The long-awaited Telecom battle returns with League of Legends Championship Korea’s playoffs, as KT Rolster and SK Telecom T1 face off in the final best-of-five match before the finals. The winning team will be guaranteed a minimum of South Korea’s second seed at the 2017 World Championships, where they will represent their region in China on the international stage.
Slow and steady was game one’s theme, it felt. First blood wasn’t drawn by KT Rolster until about halfway through 15 minutes, due to a fatal mistake made by Bang when he failed to buffer correctly, and KT immediately ran for their second Cloud Drake and first tower of the game. Peanut fell only minutes later, and was soon followed by the Mountain Drake. With three Dragons, two towers, a 4k gold lead, and three player kills by 24 minutes, KT Rolster’s dominance on the map was clear.
While SK Telecom T1’s lineup failed to so much as land a kill by 30 minutes, KT Rolster was playing a clinically precise game of League of Legends. They didn’t need the Baron buff, all they needed was Mata on Thresh. Game one was theirs, long before the moment at 34 minutes when they destroyed the Nexus.
KT Rolster was still rolling with their momentum from game one, and there honestly wasn’t much that SKT could do about it – even if they went with a significantly safer draft, this time. KT was consistently pushing, Mata once again tearing through SKT’s lineup on Thresh, until they had a 12k gold lead and three dragons to boast about on top of their five kill lead by 30 minutes.
For 30 minutes, fans watched as the best League of Legends team in the world was shoved back onto their heels, their team composition falling apart at the seams as KT Rolster pulled every loose thread they could find.
It’s game three. SKT is on the ropes, and a loss here would be an incredibly rough finish to their already awkward season. If they were going to come back from this to even have a snowball’s chance in Hell at securing the first seed in the finals against Longhzu Gaming, SKT was going to have to play three perfect games. And, with a well-rounded draft and coordinated gameplay, it looked as if they might be able to pull it off.
It was neck-in-neck for a long while, because it wasn’t as if KT Rolster had put SKT on their heels by chance, but SKT was eventually able to slowly pull ahead. It took 25 minutes, but SKT was able to take four of KT’s towers, the first Dragon, and an 8k gold lead. KT was frantically running back to their base, only to immediately have to defend their Inhibitors from SKT as they barreling through their base. At 26 minutes, KT Rolster wiped and were forced into a game three as fans prepared themselves for a potential reverse sweep.
SK Telecom T1’s early game was greedy, and aggressive. They picked off their first kill at just five minutes while simultaneously pushing down all three lanes and, even if they were forced to backpedal a bit when that greedy behavior got one of their own killed, it got the ball rolling in their favor.
Bagging both the Ocean and Infernal Drakes only fed SKT’s zeal. By 19 minutes, they had a 4k gold advantage and had destroyed three of KT’s turrets – a marginal lead, but a lead nonetheless. From there, SKT worked patiently. They scooped each turret one by one, no longer risking a loss by overextending and unnecessarily instigating team fights, and denied KT the farm. All KT Rolster could do was stay in the safe space of their base while SKT ran amok, defending their turf with warning shots when SKT got too close. KT’s bark was worse than their bite, unfortunately, as SKT stormed the castle and destroyed their Nexus with literally no fanfare.
This was it. This was going to be the deciding moment for who was going to go to World with South Korea’s second seed, and who was going to push onwards for a chance at championing the LCK and taking the first seed. The past two games had been total reversals of the first two; SKT was no longer running around like chickens with their heads cut off, and KT Rolster was unable to handle the sudden change in their dynamics. Neither team had any padding – no cushion to rely on if they dropped the ball.
So, when SK Telecom T1 scooped the first kill and the first Cloud Drake, it spelled a grim start to game five. The early game was close, though. At 16 minutes, both SKT and KT Rolster had only managed one kill, and SKT’s gold lead was menial and primarily came from two Cloud Drakes. A tragic team fight at 17 minutes started the game’s tailspin, when four of KT’s five players dropped. It opened up two turrets for destruction, and KT couldn’t come back from it. They had lost control of the map, and SKT was relentless.
Yet, for as hopeless as things seemed, there was a moment that presented itself where KT could turn the tide of the game. At 24 minutes, SKT lost a team fight that forced four of their players to wait for a respawn, and KT rushed in to claim the Baron. SKT had respawned too quickly, though, and only barely made it out of Baron Nasher’s pit to consider it a victory. They had denied SKT the buff and gold they would have needed to close out the series. If they were going to pull themselves together and claim a victory, it had to be then.
It just wasn’t enough, though. KT lost a team fight only a couple of minutes later, one that cost them their first Inhibitor. SKT played it safe, waited for KT Rolster to let themselves be cornered into fights they couldn’t win, before taking another dive into KT’s base for more objectives. KT tried to stop SKT to take the second Baron of the game, but only found themselves being chased back into the lanes. Everything careened downhill from there, for KT, who wiped at 35 minutes. SK closed out the series 3-2, securing their spot at Worlds and advancing to the grand finals.