OGN Champions Winter 2013-2014 returns with the “El Classico” of Korean e-Sports, with the KT Rolster Bullets taking on SK Telecom T1 K in the semifinals. A long standing rivalry between these two telecommunication giants has existed since the birth of eSports in the realm of Starcraft, making this the most highly anticipated matchup of the OGN Champions Winter season to date.
Will KT B get their revenge over SKT1 K for taking the Champions Summer title as well as Korea’s final World Championship qualification spot away from them? Or will SKT1 K emerge victorious once again and move on to the Grand Finals for what could be the first team in OGN Champions history to win two back-to-back seasons?
This match airs on January 8, 2014 at 1:30 AM PST, 4:30 AM EST, 10:30 AM CET, and 6:30 PM KST on http://www.twitch.tv/ongamenet
If for some reason you cannot watch this epic series live, there will be re-broadcasts on the OnGameNet Twitch stream happening later in the day.
Top Lane (inSec vs Impact):
With the rise of tanky, resourceless top laners in the pre-season 4 meta, inSec and Impact are both “jack-of-all-trades” players that will happily fill whatever role that their team needs, be it tanky initiator or high damage bruiser.
The biggest factor that makes inSec a terror in the top lane is by far his playmaking ability. Back in his days as a jungler and currently as a top laner, inSec’s Lee Sin has been feared for to his ability to utilize the champion to make crucial plays for his team and his uncanny ability to pick off his opponents from almost anywhere on the map. InSec has recently played Riven due to her ability to act as a source of damage as well as an off-tank initiator with AoE crowd control. InSec is also no stranger to tanky initiators and always being a thorn in his opponents’ side on the flavor of the month picks in Shyvana, Dr. Mundo, and Renekton.
Like his lane opponent, Impact has also been responsible for his fair share of playmaking on Rengar before the Pridestalker was globally banned due to bugs to his kit. Even with his Rengar banned, Impact has continued to provide tanky initiation utility as well as split push potential for SK Telecom T1 K on Shyvana, Dr. Mundo, and Renekton.
Ultimately, the current state of the top lane meta in Patch 3.15 is a war of attrition, with resourceless tanks constantly in a tit for tat exchange. Picks and bans remains the most important factor in deciding this matchup, as well as what kind of role inSec and Impact will be called upon to play for their team. The strength of a player these days does not solely lie in their laning ability, but also in their teamplay and decisionmaking. These strengths are where we will see the difference between inSec or Impact in this semifinal.
Jungle (KaKAO vs Bengi):
What differentiates the boys from the men in the jungle is whether the jungler has a deep understanding of overall game flow. He must be able to make the plays happen as well as consistently be in the right place at the right time for the team. While KaKAO and Bengi have each exhibited these qualities, they have somewhat different playstyles.
KaKAO orients his playstyle around heavily investing time in the early game on snowballing inSec and Ryu while sacrificing early game farm and letting Score and Mafa lane passively. By holding his solo lanes together, KaKAO can form a dive trio along with inSec and Ryu in the mid game as well as initiate/follow-up engages in the late game.
In slight contrast to KaKAO, Bengi prefers investing gold into early vision control in crucial choke points around the map with early wards and making counter plays accordingly. With the changes to pink wards being untimed but visible, Bengi likes to buy pink wards early and ward them in the river “death bush” near baron/dragon in order to sniff out the enemy jungler and make his presence known in other lanes. Bengi’s establishment of early vision control is what allows SKT1 K to make plays in the early and mid game to secure objectives and win all-in duels without fear of an incoming jungle gank.
Both junglers have very similar champion pools full of the current top junglers, consisting of Lee Sin, Elise, Olaf, and the like. What will distinguish KaKAO and Bengi will be the transitions that they make from one phase of the game to the next. As one jungler shifts the pace of the game, the other must respond instantly and match it, or else small advantages will snowball into larger ones. If Bengi is able to get the wards placed to sniff out KaKAO’s movements in the jungle, it could be game changing.
Mid (Ryu vs Faker):
The premier mid laners of Korea clash once again, with Ryu seeking for revenge against Faker for losing the now world-famous Zed vs Zed duel in the final blind pick game 5 of the OGN Summer Grand Finals. As both players have immense champion pools to draw upon, the many potential different matchups in the mid lane during this series will be quite a sight to see.
Ryu is a highly talented mid, and while he is not often seen with a smile on his face, the cold and calculating facade is always watching for every opportunity to capitalize on his opponents’ mistakes. What sets Ryu somewhat apart from other mid laners is that he likes to get the red sweeping lens early to clear out wards in the mid lane over the regular warding trinket. With jungle support from KaKAO, Ryu is looking to roam and make plays around the map with the jungler, as well as snowball into an unstoppable killing machine in the later stages of the game.
Faker, the star MVP, is looking to maintain his reign of terror in the mid lane and take back the lead in the MVP points standings with his insane ability to make crazy plays happen for SKT1 K. His strength comes from his insane champion pool as well as strong farming and laning mechanics. Faker will always be looking to roam from mid lane and clean up fights that happen in the other lanes to secure objectives for the team.
