Sixteen teams entered, and only one will leave. SK Telecom T1 and Samsung Galaxy have fought through the group stages and their respective bracket sides to reach the final round. Both organizations are previous World Champions, although the teams have changed since their previous victories. Regardless of differences in team members, a repeat win will be a huge achievement for both teams, particularly for SKT, as they would be the first team to win back to back championships. With both playing at an incredibly high level, this should be a very impressive final. Here are our writers’ thoughts on the big finale.
Corey “Mr Fidori” Boucher
No one is surprised by the fact that this year’s Worlds Final involves two Korean teams. In fact, after the group stage, it almost seemed inevitable. But that doesn’t mean it won’t be action packed. SKT has shown that they are, once again, better as a team than anyone else at the moment, and have proven so time and time again this tournament with spectacular individual prowess and macro play that shows seldom mistakes. SSG have now come close to the perfect end to their Cinderella story, which started with them not even being in much of a position to see the World stage. Nearly every player on both of these squads is a renowned name. If they can all just muster the energy for one more hard-fought match, we will all be in for a treat.
Let’s start with the individual matchups, more specifically the one at the center of it all: the mid lane. We could rehash the same narrative about Faker, but I feel we already know about his legacy. The real question is: how will Crown compare? Widely regarded a top 5 mid-laner coming into Worlds, Crown has shown some crazy proficiency (and in turn crazy stats) on a solid champion pool that includes power picks like Ryze, Cassiopeia, and his signature Viktor. This has given him the highest KDA and damage per minute of mid-laners through the knockout stage, on the same level of resources as Faker. The case for Crown is strong, and it may very well come down who gets help first, or who blows the first flash — both of them are extremely aggressive traders in lane. The other lanes shake up in very close skill matchups that I think tend to lean more in SKT’s favor, save for the pressure that Cuvee could exert in the top-lane. The aforementioned mid-lane matchup will be heavily affected by which jungler shows up for SKT, both literally and figuratively, and it’s extremely likely we’ll see both Bengi and Blank in the first two games, almost regardless of how the first one goes.
The two teams have starkly contrasting profiles. Statistically, Samsung’s levels of aggression both through the early and mid-game phases prove more impactful, but this is also highly affected by the caliber of the opponents they’ve faced, as all have been rather vulnerable to early pressure. I wouldn’t expect SKT to be fazed by this playstyle, and they will look to continue their very steadily paced choke-out, while being appropriately cautious of the patent-pending Miss Fortune support. When it comes down to it, SKT’s poise in the face of early leads or deficits seems unlikely to be overcome now, and I tend to be a strong believer that aggression leads to inevitable mistakes, and though these flaws will be small, we can be sure SKT will expose and punish every single one of them. This really seems to be the key to victory, and will likely be the narrative that unfolds en route to SKT’s third, dynasty-cementing championship, and the first back-to-back titles in League of Legends history.
Prediction: SKT 3-1 SSG
Matthew “Blackfooted Eel” Hubbard
Although it’s not the ROX vs SKT final that many people predicted, there’s no denying that Samsung Galaxy have earned their spot in this final. Starting in what was considered to be the toughest group of the tournament, where they only dropped a single game, Samsung has since shot straight through the bracket stage without incident. SKT were similarly unchallenged in their trip to the top, with the exception of their series against the ROX tigers.
Both teams have shown a level of control and precision above that of their competitors. For Samsung, a big part of this hinges on CuVee in the top lane. Samsung have found a large portion of their victories through coordinated cross map play, either through CuVee splitpushing or the rest of the team taking a dragon or neutral objective while the enemy team goes after CuVee. Duke on the other hand has been far less impactful in many of his games, in some cases being a hindrance to his team. That being said, Duke seriously stepped up his performance during the series against ROX, dying only eight times over the course of five games, the lowest out of any player who participated in all five games (Bengi and Blank had seven deaths each). He went toe to toe with Smeb, and was vital to SKT’s team fights, particularly in game five. CuVee will need to be at the top of his game if he’s going to continue to create opportunities for his team against this new and improved Duke. The other big part of Samsung’s cross map play comes from Ambition. If he’s not ganking, he’s picking up dragons or helping other lanes to push. SKT, however, is not a team that make bad trades often, so Ambition will have to be smarter and even more decisive than usual in order to outpace them. As for the SKT junglers, whoever starts will need to be playing at their best in order to keep up. So far in the tournament, when Blank has stagnated, Bengi has stepped up to the plate to carry, and vice versa. However, they can’t keep relying on the other one to automatically perform better, as it might not be enough against a jungler like Ambition.
