After yet again failing to see a Korean side lift the World Championship, the historically most successful region is back with the start of the Spring 2020 League of Legends Champions Korea split
After yet again failing to see a Korean side lift the World Championship, the historically most successful region is back with the start of the Spring 2020 League of Legends Champions Korea split. A number of roster changes have led to new-look sides and a shift in the strength of many teams.
Beginning Wednesday 5th February, the LCK will be played over a ten-week regular season followed by playoffs. The regular season is played out in a double round-robin with each side playing two best-of-three series each week, while playoffs are then mostly competed in best-of-fives (apart from a Bo3 first round).
Ten sides will compete for the title, with the top five qualifying for playoffs where they have the chance of gaining the LCK crown and the Mid-Season Invitational place that goes along with it.
While other regions have made changes to implement loser brackets in their playoff formats, the LCK has instead opted to keep their traditional gauntlet style.
Round one begins with a best-of-three series between the 4th and 5th seeds. The winner will then face the 3rd seed, and the winner of that series will then play the 2nd seed. The subsequent victor will then proceed to the final, where they will compete against the top seed from the regular season.
The entirety of the regular season will be held in Riot’s Seoul LCK studio, albeit without a crowd in earlier weeks in order to avoid the coronavirus, with playoffs then taking place in a currently unconfirmed arena.
Unlike other regions with franchised leagues, the top-tier Korean competition still features promotion/relegation opportunities. The bottom two sides of LCK Spring will get the unfortunate chance to compete in the LCK Summer Promotion tournament. This will pit them against the top teams from Korea’s second league (Challengers Korea) in order to keep their place for the next split, or make way for the upcoming organisations.
Coming into the new season, significant roster changes have largely shifted the power rankings of the league. Gen.G currently sit top in terms of odds to win the league @ 3.30, while the Spring and Summer 2019 champions (and three-time Worlds winners) T1 are third favourites @ 5.50 after losing some key stars as well as long-serving head coach Kkoma.
The former have secured the services of ex-SKT jungler Clid, who was heavily praised for his role in the sides success last season. Combining him with solid Korean laners in Rascal in the top lane and Bdd in mid has boosted expectations for the organisation to their highest since their takeover of Samsung Galaxy in 2018.
Meanwhile, SK Telecom have gone through a rebrand of their own, now to be known simply as T1. Losing Clid was expected to be a significant hit to the side, though they have found as good a replacement as possible in ex-Dragonx jungler Cuzz. Meanwhile, top-laner Khan has made the move away to the Chinese LPL, joining 2020 World champions FunPlus Phoenix. With Khan being known to have hit or miss performances, his replacement Roach (joining from Gen.G) has a realistic chance of being an upgrade if he is able to provide consistently strong showings, especially with tank champions that Khan notoriously struggled to thrive with.
A controversy that rocked Korea during the off-season was that of the former-Griffin coach cvMax. Having been infamously let go only days before Griffin were set to appear in the 2019 World Championship, he went on to expose alleged wrongdoings within the organisation while also being temporarily banned by Riot Games from working within the scene for his own alleged abuse of Griffin’s players.
Having eventually been cleared to compete (for now), cvMax has built a solid squad for his new side DragonX, keeping superstar ADC Deft while also bringing top laner Doran and mid laner Chovy from his old Griffin lineup. This has resulted in much higher expectations from the side this split, finding themselves second-favourites to be crowned champions @ 4.55.
As a result of Griffin’s sweeping changes, they now find themselves among the favourites to finish in the bottom two. Newcomers APK Prince are currently tipped to be the weakest side in the league, with odds @ 1.02 to finish in one of the relegation spots. Joining them as relegation favourites are Griffin and KT Rolster, both @ 2.25.
My pick for the Spring split is for cvMax’s new side to be crowned champions LCK champions. While some former players have spoken out against his coaching style, those that have joined him at DragonX have praised his impact in taking Griffin from Challengers Korea hopefuls to World Championship favourites in only a few splits.
With many sides sporting new-look rosters, the ability for their coaches to quickly mould their respective teams will be crucial in seeing which side will start out on top. If his positive feedback from the likes of Doran and Chovy is to be believed, his presence on a DragonX side that already looks immensely strong on paper can be a massive recipe for success.
Gen.G’s strong roster can be a big rival for the Spring crown, while T1’s consistent ability to win splits even when not appearing particularly strong for much of the regular season cannot be ignored. Despite this, however, I am still inclined to lean towards DragonX for their encouraging mix of impeccable roster talent alongside strong coaching staff.