SK Telecom T1 are coming off of the most disappointing year in organization history. After winning the World Championship more than any org in League of Legends history, SKT fell drastically short in 2018, failing to even qualify for Worlds. They come back after the offseason looking better than ever with a dangerous roster of new faces (and one very important old one.)
Jin Air GreenWings successfully held onto their LCK slot for another year, but once again it came down to the wire. Ending the 2018 Summer Season 4-14 was yet another forgettable disappointment in a long line of them, but Jin Air have put together an all new roster for 2019. Do they have what it takes to plug the holes on this sinking ship?
In the top lane SK Telecom T1 have picked up longtime veteran Khan. Khan has been a carry/split pushing threat in the top lane for a long time, and has had periods of near unbeatable looking performances under his belt. While Khan is quite happy doing exactly what every opponent expects from him, his sheer talent and willpower can force his carry picks through to dominating victories. Khan is a win condition in the top lane that SKT have lacked since Huni, and is likely the strongest the org has ever had if he reaches his potential. Expect Khan to stack plenty of kills or plenty of deaths. Either way, it'll be exciting.
Jin Air GreenWings enter this matchup with two young top lane prospects, one more tested than the other. You might recognize Lindarang from his time on Afreeca Freecs and Rox Tigers/Hanwha Life Esports. Despite his experience and being only 21, Lindarang has been less than impressive in his time in the LCK. He's backed by 19-year-old call up TaNa. TaNa brings even less competitive presence than his fellow top laner, and will likely only show up if things go horribly wrong for Jin Air in the Spring Season. In accordance with their LCK history, that's par for the course.
Verdict: A clear edge to Khan who will likely debut with a bang by flashily dismantling his less experienced opponent. SKT in the top lane.
SK Telecom T1 bring together two very exciting prospects in the jungle, one with a strong history in the LPL and the other in the LCK. Clid comes to SKT after a so-so 2018, which peaked in the Spring Season when Clid put together a string of consistent performances. With a diverse champion pool covering all the popular picks in the jungle, Clid is someone that can be relied on to keep the team together and not get in the way of a good thing. Alongside Clid is LCK veteran Haru. Haru comes to SKT after an incredibly dominant string of showings in the Korea Regional Finals, and a Worlds showing that SKT missed. While Gen.G fell short in the quarterfinals of Worlds 2018 they made it further than any other LCK org, and Haru looked hardly to blame for his teams shortcomings. Now surrounded by more weapons than ever, Haru might finally be unlocked to his full potential being able to play to so many win cons across the map.
Jin Air GreenWings are putting a lot of faith into young prospects in 2019, and none embody this more than jungler Malrang. Malrang has proven himself time and time again in the lower levels of League of Legends, including incredible runs in the TCL and CK. Now, however, the bar has been raised higher than ever for this 18-year-old prodigy in the making. Whether he rises to the challenge is likely the difference between Jin Air GreenWings being beaten out of the LCK and rising above their repeated disappointments.
Verdict: While Malrang is a jungler to watch out for in 2019, SKT simply bring too much firepower to the table. Haru/Clid with a clean victory in the jungle.
We mentioned that SKT brought back an important old face, right? How about the best player in LCK history? While SKT made many big roster changes heading into 2019, they kept one very important player to rebuild around. That player is Faker. The seemingly invincible face of League of Legends struggled to find his identity in 2018 trying to work around a relatively weak roster. Now he finds himself with more weapons than he's ever experienced, and even more adjustment is necessary. That said, we fully expect he's up to the challenge, and that too many win conditions is a pretty good problem to have.
Jin Air GreenWings match SKT in one thing when it comes to mid lane, faith. Grace is returning to the org in 2019, one of only two players to do so. While the previous failures of Jin Air are still fresh on the minds of fans, Grace is, as is his namesake, a shining grace for his team. It was demonstrably clear throughout 2018 that he was far from the cause of the team's utter failures, and would repeatedly prove to be a beacon that Jin Air could rely on while they floundered elsewhere. Of course this still didn't amount to many victories, but now with a new cast of characters around him, Grace might be in position to rise to the occasion. Still, maybe not this occassion.
Verdict: Grace might truly come into his own in 2019, but even at his worse, Faker has a clear edge over the 18-year-old prospect in every single way. SKT for a clear domination in the middle lane.
SK Telecom T1 made waves in replacing one of the LCK's most veteran bottom lane pairings in Bang and Wolf, bringing in formerly Jin Air's own Teddy and all-around massive veteran Mata. This bottom lane pairing seeks to bring together two players in very different places in their careers. Teddy has taken a harder road to get here in his young career, battling to make a name for himself on rosters that gave him little help along the way. Mata on the other hand comes to SKT very confident and experienced on a team full of threats. With experience in the top of the LPL and LCK alike, Mata brings a measured veteran presence that backs the young and hungry prodigy Teddy, a dynamic SKT is looking to turn into gold. In the background SKT also retained substitute bot lane pair adc Leo and support Effort.
Jin Air GreenWings remained confident enough in support player Nova to bring him back as only one of two returning players for this org, and they've brought in ad carries Stitch and Route to back him up. Stitch comes to the LCK after a pretty strong 2018 in the LMS. While he showed his talents there, however, this is a notable step up in league competition. Route also comes from other leagues, with his 2018 taking him to the TCL and TCS. Route notably looked quite weak, and we don't expect this to get much better against tougher opponents, even with Nova ready to fill in the gaps.
Verdict: In what might be the biggest mismatch, SKT wallop Jin Air GreenWings in the bottom lane, with Mata and Teddy being too much star power to handle. Jin Air's weakest lane faces stiff competition, and we fully expect them to break.
What to expect
SKT enter 2019 hungrier than ever fresh off big disappointments, and while Jin Air are looking to build toward their future with young talent in the position to prove themselves at the top level, this is more bull in a china shop, or worse, a bull-et train in a china shop. If SKT lose a member in transit to the match, this one's still firmly in the bag.
Verdict: SKT win with a quick and decisive dismantling of Jin Air in what will likely be the quickest match in week 1 of the 2019 Spring Season.
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