Tuesday, February 20, 2018

LCK Spring 2018 Mid-Season "Rest of the Way" Tier List

(UPDATE: Turns out I'm an idiot and forgot to post this even though I had the draft written for weeks.... well at least you get to see the warts.)

You'll notice that I don't have any C Tier Korean teams. That's due to the overall strength of the region once again this year and historically. To give you a comparison of the overall level of Korea compared to the rest of the world I'd take Kongdoo and MVP, the bottom two teams, to defeat all but the very best teams from every single other region.

For clarification purposes this is a TIER LIST not a necessarily a prediction of placement like my Preseason list was specifically targeting. I'm going to put the teams in order from weakest to strongest by seasons end I'm not going to go through to guess every single matchup and predict wins and losses for all 30 remaining games because things change but I will give my rough estimatates for win and loss totals for each squad. Once again this is NOT necessarily how I believe the standings will end up although it mostly sticks to that for the most part. Think of it more as who I believe has the best chance to win the split outright combined with who I believe has the most potential. 

Preseason Predictions:

B Tier Teams:

10) Kongdoo Monster
9) MVP
8) BBQ Olivers

B+ Tier Teams:

7) Jin Air Green Wings

6) ROX Tigers

A Tier Teams:

5) Afreeca Freecs

S Tier Teams:

4) SK Telecom T1

S+ Tier Teams:

3) KSV eSports
2) KT Rolster
1) Kingzone DragonX


Mid-Season Rest of Way Tier List:

B Tier Teams:

Previous Position: 9th (B Tier)
New Position: 10th (B Tier)
Estimated Record: 2 wins - 16 losses

I liked last years MVP a lot. An organization that was committed to its squad. Five young players that had climbed all the way through challenger together and showed continuous growth as a team the longer they were together. They had a fighting spirit, they had synergy and teamwork, and they managed, against all odds, to get 6 game wins in the summer season of LCK 2017 showing a ton of progress and hope for the future. That team was the darling underdogs that everybody wanted to succeed. I'm not sure where they got lost or if the lack of individuals is just catching up to them or maybe it's just burnout but this MVP squad looks uninspired, lacks talent, and are seemingly just going through the motions. It's really sad. I love long standing rosters when they consistently improve, even incrementally, but I think it's finally time for this team to make a coaching or player change if for no other reason than to ignite that fire again because it's dead and buried right now.

Kongdoo Monster
Previous Position: 10th (B Tier)
New Position: 9th (B Tier)
Estimated Record: 4 wins - 12 losses

Unlike MVP, Kongdoo actually show some fight and have their "schtick." They're a really solid 2-core type of team that plays around their best players Edge and Ssol. They know who they are and they stick to the "master this first then we'll diversify" mentality. Kongdoo at least have some players with elite chops in Edge and Ssol while MVP is lacking all over. Kongdoo have fight in them and character but they just aren't that good.

BBQ Olivers
Previous Position: 8th (C Tier)
New Position: 8th (B Tier)
Estimated Record: 5 wins - 11 losses

Similarly to Kongdoo, the BBQ Olivers have personality, heart, and some players but they're just not that good. I liked the idea of bringing in Trick and Ignar and those players fit the style and personality of the squad but it just hasn't quite worked out. This isn't a bad roster but they can't seem to establish any sort of chemistry with each other and in a region as competitive as Korea you can't have more than small weaknesses or you're a bottom of the table team. This is a team that I actually feel should not try to change the roster and just settle on one five man unit to build synergy that way. They have the players to be at least in the 5-7th range but they aren't playing like it right now.
B+ Tier Teams:

Jin Air Green Wings
Previous Position: 7th (B+ Tier)
New Position: 7th (B+ Tier)
Estimated Record: 7 wins - 11 losses

Jin Air are exactly medium to me. They're good at their one trick, they have some good players and one great player (Teddy), an up and comer that's having a great season in Grace, but in the LCK, playoff teams are built out of world class superstars in multiples and they're able to play multiple styles to at least a functional level. Jin Air are strictly too narrow strategically to be an elite team but they're a cut above the bottom of the LCK.

ROX Tigers
Previous Position: 6th (B+ Tier)
New Position: 6th (B+ Tier)
Estimated Record: 9 wins - 9 losses

Man this team is fun to watch. It's like they don't care who they're playing against! They're confident, try different strategies even if it's not in their comfort zone, and have decent execution of these strategies. They have a budding star in Lava and a grisled veteran that's kicking his game into another level in Linderang along with a supporting cast that have been solid throughout their careers. I like this team a lot. They're the upset kings. Even though their execution is often flawed it shows me that this team is not content with the status quo of being a mediocre team. They're going to push their own limits to improve themselves and see what they're capable of instead of rolling over. The only thing keeping ROX out of the playoffs, and hell they might even make the playoffs at this point, is that they don't have multiple, bonafied superstars like all of the other top teams do but I'm willing to be proven wrong.

