Nobody could’ve predicted the series of events that unfolded at the League of Legends World Championship Finals late Friday night. At the end of the broadcast, Chris “Papasmithy” Smith put it best when he said the night felt “surreal.” From a theatrical opening ceremony that resembled that of the 2008 Beijing Olympics to musical performances from Jay Chou, Alan Walker and Against the Current to an animated dragon flying over the Bird’s Nest, it will go down as one of the most iconic moments in esports history.
SK Telecom T1, a team with three World Championships led by Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok, who is widely considered to be the best human to ever play the game, finally met its match in Samsung Galaxy. Those who have followed the competitive arena from the very beginning remember Faker and SKT making a splash onto the scene in Season 3, forming what appeared to be an unstoppable juggernaut. Everyone knew that SKT’s run of success would eventually have to come to an end, but very few thought that day would be today.
If the nameplates had been turned off, it would’ve been difficult to believe that it was actually SKT playing in the finals. The team failed to demonstrate the same level of macro-play that it used to come back from 2-1 deficits in the quarterfinals against Misfits and then again in the semifinals against Royal Never Give Up. It was also impatient and overly aggressive, leading to thrown early game leads in Games 2 and 3. Simply put, SKT seemed nervous and anxious, which was uncharacteristic for a team that had previously never lost a best-of-5 series at Worlds.
That’s not to take anything away from what Samsung accomplished. It precisely executed a methodical split-push strategy in Game 1. It was nearly a perfect game for the team, which only lost one turret and gave up a Baron to a steal by Han “Peanut” Wang-ho. It also found the teamfights in Games 2 and 3 that allowed it to claw back into the games, playing each of the fights impeccably.
For Samsung Galaxy, this is its second World Championship in franchise history. It sought revenge against SKT for beating it in a close five-game series in last year’s finals. Although it maintained the same roster from last year, it struggled to find success against SKT domestically this season, but it all came together at the very end.
Samsung ended up sweeping both of the other representatives (Longzhu and SKT) from Korea, the best region in competitive “League of Legends,” at Worlds. It establishes the team as the gold standard now for the sport, but it still has a long way to go to match the legacy that SKT has etched for itself. SKT was distraught after losing the third game, showing how much it wanted this next championship. The most heartbroken was Faker, who struggled to pick himself up to shake the hands of Samsung’s players.
Both teams will look to come back better and stronger than ever in Season 8.
With big changes coming to the runes and masteries system, new formats for the North American and European League Championship Series, a close race for first in League of Legends Champions Korea and the gap closing between major and minor regions, Season 8 is primed to be all the more exciting.