I think that at the level Ambition has been playing at, particularly in the H2K series, he could be good enough to run circles around both. Moving on to the mid lane, this matchup comes down to whether or not Crown gets Viktor. If SKT let Crown have his signature champion, he will very easily be able to hold his own against Faker and possibly even beat him. Viktor also fits very well into Samsung’s playstyle, with a plethora of wave clear and area control to slow down the enemy team. Even if he doesn’t get Viktor however, Cassiopeia and Ryze have yielded similar results in terms of team fighting, meaning that SKT would have to devote a lot of bans to try and shut him out. While I think that Faker is overall the better player, this is going to be a tight match up. Both players are solid laners who transition well into mid game team fights. They also share a similar champion pool, with the exception of Syndra. Samsung Galaxy has banned Syndra in every game since their loss to TSM. It seems that Crown either can’t or doesn’t want to play the champion, and this is something that SKT can look to take advantage of in their series.
Lastly is the bottom lane of Ruler and CoreJJ against Bang and Wolf. CoreJJ has certainly proven himself over the course of the 2016 Worlds, being undefeated and showing a wide variety of champions, from his signature Tahm Kench, to the new pocket pick of Miss Fortune. Wolf on the other hand has yet to be able to adapt to the surprise support, as SKT was forced to ban her in their last two games against ROX. He has had a week to practice her, but SKT may decide to not bother with her, and find a way to fight around her. As for the DC Carries, both have shown a great deal of proficiency on Jhin, although for Ruler that seems to be his only ace. His Caitlyn has been solid, but not a true hyper carry. Bang on the other hand has been a vital part of SKT’s success on a wide variety of champions like Ezreal, Ashe, Jhin, and Sivir. If SKT can force Ruler onto a champion he’s not comfortable on, then they could very well gain a huge advantage in the bottom lane, allowing whichever jungler who is starting for SKT to apply pressure elsewhere on the map.
Throughout the course of this tournament I’ve been very impressed by Samsung Galaxy’s performance, particularly during the group stage. Unfortunately I don’t think it will be enough to pull off the upset against SKT. Samsung’s main strategy relies on their opponent making over aggressive plays and punishing them with controlled objective trading. SKT aren’t a team that make very many of those mistakes, and are in fact one of the best teams in the world when it comes to map control. I think that SKT will simply overpower Samsung during this series, beating them at their own game and taking their third Worlds title (hope you’re all not tired of SKT skins yet).
Prediction: SKT 3-2 SSG
After an amazing five game series between SK Telecom T1 and ROX Tigers, most fans are predicting that SKT will walk away from the Staples Center with their second world title in a row. Perhaps it’s to be expected that SKT would be the clear favorite going into the finals. While Samsung Galaxy was dominant in their 3-0 victory against H2K, the level of play that H2K showed wasn’t anything close to what ROX or SKT showed in their Bo5.
Still though, SKT shouldn’t sleep on Samsung Galaxy, as they came out 1st in the toughest group at Worlds and have been on a 10 game win-streak. Samsung impresses with incredible discipline and understanding of macro play. No team at Worlds has shown the amazing baron control that Samsung has. SKT has already proven their worth lots of times, doubting them is something we as fans shouldn’t do. We should expect them to do well and most likely win. But Samsung won’t be an easy opponent. Not only are they a great macro team, solid at every stage of the game, but they are also a team with good lanes. One of SKT’s advantages on paper should be their strong laners, but Samsung are no slouches in that department. Against H2K they were able to do great in lanes, especially Crown and CuVee. Both teams have shown weaknesses in draft, sometimes drafting lackluster team compositions. SKT’s experience on the world stage will surely help them with their mental game. The most logical prediction would be a 3-0 or 3-1 win for SKT but if this Worlds has shown us anything, it’s that no team should be counted out. Especially a team like Samsung Galaxy.
Prediction: SKT 3-1 SSG
There’s nothing left to say, except tune in for what we’re sure will be an action-packed end to Worlds 2016 — this Saturday at 4 pm PST!
Photos provided by Riot Games