Lessons from LCK: Spring Split Week 4

The pace of LCK keeps trudging forward, and the table is starting to take its shape with four weeks (and one superteam) down. As always, a recap of the standings:

The Good: Afreeca Freecs vs. Top Teams

Their victory against SKT was certainly the win nobody saw coming — it was widely thought that SKT and KT Rolster could go into their Week 6 doubleheader undefeated, creating a showdown that would only be rivaled by a probable finals matchup between the two. But the storyline that has developed just might be more interesting, as Afreeca has not only toppled the giant, but also has bested Samsung Galaxy in Week 1, and at least taken a game off of KT Rolster, making them appear a bit of a kryptonite at first glance. This team looked like a strong contender on paper this off-season, and when it comes to the big matches, they’ve not really disappointed.

A look at the standings shows a 3-3 record, and therein the crux of our uncertainty. For Marin & Co.’s two great wins, two of their three losses have been equally surprising (MVP & Jin Air Green Wings). Their primary Achilles heel in these was not being able to get Lee “Sprit” Da-yun any early presence, leaving Jang “MaRin” Gyeong-Hwan to fend for himself while being enemies’ primary target. Consistent early impact will need to be developed in order to build on their already impressive start.

The Bad: Old Junglers (and friends)

I’ve touched on this before, but the trend hasn’t changed so I’ll say it again: Lee Sin isn’t faring well in the current Korean meta. His 26% win rate speaks to that. Now we can add Elise to the list (38%), as well as Ekko (20%) and Cassiopeia (35%). Chalk this up to the popularity of strong teamfighting compositions that can’t be picked off effectively, and frontlines that are too in-your-face to be zoned by some of the previously strong mid-laners, while still having effective siege power due to Varus and/or Corki being in nearly every game. Chances are, unless you’re one of a select few veterans (see Spirit on Olaf, or Faker on anyone) you probably can’t compete effectively with a different strategy.

The Ugly: Kongdoo Monster

It’s gone from bad to worse, and we’re starting to wonder if there’s any hope. One game win against MVP wasn’t enough to distract from the seemingly basic mistakes and lack of communication from which this team suffers. At 0-6, the hope for avoiding relegation is all that’s left, and they’re next-to-last chance comes Wednesday against Jin Air. If they can’t pull this off, that may be it for this squad that actually showed quite a bit of promise at IEM Gyeonggi.

Spotlight

We’ve all had those fights in our games where you pick a fight with the enemy team, and you’re not quite sure why you’re doing it, but it’s happening. And then you all die and you wonder how none of you managed to see it going that poorly. Game 1 of Afreeca Freecs vs. ROX Tigers was a lot like that — advantages were had solely on the backs of two different teamfights. The first happens around Baron control ending in a near-ace for Afreeca:

Let’s breakdown what happened here: Pushing Afreeca away from Baron with a Shen splitting the bot lane was actually a good move, and they could’ve just tried to stall out. Even laying down extra damage with Jhin’s Curtain Call is pretty smart to force someone back to base and end the Baron threat. But once that ultimate is missed, they find themselves in an awkward position of being within range of Afreeca, but split up by the jungle terrain. This allows for Afreeca to engage in two smaller skirmishes 5v4, which is exactly what they would want against ROX’s composition. Park “Shy” Sang-myeon ulting too late to join was just an added bonus.

But the Freecs gave it right back with this late miscue:

Here, MaRin reminds us of that guy that goes in ahead of his team with no warning, dies before they can even get close enough, and deems his comrades useless. Though I doubt MaRin did this, you have to wonder how his engage ended up so mistimed with his teammates still being outside of ROX’s base. You can see here he dies before they can assist, and over a very short period, they flow in one by one and fall in a similar fashion. Not to mention even had the rest of the team backed off sooner, Jhin’s ult always ensures that he’s not done fighting just because you are. And let’s not even discuss the choice to dive turret with a Baron disadvantage.

But there are some things to credit ROX for in this fight. Shy’s Stand United was much more appropriately timed here, ensuring Mickey lived to dump off obnoxious damage. It’s an effective counter to Camille’s ult, and was great to see that perfectly executed this time. Additionally, notice how ROX moves as a unit to draw the Freecs between the turrets. Corki gets ulted, and they all take a few steps backward. It was this created distance that stopped Afreeca from getting close to an adequate follow-up. Granted it’s hard to do this in solo queue, but even if you are the only one who positions correctly, it’s more effective than nobody doing so.

ROX went on to lose this series, but this look into successful (or unsuccessful) teamfights gives us a bit to think about. If you make a habit of watching your replays for improvement, take a few minutes to slow down crucial fights and note things like this.

As always, you can catch your favorite LCK matches here Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday at midnight PST!

Photos and videos provided by Riot Games.

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Mr Fidori

Obsesses over League of Legends a little too much. Writes for Break the Game. In that order.

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