The 2020 Spring split was the chance for Korean organisations to begin making their mark on the season and prove that the LCK really does harvest the game’s top talent
Historically the game’s strongest region, Korea’s LCK has encountered a downturn in recent years and the league has not bred a World Championship winning side since 2017. The 2020 Spring split was the chance for Korean organisations to begin making their mark on the season and prove that the LCK really does harvest the game’s top talent.
Each time a new split rolls around, T1 (formerly SKT) are always expected to make a strong showing and push for the title. Mid-laner Faker has entered his 7th season with the side and, prior to this split, had been crowned as an LCK winner a whopping 8 times. With changes to the top lane (Canna) and jungle (Cuzz), T1’s fans were hesitantly optimistic as to the strength of the side ahead of the start of play, as with any roster moves there can be some time needed to build synergy with new teammates and adapt the team’s playstyle accordingly.
Ex-T1 jungler Clid had left the side in the off-season and opted to join a new-look Gen.G, who were heavily tipped to be T1’s biggest challengers for the title. Along with Gen.G, DragonX’s moves both in terms of playing roster and coaching staff were seen as hugely positive swaps for the team, and they rounded out the top 3 of bookmakers’ favourites.
During the regular season, it was almost impossible to split the three sides. In fact, they even ended with an identical win-loss record of 14 wins and 4 losses each. The seeding heading into playoffs only differed on win percentage, with Gen.G topping the table with 70%, T1 second with 68% and DragonX third at 67%.
LCK’s playoff gauntlet is one that has been questioned over recent years for its significant breaks for top sides. As Gen.G qualified as first seed, they were put straight into the final where they would wait for the gauntlet to play out in order to discover their opponents. Further down the ladder, DragonX won their 2nd round tie against DAMWON Gaming in a close 3-2 series in order to move on to the semi-final against T1.
T1 showed relative ease in the best-of-five series, taking down DRX in a 3-1 victory to book their place in their tenth LCK final. In the previous nine finals, of which Faker had been a part of every one, only Longzhu had managed to beat the legendary team. Lonzghu’s mid-laner at the time, BDD, was now on Gen.G and was crowned as split MVP ahead of the eagerly anticipated grand final.
The story had written itself, T1 vs Gen.G, Faker vs BDD, who would come out on top on this occasion? T1’s previous LCK finals, despite looking just as close on paper, ended up extremely one-sided with 3-0 and 3-1 victories. Spring 2020 proved to be no exception as T1 swatted Gen.G aside in a brutal 3-0 demolition.
Gen.G arguably didn’t look themselves in the series, perhaps bringing more attention to the format which saw them have a prolonged break in play and potential dip in sharpness. T1 once again gained their playoff buff, looking much fiercer when in their playoff run compared to their regular season form. Coach Kim will be extremely proud to have been recognised as the league’s Best Coach, having only joined the side this season after previous experience with DAMWON Gaming and 2018 Worlds winners Invictus Gaming. Jungler Cuzz was highlighted as the MVP of the final itself, a testament to his performances and the perfect way to prove that his replacement of Clid was worthwhile.
Ahead of the highly anticipated series, drama began to unfold before the players had even entered LoL Park. With misunderstandings of schedule, some T1 players were reportedly late to reach the venue, a mistake that cost the team two bans in the opening game as per the league’s ruleset. This decision did not sit well with the T1 camp, with CEO Joe Marsh branding the series as an ‘Asterisk Championship’ before play began.
The punishment did not seem to deter T1, whose poke composition spearheaded by lethality Varus and mid-lane Corki saw the team maintain a steady lead and pick up a clean win in game 1. Despite never being challenged during the match, T1 could be questioned for their lack of ruthlessness; taking an elongated 44 minutes to end the match having been far ahead in gold for the entirety.
However, the slow, careful approach was one that worked well for T1, and more of the same was to come in game 2 as they once again picked up the Corki and Varus combination. This time the result was much more decisive for T1, with Canna and Cuzz stepping up with respective Sylas and Olaf picks to finish the game at the 30-minute mark.
Flexing the Sylas to the jungle for game 3 meant that Canna’s Ornn was easily able to nullify Rascal’s top-lane Jayce pick, who ended the game with an abysmal 1/8/2 record. A Volibear support pick for Life was equally as ineffective for Gen.G, whose draft choices have been questioned since the series completed, while a particularly strong match for T1’s Teddy (including an unofficial pentakill) with 11 kills sealed the game, series and ultimately the LCK title for his team.
Cuzz’s domination in the jungle, which all but shut down ex-T1 jungler Clid, was enough to earn himself MVP of the series, one that was watched by an impressive 1,074,561 peak concurrent viewers.
Although his side failed to clinch the LCK title, BDD’s solid form for Gen.G was recognised by seeing him crowned as the MVP of the split. One of only a small number of mid-laners that have ever been able to match up to Faker, BDD boasted the highest KDA of anyone in his position (6.73), the lowest number of average deaths (1.36) and the highest kill participation (74.4%). These stats in particular perfectly highlight his impact on Gen.G, being heavily involved with moves made by his side while also being able to withhold pressure, avoid deaths and never fall behind his opponents.
Best Bet - Griffin to finish last in the regular season
Having lost a number of key members, and perhaps more importantly cvMax as their coach, Griffin were not expected to reach the heights that fans had come to expect from the side and were seen as more likely to challenge for a lower playoff spot. Keeping the likes of Sword, Tarzan and Viper, all of whom had been part of their meteoric rise, meant that the team still held onto their core and were not looking like a side set for the foot of the table.
The loss of mid-laner Chovy, however, appears to have had a particularly harsh impact on the side, who failed all expectations and ended the split bottom of the regular season with a measly 5 win, 13 loss record.
So bad was their finish this split, that they will join SANDBOX Gaming in the Summer Promotion tournament where they will fight for the place in the league against Challenger Korea hopefuls Seorabeol Gaming and Team Dynamics.