With both players having access to the aforementioned extensive champion pools, it is impossible to force either player onto an uncomfortable champion during picks and bans. In terms of past champion picks, both Ryu and Faker have been making huge plays for their teams on Orianna and Nidalee this past Champions Winter season. The matchup they will play against each other may be decided in champion select, although Faker is arguably favored to win the matchup in the long run due to Ryu’s tendency to go on tilt in bad games. If the series ends up going to Game 5, there is a possibility of seeing a mirror matchup of Orianna or Nidalee.
Marksman (Score vs Piglet):
Score, KT B’s team captain, is known to be one of the best defensive marksman with his very passive laning focused on farming and avoiding trades. Along with his defensive bodyguard support Mafa, they love shoving lane to secure an early tower for KT B (esp in 2v1 matchups) and quickly disengaging if their opponents attempt an all-in or if the jungler comes to gank.
Score earned his nickname “The Immortal Score” for his uncanny ability to not die in even the most hectic teamfights as well as dish out heavy sustained damage to his opponents while maintaining great positioning. Score’s signature marksman of choice this Champions Winter season is Ezreal, but he has shown to play Caitlyn, as well as a really mean Lucian that earned him an MVP award.
Piglet is an all-around solid marksman with great mechanics and wide champion pool, bringing out six different marksmen (Caitlyn, Ezreal, Vayne, Sivir, Graves, and Corki) over the course of SK Telecom T1 K’s past nine games during Champions Winter. He is the second threat on the team behind Faker and is one of the best marksman in the world.
Both Piglet and Score fulfill the role that their teams need, but in direct comparison, Piglet is arguably better mechanically and supposedly has a better champion pool while Score is unparallelled in positioning and dealing the most sustained damage. Regardless, both marksmen will fulfill the role that their team needs them to do and do it well.
Support (Mafa vs PoohManDu):
Mafa is the master of defensive support play which allows Score to have a safe farm lane and he is very dangerous in the mid/late stage game, especially when playing AoE CC supports capable of picking off opponents in the jungle and in open lanes by locking down multiple enemies for KT B to engage upon.
PoohManDu, SKT1 K’s team captain, is known for his playmaking ability supports in Annie and Thresh as well as fulfilling more of a utility and disengage role in Lulu or his old favorite, Nami. Back in the day he was known for bringing out very unconventional support picks such as Fiddlesticks and Leblanc support. He is also the master of vision control, always making sure that crucial choke points around Summoner’s Rift are warded and that the enemy is constantly denied their vision.
Both Mafa and PoohManDu are capable of making plays happen, and they easily fulfill utility roles in vision and disengage for their teams. The support that ultimately makes more plays happen and wins the vision war for their team over the other will be a determining factor in the outcome of the match.
Listed in no particular order are champions that both teams have been prioritizing in recent match history and are either banned or picked upon rotation during champion select:
- Shyvana – undeniably strong with her versatility: lane bully, can split push effectively, initiate teamfights, peel for carries, and be nigh-unkillable in late game. Currently a very common first pick in Korea.
- Dr. Mundo – with the rise of defensive masteries in S4, the Madman of Zaun has become a monstrous top laner with similar capabilities as Shyvana and even greater chase potential with the infected cleaver, as well as ridiculous sustain with his ultimate.
- Renekton – the crocodile still remains to be a fallback pick for top laners, especially when Mundo or Shyvana are not available. He fills the same role as the other two. acting as an unstoppable tank initiator and a competent split pusher.
- Lee Sin – a very threatening champion that inSec, KaKAO, and Bengi can all use to make crucial plays happen for their team, especially in the early and mid game.
- Elise – another threatening jungler available to KaKAO and Bengi that can fit with just about every conceivable team composition that a team might run.
- Olaf – another new terror in the jungle as well as in top lane, with almost unmatched dueling capability and pick potential with multiple Undertows. It can be nearly impossible to peel him off of carries. With these talents, he’ll definitely will be a high priority for both teams.
- Riven – a champion available to inSec, KaKAO, Ryu, and Faker. She adds a lot of ambiguity in picks and bans for KT B, in that there is no way of knowing if Riven is going top, jungle, or mid. Faker, as the original pioneer of Riven mid, is also a particularly scary threat.
- Orianna – the Lady of Clockwork has been the go-to champion for both Ryu and Faker in this past Champions Winter season with her lane presence, wave clear, and teamfight damage, utility, and CC.
- Gragas – another versatile mid laner that Ryu and Faker can play that has great all-in potential in lane, strong poke, wave clear, and siege capability with barrels. He’s great at picking off enemy champions or disengaging enemy initiators with his ultimate.
- Nidalee – another favored mid lane pick for her great siege capability with spears and traps as well as all-in potential in cougar form. A little more one-dimensional compared to other mid laners, but she is very good at what she does and can be extremely effective coupled with Caitlyn or other long range marksmen.
