Returning with a new World Champion organisation in its ranks, Korea’s LCK (League of Legends Championship Korea) kicks off for a new season which will once again see ten sides battle it out for first place
Returning with a new World Champion organisation in its ranks, Korea’s LCK (League of Legends Championship Korea) kicks off for a new season which will once again see ten sides battle it out for first place. A newly franchised league, each partner organisation will be looking to make their mark in the region’s new era.
Held in Riot’s LoL Park, Seoul, the LCK Spring split kicks off on Wednesday 13th January where a double round-robin, best-of-three regular season will take place over weeks of competition. This sees each team play against each other twice, with the final games on Sunday 28th March, after which results are tallied up and table places are determined.
In previous splits, only the top five regular season sides would make it through the playoff gauntlet, however a new playoff format will now see the top six teams qualify.
Playoffs are currently set to begin on Wednesday 31st March and will be played out by a relatively standard knockout bracket, with entry points for each team based on their regular season seeding.
While 1st and 2nd seeds both receive byes to the semi-finals, the rest of the qualified teams start off playoffs in the quarter-finals with 3rd facing 6th and 4th going up against 5th. The 1st seeded team then chooses which of the winners they prefer to play against while the other must instead go head-to-head with the 2nd seed. Semi-final winners naturally move on to the grand final, where the latest LCK champion, the first in the new franchise era, is crowned.
With the franchising of the league came the tough task of choosing which organisations get to compete, and Riot has made the decision to grant a spot to 9 of the 10 existing LCK sides. The unfortunate team who didn’t make the cut were SeolHaeOne Prince, being replaced by previous second division team Fredit BRION (formerly hyFresh Blade). Others who have stayed in the league while rebranding are DAMWON Gaming (now DWG KIA), SANDBOX Gaming (now Liiv SANDBOX) and Team Dynamics (now Nongshim RedForce).
As is always the case, the off-season has also brought about a host of roster swaps and the balance of the table may end up vastly different to last year as a result.
Some of the most notable changes came from the current World Championship holders DWG KIA. Though their roster mostly stuck together, superstar top laner Nuguri chose to test free agency and allow his contract to run down, eventually making the lucrative move to the LPL with FunPlus Phoenix. Coincidentally, replacing him is former FPX player Khan, who returns to the LCK having previously won the league with both Kingzone DragonX and SK Telecom.
In another big change for DWG, former coaches Zefa and Daeny have made the decision to leave the side for legendary organisation T1, whose former 3-time Worlds winning coach kkOma will fill the void left at DWG to replace them. On the topic of T1, their playing roster had little movement with only Keria joining from DRX as fan-favourite Effort left to join SANDBOX.
DWG’s minimal changes will undoubtedly mean that they are favourites heading into the beginning of the split and looking to continue on their dominating form that saw the side smash the LCK Summer split before regaining the World Championship for Korea.
Many veteran LCK fans will be delighted to see the return of former World Champion bot laner Bang, moving back to the region after spending the last two years with 100 Thieves and Evil Geniuses in North America. Joining him as another legendary Korean player returning to the league is jungler Peanut as he makes the move back to the LCK from China’s LGD Gaming.
Another big roster change came in the form of a double swoop from Hanwha Life as they secured DRX’s mid laner Chovy and bot laner Deft, both of whom bring enormous fanbases to the side while looking to push Hanwha to at least a playoff place (something they have failed to do under the current brand).
When trying to predict a winner for the league title, it’s hard to look past current holders DWG KIA. Their dominance through Summer concluded with the Summoner’s Cup trophy lift that Korean fans had been praying for since the last championship for the region back in 2017. Their minimal roster changes should, in theory, mean that the team’s progress is not largely interrupted and a strong start out of the blocks would not be surprising in the least.
The main question mark will be around top laner Khan’s introduction to the roster. While arguably sharing a similar ceiling to his predecessor Nuguri, Khan’s tendency to have off games may be the crack in DWG KIA’s armor. The former T1 man has made a habit of coin-flipping his lane throughout his career and has seen this inconsistency prevent him from being seen as one of the great players in his role.