Let me paint you a picture.
It’s 2017 Worlds Semifinals, and SKT T1 find themselves at a 0-1 deficit against the Chinese powerhouse Royal Never Give Up. In the old days, this wouldn’t be cause for much worry. In fact, many SKT strategies revolved around giving up strategic advantages in game 1 of Bo5s in favor of later adaptations. And yet, with how rough their tournament has been up until this point, SKT no longer had the leisure of bleeding free games.
Playing from behind was no longer acceptable.
That’s why game 2 had to be the turning point. SKT needed to clinch the win here. Otherwise, they’d be knocked down to 0-2, a deficit that the current iteration of SKT would struggle to overcome.
With that in mind, let’s see how SKT T1 tipped the scales in their favor.
From first glance at the draft, it’s clear that something weird is going on here. The first ban rotation is fairly straightforward, except for the fact that RNG decide to take away Jayce from Huni—a champion that SKT’s top laner used to great effect in the past. Things get more interesting when SKT secure a very powerful flex pick—Galio—in the first rotation.
At this point, RNG have the carte blanche to seize one of the most powerful duos in the game, Xayah and Rakan. But inexplicably, they take Twitch and Rakan instead. Granted, Uzi has shown that he’s capable of wreaking havoc on Twitch, but SKT still managed to dodge a bullet here because few bot lanes can stand up to the Xayah/Rakan combo. Of course, this was a calculated risk since Uzi has never played a competitive game of Xayah in his life, so it was unlikely that he’d bring out in the Worlds Semifinals.
SKT take away Shen in the second ban phase to make sure RNG can’t deal with Galio’s map presence.
RNG answer by banning Karma and Orianna.
While Karma isn’t a very contested pick right now, the idea of Galio and Gragas running at you under a Mantra + Shield is scary enough to use a ban on her. The Orianna ban makes a bit less sense. Sure, SKT could still move Galio to the top lane, but that setup works best with a carry jungler, and Gragas certainly doesn’t fall into that category.
RNG then take Malzahar for the AoE damage and the added crowd control. The champion also has an innate spell shield, which is great against SKT’s trio of Galio, Gragas, and Varus. What makes this draft stand out is SKT locking in Camille and Leona. The Camille pick can always force a fight onto Gnar and build up a strong splitpushing presence. Meanwhile, Leona is a very strong Solo Queue counter to Twitch and Rakan that’s been reintroduced to pro play by IgNar. Of course, she comes at the cost of Ardent Censer, so SKT have to make something happen in the early game.
With that in mind, RNG’s Nocturne pick is even more polarizing. It’s easy to see that Bang is the only source of consistent damage on SKT, so if Nocturne manages to delete him, RNG will always win fights. The main issue, though, is that Nocturne has a very telegraphed playstyle, making it entirely too easy for Galio, Gragas, and Leona to lock him down once he initiates.
Of course, RNG are already one game ahead, and if Nocturne pops off, they might earn a free ban for the remainder of the series. So in a sense, it’s fine to take this risk. Still, we can’t help feeling that picks like Zac or Rek’Sai would fit better into RNG’s dive comp.
Meanwhile, SKT built a protect the carry comp, but instead of drafting something like Kog’Maw, they went with a more aggressive laner in Varus. Not only that, but they picked Camille for the added splitpushing presence and the long-range engage onto RNG’s carries. The only question is whether the Leona pick is better than Taric or Morgana—two champions that can shut down Rakan while bringing Ardent Censer to the table.
RNG kick-start the game by going for an aggressive level 1. Four of their members stay in the fog of war on the top side of the map while LetMe throws a boomerang into the banana bush—a standard spot for top laners in the beginning of the game. If Huni were to get hit by the projectile or walk up, he’d get ambushed by the enemy goon squad, and RNG would get their snowball rolling. But Huni runs down instead and evades the ambush.
The laning phase isn’t kind to RNG either, especially when LetMe allows Huni to walk up and chunk him out for free. Now that Gnar is forced under his turret, SKT pounce at the opportunity to break open the game. Faker quickly pushes in his minion wave and—together with Blank—goes for a 2:30 top lane roam, threatening a 3-man dive onto a level 2 Mini Gnar. Fortunately for LetMe, Xiaohu channels teleport to diffuse the situation, but the ball is already in SKT’s court.
With Gnar losing the top lane standoff and Nocturne power farming to level 6, RNG suddenly find themselves with no map pressure. At 5:00, Faker uses this fact to roam down and help Blank claim a safe Ocean Dragon. The only solace for RNG is that Gnar somewhat regains control of the top lane, but things are about to go very wrong for them on the other side of the map.
At 5:58, Twitch oversteps his limits, and Wolf punishes him with a hard engage. Uzi is a bit slow on the Cleanse, which forces him to flash out. But SKT aren’t about to let him get away scot-free, and Bang flashes forward, dodging Rakan’s crowd control in the process. The result? SKT trade 2 summoners for 4 and take full control of the bottom lane.
