(Image Credit: Riot Games)
The LCK is what many consider to be the upper echelon of League of Legends, and while it was once dominated by big fish, things have gotten much more competitive domestically.
Looking ahead at Summer, there’s plenty of games to look forward to, and dangerous teams to watch.
Let’s break down how they’ll do in the upcoming 2018 Summer Season.
MVP had a rocky Spring Season, ending it 6-12, a repeat of their 2017 Summer. While they’ve managed to fight back into the LCK, qualifying by the skin of their teeth from the loser’s bracket by beating Kongdoo Monster 3-2 isn’t exactly an exclamation mark on what amounts to two very disappointing seasons in a row. But lacking an exclamation mark is a perfect way to summarize this squad.
With underperforming players in the top, middle, jungle, and even support positions – MVP relied heavily on the strength of their AD carry Pilot to bring home wins. Support Max also helped this process along as his lane partner, but the credit mostly belongs to the marksman himself.
Coming into Summer, MVP lack that one point of improvement that fans can expect a team to work on in such a short time between Spring and Summer. They instead have plenty, essentially a sinking ship with many holes to plug. Because of this, and despite Pilot doing his best from the bottom lane, we can’t see any way for MVP to break the 6-12 curse, other than to lose even more games this Summer. They find themselves in a strange new AD carry meta, but that hasn’t meant much before.
9. bbq OLIVERS
bbq OLIVERS is a hard team not to love. After bringing down SKT in 2015 to solely represent Korea at IEM Cologne, the squad has worked to build on the momentum. But ever since that momentous result, it’s been a downhill road.
Still, the downswing for this team has had some positive moments, and in comparison to the horrendous seasons before it, bbq OLIVERS’ 2018 Spring Season was an improvement, even with a 6-12 result, as they staved off having to fight relegation for the first time. But only barely.
Coming into the Spring Season bbq OLIVERS made some interesting player pickups, grabbing Trick for the jungle who made his presence felt on G2 in the EU LCS, and IgNar as support, who also represented himself well in the EU LCS on Misfits. This new 5 managed to bring home bbq OLIVERS best LCK season so far, and they’re hoping to push that win count a few higher once again.
But despite all the hope fans have for this lineup, and two new bright spots brought into the mix with time to synergize, we simply don’t see things changing for this team. Scraping by just ahead of MVP once more is a decent possibility, but we just don’t see it happening for any of the other 8.
We expect bbq OLIVERS to face the unfortunate relegation fight once more in the 2018 Summer Season, a fight we wouldn’t count them out of.
8. Jin Air Green Wings
Jin Air Green Wings are a very hard team to place. At times, they look like evil geniuses, slowly macroing their way to the late game where they shine the brightest. At other times, seeing them picked apart before they get to their sweet spot leaves this squad looking out of place.
Heading into the 2018 Summer Season on the back of large jungle changes that limit the ability for junglers to farm their way into the late game securely, Jin Air Green Wings are perhaps the team most effected. They’ve never relied much on jungle aggression as this team loves to make it to the late game with minimal deaths, but that’s not where Riot seems to be taking the jungler role. With a new system designed to reward consistent ganks and aggression rather than control and farming, Jin Air Green Wings will have to adapt fast if they want to keep pushing in the LCK.
We think new competition, in combination with the new jungle direction, mean that this team will fall just above the relegation line with a losing season.
Meet your wildcard for the 2018 Summer Season.
Griffin qualified for their LCK spot after dismantling Kongdoo Monster and MVP in the 2018 Spring Promotion. That’s no small feat for a promotion team, and certainly not in the fashion they accomplished it in.
With their commanding showings and resolve in the face of their biggest match to date, we expect good things for Griffin in their rookie season at the top.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, while Griffin might surprise the world and come out swinging, we think it’s much more likely they cement a solid first season beating out Jin Air Green Wings at 7th, and relegation by a mile.
6. Gen.G Esports (KSV)
The team formerly known as KsV Esports has some dangerous weapons at its disposal, but its in tough company when it comes down the raw strength of their entire lineup.
The newly minted Gen.G Esports come into the Spring Season with a killer bot lane with Ruler at the helm, the bot lane that will be representing Korea in the upcoming Asia Games alongside other LCK killers like Faker. And that’s no fluke.
The team enters Summer with plenty to prove, but they lack the depth to make a very deep run in domestic competition. We expect in kind that this team will fall just short of the halfway mark of the table. Not bad, but something we expect players with Ruler’s potential to outgrow in future seasons.
5. Hanwha Life Esports (ROX Tigers)
The team formerly known as ROX Tigers (Now Hanwha Life Esports after their roster and LCK slot were acquired) have some major highlights in their LCK tenure. For starters, pushing SKT to the brink in 2016. But ever since, this team has fallen off the throne. We don’t think a new name will change much, but we expect this team to catch some fire this Summer regardless.
