KingZone Dragon X
The Wounded Dragon
Kingzone Dragon X return to Korea for the summer split intact, smarting after their defeat in the final of MSI 2018. As the most dominant team in Spring 2018, Kingzone will be looking to continue their regional dominance as they prepare for the world championship. Where Kingzone were strong previously - roaming, priority-based mid lane play, and a low-economy bottom lane - is no longer the meta. As MSI 2018 showed, Kingzone find it difficult to funnel resources to PraY, given the resource-hungry playstyles of Peanut and Khan. The current level of jungle dominance should afford both Peanut and Cuzz the resources to dominate where Khan may not be able to, and we may soon see Bdd return to the oft-hyped assassin and control mage master of seasons past.
Although Kingzone was able to showcase PraY on Kai’Sa in several games (both in the Spring Final and during MSI), his performance was underwhelming. Kingzone will have to utterly destroy the LCK summer split if they are to restore the confidence many had in the team.
Player to Watch: Khan
Khan’s 2018 MSI performance was severely underwhelming. As he tore through the competition in 2018 Spring, he was touted as the best top laner in the world by far. With international rookies like Bwipo and arguably weaker players like LetMe and Hanabi, Khan’s performance was disappointing. Regardless, Khan has yet to falter domestically on this roster and will remain the favorite top laner in the league, and should not fail to disappoint with his carry performances.
Fear the Freecs
Afreeca Freecs will perhaps be the most exciting team to watch in LCK Summer. Due to Kingzone Dragon X’s lackluster performance at MSI, and the lack of changes to other Spring Playoffs rosters, Afreeca should be looking to establish themselves as the number one team in Korea. As a team, Afreeca has proven they are consistent and well-rounded, with multiple carry threats and strategies. Their bottom lane in Kramer and TusiN has grown to be one of the best in the league, and Kuro has showcased his ability to snowball the side lanes on champions like Galio and Taliyah. Kiin’s performance in Spring showed Afreeca’s versatility - he was able to play both carry and defensive styles repeatedly, highlighting the team’s overall confidence.
With their second-place finish not quite what the team was aiming for, Afreeca should be well equipped to deal with the majority of the LCK once again in summer. Aiming’s return is something to take note of as well. While Kramer and TusiN performed spectacularly, having Aiming as a relatively strong backup allows Afreeca some leeway if Kramer begins to stumble.
Player to Watch: Kiin
Once again, Kiin is heading into the season with fairly high expectations. As a replacement for Marin, he performed admirably in his first split on Afreeca. A versatile player who can play both defensive and aggressive champions, Kiin’s ability to soak pressure will be needed in the upcoming split. In a meta where so much is uncertain, Kiin’s capabilities as a stable, capable top laner will be invaluable over the summer season.
Raise your [Redacted]
BBQ Olivers’ performance in spring was inconsistent. The team that managed to take two of their five games against Kingzone Dragon X and go undefeated against Jin Air Green Wings also lost all four of their matches to MVP. With internationally experienced players in IgNar and Trick, the team was expected to perform much better. The addition of a new ADC in Aries is unclear - whether he has better synergy with the team or IgNar remains to be seen, as he is a relatively rookie player.
With the LCK’s strength relatively uncertain given Kingzone’s defeat at MSI, the BBQ Olivers may be able to rise to the occasion given time. Increased priority on carry champions in the jungle and lane-dominant supports may give Trick and IgNar the edge they need at this stage. If they are unable to allow their veterans to set their team up for success, BBQ Olivers may again become a bottom-five team in the LCK.
Player to Watch: IgNar
IgNar has always been a playmaker. His time on Misfits Gaming showcased his ability to the world, and the former three-game KT Rolster support returned to Korea with another international favorite in Trick. IgNar’s creative playstyle, deep champion pool, and understanding of bottom lane may come in handy. While Ghost and IgNar were never expected to dominate Korea’s bottom lane duos, Aries may be the breath of air that BBQ Olivers needs to unlock IgNar’s true potential.
Gen.G (Formerly KSV)
The Bounce Back?
Gen.G have taken on learnings from their previous split. Where the team was weakest in the regular season - both Crown and uncharacteristically Cuvee - they have acquired options. Fly is a mid laner best known for facilitating his sidelanes, and with one of the best bottom lane duos in Korea, as well as a top-tier (at his peak) top laner, Fly (Formerly of FlyQuest) may fit right in. MONG played in Challengers Korea and appears to be yet another up-and-coming top lane talent in Korea.
