.
Like in Khan's case, he carried insanely hard. It's a +/- . In LoL history, when he was unofficially 1v5ing as Quinn, and he killed their ADC and Mid? That is a historic feat. You know I've been deeply embedded in LoL history, having played and been a part of LoL esports history for about a decade..if you look at the 10 year history of LoL esports, no matter how conservatively you gauge historic carry performances, this should figure into the top 10 carry performances of all time. Sure, there may have been some performances that are seem more impactful, if you search real hard like there are examples of some guy running into 5 guys and killing 3 people, especially in other regions, but what I'm talking about is that this is on the Worlds stage, at QFs, with the world's best teams, and that is why I give extra points to this particular feat.
What he pulled off is really cool. So that about wraps it up for my interpretation of Faker's performance. I think Faker will prove to be the core of SKT's win over G2 if they win. I just believe he will do well. I think that's the right move too.
I believe in Faker's passive. The bigger the tournament, the better he performs. The more important it is for him to perform, he performs beyond all mortal ken.
And besides, it's important but also really hard to keep your condition in check, for anyone really. And in that regard, if that is the issue, SKT is second to none. They'll sort it out.
On to the Draven pick. (thanks his donors). Why Draven-Thresh? So as I mentioned before, this is a good draft for pressuring and being aggressive from the get-go. If this overall strat is the general goal of the draft, and if Xayah, Kaisa are the top picks, as all teams have probably noted, and Xayah especially is an S-tier pick, then it's reasonable to argue that traditional ADCs are just not being picked very much, even non-ADC picks are not working out all that well, then against G2 one might pull out a non-ADC and do extraordinarily well if you keep that hidden. I think SKT just wanted to apply a lot of pressure to bot lane and Draven Thresh does that well. So why is this bot duo strong? As many people might know, and as we have noted in the cast, that duo is just really strong fundamentally. Even if you gank the enemy, even if you dont get ganks in its strong. Even if you just farm out and don't do anything else, it's strong. It's not only strong right out of the gate, but it's strong even if you aren't very proactive with it. If you sit still, it still applies pressure and I remember saying this when casting old Sandbox games: It works as a bot-anti carry. If you take something like Draven, if their bot is strong, if our bot is somewhat weaker then its w/e but with this kind of pick, since you're strong you can kill their bot lane too, since you're a strong fundamentally. I mean, this is theoretical, and people might just cry "OP" but in theoretical terms, theres hardly any duo that isn't great on paper. You know why? If you consider mechanics and micro, we're talking about the pro scene. We're talking about pick/ban and comps in the pro scene and what does that entail? High level of training, hours of teamplay and synchronization and the combination of all these factors and players and coaches all input their opinions and so forth. So in that sense, how can it be theoretically flawed? What team, with any draft they do, would attempt this without some sort of proof of concept? And they can imagine what kind of big picture would come about when their theories come to fruition. But, when theory and reality collide is when you get problems. And the important thing is, I have a theory and you have a theory. If our theories agree with each other, then the result is probably the same, but when they collide is when you get a chaotic mix of results…but that's what you learn throughout playing the tournament and through scrimming.
Anyway, to get into more detail about what we're talking about, what SKT wanted out of this series against Splyce, this kind of draft is exactly what they want out of an aggressive draft. They've started out with a winning side in a way. They want to win all lanes and pressure all the time and since this duo is strong from the get go, you can gank that lane or just leave it to grow. Sure, there are now some counter-picks that people have figured out, it's now viewed as a bad duo by some, but like picking Renekton top, when it was all the rage, people just blind picked it. Why? Because it just wins a lot of the time. It's proactive, it's an anti-carry pick. I'm not saying its "oh we're back in the Renketon, Sivir picking meta again". It's only recently that Renekton fell out of favor in a matter of mere days. Because we're on the same patch for the whole tournament, and there's a wide selection of champions, pro's aren't going to fall for the same thing all the time. They adapt and Renekton was considered OP just a week or two ago but it's only recently that he fell out of favor. Especially in light of the fact that Ornn was under studied. The more people start playing Ornn, Renekton will naturally fall off. Same with Quinn, there's a lot of counterpicks.
