FINALLY it's time for OGN (errr Riot Korea?) to start up again!! With that happening it's time for my usual predictions for each of the major leagues. I'll be doing this in a power rankings sort of format as it'd be a bit complicated to do it game by game like I did for worlds.
LoL Champions (Korea) Spring 2015
#1 - SK Telecom T1
Starting Line-up: Marin, Faker, Bengi, Wolf, Bang Notable Subs: Piccaboo, Easyhoon
The legends appear to have weathered the exodus of talent better than a most of the Korean teams and after a stellar preseason in which they absolutely dominated the competition with a 4-1-0 record (9-1 in games) they seem poised to retake their throne. To me, the major part of the success is the consistency they've brought to the previously inconsistent bot lane. Wolf and Bang almost never lose lane even against premium opponents and against the lower end bot lanes they're able to win. This will allow Bengi to focus primarily on Marin and Faker. Speaking of Marin, he finally appears to be living up to the hype. He was a huge disappointment for a lot of people during his time on SKT T1 S but I think the majority of his problems came from passive teammates. Marin and Faker will feed off of each other and Bengi will have a field day working with them. Combine that with a rock solid bot lane and a downtick in the strength of most of their opponents and I just can't see SKT T1 doing anything but rampage through LCK.
Final Record: 12 - 2 (one best of three loss to each Najin and Huya)
#2 - Najin e-mFire
Starting Line-up: Duke, Watch, Ggoong, Ohq, Cain Notable Subs: Zefa, Pure
Assuming Najin rolls with this starting line-up they're the clear cut number two behind SKT. With that said, they ran an awful lot of Zefa during the preseason which means that either they like him over Ohq which I feel is a massive mistake, or they were just trying to get him some reps during the preseason with no stakes. Najin was the other team that maintained a relatively stable roster through the Chinese exodus. Ohq and Cain could end up being the top bot lane in Korea, Ggoong has shown everyone how much of a savage he can be, and Duke is likely the best top laner in Korea. Watch will do what he always has, never shine, occasionally blunder, but usually just do his job. The veteran presence and overall talent of this line-up will be their strength.
Final Record: 11 - 3 (Losses: SKT, Huya, Samsung)
#3 - HUYA Tigers
Starting Line-up: Smeb, Lee, Kuro, Pray, Gorilla
One of the big stories this preseason was formation of this mostly ex-Najin team by Chinese company YY. They struggled at times to qualify but did so and have since been performing up to their high expectations. Kuro has been solid throughout his career. Pray and Gorilla are the other candidate for the new best bot lane in Korea (especially Gorilla who probably is the top support in the region now). Lee, while inexperienced has shown a lot of promise and if he can add some depth to his champion pool then he'll surely be a threat. Smeb drew bans and performed way above any level I've seen him at during the pre-season. If he can keep that up then this team will have an even higher chance of success in LCK. The biggest weakness will be whether or not they can remain consistent. If they perform like they did during the preseason they'll be in good shape, but if it's more like the qualifiers then they could end up worse.
Final Record: 9 - 5 (Losses: SKT x2, Najin, Samsung, misc other)
#4 - Samsung Galaxy
Starting Line-up: Cuvee, Eve, Bliss, Fury, Wraith
The world champs released every single one of their players (or lost them to bigger contracts from China) and had to start from scratch with a brand new roster of solo queue super stars. My first experience with these guys was this preseason and they did nothing but surprise me with individual outplay after individual outplay. Mechanically every one of these guys is at the professional level and they even managed to steal games off of veteran line-ups like Najin and KT Rolster. Bliss is known as a Fizz only specialist and he was 1v1 killing the likes of Najin and Ggoong on the normally harmless Morgana. He also punished Faker in an early duel when he did get Fizz (although Faker took the later game). These guys are scrappy, skirmish incredibly well, and while their strategic side isn't quite there yet (and I trust the historically excellent coaching and infrastructure of Samsung to help with this) these kids really pack a mean punch. They seemingly just play solo queue and are capable of winning. Imagine what a couple of months of learning and experience will get them. I expect them to be the new upstarts and proof that Korea doesn't have the best players but PRODUCES the best players through their system. That being said, I'm not sure they really come into full force until the Summer season so I'll leave them at a respectable fourth for now.
