There are no gods or kings in the Korean League of Legends circuit anymore, only men.
This weekend, the last of the undefeated Korean superteams, KT Rolster, was—you guessed it—defeated. They were handed their first loss of the season by none other than MVP, a team who didn’t even make it into the playoffs over the summer. This loss puts KT Rolster at 6-1 so far. That ties them up with SK Telecom, the other team whose roster looked damn near unbeatable after the 2016 shuffle; they were recently beaten by the Afreeca Freecs in a major upset. So far, it’s looking like these two superteams might not be as super as we expected.
As seams of vulnerability begin to appear on teams most people expected to be Caterpillar-brand steamrollers throughout their regular season, we’re also starting to notice a diminishing of the players once considered the very best in their roles. Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok still leads the charts in kills-to-deaths and total kills, but at 30 deaths over the last 15 games, he’s hardly living up to his title as “The Unkillable Demon King.” Faker recently commented on it, saying in a recent interview that “In the bigger picture, I think I also need to work on my poor decision making.”
And he’s not the only one. Wang-ho “Peanut” Han, the all-star rookie jungler who helped the ROX Tigers win the LCK Summer Playoffs last year, has also been surprisingly underperforming on SKT. Whether it’s nerves or just a prolonged adjustment to his new team, Peanut is second from the bottom in kills-to-deaths among Korean junglers, a drastic drop-off from the breezy mastery he demonstrated all last year.
Even Song “Smeb” Kyung-ho, Peanut’s former teammate and last year’s candidate for Best League of Legends Player, Full Stop, wasn’t able to rescue KT Rolster from their defeat at the hands of MVP. Stats-wise, he’s been in the middle of the pack all season; the tank meta in top lane certainly hasn’t been doing him any favors.
Is this a settling-in process, as players learn to play and communicate with new teammates? Or have analysts simply overestimated the talents of players like Smeb, Peanut and Faker? As the LCK season goes on, we should have our answer soon.