(Sighs) Man, as I get into it the more I talk more than I expected to.
But most importantly, things didn't exactly pan out as they wanted. See in line with what the theory was behind this comp, what is Draven's weakness. It might seem contradictory but it's a high risk pick. You said "its strong even if they aren't pro-active" but then how is it high risk? It might seem like being "strong by just farming" means it's strong late game…but it's not. It applies a lot of pressure early? Thats OK. Is Draven strong late game? Not OK. It's a matter of nuance and in that sense sometimes I struggle to interpret it properly in Korean. It's just so different according to the situation but Draven being high-risk is just a fact. It's not good in the late game. But depending on the situation it CAN be good. Just like Renekton, there are times where Renekton can be strong in the late game. Olaf, Renekton: picks like these, their "expiration date" might never come, sometimes. But "on average, they DO have an expiration date in the late game is just a fact" its like that kind of argument. You the listener, have to keep one thing in mind whether you're listening to me, all these analysts, casters, individual streamers etc. is that League of Legends? There's so many things that change according to the situation and context it's in. The probability of variables changing the fact of the matter are so myriad its insane. If you generalize, in a way, then there are so many statements or arguments that just become false so easily. But we say these things because we have to. If we had to be absolutely truthful and accurate all the time we'd say "It's always different because the no two situations are alike" You might wonder, "then what makes you different from us?" "Hell, I can say "it's always going to differ according to wildly independent variables""
I can't explain or generalize every case by case, in detail, but you can't just take things for granted. It doesn't matter who you listen to, there are going to be cases where even in the late game, Draven is strong. In these cases, you could argue that Draven isn't high risk. And you know I like debate shows. I studied them since my job involves arguing and talking a lot. They talk about this kind of thing a lot. If you take a particular case, and you refute an argument based on one specific case, then there is no basis for rapport or conversation.
You know, after all this I realize I can't really say anything like this on the casters desk, you have to simplify otherwise it would just lead nowhere and become needlessly complex. Anyway, in this case, why I said that thing's didnt go as planned in the end, is that they didn't pressure bot that well, and weaknesses were exposed. I even thought "Did they really have to go with Draven?" Of course, SKT will probably make their own judgements. They took the fight to a different part of the map, and I don't think there isn't a need to emphasis this too much. Heck, Splyce's bot side is pretty strong too.
It's hard to discuss this without looking at drafting as a whole. Looking at games 1,2,3 as a whole, I said they wanted an aggressive, oppressive comp that takes the initiative as a whole, and this shows in the match-ups they took. Especially top side. They tried to take winning match-ups top side every time they could. But its best if you look at game 3, where they had the most hurdles. Really, games 1,2 and 4, where they won, sure, there were games where Khan just carried them and so forth but the overall storyline is similiar in those games. In game 3, where they lost, it got a bit scary right from the draft, because this is a case where SKT's aggressive draft failed completely. On paper, Renekton vs Ornn 1v1 isn't a losing match up right from the get go. In fact, early in the game, Renekton has the initiative. But, as time passes and levels rise, Ornn…his greater teamfight contribution capabilities doesn't need explaining, and most of all, it's not a LOSING pick. You can't dive him. Game 1? Gankplank vs Lucian? If you make 1 mistake on GP you can die. The difference in initiative is pretty big. Fiora vs Poppy? Hmm..this CAN go even, but most importantly, you can't kill each other. Fiora's not going to kill Poppy or dive her early. But game 2? Fiora will split push and be a greater influence in the late game. Game 3? Ornn feels more comfortable as the game goes on. Game 4? It's pretty obvious that this pick (Quinn) is a hard counter-pick. W priority Quinn is pretty popular, and some even go ignite on her, or cleanse, like in this case. With cleanse, sure, early-mid pressure is weaker, and Talia even went top a LOT so Khan's timings (power spikes) came much later, but in the end, as mid-late game came around and with it, items, it became evident that it was the God-tier move. It was a very meticulous, SMART, SMAAART play. Khan and TheShy…their interviews and