With the Group stage finished, we move into the elimination tournament portion of Worlds as we blitz into the Quarter Finals. Gone are the Bo1s and jockeying for those two slots out of Groups. Now, every game means (tournament) life or death. Up on the first day is KT Rolster’s Old Man Score and crew, the Super Team from the LCK that’s finally delivered on their promise to fans. Against them are the ascendent Invictus Gaming lead by this years best Mid laner Rookie, the rising stars from the LPL who have only be dwarfed by the rise of RNG. The transition into Bo5s will bring a whole new level of excitement and competition to the series’ between these two teams, with the hopes of appearing in those Finals on the line.
KT Rolster: The Roller Coaster of a Year
As one of the oldest esports teams in the world, KT Rolster have had a long and storied history. Their eternal rivals, both in business and esports, has always been SKT (KT is Korean Telecom, while SKT is South… Korean Telecom.) For large parts of this history, it’s been SKT that’s had the upper hand, particularly in League of Legends. The most recent KT era has been that of their Super Team, bringing together some of the worlds very best players in each respective role into a five man juggernaut. Or, so the script was suppose to go. It took two years for that roster to not only defeat their rivals, but finally make it back to Worlds for the KT organization. Now that they’re here, they’ve gone 5-1, only losing to some old team mates in EDG, and are finally ready to shake the curse that’s surrounded them for years. We can finally be… Excited for KT.
The issues that have plagued the KT squad since their inception have, oddly enough, not really gone away. KT’s aggressive playstyle, not common amongst their LCK brethren, often lands them in hot water. They’re known to overextend in team fights, staying longer than they should trying to gain an objective, and even getting caught out looking for fights they have no right aiming for. KT’s stylistic issues have gotten so bad that even poor Cho "Mata" Se-hyeong once said in an interview he picked Tahm Kench just to save his team. But what is often our flaws can also be our strength, as KT’s over aggression often means they catch opponents off guard and unprepared. Their cutthroat pace and oppressive early game has arguably been the reason they’re at Worlds this year. For some, becoming better is done by shoring up your weaknesses. For others, like KT, it’s about playing to your strengths, like your knack for aggression and mechanical dominance.
It should come as no surprise that the so-called Super Team of the LCK is stacked with talent in all of their positions. Top laner Song "Smeb" Kyung-ho has once been known as the best Top laner in the world, and while many wouldn’t say that now given the young guns that have arisen, he’s still a force to be reckoned with, particularly in this meta that supports his carry style. One of the oldest players playing League of Legends still, the “Old Man” Jungler Go "Score" Dong-bin has had a career defining performance this year, finally breaking his curse and claiming an LCK title. He’s looked insanely good for his age and doesn’t seem to be slowing down for anyone. Son "Ucal" Woo-hyeon, one of the best unknown pickups this year, has been on an absolute warpath since joining KT’s main roster. He’s filled a major hole in KT’s strengths with his impressively mature nad masterful command of the Mid lane. He is easily one of the best rookies this whole year has seen, and he’s still got time to grow. KT’s stellar bot lane duo of veteran Kim "Deft" Hyuk-kyu and World champion Mata stack up just as well as any of the current duos at Worlds. Deft has grown from his Samsung Blue days into carry ADC when his team needs it, or a utility one when the meta requires it. Mata, too, is flexible to fill whatever his team needs, but his Thresh is still up there in the Heavens as one of the best to touch the game. Their laning is top notch and will easily be a problem for any team they face.
But the wild style of KT has fit their strengths, even if it can expose weaknesses in their macro play. They are still one of the most mechanically gifted teams in the World and bring years of competition to the game. Yes, RNG may have Uzi, but KT have top players in every role. When they’re firing on all cylinders, and given the ability to dictate the pace of the game, they’re unstoppable. One of the bloodiest and deadliest teams outside of the LPL, KT play early and fast like few other teams do, which covers up some of their missplays and slip ups in the macro game. While the West is still learning to play their own style even when surrounded by polar opposites, KT have excelled in perfecting and sticking to their aggressive, early game play. And they look damn good at it too.
While they’ve nearly gone undefeated in two regular splits, Invictus Gaming did not win either of those splits. Their LPL rivals in Royal Never Give Up not only stopped their undefeated streak in the Spring and Summer (the only team to beat them), but also directly stole away the championship from them both times. But, as Riot would like us to believe, their losses were just as much their own faults as a cruel play of fate: while iG look dominant in their wins, they look lost in their losses. But it’s not often that they’ve found themselves in the case of the latter. Going almost undefeated in one of the most competitive and grueling leagues, which still has Bo3s too it should be noted, is impressive. The roster is disgustingly tyrannical when they show up on the day.
It wouldn’t be right to call iG a “new” team, given that they do have a wealth of experience both domestically and internationally, with players like Song "Rookie" Eui-jin and Lee "Duke" Ho-seong. That said, they do have quite a few fresh faces for the international stage on the squad. The veteran status for iG rests in their star Mid laner Rookie, who is making his second worlds appearance, alongside a goddamn World champion in Duke in the rotating position of the Top lane, often being the more tank oriented player for the team than his counterpart Kang "TheShy" Seung-lok. That’s some quality leadership to have, and as should be of no surprise given his (rightful) place on Riot’s Top 20 Players at Worlds, the number two is the gem of iG, Rookie. Rookie is largely responsible for much of iG’s successes this year and has been at the forefront of their uptick in performance. His ability to make kills work and turn team fights is truly something special to watch.
But iG also brings a wealth of young, hungry talent to the fore. In a sea of impressive Top lane talent Theshy has made already made quite the name for himself, alongside Kim "Kiin" Gi-in as the best and brightest of the new generation of Top laners. He is honestly one of the scariest Top laners on a carry and draws so much pressure Top lane it’s inhuman. Alongside him is Gao "Ning" Zhen-Ning, iG’s staunch Jungler. His ganks around the map are deadly and set the pace for iG’s oppressive style overall. The bot lane duo, for all of their mishaps, were also responsible for Jian "Uzi" Zi-Hao and RNG’s refusal to scrim with the team. Why? Because they would crush him in lane so often. Yu "JackeyLove" Wen-Bo is one of the youngest players at Worlds and has been with the iG organization since Summer of 2016, when he was only 15 years old. His talent and mechanical prowess are well documented, even if his greed and decision making still needs time to tune. His lanemate Wang "Baolan" Liu-Yi is no slouch either, well equipped at the role that all LPL supports need to be: saving their ADCs from killing themselves by being too aggressive. It’s a tough role to play.
While iG have shown that they are not untouchable in this competition, they’ve well established their prowess as one not to be trifled with. Their ability to play teamfights and the absolute raw mechanical power have brought them many victories already. They’ve also got a chip on their shoulder and a chance to settle: after being upset time and time against by Royal Never Give Up, they’ve got a chance to steal the spotlight away and plant it firmly on themselves by taking down KT Rolster. Whether that’s an achievable goal will rely on how iG have learned from their losses at the hands of Fnatic. If they can adapt and return to their tyrannical selves, they’ll stand a chance. But if not, given the walloping they got from a team not slated to win it all, it may be difficult to topple the KT squad who are slated to have a real shot at winning it all. .