They say a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step, but for Samsung Galaxy, it seemed this journey would never come to an end.
The current roster of CuVee, Ambition, Crown, Ruler, and CoreJJ formed right before the 2016 LCK Summer Split. They ended that split fourth.
And while a top-4 finish in the best league in the world is noteworthy, ultimately it meant Samsung were perceived as that good, but not quite great, Korean team.
The rise of the underdogs
Even when Samsung made an impressive run through the Gauntlet, qualified for the 2016 Worlds and clashed with the defending champions in a close 5-game final, their run was eclipsed by the incredible series between ROX Tigers and SKT T1.
They were eternal challengers. A lineup that constantly hovered between being the third and fourth-best team in the world.
And no one, not even Samsung, knew this was about to change.
Their road to the 2017 World Championship wasn’t a seamless one. LCK’s competition was at its highest, and during the last week of the regular season, four strong teams were battling for a place in the finals. Samsung didn’t make the cut.
After SSG suffered a crushing defeat at the hand of Longzhu and fell prey to SKT T1 in the first round of the playoffs, it looked like their story was nearing its end.
Once again, their last hope lied in the Gauntlet. But their series against Afreeca Freecs started out on the wrong foot, and Samsung had to pull off a reverse sweep to advance to the final round of the Regional Qualifiers. And if defeating Afreeca was so hard for them, how could they stand a chance against their next opponent, the ever so dominant KT Rolster?
But inexplicably SSG picked up the slack and pulled off a stunning 3-0 victory. The underdogs would continue their run, right into the 2017 World Championship.
Securing this spot did little to change the notion of Samsung being the worst Korean team at the tournament. Their first matches only reinforced this idea. With SSG dropping two games and finishing groups in second behind LPL’s Royal Never Give up, their stock was at an all-time low.
It was only after they scored a 3-0 upset against Longzhu Gaming that fans realized: Samsung were the real deal. They didn’t try to outmuscle their opponent. Instead, Samsung focused on map movement and vision control to force the enemy team into an unwinnable position where they either have to walk into SSG’s traps or give up key objectives. Longzhu couldn’t crack this puzzle.
And thus, Samsung advanced.
Still, Longzhu were regarded as a powerful, yet inexperienced team, and it wasn’t exactly surprising to see them crumble in face of superior tactics. Even Samsung’s 3-1 victory over Team WE meant little as they were preparing for the ultimate challenge for any League of Legends team, their ultimate metric, defeating SKT in a Bo5.
SKT’s long-standing competitive history seemed too great to overcome, and Samsung were once again regarded as underdogs.
The final test
For all intents and purposes, we were in for a repeat of the 2016 Worlds Finals.
But from the very first game, it became abundantly clear: something was different.
There were no back-to-back skirmishes, no hectic teamfights or clutch outplays. Instead, Samsung were slowly choking their foes out. And the defending world champions were suffocating. The game was decided in an instant with SKT trying—and succeeding—to steal Samsung’s Baron, but giving up four kills and, ultimately, the game in the process.
As the series progressed, Samsung went from underdogs to clear-cut favorites.
CuVee was holding down Huni, Ambition was outmaneuvering Peanut and Blank, Crown wasn’t caving in to Faker’s pressure, and the duo of Ruler and CoreJJ vastly outclassed Bang and Wolf. More importantly, Samsung were more cohesive in terms of macro, strategy, and fight execution.
They were the better team.
At one point, Samsung found themselves 8k gold down in the third game of the series—a deficit that would be considered a death sentence for any other team. But Samsung’s confidence was at its peak. Even while behind, they took fights they had no right of winning and they pulled through. The series culminated in Ruler flashing forward and catching out Faker with a Varus ultimate.
With that, Samsung Galaxy crushed SKT and claimed their first World Championship.
It was hard to avoid conflicting feelings after seeing Faker with his face buried in his hands in the loss, but where one legend rises, another one falls.
And for Samsung Galaxy, Faker’s fall was the final step to forging a legacy.
What do you think about Samsung Galaxy and their showing at the 2017 World Championship? Share your thoughts in the comments below!