their play styles are pretty controversial…for example, people label them as "insane" or "unusual" and all that can be interpreted as, "They are players only capable of looking ahead" or what not but I think, in reality, it's quite different. To generalize them as players who only value individual strength would be making a grave error. See, players like Khan or TheShy have proven in the past that they are very meticulous, thoughtful players. When I first mentioned stat lines and the like… Khan has always done this really well…I'll take Khan as an example since I'm more familiar with him being in the LCK, but what he does is he makes the game REALLY easy for his allies. He's really considerate of his teammates. He's not some Top-God just marching forward all the time. What he's good at is pushing and warding. He pushes and wards, pushes and roams, push and patrol..that kind of thing. Of all the tops in the LCK he does that the most, checking that extra vision? That one ward, that extra movement, how much help that gives you is something that midlaners and junglers will appreciate the most. Especially junglers. If you're a jungler, and your laners push out and ward their jungle a bit for you? THUMBS UP. Junglers shed tears of gratitude over that kind of thing. The type of laners that junglers hate the most? People who get fat off the lane and cry, "When are you ganking? I've pulled the lane so you can gank. When are you ganking?" They pick shit like Orianna and don't even respond to ganks well…but if you push and ward? Their quality of life increases. Junglers get so much more agency and influence over the game. Look even if don't go in detail and analyze every Khan game? You can just put on any Khan game, during the season? Khan will, in almost every game, will put a ward in the enemy jungle. I just want to emphasize that. How is he able to do that? Because he's STRONG. Who wouldn't want to do that. Just push and ward? They know the logic behind it, but there's plenty of people who CAN'T do that. Why? Because they lack the strength. Of course. What I'm saying is that he's got the strength and the smarts to do both. It's the same with TheShy. They are meticulous architects. And when they split push they are very meticulous.
In that vein, its why I like Cuvee. It's like they have that image. They're strong. They're intimidating. And in some ways, that can be interpreted as being "brutish" or dumb. But it's a different attribute. See Cuvee is REALLY smart too. See, the GOOD split pushers? You can't split push well and be dumb. You have to be able to read the situation well in order to split push well.
When can I freeze, when can I push, that kind of thing.
So if I were to go into more detail in game 3. It would have been better if they won, sure. But up to now, before splyce, Clid had picked only Lee-Sin, Gragas, Elise. What do they have in common? Map influence. and mobility in the early-mid game. But what was added was Skarner. Renekton already feels bad, but now you have Skarner on top, and Bot side is draven thresh. The plan is kind of like game 1. Pressure on all sides and aggression everywhere. But game 3? Botside is draven thresh, but top side can't be pressured. The players even said afterwards, "we just took one on the chin." What I want to say is, even if they picked Lee, it would have been hard. Just playing Renekton into Ornn just feels really bad. Renekton can only maneuver and take initiative in the early-mid game, but Ornn can just flip that table within a short time, and Ornn's teamfight contribution is just way higher, Ornn just has greater influence on the game as time passes. See the reason why Renekton is dying out as a pick is, "Why are you picking Renekton?" For initiative, diving, snowballing. Renekton Elise are the prime examples. You have to take solid advantages to get ahead. But in this case, its hard to do that with Renekton. Even if you had Lee-Sin + Renekton, its hard. If you had Elise then maybe, or Talia. It's an AP/AD hybrid. With those combos you could kill Ornn. But as you can tell with recent drafting trends… the hot AP junglers are about..Gragas, Elise, Talia. These are the hot AP junglers. But if you don't have those, you just can't kill Ornn. Renek+Lee-Sin? You can't kill him. Unless the midlaner comes too. But their midlaner is AZIR, to add insult to injury. Skarner isn't an "influential" jungler in the early-mid game. Azir is the same, but of all things, his opponent is Ryze too. If you're talking about a TP Ryze? He's obviously going to be a lot more influential on the map than Azir. I personally think Azir isn't a great pick these days. Azir…I can only speculate why they picked him, but I'm guessing they just wanted to pick it to see what synergies he creates. Skarner Azir or Skarner Thresh synergy? Just looking at results, top is hard, jungle and mid is meh and bot is just up in the air.