A Tier Teams:

SK Telecom
Previous Position: 4th (S Tier)
New Position: 5th (A Tier)
Estimated Record: 10 wins - 8 losses

Ahh the legendary SK Telecom! A rough start to the year with multiple upsets, a weird read on the metagame, multiple lineup changes, and Faker playing uncharacteristically imperfect really had this team soul searching but I think they've found their footing. This team had a different personality with Blossom at jungle. I'm not sure if it was entirely on him, although Blank had been more or less terrible this season, or if it was the team realizing "we need to get it together or we're not making playoffs." Perhaps it was a combination of both because they went from being a team with a gameplan of scaling without the proper players to execute it to a team that wasn't going to let games get to that late game 50/50 stage in a matter of days. I don't think this is an SKT lineup you can pencil in to go to worlds this year in a Korean scene that is insanely competitive but they're certainly not as bad as they started and I think are a cut above the bottom half of the league. I think SKT are poised for a ridiculous second half run now that they've found what works and regained their confidence. Let's not forget they have one of the top ADC's of all time, the best coach of all time, and, oh yea, the best player this game has EVER SEEN. Would anybody be that surprised if this team went 7-3 or 6-4 in the second half? I wouldn't.
S Tier Teams:

Afreeca Freecs
Previous Position:5th (A Tier)
New Position: 4th (S Tier)
Estimated Record: 11 wins - 7 losses

The Freecs have been such a pleasant surprise. Going into the season I thought that this lineup would going to be severely underrated. Kuro tied for summer split MVP and nobody even talked about it. He was the MVP in the best league in the world... Kramer has always been just barely outside of that superstar status but is a world class player nonetheless and the same with Tusin. The only question marks were whether Spirit could recapture his youth from the Samsung Blue days where many considered him the second best jungler on the planet, and newcomer Kiin from the Ever8 organization. Well it turns out Kiin is a beast, Spirit found his old self, and this team is firing on all cylinders. Afreeca have shown the ability to play a number of styles, crush the bad teams like good teams are supposed to, and have some victories against the top teams but I think this is about as good as this squad can get which is why I'm leaving them in the S Tier. I hope I'm wrong and we have a new top team to talk about because I could see KSV slipping up if they don't adapt.
S+ Tier Teams:

KSV eSports
Previous Position:3rd (S+ Tier)
New Position: 3rd (S Tier)
Estimated Record: 12 wins - 6 losses

I can't quit on these guys. This roster is just too good and has been together for so long. They know what disappointment tastes like, they know what a world championship feels like, and I expect that despite some weird lulls they'll refocus and pick things up when it matters. It wouldn't surprise me to see this team punt some more bad losses and then get it together for playoffs and suddenly be the best team on earth again. It sounds weird to say but think about Worlds this past year. Remember that this is the only team to have taken ANY games off of Kingzone DragonX...

KT Rolster
Previous Position:2nd (S+ Tier)
New Position: 2nd (S+ Tier)
Estimated Record: 14 wins - 4 losses

The super team has their inconsistencies but they're certainly ahead of schedule compared to last spring when they were first put together. This is just another case of a team that can play any style and have five hall of fame level players and are particularly good in the early game which could serve them well if the metagame shifts in that direction which I anticipate it will. What's not to love here. This team should be the best team on earth so being second is a disappointment and I don't think they want to miss out on going to worlds again. All business this time around.

Kingzone DragonX
Previous Position:1st (S+ Tier)
New Position: 1st (S+ Tier)
Estimated Record: 16 wins - 2 losses

I don't know what to say about this team that hasn't been said. I don't think they have a weakness. You could say that what happened at worlds was simply Samsung capturing lightning in a bottle to defeat what I'd consider already to be one of the best teams of all time or you could say it was a choke job. This team is eerily similar to Season 4 Samsung White. They don't just beat you. They demoralize you. They'll hand you a beating and then style on you with off meta picks and beat you even harder. They're just playing the game on a different level right now. Khan, to me, is the best player on the planet currently. There isn't anything the guy can't play. A lot of players will get a counterpick and do well with it but Khan ends a game before it starts. He even wins matchups he shouldn't frequently. He reminds me so much of Faker in his second year where the guy was just about invincible. Until somebody punches a hole in this team I can't have them anywhere but here. I legitimately think this could be a 17 match wins in a row type of team to end the season 17-1. I'll put them at 16-2 but it wouldn't shock me to see otherwise. I'm wondering who their next game loss is going to be because they've currently won 14 in a row.

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