On April 19th Griffin qualified for what's considered to be the highest level of League of Legends, the LCK, inbound for the 2018 Summer Split after battling through the promotion tournament. Now in week 7, the team sits at the very top of the league in first place.
So how did this fresh qualifier manage to topple the very best of the best out of nowhere? Where did this rookie team come from?
Rise of the challengers
Griffin got to the LCK promotion tournament on the back of a terrifying 14-0 run in Challengers Korea. They certainly weren't the biggest underdog story.
Their roster, made up of insane individual talent from top to bottom, includes Sword in the top lane, Tarzan in the jungle, Rather and Chovy splitting time in the mid lane, and adc Viper alongside support Lehends in the bottom lane. Each player proved themselves able to take over a game and snowball it to victory when given a chance, which left opponents juggling 5 lethal threats and some killer team coordination between all of the members.
But despite their run of success, the fans wondered whether it would translate to the bigger stage or if they'd fall short when it mattered most.
To earn their spot Griffin had to run through the lowest ranked teams of the Spring, MVP and Kongdoo Monster, in the promotion tournament. They were two teams with weak performances, sure, but consistent LCK experience that may have left them a cut above.
We quickly learned that wasn't the case.
A bigger pond
After dispatching Kongdoo Monster and then MVP in a heavy-handed 3-1 beating only dropping the first game, Griffin arrived to the LCK, and teams were put on notice that this rookie organization was ready to leave a mark on the top competition.
Griffin joined the LCK landscape at an interesting time. For starters, the decline of SK Telecom T1 looked as apparent as ever, and the power of competitors Afreeca Freecs, kt Rolster and Kingzone Dragon X was daunting. Even the middle of the table had shown flashes of great play with teams like Hanwha Life Esports (formerly ROX Tigers) and Gen.G only just missing out on bigger things.
It was perhaps the most competitive the LCK had been in years overall, no longer having one juggernaut dishing out beatings week after week. Many teams threatened the top of the table and few felt disqualified from going on a tear at any moment.
In steps Griffin.
Summer Split: The climb
In week 1 Griffin would face Hanwha Life Esports, a team finishing at an even 9-9 in the Spring. After dropping the first game of the best-of-3, Griffin would take down two in a row with Nocturne in the jungle and dominant showings from solo laners Sword and Chovy. A stunned Hanwha Life Esports fell to become the first victim of the rookies.
Griffin then faced MVP, the team they so handily took apart in the promotion tournament. Once again, Griffin ran through them in dominant 2-0 fashion.
In their third match of the first week, Griffin met a struggling bbq Olivers. Despite the apparent gap in skill level, Griffin nearly fell after dropping game 2, but managed to secure the victory in game 3.
Closing out week 1 at 3-0 is quite a feat, shown by their immediate first place ranking in the league. But it was only 3 games on one day, right? It had to be a fluke.
Griffin faced tougher matchups in week 2 of the Summer Split, if only a little. They got away with facing MVP and bbq Olivers in the same week, but they now had to face the former king of the LCK SK Telecom T1, though they did get one of the next worst performers first in Jin Air Green Wings.
Griffin took apart Jin Air in 25 minutes and 35 minutes respectively for a confident 2-0. Chovy once again showed his mid lane prowess, and Tarzan captured his first MVP of the split from the jungle.
The rookies then stared down their toughest challenge to date, the figureheads of the LCK for so much of history, SK Telecom T1. Griffin's Chovy would be put to the absolute midlane test, the metric of LCK talent, Faker himself.
Lucky for Griffin, this team was struggling to look even a shade like their former selves, nursing the wounds of several straight losses. Griffin put the pressure on and added another dominant 2-0 victory to their list.
Griffin had stepped into the LCK and walked out of week 2 at an undefeated 5-0. Despite a softball schedule thus far, fans were on the edges of their seats watching these rookie players take the scene over.
It was time for Griffin to face the music. Now after all of their perceived easy victories, the rookies were scheduled to face the Spring Split LCK champions Kingzone Dragon X. To make matters worse, they would then follow this up with the ever-dangerous kt Rolster, coming off a second place 13-5 spring. The Cinderella story had to be on its final chapter.
Griffin managed to get Sword onto one of his pocket picks, Shen, for both of the games this series lasted. This, combined with some insane individual playmaking from Chovy, led to Griffin unseating the spring champion with an incredible 2-0. They had proven beyond doubt that they were the real deal, capping off the 6-0 run with the biggest possible victim.
Summer Split: Bumps in the road
Sometimes it's not the biggest obstacle that proves the most dangerous. Sometimes it's the one right beyond it.
After being on top of the world taking down KingZone, it was the under-respected kt Rolster that stepped up and put a dent in Griffin's undefeated run in their final match of week 3. How would you expect a veteran team to pull this off? The most underrated veteran strength in competitive League of Legends, the draft phase.
kt Rolster stepped into this week 3 matchup with a clear plan in mind, bring together a comp that could overwhelm Griffin in teamfights, and maintain strength in numbers after surviving Griffin's dangerous laning phase. They managed both, with the help of one pick that proved important in both games, a pick that perhaps Griffin should've banned if they had the stage experience to see the kryptonite before it was too late. That pick, that kryptonite, proved to be The Master of Metal, Mordekaiser.
In combination with incredible solo lane domination from kt Rolster's Smeb and Ucal, something Griffin couldn't pick around, kt's Mordekaiser picks for Deft allowed them the confidence to win teamfights off the strength they had snowballed, something Griffin proves ultra-dangerous at.
With this, kt Rolster ended Griffin's 162 day streak.
Griffin has still maintained top of the table form in their other matches this summer. They've since dropped matches to Afreeca Freecs, kt Rolster, and Hanwha Life Esports. Now week 7, Griffin still maintains first place at 11-4, but the team of rookies that previously looked immortal has since fallen into place as another strong team in the LCK.
Their untouchable aura has been destroyed, but that doesn't mean this team isn't still making noise.
The road ahead
With just two weeks remaining in the LCK 2018 Summer Split, and only a few weak matchups left for Griffin to take on, they've all but secured first place heading into the Playoffs. Griffin only has to make it through Jin Air Green Wings, SK Telecom T1, and bbq Olivers once again to block anyone from stealing their throne. Likely only really needing to win two of these matches to do so.
With the 10-4 Gen.G Esports and 10-5 KingZone Dragon X on their heels, it's still going to be a race to the finish line. Be sure to catch the final weeks of LCK Summer Split action as we all watch history unfold, either with the team of 5 rookies conquering the best of the best in League of Legends in their debut, or falling just short of that feat on the final lap.
Griffin face Jin Air Green Wings in their next match on July 31st at 4:00pm EDT. You won't want to miss it.
What do you think of Griffin and their historic rise in the LCK? Let us know in the comments below!