- Lucian – another highly favored marksman in Korea for his strong wave shoving power and tower sieging potential.
- Ezreal – a very versatile marksman that is very potent in the hands of either Score or Piglet. Ezreal is great for pushing lanes, sieging towers, clearing waves in side lanes with Trueshot Barrage, and is very hard to catch out of position because of Arcane Shift. Score will most likely pick Ezreal if he is available; conversely, Piglet might pick Ezreal to deny Score.
- Caitlyn – a long time favorite of both Piglet and Score, the Sheriff of Piltover is favored by both teams if they are looking to run a fast push and tower siege strategy with her long range and zone potential with her Yordle Traps.
- Annie – Tabe’s little monster has been unleashed, leading to Annie getting permabanned or instantly picked if available. One of the few champions with an AOE stun at level 1, the Dark Child has terrifying zone control in lane, as well as highly valuable AOE CC initiation/disengage with Tibbers.
- Thresh – with his hook and lantern in hand, the Chain Warden is another threatening support in the hands of Mafa or PoohManDu. Thresh is truly a support that can do it all, from picking off enemy champions with hooks and flays to peeling and saving allies with clutch lantern grabs. Thresh has been top tier since his release, and this match is no exception.
- Leona – another crowd control-based support that is dangerous in the hands of Mafa or PoohManDu. With Annie most likely banned and Thresh most likely banned as well or taken away, Leona is another champion that either support may elect to play.
Potential Champion Picks:
Listed here in no particular order are champions that could potentially be picked by either team but haven’t in recent match history, as well as some champions that are not exactly favored in the current meta but are great situational picks.
- Kha’zix – Even though neither team has played Kha’zix in recent matches, Kha’zix has popped up quite a few times recently in OGN in the top lane (Save from Najin White Shield played Kha’zix in Game 3 and drew a ban in the following game), in the jungle (Helios from CJ Frost played it twice), and even mid lane (Dade from Samsung Ozone bringing out an old favorite of his). With Kha’zix’s high burst, roaming, snowballing, and assassination potential, we could possibly see the Voidreaver come back again in this match.
- Vi – Bengi pioneered jungle Vi in Korea late Season 3 for her instant lock-down potential of an enemy champion as well as her long-range ganks. If both teams decide to ban the main go-to junglers, we might see Bengi go back to Vi.
- Evelynn – another jungler that could be picked by either KaKAO or Bengi if the main go-to junglers get banned. Great for snowballing lanes in the early game, but the Widowmaker bears the risk of becoming completely useless if the early game goes awry.
- Sivir – was permabanned in Korea and almost always instantly picked up if available due to her insane wave clear, ability to block incoming CC with spell shield, and her team-based ultimate, capable of allowing her team to quickly engage onto their opponents or disengage her team away from initiating tanks….but due to recent nerfs in Patch 3.15, Sivir might move from her previous permaban status to a more situational pick or might not even see touched at all in champion select.
- Ziggs – an incredibly potent mid lane champion that has strangely been completely untouched so far in OGN Champions Winter champion select despite his insane wave clear, poke potential, and AOE damage. However, it only takes one player to unleash the Ziggs, and if it goes well, everyone in Korea will start playing him. It is very possible that both Ryu and Faker can play Ziggs due to their deep champion pools.
The KT Rolster Bullets and SK Telecom T1 K are widely regarded as the current top two teams in Korea. What sets these two teams apart from the other teams in Korea is that every member on both teams are capable of making crucial plays at every stage of the game. Both teams place heavy emphasis on establishing vision control and effective execution of strategies, from the beginning of champion select to when the nexus explodes. Another defining factor is that multiple members of each team will get the red sweeping trinket by the mid game in order to deny enemy vision of important areas around Summoner’s Rift such as near the dragon or Baron Nashor pit.
I think everyone will be watching the mid lane to see whether Faker or Ryu will emerge as the better mid laner during this match, but I think the main matchup to watch in this series will be how the junglers duke it out against each other. How KaKAO and Bengi will try to outplay the other and make more crucial plays happen on the map than the other will directly affect the outcome of the early game, if not the game itself. If KaKAO can get around SKT1 K’s early wards and get ganks off to snowball his lanes, then that could cause lots of problems for SKT1 K in the early game with a jungler lacking combat stats and losing lanes. However, if Bengi gets the proper wards up to sniff out KaKAO’s movements, KaKAO could find himself in a pickle without being able to snowball his lanes and losing out on early game farm which leaves his lanes at the mercy of their lane opponents and Bengi’s ganks.
Of all of the possible upcoming matches for the rest of OGN Champions Winter, I personally think that this is the match where we will have the highest chance of getting a full five game series, all the way to the final blind pick game 5. I personally really want to see KT B win this series and go on to win the Grand Finals so that they will actually have won a championship title for once, but I think SKT1 K looks stronger than KT B and in the end will win the series 3-2 to move on the Grand Finals.
ShiraShira for editing
David Widrick for designing the art @ Davidwidrick.com