If Gen. G is able to utilize their substitutes properly - and shore up some of their decision making - they should be able to climb the rankings once again. Ruler and CoreJJ’s selection for the Asian games is reflective of the synergy and skill that the bottom lane of Gen.G possesses. While losing their bottom lane to the Asian Games team for scrim time may be inconvenient, the rest of Gen.G should be the real focus for improvement this split.
Player to Watch: Fly
Fly’s debut on Gen.G will be one to watch with interest. A player with a unique playstyle and champion pool, Fly was an incredible resource on KT Rolster in 2016. Champions like Aurelion Sol, Vladimir, and Zilean have allowed Fly to occupy a unique spot amongst Korean mid laners in the past. With Crown struggling currently, Fly’s stability and understanding of how to help his side lanes could be a catalyst for change. Although his North American performances were underwhelming, if Fly can regain his LCK form on his debut for Gen.G he could become one of the most interesting players to watch.
Welcome to League of Lehends!
Griffin are the most exciting team to enter the LCK since ESC Ever in 2016 Spring. Much like ESC Ever, they boast a unique, dominating style that allowed them to roll over both Challengers Korea and the promotion tournament. Stacked with highly mechanical and rookie talent across the roster, Griffin is on track to become the most exciting team of LCK Summer 2018.
Regardless of whether or not they find success, Griffin’s games are sure to be explosive, due to their impressive team fighting - which was showcased in the promotion tournament against MVP. Unlike many other teams who have promoted to the LCK, Griffin has retained their starting 5 and are looking to build on their synergy for a strong start in their opening week.
Player to Watch: Lehends
Lehends has for the longest time had to watch LCK from the outside. Denied from entry into the LCK multiple times by teams like CJ Entus and Kongdoo Monster, Lehends has been an almost-LCK player many times. Lehends' contribution to Griffin is enormous, and his skill level is clearly evident. A cerebral and engage-focused behemoth, Lehends’ pocket pick Shen went undefeated across the split and was a champion he reached rank 1 on the Korean Server with (along with Singed top lane). Lehends’ arrival in the LCK should be celebrated - another mechanical, engage-happy support is always excellent to watch at the highest level.
Hanwha Life Esports (Formerly ROX Tigers)
Par for the LCK
Hanwha Life Esports is a brand new name for an LCK regular. The ‘Tigers’ brand that went through so many iterations and has brought some of the fondest memories has finally disappeared from the LCK. Completely unchanged from 2018 Spring, HLE will likely encounter the same issues as the ROX Tigers did. Lava and Key are the bright spots on an otherwise mediocre roster, and the current meta does not particularly favor either of these players.
ROX finished 8th in the regular season, equal with BBQ Olivers in-game score. Perhaps a return to form for Kuzan, the oft-hyped mid laner of yore, and improvements between the jungle/support dynamic to enable Key to show off his strong roaming play will help pull them out of the also-rans. Otherwise, it seems as though they lack the real star power to challenge the best in the LCK.
Player to Watch: Key
Key is one of the most interesting players in the LCK. As a member of ESC Ever, Key’s Bard play became internationally renowned at both the 2015 Kespa Cup and IEM Cologne. Since then, the teams that Key has been on have performed poorly, first with ESC Ever and then the reborn ROX Tigers. As a player, Key has always been solid mechanically but has historically been too aggressive at times. If Key is able to retain both his starting spot and his focus, he should be well-placed to steer HLE towards victories.
Jin Air Green Wings
Still waiting for Eon of Jin Air...
Jin Air Green Wings contributed to some of the greatest moments of League of Legends history in Spring 2018, undoubtedly due to their star AD Carry, Teddy. In what was undeniably the most ‘Jin Air Game’ of all time, the 1465 CS record was set. Apart from that thrilling 2-1 victory over SK Telecom, the rest of Jin Air’s season was underwhelming. Although Teddy and Wraith performed admirably, the team was unable to capitalize on the skill of their bottom lane effectively.
The loss of a veteran support in Wraith will undoubtedly hurt the team, and the addition of KaKAO is confusing given his lack of recent high-level play. However, Jin Air will enter the summer 2018 season with one of the best AD carries in the region in a meta where the bot lane meta is muddled. If Teddy’s aggressive nature is enough to brute force bottom lane, the rest of Jin Air just need to be able to support him to victory.