Final Record: 8 - 6 (Losses: varied but probably SKT x2, Najin x1, HUYA x1, KT x1, misc others)
#5 - KT Rolster
Starting Line-up: Ssumday, Score (I think?), Nagne, Arrow, Hachani Notable Subs: Edge, IkSsu,
I'm not quite sure what I think about Score jungling but it appears that KT likes the idea. He performed decently considering he was brand new to it (on the pro level). Score is a talented player but history doesn't treat role swaps well and this seems sort of desperate to me and for no real reason. Arrow and Hachani form a solid bottom side of the map and with Nagne's reinvigoration and Ssumday playing the best I've ever seen him KT appear to be... average. The fact is that only Arrow and Hachani really stand out to me on this team and I'm not entirely sure just how much the solos and jungle can affect the rest of the game. KT is another historically well coached team so perhaps they'll develop an edge with that and their veteran presence. Still, I see them as somewhere toward the bottom of this years pool. This is a bit of a hunch for me seeing as a lot of people have this line-up winning a lot more and while they may perform better than this record prediction, I stick by it.
Final Record: 5 - 9
#6 - Jin Air Greenwings
Starting Line-up: Trace, Chaser, GBM, Cpt Jack, Chei
Oh Jin Air, I had such high hopes for us this season. After an impressive showing last season it appeared that Jin Air had finally found a playoff worthy team but, alas, it was too good to be true. Trace was an exciting player to watch last year but he seems to have lost something since then. GBM seems to be playing well on the solo queue ladder but just can't translate it to professional play on champions other than Orianna and his small champion pool is killing him. Chaser is good but nothing exciting, although the jungle scene in Korea has taken a hit for sure so maybe this won't be that big a deal even with the new jungle changes. The bright spot for Jin Air is bottom lane Cpt Jack and Chei (unless they run Pilot which I disagree with). This Jin Air team needs too many things to happen to go anywhere. Trace has to get his act together, GBM would have to make massive improvements, and Chaser would have to show a mastery of the new jungle. If things go right for Jin Air I could have them around 4th, making the playoffs and with a winning record but I just don't see it all happening.
Final Record: 4 - 10
#6 - CJ Entus
Starting Line-up: Shy, Ambition, Coco, Space, Madlife Notable Subs: Trick, Roar
This is the end for CJ Entus. They've slowly been falling off as an organization that seems unwilling to move on from players. Their loyalty is to such an extreme that it's a fault if you ask me. Shy can still play, Coco is one of the better mid laners in Korea, and Madlife is still Madlife, but what in the hell are they thinking putting Ambition in the jungle? Keeping Space and letting Emperor go to Brazil? Really? I think it's time for Ambition and his ego to hang up the mouse and keyboard, see if Trick develops into anything, and if not, fork out some money to a premiere prospect because if this line up has shown us anything it's that it's boring, unexciting, and incapable of winning games outside of tremendous outplays from Shy, Coco, and Madlife carrying their heavy teammates.
Final Record: 4 - 10
#8 - Incredible Miracle
Starting Line-up: Lilac, Wisdom, Frozen, Sonstar, Tusin
I really want to believe that IM will be more than this but they're just too inconsistent. Frozen is one of the best players in Korea but he just can't do it himself. Sonstar has had a few good games but the rest of this line-up is just so bland. I salute Lilac for maintaining a professional level of play for literally years now (since League's competitive scene's inception) and while I admire his moderate champion pool he's just not that good. Wisdom might be good but I'd never know from all the focus he has to put toward the top. Sonstar and Tusin probably don't deserve this bad a rap as they've performed well. Honestly the bright spot is on Frozen but it's another case of whether or not he can do this all himself and I don't think he's quite that good yet.
Final Record: 3 - 11
League MVP - Faker - The obvious choice here if you ask me.
Rookie of the Year - Bliss
Biggest Disappointment - Ambition
Biggest Surprise - Marin or Smeb
Best in Role:
- Top: Duke
- Jungle: Bengi
- Mid: Faker
- AD Carry: Ohq
- Support: Gorilla
First Player to Return to Korea before end of season: KaKao (outside shot at Emperor)
Well that's about it for this one. I'll be doing more when it comes time for LCS season. Enjoy the FREE HD (no subscription required anymore!).