Despite having dominated the Korean LoL scene for so long, 2017 proved to be one of the worse years for SK Telecom T1. Losing their Worlds title and some struggles here and there showed a team that’s starting to decline in performance. KT Rolster found the perfect opportunity in that, as they managed to win KeSPA Cup while their long time rival is troubled.
When KT rebuilt its roster after season six, many fans dubbed it a “super team.” The roster consisted of former world champ Cho “Mata” Se-hyeong, top laner Song “Smeb” Kyung-ho and ADC Kim “Deft” Hyuk-kyu, all great players who were among the best. However, the team struggled throughout season seven, with poor map awareness and baffling macro decisions. This led to being reverse-swept by rivals SK Telecom T1 in the LCK playoffs and losing Worlds ticket. It was surprising when KT returned the entirety of its roster for season eight, and that decision paid off as the team showed improved synergy by defeating Longzhu.
KT already knew how to beat the LCK champs—they did exactly that at the end of the last split by focusing on Longzhu top laner Kim “Khan” Dong-ha and keeping him down. Khan made it harder this time around. He picked Ornn and dominated from the first minion wave. He shoved Smeb’s Fiora around and was in firm control even before receiving a gank from mid and jungle to advance to his lead. Buff after buff succeeded in turning Ornn into an OP champion, and Longzhu were forced to ban him on red side in the second game. KT decided to pick Jayce for Smeb. Jayce is extremely powerful, but also ultra risky. Lose lane with him, and the game is over. Thankfully for KT, Smeb didn’t lose. Longzhu fought hard, but KT came out on top.
KT’s problem of poor objective control showed in the third game, allowing Longzhu to come back. They snowballed a lead more effectively in game four, with Mata making big plays on his trademark Thresh. That set up a final game five for the championship. The teams traded even until a messy play in the bot side jungle sent Longzhu ahead. For the first time since game one, KT had to play from behind. Correctly picking sides of the map and taking free objectives with Baron steal by Go “Score” Dong-bin completed the comeback.
Longzhu defended well and KT required another objective steal—Elder Dragon this time—from Score to stay even. The game went past 40 minutes and seemed headed for 50 before a massive engage by KT ended it. Smeb’s Jarvan IV ult combined perfectly with Deft’s Miss Fortune ult in melting Longzhu’s health bars. It was one of the most impressive wins we’ve seen all year.
In general, the KeSPA Cup doesn’t mean that much as it’s not considered a major championship by any stretch. But for a team that has struggled with expectations as much as KT, getting a win like this on the board is important. And they did it in five games, which makes the victory even more meaningful.