So, this game? I think it was just an uphill battle. Of course, there were some timings where they had some great teamfights and I thought "Could they..?" but it was too hard in the end. Whenever Azir comes up, this has been a debate for a year now, about whether is he good in the early game or late game…I'll summarize.
Azir? He USED to be good late game. But it's been a while since he's been patched. His range is shorter, his mechanics and the meta around him has changed. It's actually been quite a while since he's become a snowballing champ. There's still some people going, "He's STILL GOOD LATE GAME" and I say, "Sure, there are TIMES where he's good." It's all case-by-case. Sure, there are times where he's good. If he can poke often. If its a fight between short ranged champs, or if he needs to clear waves then sure he's still good. But I don't think any expert that will say he's always good late game, guaranteed. If there is, bring him to me. Show me. There isn't a single one. Azir? He's a snowball champ.
Conclusion? Sure, its a fact that they looked a BIT shaky. More than expected. There were some unfortunate moments. But, this makes me anticipate greater things from them even more. This might be me being overly optimistic, but if SKT had won 3-0 with the same old picks the same old way? Then in this situation we're in might give me the willys. Where we have 1 LCK team in the running, against G2, it might have been more worrying. That SKT won with a strategy and draft that is not their usual way of doing things, with diverse picks..in the end its just more data and feedback for them to get stronger. I think its for the best. I'm sure they have stronger, better picks in their wheelhouse. So..we have to cheer for them. By the time semis come about, I'll be in Germany. We all have to support them. I was going to save this for the final summary and such but SKT is our final hope. Our final torch. Like how NA fans must have felt when TL was NA's last hope.
Oh and lastly, I forgot, Mata vs Effort.
We said this on the cast, but what we said on the cast is all personal theory, but we think it was a form check. Warming up? Why did they put in Mata? I cant say for sure, but in bo5s, you cant ever count out the sixth man being put in. All teams have a sixth man, but Mata isn't lacking in individual skill, to say nothing of experience..he's a legendary player. So his potential can't ever be counted out and to put him in a game on the world stage for warming up and experience? I don't think that's bad.
As for Effort? I think if we discuss strengths weaknesses, starting with the latter, he still shows signs of being inexperienced. In his play he jumps the gun a bit, it shows. He gets caught out, or small mechanical misplays..in really clutch situations? He could be nervous.
But his strengths are really great, they outweigh his weaknesses. Through repeated, long term feedback, he's developed his sense of the game. He's gotten a LOT better than before. In a sense, he's already proved himself. He's no stranger to multi-game series. He's been trained long enough to overcome his weaknesses, and he plays well when he needs to. What I mean by this is…say you're joining a team. You're joining SKT, one of the strongest, if not the strongest team in the LCK. You're joining as the support player. So, you might go, "I'll do my part." "I wont fuck up." Like the support player of IG, Leyan, he played that way. He didn't overstep, he just tried to support the team as much as he could. But, that kind of attitude can hurt you in clutch moments. In a game of inches, where its, "Can every player carry?" that can make a HUGE difference. In that sense? Effort knows to initiate with boldness. That can lead to mistakes and the like but I like that better. If Effort wasn't being bold in order to reduce the number of potential mistakes and didn't do something he should have taken a shot at, I think it would be a lot worse. I think thats really important.
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