Player to Watch: Teddy
Teddy is without a doubt one of the best AD carries in Korea. His incredible mechanics, aggressive playstyle, and impressive statistics all speak for themselves. Teddy is Jin Air’s win condition. However, the uncertainty around bottom lane currently means that Teddy’s strengths may be both invaluable and in jeopardy. If Teddy and Nova are able to synergize well and develop creative strategies, Jin Air may find themselves leapfrogging many other teams. If the bottom lane is left behind in favor of other roles, the Glad Plane may be struggling to get him off the ground.
‘Superstar Smackdown: Round Four’
KT Rolster’s Spring 2018 results continued to disappoint. While their team appeared stacked with raw talent, the team was still unable to dominate their opponents. The most important match for KT in Spring was defeating SK Telecom in the playoffs - the perfect place for KT to take a victory in the ongoing Telecom War. Ucal’s increasingly positive performance and Rush’s debut were highlights for KT Rolster and serve as a signal that things are improving within the team. Score will be required for the Asian Games team, and as a result, Rush is likely to play an increased role in the early season.
Player(s) to Watch: Rush/Ucal
Rush and Ucal both have something to prove this season. Rush’s disappointingly few games were relatively impressive for his LCK debut, and Ucal will finally have the opportunity of a starting spot within the team as Pawn has succumbed to injury. Ucal’s skill is clear, and his ability to work together with Rush was also impressive to see. While Score is the clear favorite to start, Rush will inevitably step in as Score’s duties for the Asian Games increase. Rush’s play on Lee Sin (a champion far from meta at the time) was reassuring to see, and an aggressive, playmaking-based style may be what KT Rolster need to claw their way back to the top.
Best Friends Association
MVP’s roster has remained almost identical to the Spring split. Barely requalifying in a 3-2 nailbiter against Kongdoo Monster, the MVP organization has neglected to make any big changes. As the team that finished 9th in the previous split, the once-fourth place team in the LCK has a massive mountain to climb this split. Ian - while looking better in spring - has yet to become a consistent carry threat in the mid lane, while Beyond looked lost in many of their matches during the Spring season.
When MVP found success in 2017 Spring (with an identical starting lineup), they did it through synergy and effective teamwork. The MVP of 2018 Summer will have to reach above and beyond their 2017 peak in order to have any shot at making the playoffs this regular season.
Player to Watch: Max
The LCK’s resident mad scientist - Max - is a joy to watch on the rift. As a player, Max is both mechanically skilled and incredibly cerebral with the game. His counterpicks to ‘meta champions’ have often seemed genius, despite the endless losses that MVP endured in the previous season. If Max is unlocked - and allowed to roam or make plays - MVP can look good. If the map plays out conventionally, however, MVP will continue to look lost and confused across the season, especially around Baron.
SK Telecom T1
The Fallen Legend
SK Telecom are in a unique position in the summer split. The team clearly boasts talented players in all five roles and should be able to perform strongly. SK Telecom struggled to maintain a consistent roster in Spring, especially in the jungle role, as a Wolf in the jungle experiment proved fruitless and Blossom came and went. Although Thal’s immense potential as a carry top laner should make him the clear favorite, the jungle role looks less certain. Neither Blank nor Blossom have made a definitive case for them being the starting jungler.
Bang’s immense performance in Spring was unable to bring the team to even the semifinal match, which does not bode well for the rest of the team. With a solid carry duo in their mid and bot roles, SK Telecom will have to decide on the best combination of their remaining players in order to lift the team back towards its lofty heights. And with Faker being absent from some practice due to his Asian Games responsibilities, Pirean may be seen in some games.
Player(s) to Watch: Faker/Pirean
Faker is still a fantastic player, and definitely worth attention during the season. His consistent ability to play at a very high level for so long has netted his team three world championships and many regional titles. His ability to neutralize many mid laners (and demolish many others) allows SK Telecom to develop any strategy with the knowledge Faker can most likely win his lane. His absence from the team will force the team to play in a way that they haven’t had to since 2015, with Easyhoon on the roster. Pirean’s debut for SK Telecom will no doubt be interesting to watch, and while he will not match Faker in individual mechanics or stability, he may possess as yet unknown qualities that only SK Telecom themselves are aware of.