They continue pressing their lead until Wolf finds an opening at 7:45 and flashes onto Ming, locking down a pretty squishy Rakan. Ming almost make an escape, though, but Uzi inexplicably walks back, denying his lane partner a jump to safety and giving up a free kill to Bang. Quite a big oops on a quite a big stage.
But wait, it gets worse.
At 9:15, Bang and Wolf chain their ultimates to CC Rakan right next to his turret. Twitch comes back right in time to help out his support, and Ming barely escapes with his life, but with Blank also coming to the bottom lane, Uzi is forced to step away from his turret. Still, SKT make the call to leave the enemy turret up and extend the laning phase.
After the play, Blank tries to set up some vision in the enemy jungle, but he doesn’t account for both Mlxg and Xiaohu being there. As Nocturne and Malzahar use their ultimates on Gragas and Uzi comes up from the bottom lane, it seems Blank’s fate is sealed. And then Uzi messes up again.
Twitch’s ultimate pierces all targets in its way, including plants. Considering that Twitch is standing right on top of a Blast Cone when he casts it, Uzi knocks himself out of the fight, giving Faker, Bang, and Wolf enough time to come to Blank’s aid.
Uzi somewhat redeems himself by finishing off Gragas, but RNG are forced to give up Mlxg’s life and trade kills where they could’ve taken a freebie.
Still, RNG still have the edge in theory.
Having a Twitch and an Ardent Censer support means they’ll always have the potential of taking over teamfights. But they can’t staunch the bot lane bleeding, and SKT knock down their turret 12 minutes into the game. RNG scramble to answer with a top lane dive, but Huni reads the situation and gets away unscathed, allowing SKT to claim another easy Ocean Drake as well.
The mid game begins with SKT rotating their duo to the top side of the map and securing a Rift Herald.
RNG are forced to answer by moving Uzi and Ming top, which means they keep laning with a much weaker 2v2 and eventually lose another turret.
Once again, Royal Never Give Up attempt to set up a siege on the other side of the map. But as they move (15:20) Xiaohu and Mlxg to demolish the bot lane turret in 3v1 against Camille, Faker teleports in to assist his teammate. And even though RNG capitalize on a momentary positioning mistake and take down Huni, they stay for far too long, allowing Faker to score a return kill.
But even the best team in the world is prone to making mistakes.
At 17:35, SKT summon a Rift Herald to demolish the last remaining outer turret in the mid lane. The plan goes without a hitch, but instead of walking away with another objective, SKT try to go for more and use Leona/Varus ultimates to catch RNG’s carries.
And despite the fact that they force Malzahar’s Flash, SKT don’t find the fight they were looking for, which leads RNG to believe there’s an opening for a counter-engage.
Ming pulls off a spectacular Rakan combo onto Bang, but unfortunately, Gnar and Nocturne are still moving through their own jungle, and Malzahar is stuck clearing the Rift Herald.
RNG are effectively fighting 2v4, and that means a very, very dead Rakan. As Huni teleports in, it seems that SKT are about to win another teamfight. But then they collectively make the call to chase Uzi, leaving Huni stranded under the enemy turret and bunching up for Malzahar’s AoE.
RNG jump at the opportunity to punish SKT. As LetMe cleans up the fight with a clutch Q, making for a 4 for 2 trade in favor of RNG, it seems that the Chinese are about to kick-start their comeback. This becomes even more apparent when RNG take down the top lane turret—their first turret of the game—and pick off Blank (albeit at the cost of a Mountain Drake.)
And then the bot lane play happens.
At 23:55, Huni E's onto LetMe, but Mlxg is lying in wait, anticipating the aggression. With a single Nocturne ult, Huni’s health drops to a third of its original value, but SKT’s top laner manages to pull off a clutch ultimate and survive long enough for Faker to make his Hero’s Entrance. Mlxg tries to run away as Gnar is trapped under the enemy turret, but Blank is already there to finish off the fleeing Nocturne.
RNG realize the game is slipping out of their grasp and try to force a 3v2 dive onto Bang and Wolf in the mid lane. But Galio simply channels his teleport, and Royal Never Give Up walk away empty-handed.
With a single sequence of plays, Faker put a stop to RNG’s momentum and set up SKT T1 with an easy 24-minute Baron. RNG try to contest the objective in a last-ditch effort, but their opponents strike back with another confident teamfight, resulting in a monumental 8k gold lead.
And even though SKT T1 still have to go through the motions of running a 1-4 setup and choking out their opponents, the game is all but over.
Despite RNG picking up some kills here and there, SKT were in control the entire game. The only time they gave up some ground was during a brash mid game teamfight, but even that wasn’t enough to tip the scales in RNG’s favor. Mlxg’s Nocturne pick never got off the ground, Uzi and Ming were exposed in the bottom lane, and Faker did a ton of work to set up his laners for success. And so, the reigning world champions scored their first win of the series.
What do you think about our breakdown of game 2 of the SKT T1 vs Royal Never Give Up Worlds series? Share your opinion in the comments!
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