The team ended up with a 9-9 2018 Spring Season, a small rebound from their 6 win 2017 Summer, and that’s largely thanks to their two strongest players, mid laner Lava and their big star AD carry Sangyoon (though jungler SeongHwan is nothing to scoff at.) They can thank their jungler for bringing together most of the kills of the squad’s Spring Season, but Sangyoon for the strength to get them. And while jungle changes are coming, we think the strength of these two carries, in arguably the current most impactful roles on the Rift, will amount to a strong season from the newly minted Hanwha Life Esports, though not as strong as history once held for the team formerly known as.
4. KT Rolster
KT Rolster fans have had a rollercoaster their entire LCK tenure, sharing plenty ups and downs along the way. Most fans remember them for falling just short to their rivals SKT time and time again when it matters most, but KT Rolster have a very talented roster that have done more than carve a bigger legacy for themselves since.
With some of the historically strongest solo laners in the league and a strong bottom lane as well, KT Rolster time and time again show up on the Rift as a big fish in the pond. But heading in the 2018 Summer Season, we don’t see things changing for the 4th place Spring Season team, expecting them to just fall short of their rivals. Speaking of…
3. SK Telecom T1
It’s been a rocky road for SK Telecom T1, and yes, for this storied organization that simply means not winning the LCK or Worlds last year. While many boasted the international skill gap finally closing in on SK Telecom T1’s dominance, it was domestic competition that eventually exposed some cracks in the armor of the legends. Those cracks would then be abused by teams from the LCK and beyond, putting SKT in the unique position of scrambling back to the top, something they wouldn’t accomplish.
With now distant dreams of that first place finish, SKT have a path of revenge ahead of them if they want to return to the heights of their former glory, and while we believe in this roster enough in the upcoming meta (with two very strong players in the two most influential positions, mid and ad carry,) we still believe the raw talent of two other teams puts SKT at a 3rd place finish once the smoke clears, capitalizing on a downturn from archrivals KT Rolster to beat them out this Summer.
2. Afreeca Freecs
Afreeca Freecs came up just short of the LCK throne in the 2018 Spring Season, and while they’ve had time to learn from their losses and study their biggest opponent Kingzone Dragon X, we just don’t see a way for them to reach the very top of the table. But don’t get us wrong, barring Kingzone, this team is a world-slayer that still might be flying under some radars.
Afreeca Freecs boast some of the most dangerous bot lane pairings in the LCK, and yes, we mean plural. This is because their potent support TusiN has proven himself on the Rift both with starting AD carry Kramer, and backup carry Aiming, who both left the 2018 Spring Season with top ten and several top twenty stats across the league including the 3rd and 4th best CS/min rates respectively.
Beyond their pick your poison bot lane, they also have two very strong junglers in Spirit and Mowgli, who proved that at any time either can take games from top LCK competition. With jungle changes, however, we may see a stymied performance from the jungle all around the LCK. But that doesn’t particularly concern this team, with arguably the most roster depth of the league.
That’s in part also because of their powerful presence in the mid lane. Kuro might not be the strongest mid laner in the league, but falling just short in the company of Faker and Bdd is no small feat. He plays a pivotal role controlling the center of the map for the Freecs, and has proven that he can go toe to toe with the greats all the same, even without their name value.
The weakest point for this Afreeca Freecs lineup continues to be its top lane Kiin, and with as many weapons as this team has elsewhere, and his relative strength to some other top laners in the league, it’s certainly not the worst thing in the world.
But despite all their positives, we predict the Freecs falling just short in the 2018 Summer Season. Having no glaring issues might be enough to take the crown of another league, but the LCK is a dangerous world. A dangerous world with one very particular juggernaut on the throne.
1. Kingzone Dragon X
What can we say about the team who shocked the world in the 2018 Spring Season? Kingzone Dragon X have absolute monsters in every single slot on the Rift, and we don’t expect that to even slow down in the 2018 Summer Season, even after they fell just short of RNG at Rift Rivals this year.
With commanding showings from the roster up and down, we can’t say enough to this team’s credit, and they’re certainly the most likely to take the top of the table coming this Summer Season. They’re adaptable, with flawless execution in their teamfights. They can also put on aggression like few others, up and down Summoner’s Rift.
The weakest point for this team, and one other fans will hope cripples them, is that Peanut put in some utterly monstrous work in the jungle after falling short there for SKT. Should Peanut prove inconsistent once more this lineup may lose some of its teeth.
But barring this sudden downturn, you can expect Kingzone Dragon X to bring home the LCK in the Summer Season, and do some major damage at Worlds. They’ll also be looking to avenge their shortcomings at Rift Rivals, and you can bet that means pain for the LCK. The best bot lane to never take home the gold is looking for blood.
The action kicks off with MVP vs bbq OLIVERS June 12th at 4am, followed by Griffin vs Hanwha Life Esports. Of course these aren't quite top of the table matchups, but internationally, this is action you won't want to miss.
So get your sick days ready, get that popcorn popped, and get some real top level League of Legends on your screens. It's that time of year once again.
Let us know what you think of the upcoming Summer Season in the comments below!