While neither team has much of a history against the other, both are carrying a personal history going into this semifinals match. Samsung White was winner of the 2014 World Championship, but all the players from that team have since scattered to the four winds and in their place a new Samsung has arisen, made up of legacy players, substitutes, and players who had been passed over by other teams. This patchwork team has come together to make it all the way to the final four and they’re looking to go all the way. On the other side is the only non-Korean team left in the tournament, a team that has constantly teetered on the precipice of greatness, but never quite reached the top. Now they stand as the last hope for the West and they’re looking like they may just have a chance to go all the way to final. Whichever team moves on to play SKT, this is going to be quite the impressive series.
Game One: Winner, Samsung Galaxy
Going into game one we saw an interesting draft phase from H2K, as they opted to ban Poppy and let Samsung get Nidalee. Samsung also went with the Ashe and Miss Fortune bottom lane that ROX had found so much success with. H2K didn’t seem to mind that however, and started the game off with a cheesy bush gank before the one minute mark that led to Forg1ven getting first blood. Jankos made multiple return ganks to the bottom lane before Ashe hit level six, but once she did, he refocused to the top lane. While he did get kills for Odoamne, every time he went to that side of the map, Ambition took the dragon, resulting in two Mountain Drakes for Samsung Galaxy. Around the nineteen minute mark, Samsung picked a fight in the mid lane, but blew most of their ultimates just to kill Vander, leaving their backline wide open for Jankos and Odoamne. This happened again just a few minutes later, and it looked as if H2K had found the solution to the problem of Miss Fortune support. At least they would have, if Samsung hadn’t been playing the map better. Every time they lost a fight they got a tower or a dragon, always staying just ahead of H2K. Unable to find a way to siege turrets or deal with CuVee’s splitpushing, H2K opted for a very dangerous baron play, despite Odoamne being dead. The call immediately backfired as Samsung aced them and jumped out to an even bigger gold lead. Samsung took the baron for themselves not long after and easily finished the game with it. While the game started off well for H2K, with Jankos making great plays across the whole map, Samsung Galaxy was patient. They weathered the aggression, always making sure to get something in return. H2K either needed to find a way to stop CuVee or capitalize better off the fights they did win. As it was they were always just a few steps behind, never able to transition their kills into real map pressure.
Game Two: Winner, Samsung Galaxy
Picks and bans went very differently in game two, as H2K decided to target ban Ekko, Miss Fortune, and Viktor, all champions that had given them problems in the first game. Unfortunately this let Samsung get Zyra, Jayce, and Olaf, champions that H2K themselves had found success on. The game started a little slower, with both teams making picks in the top and mid lane. Neither one could find a big enough lead however, until the twenty-one minute mark when Samsung snuck a baron from right under H2K’s nose. With that they were able to take three more turrets and increase their gold lead to five thousand. Now comfortably ahead, Samsung could use the incredible poke from Jhin, Jayce, and Zyra to siege down the remaining turrets and control any fight that H2K tried to pick. H2K did put up a valiant struggle, even taking a favorable team fight at their inhibitor, but it was too little, too late. A big factor in this game was Odoamne, as he was simply outclassed by CuVee and could never seem to find the right fight to use his ultimate. H2K might need to consider putting Odoamne on a champion that can actually duel CuVee, whether it’s Jayce or perhaps Trundle. Regardless, CuVee has run wild in both games and split pushed with impunity, and H2K hasn’t been able to stop him. That, and their mid game shotcalling needs to improve very quickly if they’re going to outpace Samsung. As for the third seed from Korea, they only need to maintain the status quo and they’ll complete their second straight series sweep and advance to the final round.
Game Three: Winner, Samsung Galaxy
Going into game three, H2K were smart to ban Nidalee and Jhin. However, they chose Ashe as a third ban instead of taking away something like Olaf or Viktor, both of which Samsung took for themselves. H2K were able to get Ryze again, and they put Odoamne on Trundle, a pick that would allow him to hold his own against CuVee. Samsung were ready for this however and Ambition ganked top early and often, setting Odoamne far behind. Jankos on the other hand had what was easily his worst game of the series. While Jankos had been one of the few bright spots for H2K in games one and two, outside of a good bot lane dive, he had virtually no impact on game three. To Samsung’s credit, they did make it very hard for him by warding well and controlling the waves in lane. As the game went on, H2K became increasingly desperate and increasingly out of sync. They started going into fights one by one, only to be picked off by the ever patient Samsung. With all of their lanes winning, all Samsung had to do was keep the pressure up until baron spawned. Once they had that, they ended the game and H2K’s hopes at this tournament in just under twenty-seven minutes. After a hard fought series, it’s difficult to watch H2K go down like this, but they can go home with the knowledge that they were the only non-Korean team to make it to the semifinals. Their performance has greatly improved since the 2015 Worlds, and if they continue to improve, they could very well be a strong contender the next World Championship in 2017.
From sixteen to two, we’ve finally arrived at the last series at the 2016 World Championship. SKT were always a favorite to go all the way, so there’s no real surprise there. Their opponent however, was a team that no one even expected to make it to Worlds. After the domination of the sister teams Samsung White and Blue in 2014, the players that made up those star-studded line ups scattered to various regions, forcing Samsung Galaxy to rebuild, resulting in the composition that is here today. Against all odds, this team has persevered and given a very impressive performance at Worlds, only dropping a single so far in the tournament. If they are to upset the behemoth that is SKT, Samsung will have to pull out all the stops and play at an even higher level than they have been so far. While many people consider ROX vs SKT to have been the true finals, I believe that Samsung Galaxy could very well go toe to toe with the defending champions and, with a little luck, maybe even topple the giants.