In League of Legends, someone has to be at the forefront. Someone has to be so far ahead of the competition that their presence alone sets an example for others to follow. For the longest time, that someone was SK Telecom T1.
This South Korean powerhouse dominated the League of Legends landscape for so many years straight that every region ended up with its fair share of SKT copycats trying to emulate the measured playstyle of the eponymous team.
But times change.
SKT’s reign is in the past, and Griffin stepped out of the shadow to take their place. This is a lineup that inspires both fear and fascination by seamlessly tearing through the most competitive league in the world. However, any attempts to imitate its playstyle will only result in LoL teams wasting valuable practice time, because there are several things that make Griffin one of a kind.
The best place to start is Griffin’s roster. Whenever an organization displays this level of dominance, every player on its lineup comes off as a superstar that could have an entire team built around him. Yet, a proper team dynamic is just as important as individual skill.
Looking back at the powerhouses of old, teams like Samsung White, ROX Tigers, and various iterations of SK Telecom T1, it's clear that none of them had the best players in every position. Instead, they assembled well-rounded rosters where all pieces complement each other's strengths and cover for each other's weaknesses–so much so that role players ended up looking like carries, and carries ended up looking like juggernauts.
Griffin also built a team that’s more than the sum of its parts.
Their strong momentum comes from not one, not two, but three world-class players in Tarzan, Chovy, and Viper. Each of them has already made a splash in the LCK, but put them on the same lineup, and they start elevating each other's play to grant their team a staggering amount of individual talent. Anything more than that would put a strain on Griffin's resource management, so instead of doubling down on firepower, they mix in two supportive pieces in Sword and Lehends, producing a delicate balance of carry threats and utility players that only a handful of teams could ever hope to recreate.
Of course, even the most well-rounded roster can crumble under the weight of ego clashes and interpersonal conflicts. Griffin seem to be exempt from this issue. Most of their starters are rookies that went through the fires of the Challenger scene. A shared experience of coming up from nothing can forge a strong connection between the players, but it’s their record-breaking LCK run that’s turned this connection into an unbreakable bond. In fact, the fanatical faith Griffin’s players have in each other is one of the defining traits of this lineup.
Whether it’s jumping head-first into explosive teamfights or working towards carefully crafted win conditions, Griffin commit to every play as a unit. Usually, such mutual trust is a result years of shared history and deliberate practice, but Griffin have already experienced more than most. They’ve been through the elation of having the most dominant debut in LCK’s history and the bitterness of falling inches short of the 2018 World Championship—and they know they can go further if they keep pressing on.
But Griffin's success goes much deeper than its lineup.
Their gameplans and strategies are completely dictated by their head coach—cvMax—and it's easy see the mark he’s left on this team. His unorthodox coaching methods like forcing his players to teamfight with no shot calling helped Griffin refine their synergy, and his gladiator-like mentality laid the foundation of their aggressive, yet cool-headed playstyle.
cvMax is the complete package—a confident strategist that has a great mind for the game and enough authority over his players to implement his ideas on the Rift. Coaches like that don’t come around often, and other teams would be hard-pressed to put together a support staff that could provide even a fraction of what cvMax has to offer.
Griffin are lightning in a bottle. Their individual strength is already greater than anything most League of Legends teams can bring to the table, so they have no issues brute forcing their way to victory. But it’s their unique combination of a proper team dynamic, a daring head coach, and absolute trust between the players that puts Griffin into a league of their own.